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Open Science Fellows Program . ‘Next Generation Researchers and Open Science in the University’, 2019.

@OpenSciFellows | Thanks to Sarah Behrens, Wikimedia DE, Alumna Caroline Fischer (University of Potsdam) and Fellow Rima-Maria Rahal (Tilburg University).

How can we spread Open Science principles to the next generation of researchers? One way is to practice Open Scholarship already at the university. Another way is to encourage people teaching in higher education to spread the word for Open Science, such as the Open Science Fellows Program (‘Wikimedia Deutschland/Open Science Fellows Program – Wikiversity’ n.d.) in Germany. This program offers the environment and network within open communities to support and promote the idea of Open Science/Open Scholarship.The program is a joint initiative of Wikimedia Deutschland, the Stifterverband, and the Volkswagen Foundation and aims at promoting the idea of free knowledge in academic research and making scientific knowledge more accessible and reusable. Therefore, twenty fellows were selected from diverse disciplines to develop practices of Open Science in their projects and to pass on their knowledge as multipliers within their academic institutions. Above all, the program facilitates the exchange and networking of active participants in the area of Open Science to advance the gradual dissemination of science and research. Further, mentors from different disciplines offer insights into their open research practice. This program is just one possible way to address academic institutions (e.g. Berlin-Call-to-action-for-Open-Science) (‘Berlin Call to Action’ 2016) and to establish ambassadors for openness within the scientific world in order to sustainably strengthen the free knowledge movement.

In the following interview, Alumna Caroline Fischer (University of Potsdam) and Fellow Rima-Maria Rahal (Tilburg University) give their insights into how Open Science affects their research practices and how to integrate Open Science practices into higher education.   

What are the clear incentives today for students to use Open Science methods: greater attribution, speedier access to research, or faster research results with data science skills?

Rima-Maria Rahal:

@rimamrahal Blog:

To my mind, Open Science has a number of advantages that make sense from a rational, efficiency-oriented perspective. A priori openly planning your hypotheses, sampling rules and analyses greatly reduces uncertainty in dealing with your data. I sometimes hear people say that Open Science costs time, but I think it simply redistributes some of the time you’d otherwise spend after data collection to the period before data collection. From a perspective of theory of knowledge, this is what the bulk of your research time and effort should be focused on, I think. You can only do good tests of the hypotheses critical to a certain theory if you formulate them and design an experiment putting them to a severe test. From a statistical perspective, of course, planning tests and sample sizes is a prerequisite for our tests to give us meaningful results. Open Science makes it easier to be transparent about fulfilling these prerequisites. Moreover, communicating your pre-data decisions openly makes it vastly easier to talk about your results. You’ve decided beforehand what your main tests will be. Of course you can still explore what else your data might have to say, but you can also remind yourself and your readers that additional findings are exploratory in nature and need replication before you can rely on them.

Caroline Fischer:

@OpenPuMa Blog:

I completely agree with that. Some weeks ago I pre-registered a study for the first time. Writing up the article for this study now is much easier and faster because the method chapter is finished to a certain extent. However, it is not easy to speak about incentives for Open Scholarship, if students are merely consuming research instead of conducting studies themselves. When a colleague of mine recently taught a session on Open Science and asked the students in the end, what is the most important part of Open Science for you, almost all answered: open access to literature. That’s where they get in touch with research output. Therefore, in my point of view, during undergrad studies we should invest time to make students critical and ask inconvenient questions and highlight the advantages they can gain from Open Science, as for example open data to practice statistical skills or open lab notebooks as a “cheat sheet” how to design and conduct a study (or not).

What are the ways in which Open Science/Open Scholarship skills can be integrated into higher education so as to be tailored for different subject disciplines as opposed to being standalone Open Science courses?

Caroline Fischer:

In my point of view, Open Scholarship can and should be part of every kind of courses. Of course, especially in method courses principles of Open Science can be practiced easily and Open Science artifacts may even serve as an achievement equivalent to a term paper. For instance, in empirical disciplines, pre-registering a study, writing an open lab notebook throughout the research process or coding qualitative data openly can be practiced. In more theoretical disciplines, communication with practitioners and society as a whole can be improved: how could we explain a certain argument to non-academics?

