September marked the official end of the ORION Open Science EU-project and the final conference was held on 27-28 September to wrap up all of the activities, insights and opinions from very fruitful 4,5 years. The aim of the ORION project has been to trigger institutional, cultural and behavioural changes in Research Funding and Performing Organisations (RFOs and RPOs) towards Open Science and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). The conference provided an opportunity to review ORION’s achievements and share key lessons and experiences to help others put open science into practice too.
Although COVID restrictions prevented us from meeting in person in Barcelona, holding the event entirely online meant that speakers and delegates from across the globe were able to participate. To provide plenty of discussion and interaction, presentations were interspersed with online questions to capture the audience’s own experiences and some yoga and a science-related Spotify playlist, kept participants on their toes. On the first day, ORION partners presented some of the many methodologies developed and tested throughout the project ranging from citizen science, gamification, public dialogues and science & art collaborations to training, podcasts, funding and award mechanisms. On the second day, ORION partners were joined by policy makers and representatives from other national and international organisations to discuss some of the progress and wider challenges of embedding open science and RRI at institutional, national and European level.
An important theme of the conference was legacy and sustainability. Projects end but how do you ensure that what you developed and learnt will persist? ORION leaves behind an impressive collection of resources that package the learnings gained throughout the project and make them openly and freely available for anyone to reuse. Participants also heard about significant institutional, national and EU level changes that ensure the ORION legacy will be strong and enduring.
Another key theme from the conference can be summed up by the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Many of the speakers remarked on the fact that integrating open science and engaging with it fully is a slow process. Michael Doležal from ORION partner JCMM (South Moravian Centre for International Mobility), in the Czech Republic noted that creating funding calls for open science that would engage young scientists took a long time to do well. However, the results were clear and the value for the young researchers was incredibly high. JCMM will endeavour to do more funding calls in the future for students to keep on introducing them to open science.
But why is open science slow and challenging? Over the course of the two-day event, we repeatedly heard the term “stakeholder engagement”, which is one of the best ways to create real impact with open science projects. ORION project activities, such as public dialogues, co-created games and educational workshops that involved “stakeholder engagement” throughout the development process were presented as examples.
In the ORION project, a large amount of time and effort was put into identifying all of the relevant stakeholders to engage in each of the projects and bring them together on multiple occasions for discussions, all in the same room. The purpose was to listen to what they had to say and work out how to incorporate their views and wishes into the open science projects. Truly listening and engaging takes a lot of effort and it takes time to understand one another. However, the rewards are huge. The Genigma Citizen Science project gathered many different stakeholders in the co-creation process of the game. As one of the participating researchers at the CRG (Centre for Genomic Regulation), said in the evaluation report:
“You get in touch with many people that are interested in your work, and this gives you more energy. You feel that what you do is important, that people care about it. Is one of the main benefits, and also to know, to have the opportunity to have students who are interested in your project. It is useful to meet people and to be interested in science and in your project in particular. So, you feel happy, you feel that your work means something.”
Going the distance with open science and creating real and lasting change can only come about when everyone is pulling in the same direction. There are many encouraging signs that the adoption of open science practices is accelerating. Digna Couso, CRECIM (Science and Mathematics Education Research Centre), who led the valuation in ORION and Luiza Bengtsson, MDC (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine), responsible for developing Open Science training, both remarked on separate occasions that awareness of open science was much lower when the ORION project started. Now it is easier to have conversations with scientists about the intricacies of open science than it was before. It’s also much easier to talk to directors, funders and governing bodies about what is needed to promote open science. Luiza also pointed out that during the training and workshops conducted through ORION, there became less and less need to explain the importance of open science as time went on and basic levels of knowledge appear to have increased. Digna presented results from an interview study undertaken at the start (2017) and end of the project (2021) with directors and senior management representatives within the ORION partner institutions. The study highlighted that a lot has happened in their perception of Open Science and in the Open Science landscape itself.
An increased understanding of open science and acknowledgement of its importance has also been seen alongside some of significant institutional changes that ORION partners have undertaken, which have been documented in a collection of inspiring stories. Both the CRG in Barcelona and Carlos III Institute of Health in Madrid, ISCIII have added open science and responsible research and innovation (RRI) to their official institutional strategies and documented how it will be implemented in the future. ORION partners have also developed Open Science Action plans, and participants heard about ways in which the Babraham Institute in Cambridge is further embedding Open Science within the Institute.
The ORION institutions making substantial changes to their strategy is indicative of another trend that resonated throughout the conference, that there is an increasing number of important stakeholders who really care about open science. There were also strong messages from Kostas Glinos, Head of the Open Science Unit at the European Commission, who spoke about how the need and demand for open science is only going to increase in the future. He highlighted ways in which the European Commission is working with the UN, UNESCO, OECD and other international organisations to enable the transition to open science worldwide.
