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Open Science


Open Science is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods.
Foster Open Science


NASA illustration

Open Science, with a view to disseminating knowledge, is based on making scientific research freely available (open access), as well as providing the resources needed to reproduce it notably through open data and open source software.

Peer review can be conducted in an open peer review framework, with a public identity and reports, allowing interaction between authors and reviewers, open to the community and non-scientists, with post-publication evaluation…

With the connectivity offered by the digital, new forms of collaboration become possible, whether for co-producing research work and for engaging with a community of scientists, enabling mutual support. These collaborative dynamics will promote transdisciplinarity and the inclusion of different stakeholders (institutions, citizens, public/private organizations, etc.).

Open science represents a whole new set of practices for researchers, with new sources of information, new formats, new tools, new possibilities, and so on. It also represents a new way of promoting research, formerly based on the prestige of journals, with for example the development of altmetrics.

History of open science

The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge and cultural heritage. For the first time ever, the Internet now offers the chance to constitute a global and interactive representation of human knowledge, including cultural heritage and the guarantee of worldwide access.

Our mission of disseminating knowledge is only half complete if the information is not made widely and readily available to society. New possibilities of knowledge dissemination not only through the classical form but also and increasingly through the open access paradigm via the Internet have to be supported. We define open access as a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community.

In order to realize the vision of a global and accessible representation of knowledge, the future Web has to be sustainable, interactive, and transparent. Content and software tools must be openly accessible and compatible.
Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, 2003

The history of open science is part of the history of science, a certain historical depth allows us to contextualize this phenomenon which could be part of a second scientific revolution.

The Scientific Revolution in the Modern Era, from the XVIᵉ to the Enlightenment

It is customary to speak of the Scientific Revolution to designate the period between the Copernican Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, this period being associated with major developments in scientific knowledge that have brought about profound changes in society and an upheaval in our relationship with the world.

Nicolaus Copernicus is the author of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium [On the revolutions of the celestial spheres], first printed in 1543, the year of his death. His work proposes the theory of heliocentrism, which suggests that the Sun is at the center of the Universe, as opposed to the accepted theory of geocentrism which assumes that the Earth is immobile, at the center of the Universe. The geocentric hypothesis was largely supported by the religious establishment of the time.

The theory of heliocentrism took a few centuries to spread, becoming the cause of a major battle between science and religion, but finally came to the fore during the Enlightenment through the Encyclopédie, provoking, according to Alexandre Koyré, the transition for Humanity from the vision of a closed world to that of a Universe without known limits.

The Modern Era, from the XVIᵉ to the XVIIIᵉ, saw a transformation in a variety of scientific fields such as astronomy, but also physics, mathematics, biology, medicine… To spread, this scientific revolution was to rely on the rise of printing which appeared around 1450, on the development of scientific journals which came into being around 1665, accompanied by a relative democratization and professionalization of scientific research.

Towards a second scientific revolution?

The Anthropocene, with the existential crises it brings with it, coupled with the digital revolution, is transforming both our relationship to knowledge and our vision of the world, resulting in a “discontinuity in scientific thought at a given time”.

New practices are taking shape that will change the researcher’s posture. The term Science 2.0 is sometimes used to describe this approach to science that makes use of digital technologies, with open science being a branch that seeks to shed the weight of intellectual property.

The desire to use digital technology for research dates back to at least the creation of ARPANET, even earlier from the advent of the first computers, but the open science dynamic asserts itself in the late 90s, early 2000s. ArXiv, the first platform for pre-publications, was created in 1991. The domain name was registered in 1998. A series of 3 events sometimes referred to as the “BBB definition” gave substance to the open access/open science movement:

Science is going through a crisis of reproducibility that has grown in recent decades, methodological issues make many research works unverifiable, undermining confidence in their quality. Open science will appear as a way of facilitating the reproduction of experiments.

In opposition to the publishers’ model, a revolt is brewing, strengthening the momentum around open science. Initiatives such as Sci-Hub (2011) are making scientific journal publications (illegally) accessible, we’re seeing the arrival of an “Academic Spring” with protest movements such as the journal boycott with “The Cost of Knowledge” (2012). Prestigious universities are withdrawing their subscriptions to certain publishers, using alternative channels to publish and provide access to various scientific works.

Open science is becoming an evolution in the way we do science and could tomorrow become the norm, at the heart of the societal upheavals that our times are imposing on us, with crises likely to accelerate this dynamic.