Open forensic science

Authors : Jason M Chin, Gianni Ribeiro, Alicia Rairden

The mainstream sciences are experiencing a revolution of methodology. This revolution was inspired, in part, by the realization that a surprising number of findings in the bioscientific literature could not be replicated or reproduced by independent laboratories.

In response, scientific norms and practices are rapidly moving towards openness. These reforms promise many enhancements to the scientific process, notably improved efficiency and reliability of findings. Changes are also underway in the forensic.

After years of legal-scientific criticism and several reports from peak scientific bodies, efforts are underway to establish the validity of several forensic practices and ensure forensic scientists perform and present their work in a scientifically valid way.

In this article, the authors suggest that open science reforms are distinctively suited to addressing the problems faced by forensic science. Openness comports with legal and criminal justice values, helping ensure expert forensic evidence is more reliable and susceptible to rational evaluation by the trier of fact.

In short, open forensic science allows parties in legal proceedings to understand and assess the strength of the case against them, resulting in fairer outcomes. Moreover, several emerging open science initiatives allow for speedier and more collaborative research.

URL : Open forensic science


‘Is the library open?’: Correlating unaffiliated access to academic libraries with open access support

Authors: Katie Wilson, Cameron Neylon, Chloe Brookes-Kenworthy, Richard Hosking, Chun-Kai (Karl) Huang, Lucy Montgomery, Alkim Ozaygen

In the context of a growing international focus on open access publishing options and mandates, this paper explores the extent to which the ideals of ‘openness’ are also being applied to physical knowledge resources and research spaces.

This study, which forms part of the larger Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative project, investigates the relationship between academic library access policies and institutional positions on open access or open science publishing.

Analysis of library access policies and related documents from twenty academic institutions in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Africa and the United Kingdom shows that physical access to libraries for members of the public who are not affiliated with a university is often the most restricted category of access. Many libraries impose financial and sometimes security barriers on entry to buildings, limiting access to collections in print and other non-digital formats.

The limits placed on physical access to libraries contrast strongly with the central role that these institutions play in facilitating open access in digital form for research outputs through institutional repositories and open access publishing policies.

We compared library access policies and practices with open access publishing and research sharing policies for the same institutions and found limited correlation between both sets of policies.

Comparing the two assessments using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient confirmed open access policies have a direct association with the narrow aspects of public access provided through online availability of formal publications, but are not necessarily associated (in the universities in this study) with delivering on a broader commitment to public access to knowledge.

The results suggest that while institutional mission statements and academic library policies may refer to sharing of knowledge and research and community collaboration, multiple layers of library user categories, levels of privilege and fees charged can inhibit the realisation of these goals.

As open access publishing options and mandates expand, physical entry to academic libraries and access to print and electronic resources has contracted. This varies within and across countries, but it conflicts with global library and information commitments to open access to knowledge.

URL : ‘Is the library open?’: Correlating unaffiliated access to academic libraries with open access support


Public Microbial Resource Centers: Key Hubs for Findable,Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) Microorganismsand Genetic Materials

Authors : P. Becker, M. Bosschaerts, P. Chaerle, H.-M. Daniel, A. Hellemans, A. Olbrechts, L. Rigouts, A. Wilmotte, M. Hendrickx

In the context of open science, the availability of research materials is essential for knowledge accumulation and to maximize the impact of scientific research. In microbiology, microbial domain biological resource centers (mBRCs) have long-standing experience in preserving and distributing authenticated microbial strains and genetic materials (e.g., recombinant plasmids and DNA libraries) to support new discoveries and follow-on studies.

These culture collections play a central role in the conservation of microbial biodiversity and have expertise in cultivation, characterization, and taxonomy of microorganisms. Information associated with preserved biological resources is recorded in databases and is accessible through online catalogues.

Legal expertise developed by mBRCs guarantees end users the traceability and legality of the acquired material, notably with respect to the Nagoya Protocol. However, awareness of the advantages of depositing biological materials in professional repositories remains low, and the necessity of securing strains and genetic resources for future research must be emphasized.

This review describes the unique position of mBRCs in microbiology and molecular biology through their history, evolving roles, expertise, services, challenges, and international collaborations. It also calls for an increased deposit of strains and genetic resources, a responsibility shared by scientists, funding agencies, and publishers.

Journal policies requesting a deposit during submission of a manuscript represent one of the measures to make more biological materials available to the broader community, hence fully releasing their potential and improving openness and reproducibility in scientific research.


The case for openness in engineering research

Authors : Devin R. Berg, Kyle E. Niemeyer

In this article, we describe our views on the benefits, and possible downsides, of openness in engineering research. We attempt to examine the issue from multiple perspectives, including reasons and motivations for introducing open practices into an engineering researcher’s workflow and the challenges faced by scholars looking to do so.

