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Conference report: ORD2015 in Warsaw, May 28-29

Conference report: ORD2015 in Warsaw, May 28-29
Over 100 participants from 10 countries attended the international conference “Open Research Data: Implications for Science and Society” which took place in Warsaw on May 28-29, 2015. The conference was organized by the Open Science Platform – part of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling at the University of Warsaw (ICM UW) – which also functions as the Polish OpenAIRE 2020 National Open Access Desk.

The audience of the conference was very mixed, including researchers and PhD students who work with data and/or are engaged in making tools for data management and sharing, academic IT, library and research administration staff, private companies operating in the field of science communication (Figshare, Altmetric, Elsevier, Thomson Reuters), as well as representatives of public administration from several countries.

The conference participants were welcomed by Marek Niezgódka, director of ICM UW, the host of the conference. The opening speech was by Włodzisław Duch, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland. Using his own research experience as an example, Duch pointed to the complexity of problems associated with the opening of research data. The diversity of data structures and formats, the different standards used, potential commercialization of results – all this makes it difficult to introduce detailed regulations in this area. “We just have to encourage people [to open their data] and point that this is something beneficial because public money has to lead to results that are benefiting the public”, he concluded.

The potential of open research data has been also acknowledged by the European Commission who has launched an Open Research Data Pilot in Horizon 2020. Researchers receiving funding from selected areas of the H2020 program are obliged to make their research data openly available to others, in a manner that would allow efficient re-use. Jean-Claude Burgelman, head of the unit Science Policy, Foresight and Data, presented an overview of the pilot and preliminary statistics of its uptake. “The European Commission wants to optimise the impact of public funded research“, he said, “both at the European and the Member State level. One way to get there is open access to peer-reviewed scientific publications and to research data”. Among the expected benefits of open access to research data he named better, more transparent and efficient science as well as faster and better innovation and economic growth in Europe.

The main topics discussed during the conference were why, how and when to share research data. Kevin Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) showed how the whole society and the research community in particular benefit from data sharing: how it helps increase the visibility and impact of the researcher, how it can speed up the research of others and let them save tax-payer’s money, and most importantly – how you can never know who, when and for what will re-use your data. Mark Thorley, representing CODATA and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UK, presented several examples of open data re-use by business and innovators. He noted that the expectations and opportunities of the society have changed in the digital and networked world, and that opening of information is now becoming a norm – those who ignore it risk becoming marginalized. Martin Hamilton from Jisc discussed some possible future models of science-business cooperation.

A large part of the conference was devoted to the discussion of common standards, practices and strategies for data sharing. Mark Parsons, secretary general of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), presented the aims and means of action of the RDA and stressed that what is needed for efficient data sharing are not only specialized technologies, but also the relations of institutions and people with them. Many presentations were devoted to specialized tools and methodologies that facilitate data sharing – general and thematic data repositories, or ontologies for the description of scientific data, workflows or methods.

A topic that received much interest was how to motivate researchers to share their data. Tim Smith from CERN noted that although the ideal of open research data receives broad support it is not broadly embraced; he called for a scientist-centric approach and again pointed to those aspects of data sharing that benefit the researcher directly. He also gave some examples from CERN showing how even data as complicated as that from the Large Hadron Collider can be openly shared and truly re-used by others. Giulia Ajmone-Marsan presented the conclusions from her work on a not-yet-published OECD report "Making Open Science Happen". She noted that national open-science strategies are still rare and that most initiatives are bottom-up. Especially in the field of open data policies – compared to open access to publications – a lot remains to be done. She stressed the importance of working on the incentives for scientists to share data and on the skills that are required for proper data management and sharing.

The conference was concluded by a panel discussion which took the form of an expert panel whose members were answering questions from the audience and engaging in discussions with the conference participants. Many topics already mentioned during the conference appeared again during the final discussion. The questions concerned how to best convince researchers to share their data, what kinds of incentives would be efficient, what further tools are required. Whether data needs peer review proved to be a controversial issue. The possibility of a de-centralized system for stable digital identifiers was also mentioned.

All conference presentations and video recordings of most talks will be openly available from the Open Science Platform website pon.edu.pl.

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