Another idea that came through strongly in discussions was that open science can only really be truly adopted if top-down approaches are conducted in parallel with bottom-up approaches. That is to say that policy changes will not take hold without grass roots efforts and vice versa. This was seen throughout the ORION projects that were presented, where the best outcomes were often seen when top-down policy changes were met with bottom-up activism, reiterating the importance of researchers and stakeholder engagement. Without the right cross-section of people in the room from the very beginning, it would be hard to understand what was needed to elicit positive action where it was needed. This was also exemplified by Ester Jarour, Communications leader at CEITEC (The Central European Institute of Technology), who presented how an ORION stakeholder dialogue held in the Czech Republic lay the foundation for the development of the country’s National Open Science Policy.
What became clear through discussions at the conference was that there are a number of important “ingredients” that are needed to bring about positive change when it comes to open science. While literacy is improving, there is still a heavy need for education around the many aspects of open science. The ORION MOOC and Train-the-Trainer projects were both evaluated positively. However, it is also clear that more is needed to produce more widespread institutional change. As well as education, tools, funding, infrastructure, expertise are also necessary to facilitate open discussions and concrete actions with respect to open science. All the methodologies and co-creation tools developed and tested during the ORION project have been fully documented for future use.
Without this mix of tools and funding, it would have been very difficult to engage the right people in the right way and it is hoped that they will be of future use to many others. The ORION Open Science project may have now officially come to an end but our legacy will continue and hopefully spread further - Let’s put Open Science into practice!
The ORION website will continue to showcase all of the activities, projects and deliverables undertaken by ORION and all resources have also been made available on Zenodo. Take a look at the ORION conference goodie bag for an overview and links to the many different tools and resources developed during the project too.
If you’d like to review any parts of the final conference, feel free to watch the replays here or on YouTube. Have a look at the conference programme and the list of speakers to find out more and to see what interest you the most.
Day 1 Session 1: Welcome adress & Open Science training
Examples of different training formats developed, tested and evaluated by the ORION Open Science project as workshops, MOOC, podcast and more. Speakers: Michela Bertero, CRG, Luiza Bengtsson and Zoe Ingram, MDC.
Day 1 Session 2: ORION Public dialogue
Highlights from activities, learnings and impact of the ORION public dialogues. Speakers: Luiza Bengtsson, MDC, Emma Martinez, BI and Marta Solis, CRG
Day 1 Session 3: Co-creation & Citizen Science
Showcase of the ORION co-creation and citizen science projects; Vaccine, Meltic, Genigma and Smove. Speakers: Fergus Powell, BI, Victoria Ramos, ISCIII, Elisabetta Broglio, CRG and Katharina Nimptsch, MDC.
Day 1 Session 4: Awards & funding mechanisms to promote Open Science & RRI
Showcase of activities, learnings and impact of the RRI Health Awards and the Czech Regional Student Competition. Speakers:Iris San Pedro, ISCIII and Michael Dolezal, JCMM.
Day 1 Session 5: Lessons learned and the ORION Open Science Legacy
Speakers: Digna Cuoso, Crecim and Michela Bertero, CRG. Closing address: Luis Serrano, CRG and Joan Gómez Pallarès, Government of Catalonia.
Day 2 Session 1: Welcome address - Embedding Open Science in institutions: The road to success!
Welcome address by Gonzalo Arevalo, Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation. Presentation of the ORION institutional action plans and discussions on the challenges and opportunities for implementing Open Science within research performing and funding organisations. Speakers: Digna Cuoso, Crecim, Emma Martinez, BI, Teresa Moreno Casbas, ISCIII, Peter Rugg-Gunn, BI and Claudia Colonnello, Knowledge & Innovation
Day 2 Session 2: Way forward for national Open Science strategies
Presentation of the inspiring example from the Czech Republic and examples on how Open Science is being implemented nationally across Europe. Speakers: Ester Jarour, CEITEC, Rachel Bruce, UKRI, Cecilia Cabello Valdés, FECYT and Karel Luyben, Delft University.
Day 2 Session 3: Open Science at European level - Let's put Open Science into practice
Presentation and discussions on how to implement Open Science practices in a European context. Speakers: Kostas Glinos, European Commission, Ana Peršić, UNESCO, Ignasi López Verdeguer, “la Caixa” Foundation, Marta Agostinho, EU-Life and Michela Bertero, CRG. Closing address: Lessons learned and ORION Open Science Legacy: Mihaela Costache, European Commission and Michela Bertero, CRG.