The Vision of Open Science is premised on a paradigmatic shift in research practices and scholarly communication. In its scope on multidisciplinary with a focus on social sciences and humanities (SSH), OPERAS addresses those disciplines, that are particularly in need of a major initiative to perform the transformation towards Open Science and evolve their innovative potential. The challenges facing scholarly communication in the SSH have been well documented in various studies and academic conferences in recent years.
Science as Communication
The traditional approach for the representation of scholarly communication, which separates publications from research and considers publications as a subsequent output and manifestation, is based on a flawed communication model. This misinterpretation affects the approach of open access as it entails the implementation of global models that are detached from the reality of research as a communication practice. For a long time, several researchers, such as Latour and Woolgar, Garvey, Galison, and more recently Nielsen, have evidenced on the contrary how science should be literally conceived as a communication practice. Furthermore, as a social activity involving a wide range of interactions, the continuous model of communication in scholarship requires infrastructure to serve as dynamic and interactive networks. The concept of an extensive scholarly record including innovative methods and formats demands a framework of fluid but identifiable, distributed but interlinked, units. OPERAS adopts these concepts throughout its full research lifecycle support and the synergies build on the connection of distributed infrastructures, institutions, and entities.
The Specificity of Social Sciences and Humanities
SSH scholarly communication practices differ substantially from Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM), which has been exposed even more to electronic publishing, culminating in the primary publication format of journal articles in STM versus monographs in the SSH. The monograph format reveals other specificities in terms of episteme, workflow, collaboration, relationship between theory and fieldwork, elaboration and construction of the argumentation based on evidence in those disciplines. Academic books are poorly integrated in commercial databases and the format of monographs is often excluded from open access policies, initiatives, and copyright exceptions. The evaluation of research outputs in areas with very low uptake of bibliometric and scientometric evaluation, such as SSH, is currently a major issue at European level. In addition, more studies and reports suggest that the scholarly communication ecosystem is currently suboptimal, lacks the transition to open science and does not support enough innovation, while changes are prevented by few commercial players. OPERAS encounters these barriers in strengthening scholarly-led initiatives, publicly funded research institutions, and infrastructure service providers, who are developing domain-specific models for scholarly communication and implement tailor-made services in order to close the gap in the research fields of SSH as an immediate impact while fostering the evolvement of open scholarly communication practices in the long run.
SSH research is frequently grounded in specific cultural areas, which implies communication in native languages and not only in English as the scientific lingua franca. The approaches towards internationalization of the humanities and transregional research lead to international collaborations and communication networks but do not result in few core publication organs like in the STM as national books and articles in the native languages remain dominant, as evidenced by the recent INTERCO-SSH project. As a result, most SSH communication and publication service providers are not working at global level, but rather at national or regional level, leading to the fragmented landscape already described. A connection of the distributed publication and communication infrastructures with an implementation of a multilingual discovery service provides a direct impact on the outreach and internationalization potential of SSH research.
Engagement with Society
The impact of SSH research on society has been a rising topic in the academic and the public sector. While SSH research is fundamental to the production of knowledge, it also contributes to the economical domain, although the centre of its impact lies in the increase of civic capital. However, suggestions point the SSH towards a more intense engagement with the public. An adequate framework for open scholarly communication adopting the models for collaboration and participation, as proposed in OPERAS, will serve for different stakeholders including the non-academic sector and citizens. Based on engagement, research and public will be able to collaborate during the research time and upfront traditional publication. While ideas and concepts of innovative scholarly communication have been discussed broadly, implementations at larger scale remain a desideratum. Finally, the iterative and discursive process in hermeneutic methods, which have truncated the SSH from developments in the publishing system, as well as the bond to local communities in native languages, which has decelerated the internationalization of the SSH, now hold an immense potential for an inspiring model of Open Science with direct societal impact, based on continuous communication.
OPERAS and the Digital Humanities
OPERAS achieves the implementation of Open Science in the SSH community. As such it integrates the digital humanities program that aims at renewing research practices in the SSH through intensive use of digital technologies. The diversity of the fields of SSH entails the impossibility to cover its entire perimeter by a single infrastructure. In the humanities, DARIAH focusses on digital methods for analysis and data-centered lifecycles. CLARIN is specialized on text and language data and its processing. CESSDA connects the digital archives of the social sciences contributing to a rich data pool on European level which also includes the European Social Survey and SHARE. The focus on data-driven research of all these ERICS reflects the fundamental importance of open data and digital source material in the SSH as catalyst for innovative research. OPERAS cooperates with these consortia on several levels for exchange of knowledge and connects to the underlying infrastructures for exchange of data, but addresses the gaps from a more general and wider scope through substantial additions to the infrastructure landscape: from digital methods and open data towards digital scholarship and Open Science.
The transition to Open Science and the adoption of the open innovation principles, though, relies not only on open data sources but on open communication and participatory processes. Thus, in addition to the computer-aided analysis, the sharing of findings through scientific conversation, the quality assurance and review processes, the editing and writing workflows, the tracking and acknowledgement of core research activities, as the “scholarly primitives”, have to be supported and integrated in the research infrastructure landscape.
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