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‘Incentives and opportunities needed’ to drive open science

European university survey finds “limited consideration” of open science in academic assessments

To make further progress on open science—the move to make research methods and outputs more transparent and accessible for scrutiny and reuse—academic institutions must establish more rewards and open up more possibilities for staff to get involved, according to a study by the European University Association.

“It will be difficult to make open science integral to most academics’ work without incentives and rewards,” EUA adviser Rita Morais and colleagues said in the organisation’s 5 July report of its sixth Open Science Survey.

They said institutions “need to continue to create incentives and opportunities for researchers and staff to increase their involvement in both established…and emerging areas of open science”, including citizen science and making data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (Fair).

Use in assessment

Based on their analysis of 272 responses by institutions in 36 European countries, the EUA authors called for organisations to “fully integrate open science in reward and incentive practices” for researchers.

Open science should become “an integral part of academic assessments” for both institutions and funders, the authors said. They also called for more staff training in key skills.

The survey results show “the limited, or even very limited, consideration of open science in academic assessments”, something the authors said is “even more striking given the strategic importance given to open science by this survey’s respondents”.

Role of incentives

Morais and colleagues found that for most institutions, a lack of incentives—particularly legal and financial ones—was viewed as the main obstacle to more widespread open science practices.

“At most institutions, the transition to open science was primarily facilitated by external factors, including national and European policies/guidelines and research funder requirements,” the authors said.

While open science was being implemented at institutional level at 94 per cent of the 146 institutions that responded on this question, only 31 per cent of respondent institutions had practices in place at faculty or department level. The percentage dropped even more at research unit and disciplinary levels.

The authors warned of negative effects of patchy open science implementation for researchers, particularly early career researchers, whose work is still primarily assessed on their paper outputs. It noted that younger researchers are also under more pressure to transition to open science.