Further, we present our thoughts and reflections on the role that open engineering research can play in defining the purpose and activities of the university.

We have made some specific recommendations on how the public university can recommit to and push the boundaries of its role as the creator and promoter of public knowledge.

In doing so, the university will further demonstrate its vital role in the continued economic, social, and technological development of society. We have also included some thoughts on how this applies specifically to the field of engineering and how a culture of openness and sharing within the engineering community can help drive societal development.

URL : The case for openness in engineering research


Animal Research, Accountability, Openness and Public Engagement: Report from an International Expert Forum

Authors : Elisabeth H. Ormandy, Daniel M.Weary, Katarina Cvek, Mark Fisher, Kathrin Herrmann, Pru Hobson-West, Michael McDonald, William Milsom, Margaret Rose, Andrew Rowan, Joanne Zurlo, Marina A.G. von Keyserlingk

The issues of openness, transparency and public engagement about animal research have taken focus in several different countries in recent years. This paper gives an account of a two-day-long expert forum that brought together policy experts and academics from Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The aim was to share current governance practices regarding openness and transparency of animal research and to brainstorm ideas for better public engagement.

The facilitated conversations were transcribed and analysed to create this report and recommendations that encourage international policy-makers and other stakeholders to engage in genuine dialogue about the use of animals in research.

URL : Animal Research, Accountability, Openness and Public Engagement: Report from an International Expert Forum


Universities and knowledge sharing: Evaluating progress to openness at the institutional level

Authors : Lucy Montgomery, Cameron Neylon, Richard Hosking, Karl Huang, Alkim Ozaygen, Katie Wilson

Universities are key sites of knowledge creation. Governments and research funders are increasingly interested in ensuring that their investments in the production of new knowledge deliver a quantifiable return on investment, including in the form of ‘impact’.

Ensuring that research outputs are not locked behind paywalls, and that research data can be interrogated and built upon are increasingly central to efforts to improve the effectiveness of global research landscapes.

We argue that mandating and promoting open access (OA) for published research outputs, as well as the sharing of research data are important elements of building a vibrant open knowledge system, but they are not enough.

Supporting diversity within knowledge-making institutions; enabling collaboration across boundaries between universities and wider communities; and addressing inequalities in access to knowledge resources and in opportunities to contribute to knowledge making processes are also important.

New tools are needed to help universities, funders, and communities to understand the extent to which a university is operating as an effective open knowledge institution; as well as the steps that might be taken to improve open knowledge performance.

This paper discusses our team’s efforts to develop a model of Open Knowledge that is not confined to measures of OA and open data. The Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative is a project of the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University.

With funding from the university, we are exploring the extent to which universities are functioning as effective open knowledge institutions; as well as the types of information that universities, funders, and communities might need to understand an institution’s open knowledge performance and how it might be improved.

The challenges of data collection on open knowledge practices at scale, and across national, cultural and linguistic boundaries are also discussed.


Narrowing the Gap Between Publication and Access: Is a Mandate Enough to Get Us Closer?

Authors : Maria Manuel Borges, António Tavares Lopes

Changes brought about by the Internet to Scholarly Communication and the spread of Open Access movement, have made it possible to increase the number of potential readers of published research dramatically.

This two-phase study aims, at first, to assert the satisfaction of the potential for increased open access to articles published by authors at the University of Coimbra, in a context when there was no stimulus for the openness of published science other than an institutional mandate set by the University policy on Open Access (“Acesso Livre”).

The satisfaction of the access openness was measured by observing the actual archiving behavior of researchers (either directly or through their agents). We started by selecting the top journal titles used to publish the STEM research of the University of Coimbra (2004-2013) by using Thomson Reuters’ Science Citation Index (SCI). These titles were available at the University libraries or through online subscriptions, some of them in open access (21%).

By checking the journals’ policy at the time regarding self-archiving at the SHERPA/RoMEO service, we found that the percentage of articles in Open Access (OA) could rise to 80% if deposited at Estudo Geral, the Institutional Repository of the University of Coimbra, as prescribed by the Open Access Policy of the University.

As we concluded by verifying the deposit status of every single paper of researchers of the University that published in those journals, this potential was far from being fulfilled, despite the existence of the institutional mandate and favorable editorial conditions.

We concluded, therefore, that an institutional mandate was not sufficient by itself to fully implement an open access policy and to close the gap between publication and access.

The second phase of the study, to follow, will rescan the status of published papers in a context where the Portuguese public funding agency, the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, introduced in 2014 a new significant stimulus for open access in science.

The FCT Open Access Policy stipulates that publicly funded published research must be available as soon as possible in a repository of the Portuguese network of scientific repositories, RCAAP, which integrates the Estudo Geral.

URL : Narrowing the Gap Between Publication and Access: Is a Mandate Enough to Get Us Closer?

DOI : 10.20944/preprints201906.0154.v1