Open Science at Ghent University

What is Open Science?

Open Science (image by FOSTER)Open Science is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods (FOSTER Open Science Definition). In a nutshell, Open Science is transparent and accessible knowledge that is shared and developed through collaborative networks (Vicente-Sáez & Martínez-Fuentes 2018). 

Open Science is about increased rigour, accountability, and reproducibility for research. It is based on the principles of inclusion, fairness, equity, and sharing, and ultimately seeks to change the way research is done, who is involved and how it is valued. It aims to make research more open to participation, review/refutation, improvement and (re)use for the world to benefit.

Open Science encompasses a variety of practices, usually including areas like open access to publications, open research data, open source software/tools, open workflows, citizen science, open educational resources, and alternative methods for research evaluation including open peer review (Pontika et al., 2015).

Open Science at Ghent University

Ghent University is committed to supporting Open Science and strives for policy, infrastructure, and guidance fostering the Open Science attitude of its research community.

 Scholarly publishing

Open Science within the context of scholarly publishing mostly refers to the concepts of open access to publications and open peer review.
Open access refers to the practice of making peer-reviewed scholarly research and literature freely available online to anyone interested. Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose, subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness. (cf. definition It does not affect the authors' freedom to choose where to publish or the right not to publish. There are two major ways to make publications open access: (1) self-archiving via a repository, and (2) publishing in an open access journal.
Open Peer Review is an umbrella term for a number of overlapping ways that peer review models can be adapted in line with the aims of Open Science. Its two main traits are “open identities”, where both authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identities (i.e., non-blinded), and “open reports”, where review reports are published alongside the relevant article. They can be combined.

 FAIR data

Data which meet principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and re-usability for both humans and machines. Such data can be fully openly accessible, in the sense that they are free to be used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose (see But they don’t have to be: restricted access data can also be FAIR.

Ghent University aims to expand and optimize its quality assurance of research, and aspires to reach an RDM that meets the highest quality standards within the international research context.

 European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)

The EOSC will be developed as a data infrastructure commons serving the needs of scientists. It should provide both common functions and localised services delegated to community level. Indeed, the EOSC will federate existing resources across national data centres, European e-infrastructures and research infrastructures; service provision will be based on local-to-central subsidiarity (e.g. national and disciplinary nodes connected to nodes of pan-European level); it will top-up mature capacity through the acquisition of resources at pan-European level by EOSC operators, to serve a wider number of researchers in Europe. Users should contribute to define the main common functionalities needed by their own community. A continuous dialogue to build trust and agreements among funders, users and service providers is necessary for sustainability. (EOSC declaration 26th Oct, 2017)
  • Ghent University is a member of the EOSC Association.
  • HPC-UGent (centralised scientific computing services, training, and support for researchers and industry) is preparing a segway into the EOSC, in collaboration with Flemish Supercomputer Center (VSC).

 Education and skills

In order to foster an Open Science culture throughout the research eco-system, everyone supporting and/or doing research needs to understand the benefits of Open Science along its eight dimensions. Providing skills training is crucial to increase Open Science literacy.

Ghent University provides such training through various workshops and courses (integrated within the study curriculum, as part of the Doctoral Schools courses, through group and individual sessions on demand – be it on central or decentral level, by using MOOCs such as the Open Science MOOC, …).

  • Workshops University Library
  • Training offer Doctoral Schools
  • Workshops on societal impact of research

 Incentives and rewards

The focus on Open Science coincides with a movement away from exclusively or primarily quantitative and metric-focused assessment to a better and more sensible mix of quantitative and qualitative assessment of research,  research impact, and research careers. This evolution aims not only to appreciate positive results, but also underlying data, research practices and an open and transparent research culture.
  • Ghent University opts for a responsible and balanced evaluation policy (including guidelines on responsible use of metrics and indicators). Also see ‘Next-generation metrics’.
  • Incentives and rewards for Open Science run through the career progression model of professors (and in the future, other scientific staff categories) at Ghent University. See Portfolio of research dimensions (e.g. interdisciplinarity, societal impact, …)
  • All researchers at Ghent University are expected to have an ORCID-id connected to the university.
  • The university has introduced RDM requirements in its Special Research Fund and Industrial Research Fund.

Next-generation metrics or altmetrics

In an open science environment, the challenge and/or ambition is to extend the range of indicators to cover new and more various forms of output with new measures; and also to agree on principles for the responsible use of metrics.

Research integrity

Scientific research is legitimated by the quality of its execution. Different stakeholders (citizens, government, industry, social midfield, …) count on scientific research for objective and nuanced knowledge accumulation of the highest quality.

It is the individual responsibility of all those involved in education and research to act with due academic integrity. Ghent University extends its monitoring duty by engaging in an institution-wide ‘Policy Plan on Research Integrity’.

Ghent University sets great store by adopting a preventive two-track policy aimed at:

  1. Encouraging ‘Good Research Practices’ which improve the quality for the individual researcher, research and the research environment in general
  2. Improving the overall quality culture by adopting a research policy that pursues excellence while striking the necessary balances in order to guarantee the continuity of dynamic, ever innovative research.

Citizen Science

Citizen science is the active involvement of non-professional scientists in research. From grassroots community initiatives to university-based projects managed by professional scientists, citizens´ involvement in science takes many forms and has brought about a wide range of activities. Citizen science allows research projects to use large and varied data sets collected by citizens, to tap the experience and knowledge of citizens; it enhances universities´ engagement with society and fosters citizens´ scientific involvement.

Open Science and the European Commission

Since the 2012 "Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information" the European Commission pays increasing attention to Open Science. Its objective is to optimise the impact of publicly-funded scientific research, both at European (FP7, Horizon 2020) and Member State level.

  • The EC's funding programme Horizon Europe has a comprehensive policy on open science from the proposal stage to project reporting. For example, it mandates open access to scientific publications, responsible management of research data in line with the FAIR principles, notably via the use of data management plans (DMPs), and open access to research data under the principle “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”.
  • The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) is an initiative of the European Commission. Several targeted projects help shape the EOSC programme.
  • In the Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP) different stakeholders, such as universities, researchers, funders and publishers, advise the European Commission on the 8 pillars of Open Science.

The website of the European Commission on Open Science explains the main areas of activities.

Ghent University is actively involved in the support of the European Commission's Open Science policies through her partnership in OpenAIRE - Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe. Both through the projects OpenAIRE and EOSC-PILLAR (to start in the Summer of 2019) Ghent University contributes to shaping EOSC.

Resources and further reading

The FOSTER portal is an e-learning platform that brings together the best training resources addressed to those who need to know more about Open Science, or need to develop strategies and skills for implementing Open Science practices in their daily workflows.