Open Science Communities and Universities of Applied Science: Strengthening the connection – PART I

On May 13th 2022, representatives of several Dutch Open Science Communities (OSC) and Universities of Applied Science (UAS) got together online to discuss how to foster collaboration and integration of OSC and UAS*. The premise being that OSCs have evolved from, and cater primarily to, Universities, while Open Science is a topic that is just as relevant for and pressing at UASs. OSCs have always indicated to be open for collaboration with others, including UAS, but little effort has been put in including or collaborating with UAS. As a result, the interaction between the ‘Open Science bubbles’ at OSC’s and UAS is limited. In this meeting, we explored what could be gained by collaborating more and how this could be achieved.

Open Science at Universities and UAS: more overlap than differences 

To establish common ground and identify opportunities, we started off by exploring the overlap and differences between the current status and ambitions regarding Open Science practices for universities and UAS, respectively. As it turned out, there is much more overlap than there are differences. Open Access publishing, sharing of FAIR data, code and software, preregistration and transparent reporting are topics that are of equal interest to Universities and UAS, and are central topics in all OSCs. 

The differences that exist, actually create learning opportunities, rather than that they set us apart. For example, Universities and UAS differ in the extent to which science and society are connected. At universities, crossing the gap between fundamental research and knowledge utilisation is one of the challenges in institutional Open Science programs. For UAS, this comes naturally, as their research commonly involves societal stakeholders by default. Here, Universities can learn from UAS. 

Another example is Open Access publishing. Researchers at UAS more often publish in professional journals, instead of academic journals, where Open Access is less common. It is worthwhile to explore how Open Access models that work for academic journals translate to professional journals. 

Lastly, it is important to note that incentive structures for career advancement differ between Universities and UAS, creating a different context in which the transition to Open Science takes shape. Both could benefit from exploring how incentives relate to the quality and impact of research output, and how these can be optimised. As such, much is to be gained by fostering collaboration and integration of UAS in OSCs.

Interactions between OSCs and UAS are scarce

At the moment, the most active involvement of an UAS in OSCs is that of the Amsterdam UAS in the OSC-Amsterdam, the latter being a community for the UvA, VU and AUAS. The interaction consists of advertising events and initiatives amongst these three member sections, but so far this leads to members attending each other’s events only occasionally. A similar situation occurs in Twente, where OSC-Twente advertises Open Science related events of Saxion, and vice versa – although the two are not formally associated with one another. Also here, the attendance by people other than the organisers is very limited. At all other places, there is little to none interaction between OSCs and UAS. Why is this the case and what can we do to overcome this?  

How to foster collaboration and integration of OSCs and UAS

The first suggestion is that researchers at UAS may feel that joining an OSC (or events organised by OSCs) is ‘not for them’. The first thing to do is to check and revise the text of the OSC websites, including the Guiding Principles and the Code of Conduct, so that it explicitly speaks to employees of both Universities and UAS alike. 

Another suggestion is to feature both University and UAS logos on OSC websites. In principle, this would be a strong signal that employees of both Universities and UAS are welcome. However, in principle, OSCs don’t feature University logos, to emphasise their independence from institutional Open Science programs. The pro’s and con’s of these approaches need to be considered before taking action. 

The current OSCs don’t grow if not for the continuous effort of the local OSC coordinators. Promotional activities within UAS are needed to inspire UAS employees to join their local OSC. Such activities are most effective when the ‘sender’ of the message is from within the organisation. To this extent, it would be beneficial to have representatives from UAS’ being part of the core team of local OSCs and ask (future) UAS members of OSCs to actively spread the word within UAS.

Regarding events, it was the experience at OSC-Utrecht, that events organised for a specific target group (e.g. Open Access for the Life Sciences) attracted more attendees than University wide events. Following this line, OSCs could organise events specific for employees of UAS  (and faculty-specific within each UAS) and/or integrate speakers from UAS at larger events (e.g. symposia) organised by OSCs. This again signals that researchers from UAS are part of the target audience for OSC.

Call to action

To summarise, collaboration and integration of UAS and OSCs are likely to be mutually beneficial, but work needs to be done to put this to practice. We hereby call all OSC coordinators and those involved in Open Science at UAS to reach out to each other, to discuss the aforementioned actions. In parallel, the national board of Open Science Communities (OSC-NL) will discuss with the Digital Competence Centre Praktijkgericht Onderzoek (DCC-PO) how best to proceed. A similar meeting will be organised half a year from now to evaluate progress and set new goals. 

*On behalf of the OSC’s, representatives from OSC-Twente, OSC-Nijmegen and OSC-Utrecht were present, as well as from the national OSC-NL board. On behalf of the UAS, representatives of the HvA and Saxion were present, and offline contributions were provided by representatives from the HU.

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