New Roadmap Paves the Way for Open Science in Canada

Friday, March 13, 2020 - 13:18

Open Science is a key component of the Government of Canada’s commitments on Open Government. Making science and data fully and freely available builds transparency and accountability, improves access to science and evidence, creates opportunities for collaboration and knowledge mobilization, and can help increase the impact of science.

In the past few years, a number of federal policies have emerged to push openness and transparency of science forward, including the government’s Scientific Integrity Policies allowing federal scientists to speak more freely about their work, the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications to make federally funded science more open, and the Data Strategy Roadmap, outlining steps towards open data management. 

In line with this progress, on February 26th, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor (CSA) released a new Roadmap for Open Science, which recommends the next steps towards making federal science open and accessible for all.  

What does the Roadmap recommend?

Using ten recommendations, the Open Science Roadmap outlines steps towards making federal science open and accessible. Here are some of the key steps: 

  • Federal departments and agencies should conduct consultations with the science community before June 2020 on the challenges and opportunities for open science;
  • Departments and agencies should develop Action Plans on Open Science that outline how to make science accessible and include performance metrics, before October 2020;
  • Wherever possible, federal science articles should be made publically open by January 2022 and federal science publications open by 2023; 
  • By 2025, federal science should operate under “FAIR” principles, in which open science is “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable”. This includes metadata, annotation, curation and data management, using a common, cross-departmental approach;
  • By June 2020, A Chief Scientific Data Officer should be implemented to help ensure good data management, and a high-level Open Science Steering Committee should be stood up, chaired by the CSA;
  • By 2021, an open science strategy for science conducted outside of the federal government should be developed. 

As well, the Roadmap recommends that steps should be taken to ensure confidentiality and ethical guidelines are considered, and recommends that the CSA monitor the international context to ensure our guidelines stay up to date.

What’s Next?

The Roadmap’s aim is to make science “Open by Default and Design”, and the recommendations are an exciting step towards improved openness, transparency, and access to science. Creating a coherent roadmap that links these directives is a great step towards pushing for real implementation on open science. The timelines in the Roadmap are also ambitious, signaling the government’s willingness to move forward quickly.

While the Roadmap sets into motion important steps towards open science, the recommendations are still very high level. Over the coming months, it will be important to monitor the development of Open Science Action Plans, which will be the real guidelines that guide each department’s actions towards open science. 

While it’s encouraging to see that the roadmap mandates that open science action plans should include oversight and performance measurement, and that a governance committee has been proposed, performance evaluation will be a crucial next step. Open science represents a large culture shift, especially in the federal space. Having strong evaluation and oversight can help mediate these changes.

Also, while it’s excellent that the roadmap includes FAIR principles to ensure that science isn’t just made open, but accessible and available, an additional potential option for open science could be new recommendations to make science more accessible to the public and to decision makers. This could include openly accessible lay summaries or visual representations of science to help bridge the gap between science and end users such as governments, the public, or interdisciplinary researchers. 

How can you participate?

With the new Roadmap hot off the presses, E4D will be monitoring any opportunities for scientists to participate in consultations on open science, so stay tuned for updates! 

As well, the Government of Canada is currently holding consultations for the next Action Plan on Open Government, of which open science is a part. Check it out here for how you can participate!

Kimberly Girling

Interim Executive Director

Kimberly Girling completed a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. During her work as a scientist, she developed a passion for science policy, and has participated in a number of initiatives relating to global and public health, drug policy and harm reduction.