Summary: please help us to get the idea about the importance of Free Software as a condition for Open Science into the mind of stakeholders and decision-takers of the Horizon2020 program. You can do so by participating in the interim evaluation and re-using FSFE’s position paper.
What came to my mind the first times that I read “Open Science” was that this term should not be necessary in the first place. In common understanding as well as in its self-conception, “openness” is the elementary part of all science. “Openness” in a sense that all scientific results shall be published publicly along with experimental settings, methods and anything else that leads to their results. It is exactly this approach that – in theory – gives everyone the chance to reproduce the experiment and get to the same results.
But although this approach of openness might still be the noble objective of any scientist, the general idea of a publicly available science is called into question since at least the de-facto domination of publishers over science journals and the creation of a profit-oriented market-design. It cannot be the point of this blogpost to roll out the problematic situation in that nowadays the consumers and the content creators both have to pay publishers for overpriced science journals, financed with public money. Instead, at this point, most important is that these high prices are contrary to the idea of universal access to science as they give access only to those who can afford it.
Fortunately, Open Access came up to do something about this problem. Similar to Free Software, Open Access uses free licenses to offer access to science publications to everyone around the globe. That is why Open Access is an important step towards the universal access of science. Unfortunately, in a digital world, Open Access is just one of many tools that we have to use to achieve an Open Science. Equally important is the format and software that is used. Also, Open Access only covers the final publication and misses to cover the steps that lead to there. This is where Open Science steps in.
Why Free Software matters in Open Science
It should be clear that Open Science – unlike Open Access – does not only relate to a publication form of the results of a research. Open Science aims to cover and open up the whole research process from the method design to data gathering to calculations to its final publication. What means that thanks to the digitalization, since some decades we now have a new issue in the opening of the scientific process and this is the software that is used. Software is an integral part of basically all sciences nowadays and nearly all steps involved in a research project are in need and covered by the use of software.
And here is the point: Proprietary software cannot offer the approach of openness that is needed to keep scientific experiments and results transparent and reproducible. Only Free Software offers the possibility to study and reuse the software that was used for the research in question and therewith universal access to science. Only Free Software offers transparency and therewith the possibility to check the methods (e.g. mathematical calculations of the software in use) that have been used to achieve the results. And only Free Software offers collaboration and independence of science and secures long-time archiving of results at the same time. (If you like to dig deeper into the argumentation how Open Science is in need of Free Software, read my previous blogpost on this).
How to push for Free Software in Horizon2020
Horizon2020 is the biggest public science funding in the European Union, run by the European Commission. Fortunately, Open Science is one of the main principles promoted by Horizon2020 to further unlock the full potential of innovation in Europe. Currently, Horizon2020 is running an interim evaluation to help formulate the next EU research and innovation funding post-2020. So this is the best moment in time to raise awareness about the importance of Free Software and Open Standards for Open Science for the next funding period.
To get this message and idea to the decision-takers inside the European Commission, at the FSFE we wrote a position paper why Free Software matters for Open Science including concrete proposals and best methods of how to implement Free Software into the Horizon2020 framework. To further support our demands we additionally filed in a Freedom of Information request to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation to ask about the use, development and release of (Free) software under Horizon2020.
If you are convinced now, please help us to get the idea about the importance of Free Software as a condition for Open Science into the mind of stakeholders and decision-takers of the Horizon2020 program. You can do so by participating in the consultation and re-using FSFE’s position paper (PDF). Literally, you can fill in your personal details, skip all questions and in the end upload FSFE’s position paper. This is the 5-minute-stop and we explained it for you in our wiki. Or you read through our position paper, take it as an inspiration and you upload a modified version of it. Please, find all information necessary including links to the sources in FSFE’s wiki.
Thank you very much for helping to open up European science by using Free Software!