Application for the Open Science Policy Platform

You might have seen that many of us #openscience folks are currently applying for the European Open Science Policy Platform, which will be organized by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. The application deadline is today and I managed to write a up short application myself. I think it’s necessary that the #openscience movement at large will get some people into this platform and I hope that we can get a good mix of people.

I personally applied because I feel that it’s very important to make sure that #openscience policy is not only shaped by Industry and Academia but also by citizen scientists. This would make the whole scientific enterprise more inclusive and diverse. My own experience somewhere in between the academic and citizen science world can hopefully be useful to that end, making sure that those voices are not lost.

Dear Mr. Smits,
I’m applying to join the European Open Science Policy Platform. Already the question on whether I’m applying on behalf of an organization or for representing a common interest is hard to answer, as my field of expertise is running citizen science completely outside of traditional academia. While I’m an academic pursuing a PhD in bioinformatics, my strongest connection with open science and citizen science comes through founding and running openSNP.org, a project that lives at the intersection of open science, big open data, and citizen science. The project was started in 2011 to give citizen scientists who work on human genetics a place to come together and put their personal genomics data into the public domain, thus crowd-creating a growing big open data resource. Additionally, openSNP mines the growing body of scientific literature in order to cross-link primary publications to genetic variations present in our database. As the project is fully dedicated to openness, all of the source code is put into the public domain as well.

Unlike many similar projects, openSNP was created and is still run completely outside traditional academia. While academics do contribute to it, the project is developed and run by a group of citizen scientists, without any attachment to a university or institution and without academic or large industry funding. Instead,the financing is done through crowd-funding, putting the project completely into the hands of its contributors. Over the span of five years the project has grown to over 5000 registered users, making it one of Europe’s largest independent, non-academic, not-for-profit citizen science projects.

openSNP has won multiple open science awards and grants, as for example the Binary Battle for its innovation and contributions to open science. The competition was held by the Public Library of Science, one of the world’s largest open access publishers. openSNP also secured a grant by the German Wikimedia Foundation, which enables people to get access to their own genomes and aims at a more diverse and truly global group of participants in citizen science. Also, Bayer Pharmaceuticals funded openSNP through their Grants4Apps program, allowing a more concentrated development of the project.

With its unique status of living at the intersection of science and citizen science come unique policy challenges, especially in the context of genetics and consent to human subject research. That is because the citizen scientists designing the experiments using data from openSNP often are themselves the subjects of their own research. So far neither Academia nor the European Union have adapted their policies to a modus operandi that will become much more widely adapted in the near future, as citizen science will become much more data-analysis driven. This trend towards citizen science is especially important for patients affected by rare diseases, which are too often overlooked by Academia. Already today they are banding together, performing citizen science in order to improve their situation. Allowing for a free and open exchange between patient experts and academic experts is thus of paramount importance.

Through the experiences of running a project at and outside the very limits of what traditional academia can support so far, I have gained a lot of experience with open science and the policy challenges on a European as well as on an international level. As a result of this experience I was invited to participate in OpenCon, which took place in Brussels in November last year, to get in touch with leading European actors on the issues of open science. Furthermore I was invited to be a member of the Open Leadership Cohort of the Mozilla Science Lab and of the Scholarly Commons Workgroup of FORCE11, a cross-stakeholder community, to improve the future of Research Communication.

I hope that my rather unusual connection to open science and citizen science can help broadening the focus and can bring in a new perspective that should be heard when discussing open science policies.

With Regards,
Bastian Greshake

Bastian Greshake Tzovaras

Bastian Greshake Tzovaras

A frustrated grad student who enjoys liberating data

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