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Overview of Open Science

Open Science is an extremely ambiguous term and many people have different understandings about what it means. It is, however, commonly referred to as an umbrella term covering different aspects of research activities that are made more open and given more potential, thanks primarily to the digital age.
Open Science can be understood from two aspects: an ideological aspect based on the ideal that science should be more open, and a practical aspect founded in the principles of accountability and transparency.


Ideological Aspects of Open Science

With the proliferation of the Internet, the ability of people to communicate and share ideas with others has dramatically increased. In the academic world, this has enabled researchers to collaborate with other researchers globally, sharing ideas, research data, and other resources. Collaboration between academia, businesses, and the general public has also increased, thereby leading to improved problem-solving for current social challenges and interdisciplinary research expansion. It is generally understood that research activities are becoming more open.

The scale of data available has also dramatically increased. Sensors and measuring instruments are automatically producing vast amounts of data from scientific experiments, and enormous numbers of lifelog recordings of various human behaviors are being collected on the Internet daily. Researchers, even outside the traditional data science fields, are processing data on daily basis. Indeed, it is now said that after having shifted from "experimental science" to "theoretical science," then to "computational (simulation) science," we have entered "the fourth paradigm," which is being called "data-intensive science."

This new research paradigm, which emerged at the start of the digital era and flourished with the expansion of the Internet, is gradually changing. As the name changed over time from e-Science, eResearch, Science 2.0, and now to Open Science, the concepts associated with those terms have also changed, from technology-enhanced science to general scholarship openness, and on to new dimensions of the research paradigm.


Practical Aspects of Open Science

Since most research is now conducted through taxpayer funding, there are increasing demands for making the outputs obtained from such publicly-funded research available to the public. In this context, research outputs refer to research publications and research data obtained from publicly funded experiments and observations.

The rapidly increasing subscription fees for academic journals are driving calls for more openness in terms of research articles. Indeed, subscription fees have more than quadrupled in the last two decades, and many academic journals have become unaffordable, even for the most affluent universities. The Internet allows research articles to be shared almost free of charge, and there are attempts to publish open access journals that will make research articles openly available immediately after publication. There are also attempts to establish disciplinary or institutional repositories where the final manuscript of the research article can be shared for free.

With regards to research data, the initiatives to make these data openly available have just begun. However, issues involving different file formats, ambiguity in attaching the right metadata to make the data findable, and data sensitivities such as privacy concerns make immediate change difficult. The reluctance of researchers to share data is also of concern. Still, data sharing is expected to enhance scholarship and interdisciplinary research, and the expected social problem-solving and industrial innovations are highly desired. Assurances of research transparency and long-term preservation of research data, even after the researcher's retirement, are also hoped for.

Open access to research publications and data is primarily being promoted by funding agencies through their funding policies. Indeed, funding agencies such as the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) now recommend that research publications produced through their funding be made open-access, and this policy has been made mandatory in some countries.

In terms of research data, while no countries have yet to make open disclosure mandatory due to the practical difficulties involved, many nations are now requesting the submission of data management plans (DMPs) stating how the scientists applying for research grants will handle the resulting research data together with the research proposals, and this has been made mandatory in some countries.


Promoting Open Science

Open Science is promoted by parties such as governments, funding agencies, publishers, and universities libraries. However, the academics who should be at the center of the Open Science movement are mostly ignorant about the needs and importance of this issue. Nevertheless, the ease of open sharing and open collaboration via the Internet may lead to the establishment of Open Science without the need for extraordinary efforts on anyone's part.

The research data platforms developed by RCOS are meant to realize this Open Science vision through the facilitation of collaboration and data sharing, and it is hoped that research in Japan will be transformed to embrace the new research paradigm while continuing to meet demands related to accountability and research transparency.