Open science as a hobby?

A recent discussion among scholars about an open science conference on a holiday or a weekend (thanks to Moritz Schubotz for bringing that up again), reminded me of some thoughts that I can’t get out of my head. There are many activities we academics do in our free time although they are work-related. Maybe not everyone, but many. Outreach activities, ancillary teaching activities, conferences, or service to our community as a reviewer, a discussant, or a panel chair. Open science is often not different, it’s an extra task that we have to squeeze into our tight schedules.

Unfortunately, open science related activities are still seen as a freely chosen extra task, as a hobby. No one forces you to be open. However, it is a lot of additional work. Three examples:

  • Gold Open Access Publishing: I recently got an article accepted and wanted it to be published open access. Because I was not aware of the current regulations and deals in place, that meant for me to collect information. Hence, writing emails to the library, research support, and publisher. Once we figured out how it works and after signing the publishing agreement, something went wrong. The article was published closed access. Can happen. However, for me, that meant another bunch of emails back and forth to get the right publishing license. All in all that whole procedure took me a minimum of 5 hours of work.
  • Green Open Access Publishing: You could say, well it’s complicated with the publishers, just publish in a closed way and upload a pre- or a postprint. Right! However, that takes at least the same time. Preparing an own layouted final version. Maybe I am too badly organized, but for me, that also means transferring all the small changes done in a final pdf proof back to the last version of the word document. Then choosing a repository, uploading everything, generating a DOI, linking to original article.
  • Open Data: However, all that work is peanuts in comparison to publishing data. There might be very well organized people out there, cleaning their data from the beginning in a publishable way. For me it always takes hours to prepare a dataset for publication, the metadata, read me files, and so on.

Open science related outreach activities also belong to these bunch of extra activities. Giving a talk here, writing a blog post there. Of course, we all have chosen proactively to be open science scholars. But to be honest: it’s sometimes exhausting!

What would help?

The open science movement discussed from the beginning how to incorporate open activities in our normal work. And today almost every university has a lot of support staff available who do great work. Anyway, I would like to have more support. I want to send my datasets to a person in my institution responsible for open data and delegate everything related to the publication of that dataset. I want to delegate discussions with publishers about licenses to a person in my institution. I want someone to help me with outreach.

Apart from that, a lot of things would be easier, when open science would be the default. No need to deal anymore with a publisher who messed up the open-access agreement. Advocacy activities would not be needed anymore (or not so much). And we could more easily compete with colleagues who just abstain from all this additional work and therefore, often, publish more. Hence, less strain to produce as much output as people do without taking the open science extra tasks.

Open science is not my hobby, it’s just my job. I want help from my employer and the academy in that. And I want the burden of open science shared among everyone and not just a few. I want open science as a default. And not on weekends!

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