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Open Science: An Academic Librarian’s Perspective

Open Science logo
Image from Kim Holmberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Open Science is a multifaceted notion encompassing open access to publications, open research data, open source software, open collaboration, open peer review, open notebooks, open educational resources, open monographs, citizen science, or research crowdfunding in order to remove barriers in the sharing of scientific research output and raw data (FOSTER). In other words, the goal of the Open Science movement is to make scientific data a public good in contrast to the expansion of intellectual property rights over knowledge propagated by the paywalled dissemination model. Therefore, Open Science is more of a social and cultural phenomenon aiming to recover the founding principles of scientific research rather than an alternative form of knowledge exchange. It is important to emphasize that despite the fact that Open Science is currently most visible in the area of “hard sciences” (due to large data sets generated by high-throughput experiments and simulations), it is not limited to only the STEM fields — it is also applicable to other types of scientific research.

Open access, open educational resources, and open data are the three Open Science components with the biggest impact on academic library services and operations. In that context, academic librarians have to take on new roles to maximize the research and educational potential of digital technologies in order to provide open access to publications and data sets in repositories. Different academic institutions choose different approaches to ensure support for Open Science, but in all instances academic librarians are expected to play a central role by providing leadership, information services, and research data management services — and even by collaborating in research projects at their institutions. They can offer guidance, training, and services not only in the exploratory stage of research, but also in providing metadata and other research data management services, hosting data in repositories, and ensuring their long-term curation and preservation. The challenge is not the technological capacity of such repositories but rather the creation of adequate metadata and policies ensuring sustained access to the data.

In order to support open data-driven research, academic librarians have to expand traditional library services and adopt new data-related roles, which will require expanding their qualifications beyond library science and subject degrees toward information technologies, data science, data curation, and e-science. This will lead to a deep transformation in librarians themselves, making them more technologically savvy, more data oriented, and more active in the research process. This transformation will also have ramifications for those who train the next generation of academic librarians (i.e., graduate library and information science programs), as well as for those who periodically predict the disappearance of libraries — perhaps libraries and librarians will not only survive but thrive by adapting to and taking on the opportunities that arise as a result of the new roles that come along.

References

FOSTER. (2017). What is Open Science? Introduction.  Retrieved from https://www.fosteropenscience.eu/content/what-open-science-introduction

Stefka Tzanova is Assistant Professor and Science Librarian at York College. She is coordinator of CUNY Academic Works and the OER initiative at York College.

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