Open Science ambitions: an interview with Markus Konkol

In the University of Twente’s strategy for the coming years, Shaping2030, the Open Science transition is identified as one of its goals: our university aims to make 100% open-access publishing the norm. At the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, we as well strive for Open Science and the first signs are visible in our international network. Initiatives such as the Digital Earth Africa project are setting the stage with open data platforms and open access to processing facilities. In this interview, we take a closer look at the concept of Open Science, with our Open Science Officer Dr. Markus Konkol. 

What does the concept of Open Science at ITC mean?  

“Open Science comprises practices to open up research. For example, public access to scientific articles, data, and methods. Further aspects are openly available educational resources and the use of open-source software and infrastructure. Open Science also considers societal aspects, such as diversity and engaging citizens in research. The overarching goal is to create a new scientific environment where everyone can gain scientific literacy and verify, understand, and apply new scientific findings. The geosciences have their specific challenges in the context of Open Science, such as big geodata and the plethora of data sources, including satellites and mobile devices. ITC as an institute for geo-information can play a leading role by promoting and realizing Open Science in the geosciences.”

Why is Open Science at ITC so important and urgent? 

“In my belief, there is an intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for ITC to do Open Science. The intrinsic motivation comes from ITC’s own goals, such as reducing the knowledge divide among countries and tackling global challenges, such as disasters and health. These goals are interconnected with those of Open Science, like improving research quality, accelerating scientific progress, and counteracting society’s tendency to deny scientific findings. The relevancy of Open Science became apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic, where preprints and open data have played a pivotal role in decision making and saving lives." 

Markus Konkol
“Open Science is not only a good scientific practice but a fundamental requirement to achieve the ambitious aims set by ITC.”

"Besides, ITC also has an extrinsic motivation. Several organizations (UNESCOGEO), funding programs (Horizon Europe), and initiatives (OS Communities) push for more Open Science. Open Science practices are also part of the University of Twente’s Shaping2030 agenda – UT's mission, vision, and strategy to increase the impact of research.” 

What is your ambition or desire for the next few years around Open Science?  

“Open Science is a new concept, and many researchers have questions regarding what Open Science is and how to implement it. Our first goals are to raise awareness for the broad spectrum of Open Science practices and connect the loose ends of ongoing Open Science activities at ITC. Together with several researchers, we develop the programme “ITC's Strategic Plan for Open Science 2021-2025 - Towards an Open Future”. The document will be released in the middle of 2021 and aims to help ITC realize the transition towards Open Science." 

“If we can get all heads in the same direction, ITC’s Open Science endeavor can become very powerful and contribute to changing the scientific landscape.”

"I would like to add that the Open Science principles contradict the traditional metrics that evaluate a researcher’s performance, such as Journal Impact Factors, h-index, and the journal’s reputation. These metrics foster competition and stand in the way of creating a collaborative and transparent research culture. The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a promising alternative rewarding system. It evaluates a scholar’s scientific outputs and impact based on qualitative instead of quantitative metrics. DORA considers all research outputs (including datasets and software) and values transparent research practices. It needs to be clear that we cannot expect researchers to do Open Science and still assess them based on the traditional metrics. It is important to consider DORA when evaluating, hiring, and promoting researchers.”  

How does Open Science help our education, research, and institutional strengthening at ITC? 

“Open Science is on the rise and increasingly on the agenda of many students and early-career researchers. If we want to attract these people in the future, we need to make sure that ITC becomes a place where Open Science is valued and supported. Open Science could become part of ITC’s branding.” 

R. Kwakman MSc (Robin)
Communication Advisor (Faculty ITC)