Introducing Karlijn Hermans and the Open Science programme at Leiden University

In this interview, Karlijn Hermans, the university’s Open Science coordinator, introduces herself and the Academia in Motion programme.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your role as the Open Science program coordinator?

My name is Karlijn Hermans, 32 years old. I studied psychology and finished my PhD in the Center for Contextual Psychiatry at KU Leuven (Belgium) in 2021. Thereafter, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Professor Eveline Crone at the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences in Leiden and the Erasmus University Rotterdam. This research group values Open Science (OS) highly, evidenced by various initiatives and research projects involving Open Science. With my team, I set up a Citizen Science project and a research project to enrich the data and results of a longitudinal cohort study on social development in children and adolescents with experiences of primary school teachers; the Teacher Project. I was also involved in outreach activities such as Expeditie NEXT, a science festival for children. Now that I am the Open Science (Programme) Coordinator at Leiden University since September 2022, I’m pleased to see these projects continuing within the research group.

I started in this new role as Open Science Coordinator together with the coordinator of the Recognition & Rewards (R&R) programme in Leiden (Cas Henckens). The university invests in the OS and R&R programmes for the next 5 years under the umbrella of Academia in Motion. As the Open Science Coordinator in the department of Strategy and Academic Affairs (Administration and Central Services), I collaborate with stakeholders across the whole university to implement the OS programme. One important stakeholder is the Open Science Community Leiden (OSCL). I help to facilitate, stimulate and support the OSCL to grow and make sure there is a direct link from the OSCL to the OS policy and implementation. This involves meeting regularly with the OSCL managers to discuss action lines and initiatives and seek input as representatives of the larger community. Together with Leiden University’s OS ambassador, Paul Wouters, and the R&R team, we discuss the strategic direction of Academia in Motion in a steering group, chaired by our Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl. We also work closely with the Centre for Digital Scholarship (UBL) and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), including the Citizen Science lab.

In an upcoming OSCoffee on May 4th, I will explain more about my role and collaboration with OSCL.

What has led you both personally and professionally to become so deeply interested in this topic, and this role? 

As a PhD student, I already believed in the researchers’ responsibility to share knowledge openly with society and foster a reciprocal relationship between science and society during research. I’ve always been impatient with the system and felt that new insights and findings should be shared with the world as soon as possible, instead of waiting for a journal to decide to publish. This is why I spent time writing blogs, preregistrations and preprints. As a researcher working with large and sensitive datasets, I encountered practical hurdles that prevented data sharing (where to store the data, how to document metadata, etc.). I felt that this should and could be changed and wanted to contribute to this change on a higher level than individually, so why not university wide so I can also learn from other disciplines? This passion, together with my fascination for complex social dynamics (also the topic of my PhD project) and my love for bringing people together and getting things done are all combined in my current role. What’s more, I can contribute to the implementation of Open Science practices in the entire university and align with the many exciting (inter)national initiatives on Open Science. 

How do you think we can make Open Science the norm?

I support the pyramid strategy for culture change, as described by Brian Nosek, where interventions are needed at different levels, such as at the policy level and at the level of communities, to make Open Science practices the norm. Progress at each level can only be achieved if these levels can efficiently reinforce each other. For example, open infrastructure and policies alone cannot bring optimal results unless they are supported by a culture shift and reward system for researchers to embrace open research practices. This is an important part of my job and of the Academia in Motion team: to coordinate these efforts, to ensure they optimally support each other. If we manage to channel all the developments, ambitions, and efforts towards Open Science with the same goal in mind, I think we will, in time, make Open Science the norm. 

Pressures to perform and publish can create a challenging environment for scientists to conduct their research in an open and transparent way. What concrete changes do you think need to happen in Leiden to alleviate this problem? 

Yes, these pressures can indeed be challenging. At the same time, I think times are changing: recent (inter)national developments in the Recognition & Rewards movement, Dutch government investing in Open Science NL, and national (Chiefs Open Science in UNL) and international (European, US, Latin-America) collaboration efforts demonstrate a changing landscape. Concrete changes should be made in the academic culture within universities to alleviate the (perceived) pressure to perform and publish. Locally, in Leiden, we could do this by showing researchers the added value of open and transparent research practices. In my view, we should do this by presenting accessible alternatives, providing support and recognition, monitoring and evaluating usage, sharing peer-to-peer experiences within the research community, and creating visibility of good practices. The Open Science Community Leiden is an essential player in this effort.  

You will be the central figure in the Open Science policy of Leiden University in the upcoming years. How do you make sure this policy matches with what the workforce needs and can do in terms of Open Science practices? 

Yes, together with the OS ambassador in Leiden (currently Paul Wouters, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences) I will play a central role. I would like to involve as many people as possible within the university to shape and implement this policy, from departments that provide research support to researchers at different stages of their careers. I will do so by creating networks at each faculty (which include OSCL representatives) through which we can communicate about the development of Open Science practices and policies. I see myself as the pathway between the workforce and the decision-making bodies and try to keep this path as open and transparent as possible as well. 

What benefits do you see in your collaboration with OSCL for the transition you are coordinating? 

I see huge and essential benefits in collaborating with the Open Science Community Leiden. As described in this article of Armeni et al. (2021), transitions take place only once a critical mass has been reached. This is what communities can bring about, especially if they work together as bottom-up initiatives with top-down support and facilitation. I’m very happy with the collaboration with the OSCL within our OS program and believe that, together, we can make the community grow and work towards our common goals for Open Science. One of the priorities within the OS program is to expand the OSCL, such that we can build upon creating the critical mass required for the transition. So if you’re not yet a member of the OSCL; please sign up! Everyone is welcome, whether you are familiar with OS or not and whether you are positive or critical about it. 

What was most surprising for you to learn about your new role in the past few months? 

A couple of months into my new role, in which I’m no longer an academic, I’m struck by the perceived distinction between academic staff and support staff. No, I don’t regret ‘leaving the academic path’ and feel that we all work together within the university with shared goals. I would rather refer to us all as university staff with different perspectives that, combined, create a much broader perspective. Sometimes it seems as if we speak a different language, but I think that with dialogue and an open mindset, we can really learn from each other and enrich each other’s work. Working at the central level helped me understand factors that policy and decision makers consider, which I didn’t realize as a postdoc. The other way around is of course also true, so I always encourage colleagues with more years of experience at the central level to visit faculties and engage with researchers and support staff as much as possible.  

Last but not least: Five years from now, what do you hope your biggest achievement will be? 

In five years I hope we will have a Leiden University (virtual) Open Science network with branches in faculties and institutes, providing researchers with clear implementation guidelines and support to implement Open Science in their research and education practices (preferably within their own research groups). We will have a strong network at the national level as well, such that universities work together in continuing and channeling our institutional efforts, and we call Open Science just ‘Science’ in ten years.