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The Open Belgium Conference: Open Science as part of responsible research

The Open Belgium Conference:  Open Science as part of responsible research

This year, Open Knowledge Belgium picked the beautiful city of Antwerp as the place to be for all open knowledge, open source and open data enthusiasts.

The variety of speakers at the Open Belgium Conference clearly mirrors the mission of Open Knowledge Belgium: opening up knowledge in Belgium trough community driven ways connecting four main actors: community, researchers, governments and industries. The conference consisted of a number of sessions with a wide variety of topics ranging from open government data over best practices from a data journalist to new ideas for apps.

Open Belgium

OpenAIRE session: Open Science as part of responsible research

An OpenAIRE session dug a little deeper into the topic of Open Science. The topic, exploring the role of Open Science for responsible research, was introduced by Inge Van Nieuwerburgh. Research is not conducted in a vacuum and the movement to opening up workflows in the whole research cycle is a sign of researchers becoming increasingly aware of this.

Responsible research and innovation

Ms. Gombault, the RRI Tools coordinator for the hub Belgium – Luxembourg, sketched the importance of openness for tackling the major challenges of today’s society. Research and innovation can only play its crucial role in helping solve those when all key actors are involve. For acceptance and implementation of innovation, changes in the governance of Research and Innovation are needed. Therefor Ms. Gombault is working on a project providing inspiring practices and hands on tools for responsible research.

RRI Tools is a project by a multidisciplinary consortium consisting of 26 institutions, presenting tools and even a self-reflection tool for researchers. There are specific recommendation tailored to five different stakeholders and six important topics. Openness is one of them and connected with many of the other key issues.  The toolkit contains recommended tools, inspiring practices and projects. We were happy to see that OpenAIRE is featured as one of the inspiring open access projects.

OpenAIRE: the power of an open access infrastructure

How OpenAIRE works and can help towards open science and open knowledge was the topic of the second presentation. Emilie Hermans, provided the background, services and a part of the technical infrastructure of OpenAIRE. This infrastructure cannot only help researchers but also provides tools for funders and data providers. Plans for the future will make this infrastructure even more open with the introduction of linked open data. Some interesting questions from the public were posed on the use of OpenAIRE, its sustainability as a project and the compatibility of its metadata guidelines with academic protocols.

Open Science: a view from the bench

Mr. Lobet argues that the many different skills, occupations and duties of researchers are not all credited equally.

Open BelgiumAs a post-doc researcher, he found the focus on peer-reviewed papers, with their time-consuming and closed peer-review process, hindering for his research. Open papers may present an alternative with preprints openly up for review. Acquiring datasets is a long and (sometime) expensive experience. Sharing a dataset can decrease cost while at the same time increase reproducibility and further use. Data repositories and the rise of data journals can even help get more citations.
Reproducibility is critical, therefore not only data should be open, but software as well. Code repositories can prevent that academic software and tools perish after funding and incentives have run out. It provides more chances for long term maintenance through collaboration and can help with debugging the code and version control. Ultimately every step in the research process can be opened and the tools to do so are available.

The legal side of open data

Although copyright legislation is a complex issues with many different aspects to consider, Joris Deene provided a clear overview of the main issues concerning research data on the basis of Belgian rules. Although research data contains a broad variety of information, the legal definition of data is demarcated into raw data and protected data. Raw research data as such cannot be assigned copyright for it is not processed and thus free to use. However, the legal state of data changes from ‘free to use’ to protected under copyright, when it is processed or converted into a certain form. And if data is placed in a protective database, it falls under data base protection.

A last inspiring note at the end of the conference came from another researcher: "we're well on our way towards open science, now it is time to start working, analysing and playing around with all this open data and show the real power of open knowledge!"


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