Open Research vs Open Science

Open Science is on everyone’s lips these days. But why don’t we use Open Research more?

This is a question I have been asking regularly after I was named Norwegian representative in EUA’s Expert Group on Science 2.0 / Open Science committee earlier this year. For those who don’t know, the European University Association (EUA) represents more than 800 universities and national rectors’ conferences in 48 European countries. It is thus a very interesting organization when it comes to influencing the European higher education and research environment.

The problem with the term Open Science

It appears that EUA has adopted the term Open Science because it is used by the European Commission. I understand that there has been a lot of political investment (branding, if you like) in the term over the last years, but I still think it is unfortunate.

My biggest problem with using Open Science as a general term in European academia, is that it indicates that this is something that researchers in the arts and humanities should not think about. Of course, this was never the intention. I have yet to meet anyone that means the Open Science is only meant for people working in the sciences. The result is that you sometimes see strange sentences like “… the sciences (including the arts and humanities) …”.

All this confusion could easily be resolved by using Open Research as the general term. This is more inclusive, making all the arts and humanities researchers feel involved, but also including researchers working outside academia. They too may be interested in opening their research, even though they would not call themselves “scientists”.

Usage

I have not had time to do proper research on this, but some quick googl’ing reveals around 3.3 million hits for “open science” and 2.5 million for “open research”. So Open Research is obviously used a lot, at least outside official European channels. Searching in books, however, reveals that “open research” is used a lot more than “open science”, as shown in the ngram below:

On a side note, it is interesting to see that Open Research, and even Open Access Research, is used by the UK Research and Innovation.

The situation in Norway

We had some very interesting discussions about open research during the Universities Norway conference earlier this year. As expected there was a lot of confusion about the terms “open science” (“åpen vitenskap”) and “open research” (“åpen forskning”). The Minister of Research and Higher Education even managed to use both terms interchangeably in her opening speech.

Fortunately, the CEO of the Research Council of Norway, John-Arne Røttingen, was very clear in saying that they only use the term “åpen forskning” (“open research”) in their communication.

Sitting in different national committees, I am now trying to be careful to always talk about Open Research, and it seems like this will end up being the “official” Norwegian term.

Being a researcher (from the arts and humanities!), I know that terminology is important for a discussion. I therefore hope that more people will rethink their usage of the term Open Science. Why not try Open Research instead?

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alexarje

Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.