About the first open PhD thesis (english)

The doctoral thesis with the title „From Open Access to Open Science: About the transition of digital cultures relating to scientific communication“ is an explorative study of the concepts of Open Access and Open Science in the context of digitization and the differentiation between different scientific disciplines. The aim of this work is the presentation, analysis and negotiation of the assumptions concerning the establishment as well as the implementation of open digital scientific knowledge processes.

This is the website documenting the first approach to conduct a doctoral research thesis as open as possible by Christian Heise. The goal of this open approach: „Publish everything related to the doctoral study and research process as soon as possible, as comprehensive as possible and under an open license (see opendefinition.org), online available at all time for everyone.“ It was written in german language, online and always open readable and accessible at live.offene-doktorarbeit.de.

The Exposé of this thesis was submitted in November 2012 and the whole process of writing was opened up immediately. In the beginning it was unclear if it’s possible to write the whole PhD „as open as possible“. Upon request this approach was confirmed by the PhD commission of Leuphana University in 2013. Since then the writing was conducted in the open and the final thesis was handed in for assessment in June 2016. Disputation took place in February 2017. The thesis was published as Book in January 2018 by the cooperative publisher meson press.

Read also more about this PhD Project in an Interview for the Helmholtz Association here.

Structure of the Thesis:

  1. Introduction
  2. Analysis of the history of scientific communication and the theoretical basics of Open Access/Open Science
  3. Evaluation of the challenges and debates on openness in science in literature, identifying prospects, drivers and barriers
  4. Concept and methodology
  5. Online survey: comparative study with 1.112 (german-speaking) scientists on digitialisation and openness in scientific communication
  6. Ethnographic research: documenting the process of writing a PhD as open as possible, including analysis
  7. Discussion and Conclusion of the findings

What does „open as possible“ mean?

A. planning and development of the scientific research question (Exposé) live in a Blog
B. documenting research process (writing, survey, presentations in colloquium…) live in a blog and on a writing platform as soon as the PhD commission allowed to do so
C. research analysis and evaluation procedure was done open; interim results and raw data were published immediately
D. communication of the thesis and results were also done immediately and in open formats (.csv/.tex)

Why is this relevant?

  • not enough practical experiments on negotiating openness and its constraints in scientific communication
  • no evaluation if a no-barrier approach to scientific research is doable or useful in scientific communication or qualification
  • conducting and documenting practical basic scientific research on openness in science
  • embedding the demand for openness in the historical context of science communication
  • evaluating the theoretical interest in openness vs. practical doing in the scientific community
  • contribution to the debate on implications and consequences of digitalization in scientific research and communication
  • evaluation on potential chances to increase (A.) research quality; (B.) speed and circulation; (C.) higher impact; (D.) economic promotion; (E.) validation, (F.)quality and reputation; (G.)digital divide; (H.)challenging the science communication crisis; (I.) collaboration; (J.) archiving and much more
  • clarifying definitions and recommendations on open access and open science
  • identifying drivers and obstacles for or against openness in science

Tips and Tricks

  1. check if openness is „allowed“ if not: try to get the permission
  2. gather technical know-how on the process of digital publishing/research methods
  3. make a good decision on the software you want to use
  4. schedule some extra time for the open process
  5. don’t expect to much input and be careful with feedback
  6. document your work well and make work and process reproducible
  7. use an open license
  8. always remind yourself: „What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet!“
  9. use your social networks and make the project public
  10. always make clear that your work is work in progress

Quick FAQ

Q: How to overcome the „fear“ of opening up science?
A: Just do it, it does not hurt! But make yourself fully aware of the consequences and check if this is allowed.

Q: Any obstacles?
A: Yes, a lot. Here are just a few: (1.) organizational & legal: Permission by the University took nearly a year December 2013, interoperability with doctoral degree regulations (2.). social: fear of making mistakes, fear of transparency, fear of make a fool of oneself, fear of idea theft…(3.) technical: technical issues (Authorea could not handle the length), Platforms for Scientific writing were very rare in 2013 and did not fulfill the requirements.

Q: Any quick advices how to tackle those?
A: Hopefully: (1.) talk to your university, don’t stop arguing for openness and wait (2.) be aware of the consequences and get used to it (3.) technical: connected Authorea to GitHub; implemented DataWrapper; build own software to show .tex from GitHub (authorea-github-tex-reader@GitHub); see: http://live.offene-doktorarbeit.de

Q: What are good reasons to open up science?
A: By doing it, you can help to shape the criteria for the future of science (in a digital world)! More here.

Q: What is in it for me?
A: Help to negotiate and shape the future of scientific communication. Save the principles of academic autonomy and freedom!

More Questions? Reach out to christian(dot)heise(at)gmail.com.