Knowledge Centre for Open Science

Open Science is becoming a science in itself. Following the take-off of SPOMAN – the first Open Science project at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO) – Science and Technology has now allocated funds to setting up an Open Science centre.

2017.08.28 | Peter F. Gammelby

The Open Science idea originally came about at iNANO. (Photo: Lars Kruse)

The background for the new knowledge centre is the Open Science platform, which has grown into a virtually nationwide project since Professor Kim Daasbjerg, iNANO, came up with the idea a year ago.

The concept combines basic research with industrial innovation in a completely new way, ensuring that industry and the universities get greater benefit from each other’s knowledge and technology. University researchers and companies collaborate across the board to create fundamental new knowledge that is constantly made available to everyone – and which nobody may patent. On the contrary, everyone is subsequently freely able to use the knowledge to develop and patent their own unique products.

The first platform – SPOMAN (Smart Polymer Materials and Nano-Composites) – focuses on materials research. It initially involves 20 companies – including several Danish industrial flagships – in addition to researchers at the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Department of Engineering and iNANO at Aarhus University, as well as a number of researchers at other Danish universities. The platform has received DKK 2.5 million in funding from the Danish Industry Foundation.

The initiative has also attracted interest abroad, and the British Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which more or less corresponds to the Danish Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, has approached the university with a view to entering into collaboration.

Such a collaboration involves creating and sharing knowledge about what value is created for research and society by openly sharing research data, with a starting point in SPOMAN and two other Open Science initiatives – the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) in Oxford and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) in Canada.

This collaboration makes the new Knowledge Centre for Open Science even more topical, although it has been on the drawing board since spring.

“The overall aim of the knowledge centre is to create a qualified basis for decision-makers via research and evaluation. What works? What doesn’t work? The knowledge we generate can be an important tool for our dean and for Aarhus University. You could imagine that aspects of the Open Science platform could be used in other areas of the university’s business collaboration. It could also contribute to forming the basis for any future changes to the incentive structures and researcher assessment at the universities. And the open collaboration model could possibly pave the way for changes to the University Act in the long run,” explains Marie Louise Conradsen, scientific coordinator at iNANO and deputy director of the knowledge centre.

However, the knowledge centre will also to a great extent benefit the Open Science initiative itself, because there is a need to keep a finger on the pulse in order to adapt to the research and business policy trends of the future.

“By working together with ministries, business organisations and other open research environments in Denmark and abroad, we get to know more about Open Science as a global trend, and shed light on potential follow-on effects. We’d like to know the impact of the new practice on factors such as research quality, academic career opportunities and industrial innovation. It could also be interesting to take a look at whether Open Science could lead to stronger spin-outs than those we normally create – i.e. when they’re the result of a company’s need rather than the result of a researcher who comes up with a good idea and then tries to find someone who can use it,” says Marie Louise Conradsen.

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