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Open Science and its strategic importance at and for ZHAW

3/2021 EN
  • Opinion

Open Science stands for more accessibility, transparency and reproducibility of research results and processes. It should help advance scientific progress, increase research quality and visibility, but also facilitate applicability of scientific knowledge in the light of complex challenges that science and society are facing.

For some ten years now, Open Science has been high on the political agenda. It has become the central theme of many roadmaps, declarations and mission statements in such organisations as UNESCO, the European Commission or the League of European Research Universities (LERU).

Incentivising novel and more “open” practices is also at the core of various dedicated programmes and strategic initiatives among higher education and research institutions in Switzerland, as can be testified by the Open Science 2021-2024 programme at swissuniversities. It comes as no surprise then that numerous funding agencies from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) to the European Research Council now increasingly mandate compliance with the principle of free online access to research results and materials from their grantees.

Open Science as a strategic goal at ZHAW

It is important to note that Open Science is a multi-faceted umbrella term that is usually discussed in the context of the digital transformation. As such, it comprises highly diverse areas that include providing Open Access to scholarly publications, sharing of Open Research Data or producing Open Educational Resources (OER).

Among the main pillars of Open Science are further participatory approaches to research, teaching and innovation such as Citizen Science and active public engagement. In its own policy for research and development (“F&E Policy”, in German), ZHAW has committed itself to Open Science and Open Innovation movements, and to pursuing its own research and development activities in accordance with the goals of these movements. At the same time, it is acknowledged that Open Science implies a cultural change and a paradigm shift, which presents huge opportunities but also challenges.

“As open as possible, as closed as necessary. We have to develop guidelines and best practices that show if, when and how commercially sensitive data can be made openly available.”.

Jean-Marc Piveteau, President of ZHAW

As a university of applied sciences with the four key performance areas of research, teaching, continuing education and business services, ZHAW has to undertake a balancing act to bring all interests and expectations under one roof. Yet being a practice-oriented institution also means a well-suited starting position to intensify an open exchange of ideas and collaborations between various interest groups within and beyond the university.

Engaging in and supporting Open Science

The policy for research and development at ZHAW, with Open Science at its heart, is just one example of many activities in this realm. Beyond that, we are busy developing new and improving established services to support our researchers, staff and students in their Open Science activities. For example, the university library at ZHAW maintains an institutional repository ZHAW digitalcollection and supports other ways of Open Access publishing.

“It is acknowledged that Open Science implies a cultural change and a paradigm shift, which presents huge opportunities but also challenges.”.

Elena Šimukovič

Together with colleagues from the President’s office and from Information & Communication Technology, we build new services to open research data along the whole data lifecycle at the service point for research data (see ZHAW Services Forschungsdaten, in German). As the only university in Switzerland so far, and one of the few in Europe, ZHAW has issued an OER-Policy in March 2020. And we are full of ideas on how to develop these services further – which we discuss regularly in our recently launched virtual Open Science Café.

In the end, such Open Science activities should help facilitate communication between science and society and increase the international visibility of valuable contributions by researchers and educators at ZHAW.