However, also literature courses, where students read and discuss for example journal articles, are a good place to cultivate criticism and the benefit of transparency as prerequisites for Open Scholarship: do we know what the authors did in their study from an article or are relevant theoretical assumptions or methodological information missing? Are some results communicated and others not and what might be a reason for that? Can the communicated results really be found in the data or are some results over- or undervalued? Together with these discussions, we should also explain how academic publications and the academic career system work to provide explanations for some of the probably identified issues.

Rima-Maria Rahal:

I agree and I also see lots of opportunities to weave Open Scholarship into teaching. Many programs in empirical sciences focus extensively on teaching students the skills to design and run empirical studies. Doing so while including Open Science practices in the research cycle allows students to learn to include Open Scholarship from the start seems. This way, students can immediately profit from the uncertainty reduction that Open Scholarship offers. Most student projects are graded, making them quite stressful anyway. Defining the goals of the projects clearly before getting data helps reduce the stress students experience when dealing with their data, and when writing up their work. That’s why, when I supervise empirical student projects, I make sure that we use Open Science. So far, my students have been completely on board with this approach.

I think there are many more areas where it makes sense to add Open Science considerations to teaching in higher education. In the empirical sciences, an introductory class on philosophy of science and theory of knowledge is a good place to get started. From there, applications of Open Science can spread naturally through reading courses, critical discussion groups, methods classes and students’ own research projects. Ultimately, I think including Open Science makes sense anywhere between a first semester class and handing in your dissertation.  

What are the learning innovations that can make use of the Open Science ‘dividend’ of open works: open access publications, open data sets, or OER materials, etc?

Caroline Fischer:

I regularly use open data sets in my statistical courses to practice and give students the chance to work on their own questions with this data. Open data sets are also a good opportunity for empirical theses, especially when a target population is not accessible in another way. A great opportunity, especially for freshers, are open and annotated bibliographies, which might help to get an overview of the state of research in a certain field.

When students have to work collaboratively in projects, as in most of my classes, I usually introduce some tools to them, which they can later use in open research workflows or in any other profession: etherpads, wikis or project management in the Open Science Framework. I learned that some students are feared and not able to cope with full openness from the beginning. I usually start with making all steps in a students research project transparent for all the other students, so that project teams can learn from each other.

For an upcoming course, I am recently looking for scientific articles accompanied by open peer reviews to trace the development of a paper throughout a peer review process. I would like to study and discuss such a case together with my students. On the one hand, they can learn from this case study what makes a good scientific article, what constitutes supporting feedback and how to review in such a way. On the other hand, and maybe much more important, they can learn that no researcher and no article is perfect from the beginning and that peer feedback can make us better.

Rima-Maria Rahal:

I also think that in literature seminars, noting whether a paper adheres to Open Scholarship principles can help students put its findings into perspective. Even better: students can interact directly with the data, gaining practical experience in making sense of data sets, statistical procedures and the interpretation of results. Going beyond, open commentary makes critical reading more than just an exercise in class. When students can share their ideas outside of the scope of their classes, opportunities for bridging the gap between teaching and research arise. Finally, Open Educational Resources are not only a great way to reduce access barriers in higher education. They also make speedy and collaborative updates possible, reacting flexibly to the ever changing status quo of scientific insight and offering students the opportunity to stay fully informed of the current developments in their field.

In sum, we both see a number of advantages of including Open Scholarship in higher education. These advantages reach from reducing uncertainty for students to improving their perspective on different research outputs to increasing their methodological skills all the way to allowing them to interact more closely with real-world research. For sure, adding Open Scholarship is also “yet another thing” to be included in teaching schedules that are already busy. But to my mind, it is definitely worth it, given the many advantages I see for the students.


‘Wikimedia Deutschland/Open Science Fellows Program – Wikiversity’. Accessed 22 February 2019.

‘Berlin Call to Action’, 2016.