Open science is the umbrella term for various initiatives aimed at facilitating access to research. It is currently one of the most important trends in the global research system. In particular, the aim is to improve the impact, transparency and reproducibility of scientific research in the long term. Key aspects of open science are open access (free access to research publications) and open research data (free access to research data). At the end of January, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the Swiss Conference of Rectors of Higher Education Institutions (swissuniversities), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology (ETH in Zurich and EPF in Lausanne) signed an agreement to develop a national strategy on open research data.
Towards a National Open Research Data Strategy
The Open Research Data Strategy is intended to create a common vision and objectives for the processing, storage, accessibility and reuse of research data for the Swiss research community. It is intended to complement the Open Access Strategy developed in 2017 (see March 2018 issue of SERI News). Overall, the two strategies should enable Switzerland to implement a coherent and ambitious open science policy in line with European and global developments.
Swissuniversities intends to develop the national Open Research Data Strategy further over the course of the year and submit the draft to its Higher Education Council for approval in early 2021. At the same time, Swissuniversities has already begun work to assess (see inbox) existing infrastructures and practices of Swiss higher education institutions and determine their present and future needs. Based on these two considerations, an implementation plan will be prepared in the second half of this year and the first half of 2021, which will include specific measures to coordinate open research data practices in Switzerland.
In 2022, a stimulus package will be launched and co-funded by project-based contributions in accordance with the Higher Education Act (HEdA). In 2021 swissuniversities will probably allocate around CHF 30 million to this stimulus package.
Involving the entire research community
Overall responsibility for the process was transferred to swissuniversities through its Open Science Delegation. This delegation includes the organisations that signed the agreement (with the exception of the SERI, which acts as the lead organisation) together with representatives of Swiss cantonal universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education, academic libraries and IT services of higher education institutions. A project group was also set up to handle the practical aspects of the process.
The involvement of the entire research community is particularly important to the partners in this agreement. The entire process will therefore include meetings among experts and various consultation phases. swissuniversities will also ensure that communication is proactive.
A working paper is being drafted on the basis of the agreement signed early this year. This working paper presents the national Open Research Data Strategy and associated Implementation Plan and provides corresponding guidelines, which may be adapted and supplemented as work progresses and new knowledge is gained.
The main information contained in the working paper:
- a comprehensive description of the various repositories (storage locations for research data) and data centres with data processing and service capabilities that may be used by Swiss researchers nationally and internationally together with an assessment of needs for additional infrastructures in Switzerland; an estimate of the expected costs that will arise for higher education institutions and research institutes from effective and planned use as well as suggestions on possible funding channels.
- in-depth consideration of the possible roles that the Swiss Data Science Centre (SDSC) of Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology could play in this context (national data centre, node of a decentralised architecture, training in research data management, etc.).
- international developments, in particular those in relation to the European Open Science Cloud, will be taken into account for all aspects, so that Switzerland can develop compatible and future-oriented solutions.
Maurizio Toneatto, SERI
Scientific Advisor, Higher Education Policy Section