19 January 2023

Open Science Community Twente advocates ‘slow and solid science’

Professor Raul Zurita-Milla, one of the founders of the Open Science Community Twente (OSCT), believes that ‘science should move from fast to slow and solid science.’ In 2023 the OSCT and UT’s Digital Competence Centre will jointly organize a new series of monthly Open Science meetings. ‘For the first one in February we plan to sketch the national Open Science landscape and will continue inviting UT colleagues to tell us what OS-practices they want to learn about.’

Raul Zurita-Milla
“Science should not be about publishing papers and getting money as fast as possible. For me it is more important to do slow and solid work than fast science.”
Raul Zurita-Milla

Zurita-Milla is full professor at the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) and head of the Geo-Information Processing department. He is specialized in spatial-temporal analytics and has worked on problems related to climate change, agriculture, and public health.

Joy of discovery
What makes you so passionate about Open Science? In 2008, I started working at ITC as an assistant professor and a few years later I started a tenure track. Then I fully realized that academia is very demanding: we are expected to teach, supervise students, acquire funds for research projects, publish a lot and join various committees. For me, the tenure track was not about ticking all the boxes. The joy for me is in learning new things together with my students and colleagues and being open is a good way to learn.’

Data sharing
‘Science should not be about publishing papers and getting money as fast as possible. For me it is more important to do slow and solid work than fast science. With this I mean that I want to take the time to properly structure my work and clean my code and data so that I can share it with others, because I also benefit from what others share.’

Connecting with society
As a member of UT’s Young Academy Zurita-Milla noticed in a discussion about the Triple Helix Model that for many young academics science was mostly about fundamental research and publishing in high-impact journals. ‘I got the impression that some colleagues looked down on applied research and on connecting with society, whereas I am interested in societal collaboration. Academic work is more than being proud of your latest project or publication.’

Dutch Open Science Communities network
Together with two likeminded UT Young Academy Members Zurita-Milla started the Twente Open Science Platform. ‘Soon after we learnt about the Open Science Communities in Utrecht and Groningen with whom we had many ideas in common. I think it is important to learn from each other, so we met up and in 2020 we started OSC-Twente.’ Zurita-Milla also became a board member of the Dutch OSC-NL network. ‘Through our meetings I became more aware of the limitations of the current system, but also that I am not alone. A lot of people share my concerns and are unhappy with the way we do, and evaluate science, so I closely follow the recognition and rewards movement too.’

Build more robust science
‘When I ask researchers “Why don’t you do more Open Science?”, I always hear “It costs too much time”…’, says Zurita-Milla. ‘My answer is that it costs the time that they are currently skipping because they are being pushed by the system. We need to avoid taking so many shortcuts. We need to build robust science. Quality over quantity.’ To illustrate this point Zurita-Milla often uses the fable about the three piglets who build houses of different materials. ‘We have the young academics that like the first piglet are building a house of straw, but when society or another researcher comes along there is too little evidence and the house is easily blown away. Some senior researchers are like the second piglet: building a more resistant wooden house, but the wolf can still blow that down. Many papers nowadays are houses of straw.’

Zurita-Milla thinks we should build proper brick houses, and this of course takes time. ‘If we build a strong house, we can be sure of the value of the scientific work. A proper house can be extended by others; and we can share the blueprint so that others can build a solid house too. It is partially our own fault that we have a replication crisis, and that society has less trust in science.’

ITC Open Science Plan
‘Being an Open Science advocate, I was very happy when we were able to hire the first Open Science Officer at ITC– and at the UT too! Markus Konkol (who left in 2022) became our OS-officer and he for example set up the ITC Open Science website, talked to all ITC departments and connected with the Digital Competence Centre. After a lot of talks and meetings, we drafted together an Open Science Plan 2021-2025 for ITC. This was quite a journey because many colleagues were unaware of what Open Science could mean for their work. Many cultural aspects needed and still need attention.’

Joining forces with DCC and UT Citizen Science initiatives
Since the start in 2020 the OSCT has been organizing monthly online meetings that are attended by 30 to 50 participants from different faculties. The setup of these meetings is: academics for academics, explains Zurita-Milla. ‘People can tell us what they want to learn or share. Think of topics as: pre-registration, data storage or FAIR data. Since spring 2021 the DCC also started organizing monthly thematic sessions about Open Science. Our events have many commonalities, so we decided to join forces. We are also in touch with the UT and ITC Citizen Science initiatives. Because Citizen Science falls under the umbrella of Open Science.’

Computational reproducibility and open educational resources
Next to Zurita-Milla the OSCT is now supported by three coordinators: one from the TNW faculty, one from the ET faculty, and one from Saxion Hogeschool. ‘This year we want to form working groups to focus on specific topics so that we can define more concrete targets. A topic that I would like to discuss more is computational reproducibility. I think that we should organize hands-on workshops to practice with tools as Jupyter Notebooks. I also think that Open Educational Resources need more attention. For instance, we could use Jupyter Notebooks to publish our exercises and make them open. In this way we could let other people fix possible bugs and improve and update the exercises. In the February meeting we will sketch the national Open Science landscape. There are many interesting developments. We hope that this meeting will accelerate internal discussion towards an Open Science plan at the UT.’

Register here for the februari meeting "Shaping open science", 23 februari.
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Want to know more about the OSCT? Have a look at the OSCT-website.


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