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Open science landscape process

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In the process of investigating the “meta-research” landscape, we reached the conclusion that there are a number of different groups approaching the question of how to improve academic research in different ways. One particular community that we see working on these issues is the “open science” community, described in more detail in this blog post.

In this spreadsheet (XLS), we've tried to identify the key players in the “open science” community that would be relevant for a strategic philanthropist considering investing in the field and take a first stab at assessing their size in terms of budget or staff. The caveat that the spreadsheet aims to be relevant for a strategic philanthropist guides some of the overarching inclusion and exclusion choices. For instance, we didn't include scientific crowdfunding sites like Microryza (archive) or for-profit open-access publishers like BioMed Central (archive).

We collected the organizations that we included in the spreadsheet through a combination of interviews and web research. Early conversations led us to Josh Greenberg, a program officer at the Sloan Foundation, who provided a particularly helpful overview of the field and introductions to other players and funders (notes from our conversation are here). In our interviews, we always asked whom else we should talk to about the issues we had discussed, and that snowball approach led to a long list of people to talk to. Our process for deciding whom to attempt to talk to from the list of people suggested to us was pragmatic, including factors like time zones, seniority, access, and how promising we thought a particular conversation was likely to be. Our full list of published conversations in meta-research, not sub-divided based on “open science” group membership, is here. Conversations that we would retrospectively classify as falling, fairly expansively, within the “open science” field include:

In addition to conversations, we also conducted some wide-ranging desk research, reading programs and write-ups from relevant conferences (such as Beyond the PDF2 (archive)), and following blogs and Twitter activity by people we spoke with and others in the field.

Our attempts to categorize organizations by their activities are driven by the goal of parsimoniously grouping organizations working on similar problems or employing similar approaches, but the categories and groupings are somewhat arbitrary, particularly since many organizations lie on a spectrum between one or more of the categories. For instance, we put DataCite in the “Attribution” category though it could plausibly fit into “Sharing data and code”; the iPython Notebook (archive) and Projects (archive) are both software tools that we included in “Reproducibility” but could plausibly go in “Sharing data and code” or in a third category of “Research tools” that we decided not to use because it seemed too broad and cross-cutting. In a couple of cases, involving Faculty of 1,000 (F1000) and the Public Library of Science (PLoS), organizations are mentioned on the sheet in two separate places because they have subsidiaries that seem to belong in different categories.

We did not include organizations that work exclusively at the level of a single discipline outside of biomedical research, unless they are explicitly attempting to more broadly address “open science” as such. Many groups working in psychology were excluded for this reason, but we included the Center for Open Science because it explicitly has broader aims.

The information we report on organization size is generally obtained from the organizations' websites, or, when we spoke with a representative, from those conversations. “About us” pages are far from authoritative, and we were only rarely able to find relevant financial information, so the reported information about organization size is of limited reliability. We were generally only about to find financial information about for-profit companies in the space when they were venture-backed start-ups like ResearchGate.

The conversations we had and the view of the field from this sheet is biased in favor of approaches that we believe are likely to be especially promising for a strategic philanthropist. We did not talk with or include many typical nonprofit open-access publishers because we don't see an especially strong strategic case for further supporting them. We focused quite a bit on reproducibility in our questions and conversations, which may partially explain the density of organizations we've located there.

Overall, we believe that more conversations at this point would significantly improve our understanding of the players involved and would fill in some potential holes but would be unlikely to change our basic picture of the field.

We've posted an editable version of the spreadsheet on Google Drive to serve as a community resource, and we welcome any edits or additions to that version.