Jean-Claude Burgelman

Jean-Claude Burgelman: the new open science paradigm requires fine tuning

EC learns lessons from Science 2.0 consultation

Jean-Claude Burgelman is the head of the science policy and foresight unit at Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. He has been heavily involved in the recent Science 2.0 consultation. As a result the Commission organised, on 22-23 June, a half-day discussion on open science, focusing on barrier and opportunities, infrastructure and open society, as part of an event entitled: A New Start for Europe: Opening Up to an ERA for Innovation.

In this exclusive interview to EuroScientist, he shares some of the lessons learned from the exercise, following the publication of the consultation results in May 2015. “Whatever we would do at whatever level in Europe, it has to be stakeholders driven, and it has to be bottom-up,” he says. This means that the European Commission has to play a federating role, as stakeholders drive further development towards open science.

In addition to its policy of open access for publications resulting from EU funded research projects, the Commission recently introduced initiatives such as the pilot initiative for open access for data. Burgelman acknowledges that “not everyone is fully behind open science, which is why the open data initiative is still in pilot phase.”

But he knows that it is a matter of time and fine tuning. “All researchers told us that one of the most important problems for developing open science is the lack of incentives,” he adds. “If, with your funding, you push in the direction of open science, then you give a big incentive.” The need for incentives is recurrent theme of the consultation, emanating from all stakeholders involved. Another incentive being that “the career system has to gratify open science,” he points out.

Among those involved in the scientific process, science publishers are one of the key stakeholders, “but they are not more key as anyone else,” he notes, adding: “The scientific publishing community of Europe is also preparing themselves for the change, so this is encouraging.” He recalls that in the history of technology, when this kind of paradigm shift occurs, and due to conflicting interests, people trying to capitalise on past positions. It is typically a situation where “the Commission precisely has to play the role of a broker and try and level the playing field,” he adds. And, he suggests, perhaps resolving some of the issues arising through stakeholders forums.

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Finally, on the theme of citizen science, he distinguishes several ways in why citizens get involved in science. He believes, for example, that the idea of bringing in scientifically trained citizens as “a kind of distributed brain power in scientific experiments” like those related to exploration of galaxies, by scanning the universe, is a fantastic idea, constituting a “distributed way of gathering knowledge.” In this context, “accountability discussions, which you sometimes find under citizens science, is not our discussion [under open science].” However, “what we also get these discussions about citizens’ participation in the decision making on science: very legitimate, but not that’s what these citizens [assign] under open science.”

Interview and cover text by Sabine Louët.

Video editing Charline Pierre and Lena Kim.

Featured image credit: Jean-Claude Burgelman

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Sabine Louët

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