The Norwegian Approach to Open Science, Impact and Evaluation

Bjørn Haugstads tale på Open Science Presidency Conference i Amsterdam 5. april 2016

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Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to present some introductory reflections from Norway on open science and the topic of impact and evaluation.

Let me first repeat the main reason behind our open science efforts: We are convinced that more openness and better circulation of knowledge is essential both to enhancing research quality and to maximizing research impact. Let me also repeat that as a small country, we cannot get very far by ourselves. We have to work together, and I appreciate this opportunity to share experiences and learn across countries.

I like to see Norway as a cautious forerunner. Forerunner because we have had ambitious policies on open access for more than a decade. And we have been following up with investing in a comprehensive Current Research Information System, CRIStin, that includes all published research – including monographs and anthologies – from all disciplines and from all universities, research institutes and university hospitals. The system is also planned to be open for research performed in private industry.

CRISTin is designed to harvest data automatically, so that in principle, all that is required from our individual researchers is that they confirm a readymade report.

We are securing full coverage through the fact that data from the CRIStin register are used as a basis for a part of the funding model of  universities, university hospitals and research institutes.

This register is also an excellent tool for promoting open access publishing, especially through the so-called green model. One reason is that CRIStin is linked  to institutional repositories.

But we are cautious because we are acutely aware that Norway is not a large research nation, and thus we have limited bargaining power vis-a-vis the big publishing houses.

We are also cautious because we do not want to alienate the researchers. Although many Norwegian researchers are enthusiastic about open access, mainly for ideological reasons, many are indifferent or even sceptical. For the time being our priorities are to support the enthusiasts, win over the indifferent, and leave the sceptics for a while.

We are also cautious because we really want Norwegian research and researchers to gain more international visibility and recognition. For the time being, and with current practices, forcing our researchers to publish in less prestigious journals is undermining that goal.

Open science confronts us with a case where we have to hang together, or get hung separately. At least this is the case for smaller nations. I'm full of admiration for the achievements here in the Netherlands. Both what you have accomplished when it comes to engaging the leaders of your universities and many of your strongest academics in the OA question, and with regard to your Big Deals.

In pushing the open access agenda forward, we have to take care of the following concerns:

  • Firstly, the individual researchers and their quite legitimate interests in publishing for as much prestige as possible.
  • Secondly, the international research community and its stakeholders, who need reliable practices for quality assurance and evaluation of publications and individual researchers portfolio.

I believe it is crucial to understand the open access question from the viewpoint of individual researchers. A too tough or ill-timed OA policy imposed from above can be seen as:

  • A threat: If we force researchers to publish in open access journals, it may impede their career, given present practices for assessing individual research portfolios. Some would also argue that a strong open access policy challenges the academic freedom to publish as one would like.
  • A hassle: If we force individual researchers to upload their publications manually to less than user-friendly repositories, this is likely to cause some resentment because of the increased administrative burden.
  • Extra cost: If researchers have to pay APCs from what they perceive to be their own pocket without reimbursement, that is, from their own research grants or from their department's block funding, this may cause resistance.

Let us together contemplate the following set of policies:

 Research funding organizations:

  1. All grants carry an obligation to publish open access, be it green or gold or whatever
  2. In evaluations of proposals and researchers for funding, journal impact factor will not be used as a proxy for quality.
  3. Extra costs for open access publications are reimbursable.

 Research organisations:

  1. In evaluations of researchers’ portfolios, journal impact factor will not be used as a proxy for quality in recruitment, tenure decisions, and promotion.
  2. Commitment to an ambitious policy for at least the green route.
  3. Investment in necessary support systems so that the administrative burden upon  researchers are kept at a minimum.

Governments:

  1. Sharing experiences and practices for increased bargaining power. Prioritising open access at no increased cost over decreased subscription fees.
  2. Requiring national research funding organisations to take part in the internationally shared policies and practices.
  3. Requiring national research organisations that receive public funding to follow the green route, at a minimum.

 In Norway we are expecting the final report from an expert working group on a draft for national guidelines for open access to research outputs in mid-June. The guidelines will then be sent out for public consultation. We will of course share this report with those who are interested, and we will share our experiences and good practices. Some of our experiences are hard won, and there is no reason for others to repeat our mistakes.

Let me end by saying a few words also on the question of optimal access to, and re-use of, data.  

The Research Council of Norway has adopted a policy on open access to research data from publicly funded projects. The policy includes

monetary compensation for costs associated with making research data available. The Research Council covers such costs as part of research project budgets.

Likewise the use of costly research infrastructure and the use of electronic infrastructure for high performance computing and storage of large amounts of data may be considered as eligible cost items.

We have begun the process towards a national strategy on optimal access to data, and we have committed ourselves to having such a strategy in place by the end of 2017.

When it comes to the need for findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) open research data infrastructures, we appreciate the initiative for a European Open Science Cloud from the Commission. We appreciate the aim that while being European, it should be included in a globally interoperable and accessible infrastructure.

Of course, intellectual property rights are key concerns. I subscribe to the useful rule of thumb that data should be "as open as possible, as closed as necessary". In any research project one has to consider what data/information should be kept secret and what will be open to the public (by means of open sharing and/or Intellectual Property Rights protection including licensing).

I also think it is important that we realize that there are costs associated with sharing data and establishing environments such as the Open Science Cloud. Infrastructural costs, data handling costs, legal costs arising from legal requirements related to research data.

The challenge is to find common and sustainable funding models.

In this regard, we appreciate the initiative taken by the OECD Global Science Forum in collaboration with the Research Data Alliance and the ICSU World Data System. We look forward to their report on sustainable business models for data repositories.

And as for now, I look forward to exchanging experiences and views with you.