Accepted Paper:

Reflections on ethos and identity in an "open science revolution"  


Rosalind Attenborough (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Communities of academic scientists occupy a cultural sphere in which openness has been valued for centuries – whether rhetorically or in practice. This paper reflects upon the re-shaping of scientific ethoses and identities as scientists encounter a new wave of "open science”.

Paper long abstract:

Scientific openness is both old and new. Although norms of secrecy once prevailed amongst natural philosophers, communal sharing and concomitant legitimisation of scientific knowledge has now been a cultural expectation for centuries (David, 2008). This traditional "openness", which is commonly enacted on the pages of scholarly journals, is nuanced: it opens knowledge to particular people, at particular stages of development, in particular ways. But in addition to observing traditional "openness", today's scientific communities are encountering "open science": a heterogenous set of movements and practices encompassing open access publishing, open data, open peer review, citizen science, and online laboratory notebooks. This recent phenomenon, sometimes described as a "revolution" (e.g. The Royal Society, 2012, "Science as an open enterprise"), promises to transform traditional expectations and practices, overcoming perceived obstacles to openness. We are beginning to witness this transformation on multiple levels, from the grassroots up and from institutions and policymakers down.

The "open science revolution" is fascinating not only because it may transform the epistemological and institutional landscape of science, but because of its entanglement with the identities of professional scientists and the ethoses of their communities. My paper explores the experiences of scientists - with existing, internalised value systems for negotiating nuances of openness and closure - as they encounter new discourses and practices of "open science". Based on interviews with UK-based biological scientists and an analysis of their online "open science" practices, I will reflect upon the re-shaping of scientific ethos and identity that might accompany an "open science revolution".

Panel T061
Open science in practice