Open access to research data and publications: The unintended consequences

Open access to research data and publications: The unintended consequences

by Maura Hiney

Open access to scientific knowledge, while not a new idea, has gained considerable traction with the advent of the European Commissions’ Open Science Agenda. Open data access and open access publications are key pillars of this agenda, along with open innovation and research integrity. However, the Open Science agenda presents significant challenges for researchers, not just because of the many issues of practical implementation, but also because there are ethical considerations that need to be explored and resolved.

Open access to scientific data and publications were the timely topics of two concurrent workshops held in Brussels on the 31st January and 1st February 2018. Both workshops explored the unintended consequences and potential ethical issues of open access, and looked at potential mitigating actions that might reduce these potentially negative consequences.

The first workshop, titled Open data in science: Challenges and opportunities for Europe, took place under the patronage of the European Members of the International Council for Sciences (ICSU), currently chaired by the Swiss Academy of Sciences. workshop took place against the background of the current European Commission initiative to link data repositories into a European Open Science Cloud for the trusted hosting and processing research data. The ambition of this workshop was to involve academics in policy dialogue on Open science as it pertains to research data. The key messages that emerged from this workshop were that:

  • FAIR Principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable )need to operationalised and implemented at local level
  • Trustworthy data repositories need to be clearly identifiable, and there is a need to increase their number
  • There is an urgent need to train and develop data scientists with the skills to curate complex data sets
  • There is a need to motivate scientists toward open data through enhancement of current career incentives and reward systems
  • There is a need to support the change process that will bring about integration of open data as part of the research culture

The second workshop, entitled Open access publishing, a windy road, was organised by the ALLEA Permanent Working Group on Science and Ethics, and driven by Professor László Fésüs from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It was hosted by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. The premise of this workshop was that while there has been much progress on open access publishing, several unintended consequences and ethical conundrums have hindered its full-scale implementation and adoption by the research community. The purpose of the workshop was to identify some of these issues and to discuss possible solutions. The panels of the workshop covered issues ranging from editorial responsibilities in the Open Access world to ways of identifying questionable and unethical publishers. Further issues that were addressed were the need to balance transparency with resilience and the effects of Open Access on the assessment of research performance. The workshop concluded with a panel debate, bringing together representatives from European academies, young academies, funding organisations, European universities, and the European Research Council.


For more information on both workshops:

Open data in science: challenges and opportunities for Europe

  • Workshop programme
  • Presentations:
    Stephane Berghmans (Elsevier)- Perspectives on Open Science
    Jean-Claude Burgelman (European Commission) – EU Open Access policies in support of Open Science
    Geoffrey Boulton (ICSU CODATA) – Open Data; A scientists perspective
    Edouard Bugnion (SDSC) – Swiss Data Science Centre: A digitization journey
    Peter Doorn (Science Europe) – Chair of SE Working Group on Research Data
    Mark Hahnel (Figshare) – The power and the promise of infrastructure for Open Research
    Sandy Harrison (ICSU WDS, replacing Françoise Genova) – ICSU World Data System: Trustworthy Data Services for Global Science
    Natalie Harrower (DRI / ALLEA / RDA Europe) – How can academics contribute to open data (Open Science/FAIR data
    Martin Stokhof (ERC) – The ERC Open Access Working Group: Views on research data management and DMPs.

Ethical Aspects of Open Access: A windy road: 

  • Workshop Programme
  • Presentations:
    László Fésüs (Hungarian Academy) – Open Access: The Problem Landscape from an Ethical Perspective;
    Chris Graf (COPE) – Editorial Responsibility in the Open Access World: Best Practices;
    Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol) – Open Data: Balancing Transparency with Resilience;
    Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ) – Questionable and Unethical Publishers: How to Spot them and Enable Researchers to Avoid Being Trapped;
    Michele Garfinkel (EMBO)– Open Access and Assessing Research Performance 


Statement “Open Data in Science in Europe” by the European Members of the International Council for Science ICSU which is based on the workshop.