Interview with Frank Miedema

On May 2nd 2019, OSCU hosted an Open Science Cafe where we discussed the UU Open Science Programme. Frank Miedema, head of the UU Open Science programme, elaborated on the why, what, and how of the programme. In this interview, we reflect with Frank on the UU Open Science Programme.

Frank, the UU is the first Dutch university that has an Open Science Programme in place, and you are leading it. Why did you take on this task?

Yes! I’m very proud that Utrecht University has chosen to operate at the forefront of Open Science. It is a bold and progressive move, for which we should complement both our current and our previous rector magnificus, Henk Kummeling and Bert van der Zwaan. Open Science is much in line with the position paper that I wrote in 2013 together with three other ‘grumpy old’ men, where we critically reflected on how the academic system operates and whether this system leads to efficient generation and utilization of knowledge. You can find the details in the paper, but the main message was: not all is well and much can be improved. Research practices that lead to career advancement are not the same as those that are best for science and society. What I like about Open Science is that it provides means to reshape the way we do science. To maximise societal impact it will reconnect science with society. 

Many people know that Open Science is about Open Access publications or data sharing. But you take a much broader perspective.

Open Science starts with adopting certain research practices. Making sure that everyone has access to your research output, being papers or data. But is it more than that. It is about science being open at the start and near the end of the knowledge production chain. This to optimise knowledge utilisation and to shape our research agenda based on pressing societal issues.

The UU Open Science programme runs from now till the end of 2021 and has five central themes. What are the ambitions of the programme?

We want 100% of the UU publications the be Open Access. We want sharing of data according to FAIR principles to be the norm, whilst taking privacy and legal issues into consideration. In other words: as open as possible, as closed as necessary. And crucially, we want to change the reward structure such that all Open Science practices will be endorsed in hiring and promotion procedures. These ambitions are in line with the National Plan Open Science. In addition, we also want to encourage the use and distribution of open source software, and invest more in Public Engagement to facilitate bidirectional knowledge exchange between university and society. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The full programme can be found here. If you have questions, suggestions or concerns, you can contact me directly at F.Miedema@umcutrecht.nl or @MiedemaF on Twitter.

What can we expect in the near future?

We have in the beginning of this year set-up an Open Science platform with representatives from all faculties and talked to all our deans last fall. We discussed with the leaders of the UU Strategic Themes and they also are all on board. We are now rolling out different work-packages to implement the plans and ambitions. The work-packages for Open Access, Open Data and Incentives and Rewards are already picking up pace. Regarding the latter, after discussions with the rector we are aiming to start with pilots in which we will implement changes in hiring and promotion criteria, compliant with DORA, where we abandon outdated criteria such as journal impact factors and value Open Science practices more.     

How do you see the role of the Open Science Community Utrecht in the UU Open Science programme?

The transition towards Open Science workflows is very much about people. It’s about how we see The University and how want to do our jobs. Much of this cannot and should not be enforced by top-down policies. This concerns us all and is a continuous discussion in university. The change should come from within, from bottom-up. That’s why we are very happy that we have such a large and active Open Science Community – the first and largest in Europe, with many other universities following the lead. They are crucial in setting the pace and identifying the support needed to make our workflows more open. We take it slow while they go fast. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for the Open Science Community Utrecht!

Frank’s slides are available at https://osf.io/2wg5t/