Keeping Up With... Open Science

This edition of Keeping Up With… was written by Dr. Nathan D. Woods, Samantha Teplitzky, and Micah Vandegrift.

Dr. Nathan D. Woods is a Graduate Student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,,

Samantha Teplitzky is Open Science Librarian at the University of California-Berkeley,,

Micah Vandegrift is Open Knowledge Librarian at NC State University,,


Open science is an evolution in “the way research is performed, researchers collaborate, knowledge is shared, and science is organised” [1]. In one sense, open science is a practical and technical conversation about how to make academic knowledge more accessible and collaborative. In another sense, open science is an argument about how modern research culture should function. It is valorized for its potential to increase efficiency, support rigor, and enhance reproducibility, as well as respond directly to dense social problems [2]. A library’s promotion and advancement of open science holds the potential to both “align the incentive structures of research production and consumption” with the values of a democratic society and to “catalyze the scientific progress our society so desperately needs” [3].

Open science ties together established work in libraries:

  • Open access
  • Open data
  • Open source software
  • Open educational resources
  • Collaborative research (i.e. citizen science, digital humanities)

Open science promotes collaborative processes and open source tools, and a service portfolio might include incubator programs to facilitate open scholarship, training sequences in topics like data management or open publishing, or a dedicated open science unit.

Awareness and support of open science matters for libraries because it is a global movement including stakeholders across the higher education sector. Open science garners substantial funding and threatens to shake the core of academic publishing. Open science has skyrocketed in interest, spurred by COVID-19 research [4]. For example:

Open Science Is A Big Umbrella

Open science expands how we talk about research. While in American English, the term ‘science’ might mean a discrete set of disciplines, open science is a suite of discipline-agnostic principles and practices. In this sense, open science is very contemporary, but not entirely new. Discussions of open science also align well with accessibility, collaboration, equity, and justice. UNESCO goes so far to impress that open science should empower “knowledge creation and circulation [for] societal actors beyond the institutionalized scientific community” [5].

Open Science Is About Culture Change

Open science impacts technology, policy, and the governance of knowledge institutions. Interconnections between policy and the ways researchers want to work is a key to the emergence of an open science culture shift. For example, university research officers highlight the challenges posed by the collaborative nature of science, new formats for the exchange of ideas, and “basic principles of scientific openness,” noting implications on hiring and retaining faculty [6]. As open science integrates with universities, research and scholarship will be evaluated and incentivized differently. Intentional collaboration between publishers, researchers, funders, and universities can “facilitate and accelerate” this necessary culture change [7].

Open Science Can Be An Inclusive Force

Open science hopes to offer collaborations between academic and professional researchers, and engage with multiple publics through participatory or community science and public humanities. At its best, this could expand the circulation and utility of scholarly knowledge. Open science works to invite groups that have faced exclusionary barriers of access to research, exemplified in the efforts of the Knowledge Equity Lab. Designing inclusive open science initiatives will require more collaboration across scales, including disciplinary and research networks, regional hubs, critical perspectives, and institutional networks and partnerships

Open Science And Academic Libraries

Academic librarians are positioned to lead and shape the future of open science. To support and encourage such leadership, we offer first steps, followed by larger goals.

  • Encourage practices like sharing pre-prints and code. These are low-investment practices rising in acceptance, and can open the door to discussions about open licensing, valuing all research products, and encouraging collaboration.
  • Ask questions about how a researcher’s discipline discusses reproducibility, evaluating digital/open work, or inviting public engagement. Their answers can frame a next outreach opportunity, like focusing on “data science” as an open practice, or offering to conduct an “open audit” of their research portfolio.
  • Ask colleagues and administrators about internal strategies for supporting open science. Subtle shifts like what software a library recommends or what words describe research support can signify a lot.
  • Adopt language of open as a spectrum, rather than an on/off switch. There are many ways to do open science that do not preclude publishing in that premier journal that a researcher really needs.
  • Start a Reproducibili-Tea Journal Club, an Open Science Community, or a Twitch discussion series. All the best things about open science happen together with other interested and excited people, and libraries are great coordinating points for community development.
  • Explore self-training in the areas outlined in the National Library of Medicine’s report on Developing a Librarian Workforce for Data Science and Open Science.

Larger Goals:

  • Support adapting institutional policies, like hiring and tenure and promotion, that reward “open interventions.”
  • Advocate for the long game in shifting support from proprietary systems and products to community-supported, academy-owned infrastructure like Zotero, EarthArxiv, or Open Citations.
  • Contribute to the reshaping of universities as “open knowledge institutions” [8] by making libraries increasingly visible further upstream in the research process.


Libraries invest people, time, and money in the ongoing reformation from information provision to partners in research production. Open science continues that push, pulling together threads from data librarianship, scholarly communications, digital humanities, information policy, and community engagement. By taking up big questions, like how to advance incentives for open practices or what inclusive research looks like, open science also holds the potential to give renewed shape to how we build better relationships within local communities and across borders. Librarians have a broad scope of skills and expertise to lend to these world-building questions, and are poised at the crest of the open science wave.



[1] European Commission - Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, (2016). Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World: A Vision for Europe. Brussels, BE: Publications Office of the European Union.

[2] Fraisl, Dilek, Jillian Campbell, Linda See, Uta Wehn, Jessica Wardlaw, Margaret Gold, Inian Moorthy, et al., (2020). “Mapping Citizen Science Contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” Sustainability Science 15 (6): 1735–51.

[3] Tananbaum, Greg, and Michael M. Crow, (2020). “We Must Tear Down the Barriers That Impede Scientific Progress.” Scientific American, December 28, 2020.

[4] Tse, Edwin G., Dana M. Klug, and Matthew H. Tod, (2020). “Open Science Approaches to COVID-19.” F1000Research 9 (August): 1043.

[5] UNESCO. Director-General, 2017- (Azoulay, A.), (2020). “Preliminary Report on the First Draft of the Recommendation on Open Science.” Circular Letter CL/4333. France: UNESCO.

[6] Rieger, Oya and Roger Schonfeld. "The Senior Research Officer: Experience, Role, Organizational Structure, Strategic Directions, and Challenges." Ithaka S+R. Last Modified 1 December 2020.

[7] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicin,( 2018). Open Science by Design: Realizing a Vision for 21st Century Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[8] Montgomery, L., Hartley, J., Neylon, C., Gillies, M., Gray, E., Herrmann-Pillath, C., … Wilson, K., (2018). Open Knowledge Institutions. Works in Progress.