Open Ambitions: the Dutch National Plan Open Science

On February 9 2017, diverse stakeholders in the Dutch academic circuit presented the National Plan Open Science to the secretary of state of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). In this post Vincent Wintermans (UNESCO) and Astrid van Wesenbeeck (KB – National Library of the Netherlands) focus on the Dutch open science ambitions related to this plan. 

  1. Development of the National Plan

For Sander Dekker, the liberal Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science in the outgoing Rutte-Asscher cabinet, Open Science is an important theme, in both the national and the international arena. In the first half of 2016, when the Netherlands were chairing the European Union, he organised an Open Science conference that resulted in the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science.

A major result of Amsterdam Call for Action was an agreement by EU Member States that publicly funded science should be 100% open access by 2020. The agreement ‘invites the [European] Commission to develop and encourage measures for optimal compliance with the provisions for open access to scientific publications under Horizon 2020, together with the stakeholders and the Member States; encourages Member States to work with stakeholders to do the same at the national level on publicly funded research.’

The Netherlands has responded to this last suggestion by developing a National Plan for Open Science that was undersigned by ten important national stakeholders, including the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library, KB), on February 9, 2017.

  1. National Plan Open Science

The plan focuses on three crucial areas in open science; change towards open in these areas will have a positive effect on the full transition to open science:

  1. Bringing forward open access
  2. Bringing forward reuse of research data
  3. Connecting the research evaluation system to the goals of open science.

To make it happen, the stakeholders committed to collectively work on a set of 15 ambitions/targets for the upcoming years, by forming a National Platform Open Science. All ambitions have an indicative timeline and during platform meetings progress will be monitored and cooperation will be strengthened.

One of the brave elements in the plan is the ambition to do away with non-disclosure agreements between publishers and universities related to the costs of open access publishing (ambition  3.1.4). Another remarkable ambition is number 3.2.1 : to establish a consistent system for findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable (FAIR) access to research data that should also include the thorny problem of privacy issues. The stakeholders engaged in the plan surely have work to do and we look forward to following the future developments in this respect.

The plan also shows awareness of the wider, ‘cultural’ issues that hinder the development of open science: the signatories are aware that the transition to open science cannot succeed without fundamental changes in the research evaluation system, on practical, policy and governing level.

It is interesting to note that the Plan, although developed in response to an EU Conference and an EU Council Decision, shows awareness to the fact that science doesn’t stop at the borders of the Union, but that it has truly global dimensions: it foresees cooperation with European partners to promote Open Science at the United Nations. (para 1.3)

The Plan shows a broad perspective on openness, including both publications and data in the orbit of Open Science. The writers have concentrated on the thorniest problems, hoping that progress on these matters will equally help neighbouring issues, like the opening up of the records of science from the past or the field of open software.  DANS, the Netherlands Institute for Permanent Access to Digital Research Resources, is already warming up to develop a Seal of Approval for software that will support the safeguarding and reuse of software that is developed in science.

  1. Dutch Library sector in the Plan

The Dutch university libraries are heavily involved in the Plan which is logical and to be expected because of their close relationship with the research community and their natural role. Also the KB –the National Library of the Netherlands – is involved in several ambitions. Besides bringing in expertise about data preservation and dissemination, the KB will work on making scholarly outputs more accessible for the lay people – potential users of scholarly output outside academia.

The role of the KB is especially strong in ambition 3.1.6: open access for society at large. This ambition targets to strengthen the access to scientific knowledge for the larger public. The KB has taken up a role in guiding the general public in the complex and diverse scientific information landscape. This is especially important in times when the claims of science are increasingly questioned by a sceptical public. Besides this, teachers, health care professionals and other users need access to scholarly output more and more.

This ambition fits nicely within the new Dutch library law that became effective as of January 2015. Under this law the KB works with the public library sector in diverse areas such as access to information for everybody.

  1. European and worldwide developments

The Dutch situation doesn’t stand on its own; happily more is happening in Europe and beyond. Since an extensive analysis of what is happening in the world goes a bit too far for this blog, we refer to a resource where one can find information about open science uptake and developments in Europe. On the AIMS Open Science Monitor one can see the progress of various open science aspects in European countries, such as funder policies, open access uptake, open data policies and the adoption of altmetrics.

We can clearly see that open science is happening almost everywhere, though not all policy makers intervene in the process to speed up the transition. Hopefully the Dutch situation inspires others to engage more deeply in the transition.

 

Vincent Wintermans is Policy Officer at the Netherlands national Commission for UNESCO.

[email protected]

Astrid van Wesenbeeck is Open Science Officer at the KB, the National Library of the Netherlands. She also co-authored the National Plan Open Science.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/astridvanwesenbeeck/