"Open Science is inevitably going to be the science of the future"

Interview Antonio Schettino

Antonio Schettino is the coordinator of the Open Science Community at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Erasmus MC. Open Science goes much further than open access, as not only the final paper but pretty much the whole process is openly available. Schettino explains why he thinks this is the science of the future, and how it can help researchers but also society as a whole to improve.

At the Open Science Community Rotterdam (OSCR) Schettino facilitates communication about Open Science among researchers, organises talks and workshops, and provides individualised support on how to implement Open Science practices in the research workflow. Schettino is part of Erasmus Research Services.

What career steps did you take before you started working at OSCR?

“I’m trained as a psychologist. I got my PhD in 2012 from Gent University, moved to Leipzig in Germany for a postdoc and went back to Gent for another postdoc. I didn’t want to follow the classic path for scientists, so I started looking for jobs that were related to my passions. During my postdocs, I was already very into Open Science and transparency.”

Why was transparency important for you?

“First of all, because of some high-profile cases of fraud. The second thing that made me think of the importance of transparency, was the publication of a paper in an international journal. The researcher used commonly used statistical analyses to support incredible conclusions – ‘humans can see the future’. It made me think: maybe there is something wrong with the way we do research? Or maybe there is something wrong with how open we are about our research? Sometimes we follow recipes without thinking, and we tend to do everything behind closed doors. And that is not the way science should work in my opinion."

“Sometimes we follow recipes without thinking, and we tend to do everything behind closed doors. And that is not the way science should work in my opinion”

What is Open Science?

“Open Science is based on cooperation instead of individualism; we use innovative digital tools so we can work together. We try to valorise every step in the research process, not only the final publication. We try to share as much data, materials and analysis codes as possible, so other researchers can check and reuse our work.”

Does this way of practising science undermine your individual success during your career as a researcher?

“No, I don’t think so. We basically shift the weight of what is important. How many publications you have, or in which journals you’ve published, is not important. But how verifiable your statements are, and how other people can build on the knowledge you create is important.

There are ethical benefits of Open Science, because knowledge sharing is important for the benefit of society as a whole. There are also more individual benefits, for example, if you have published your papers in open access journals, you have a higher citation rate because your papers can be read and cited by more people.”

Is Open Science the science of the future?

“I think it should have been the science of the present, and the past. It is inevitably going to be the science of the future. We now have all the technology to collaborate with each other. As well as this, funding agencies more and more require a form of openness or transparency. A recent example is a call for Covid-19 research. Among the things they ask for, one of the questions is: will your research be accessible? Are you going to preregister what you are going to do before you do it? Preregistering is another Open Science practice.”

What are the differences between Open Science and open access?

“Open access is the oldest form of Open Science – it is very important – but it only means that the final product, the final paper, should be open. We as an Open Science community are opening up the whole process, which is typically behind closed doors. Instead of having two or three peer reviews, we have hundreds of experts online that can give their input. I like to see science as something we create together. ‘I have this expertise, you have another – will you become the co-author on this paper?’ That’s collaboration. And if you put your stuff openly available as much as you can, people will trust your research more because you are showing you are ready for criticism.
I don’t think it is feasible to ask researchers to be completely open instantly. I think it is a modular process. People can start with something small, like preregistering their research. In the next project, they can open up the second thing.”

“Also, funding agencies more and more require a form of openness or transparency”

Why is not every researcher working this way already?

“In general, being open and transparent has not been rewarded much. By what I see, I believe this is changing rapidly. In psychology, more and more studies are now being preregistered. It is already more rewarding, because funding agencies ask for it. I talk to research directors and deans at Erasmus University Rotterdam to make sure that they think about transparency.”

How can you help researchers?

“Our community has 36 active members at this moment. But we send newsletters to more than 500 people, and they can join webinars and workshops for example. What we do is facilitate the communication. Researchers can join our community and talk to experts; we arrange communication outside the university as well. Researchers can contact me personally, and I can offer a template or personal advice.”

More information

The Open Science Community Rotterdam comprises academics and support staff working at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Erasmus MC. The common goal is to promote and adopt open and transparent scientific practices at every stage of the research cycle, from the initial idea to the final product.