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.
Research data are often the most valuable output of many research projects, they are used as primary sources that underpin scientific research and enable derivation of theoretical or applied findings. In order to make findings/studies replicable, or at least reproducible or reusable in any other way, the best practice recommendation for research data is to be as open and FAIR as possible, while accounting for ethical, commercial and privacy constraints with sensitive data or proprietary data.
Reproducibility means that research data and code are made available so that others are able to reach the same results as are claimed in scientific outputs. Closely related is the concept of replicability, the act of repeating a scientific methodology to reach similar conclusions.
In 2014, a core set of principles were drafted in order to optimize the reusability of research data, named the FAIR Data Principles. They represent a community-developed set of guidelines and best practices to ensure that data or any digital object are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable:
Findable: The first thing to be in place to make data reusable is the possibility to find them. It should be easy to find the data and the metadata for both humans and computers. Automatic and reliable discovery of datasets and services depends on machine-readable persistent identifiers (PIDs) and metadata.
Accessible: The (meta)data should be retrievable by their identifier using a standardized and open communications protocol, possibly including authentication and authorisation. Also, metadata should be available even when the data are no longer available.
Interoperable: The data should be able to be combined with and used with other data or tools. The format of the data should therefore be open and interpretable for various tools, including other data records. The concept of interoperability applies both at the data and metadata level. For instance, the (meta)data should use vocabularies that follow FAIR principles.
Re-usable: Ultimately, FAIR aims at optimizing the reuse of data. To achieve this, metadata and data should be well-described so that they can be replicated and/or combined in different settings. Also, the reuse of the (meta)data should be stated with (a) clear and accessible license(s).
There are several distinct ways to make research data accessible:
- Publishing data as supplemental material associated with a research article, typically with the data files hosted by the publisher of the article.
- Hosting data on a publicly-available website, with files available for download.
- Depositing data in a repository that has been developed to support data publication.
- A large number of general and domain or subject specific data repositories exist which can provide additional support to researchers when depositing their data.
- Publishing a data paper about the dataset, which may be published as a preprint, in a journal, or in a data journal that is dedicated to supporting data papers. The data may be hosted by the journal or hosted separately in a data repository.
Open Access to Published Research Results
Open Access to publications means that research publications like articles and books can be accessed online, free of charge by any user, with no technical obstacles (such as mandatory registration or login to specific platforms). At the very least, such publications can be read online, downloaded and printed. Ideally, additional rights such as the right to copy, distribute, search, link, crawl and mine should also be provided. Open Access can be realised through two main non-exclusive routes:
Green Open Access (self-archiving):
The published work or the final peer-reviewed manuscript that has been accepted for publication is made freely and openly accessible by the author, or a representative, in an online repository. Some publishers request that Open Access be granted only after an embargo period has elapsed. This embargo period can last anywhere between several months and several years. For publications that have been deposited in a repository but are under embargo, usually at least the metadata are openly accessible.
Gold Open Access (Open Access publishing):
The published work is made available in Open Access mode by the publisher immediately upon publication. The most common business model is based on one-off payments by authors (commonly called APCs – article processing charges – or BPCs – book processing charges). Where Open Access content is combined with content that requires a subscription or purchase, in particular in the context of journals, conference proceedings and edited volumes, this is called hybrid Open Access.