Scientific Case

Scientific Case

The Vision of Open Science is premised on a paradigmatic shift in research practices and scholarly communication. In its scope on multidisciplinary with a focus on social sciences and humanities (SSH), OPERAS addresses those disciplines, that are particularly in need of a major initiative to perform the transformation towards Open Science and evolve their innovative potential.[1] The challenges facing scholarly communication in the SSH have been well documented in various studies and academic conferences in recent years.[2]

Science as Communication

The traditional approach for the representation of scholarly communication, which separates publications from research and considers publications as a subsequent output and manifestation, is based on a flawed communication model. This misinterpretation affects the approach of open access as it entails the implementation of global models that are detached from the reality of research as a communication practice. For a long time, several researchers, such as Latour and Woolgar[3], Garvey[4], Galison[5], and more recently Nielsen[6], have evidenced on the contrary how science should be literally conceived as a communication practice. Furthermore, as a social activity involving a wide range of interactions, the continuous model of communication in scholarship[7] requires infrastructure to serve as dynamic and interactive networks. The concept of an extensive scholarly record[8] including innovative methods and formats demands a framework of fluid but identifiable, distributed but interlinked, units.[9] OPERAS adopts these concepts throughout its full research lifecycle support and the synergies build on the connection of distributed infrastructures, institutions, and entities.

The Specificity of Social Sciences and Humanities

SSH scholarly communication practices differ substantially from Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM), which has been exposed even more to electronic publishing, culminating in the primary publication format of journal articles in STM versus monographs in the SSH. The monograph format reveals other specificities in terms of episteme, workflow, collaboration, relationship between theory and fieldwork, elaboration and construction of the argumentation based on evidence in those disciplines.[10] Academic books are poorly integrated in commercial databases and the format of monographs is often excluded from open access policies, initiatives, and copyright exceptions.[11] The evaluation of research outputs in areas with very low uptake of bibliometric and scientometric evaluation, such as SSH, is currently a major issue at European level.[12] In addition, more studies and reports suggest that the scholarly communication ecosystem is currently suboptimal, lacks the transition to open science and does not support enough innovation[13], while changes are prevented by few commercial players[14]. OPERAS encounters these barriers in strengthening scholarly-led initiatives, publicly funded research institutions, and infrastructure service providers, who are developing domain-specific models for scholarly communication and implement tailor-made services in order to close the gap in the research fields of SSH as an immediate impact while fostering the evolvement of open scholarly communication practices in the long run.

SSH research is frequently grounded in specific cultural areas, which implies communication in native languages and not only in English as the scientific lingua franca.[15] The approaches towards internationalization of the humanities and transregional research lead to international collaborations and communication networks but do not result in few core publication organs like in the STM as national books and articles in the native languages remain dominant, as evidenced by the recent INTERCO-SSH project.[16] As a result, most SSH communication and publication service providers are not working at global level, but rather at national or regional level, leading to the fragmented landscape already described. A connection of the distributed publication and communication infrastructures with an implementation of a multilingual discovery service provides a direct impact on the outreach and internationalization potential of SSH research.

Engagement with Society

The impact of SSH research on society has been a rising topic in the academic and the public sector.[17] While SSH research is fundamental to the production of knowledge, it also contributes to the economical domain, although the centre of its impact lies in the increase of civic capital.[18] However, suggestions point the SSH towards a more intense engagement with the public.[19] An adequate framework for open scholarly communication adopting the models for collaboration and participation, as proposed in OPERAS, will serve for different stakeholders including the non-academic sector and citizens. Based on engagement, research and public will be able to collaborate during the research time and upfront traditional publication. While ideas and concepts of innovative scholarly communication have been discussed broadly[20], implementations at larger scale remain a desideratum. Finally, the iterative and discursive process in hermeneutic methods, which have truncated the SSH from developments in the publishing system, as well as the bond to local communities in native languages, which has decelerated the internationalization of the SSH, now hold an immense potential for an inspiring model of Open Science with direct societal impact, based on continuous communication.

OPERAS and the Digital Humanities

OPERAS achieves the implementation of Open Science in the SSH community. As such it integrates the digital humanities program that aims at renewing research practices in the SSH through intensive use of digital technologies[21]. The diversity of the fields of SSH  entails the impossibility to cover its entire perimeter by a single infrastructure. In the humanities, DARIAH focusses on digital methods for analysis and data-centered lifecycles. CLARIN is specialized on text and language data and its processing. CESSDA connects the digital archives of the social sciences contributing to a rich data pool on European level which also includes the European Social Survey and SHARE. The focus on data-driven research of all these ERICS reflects the fundamental importance of open data and digital source material in the SSH as catalyst for innovative research.[22] OPERAS cooperates with these consortia on several levels for exchange of knowledge and connects to the underlying infrastructures for exchange of data, but addresses the gaps from a more general and wider scope through substantial additions to the infrastructure landscape: from digital methods and open data towards digital scholarship and Open Science.

The transition to Open Science and the adoption of the open innovation principles, though, relies not only on open data sources but on open communication and participatory processes.[23] Thus, in addition to the computer-aided analysis, the sharing of findings through scientific conversation, the quality assurance and review processes, the editing and writing workflows, the tracking and acknowledgement of core research activities, as the “scholarly primitives”[24], have to be supported and integrated in the research infrastructure landscape.


  1. [1] Crane, Gregory, Alison Babeu, and David Bamman. “eScience and the humanities.” International Journal on Digital Libraries 7.1 (2007): 117-122.
  2. [2] See landscape study section in OPERAS Design Study
  3. [3] Latour, Bruno, Steve Woolgar, et Michel Biezunski. La vie de laboratoire. Paris: La Découverte, 2005.
  4. [4] GARVEY, WILLIAM D. « CHAPTER 1 – The Role of Scientific Communication in the Conduct of Research and the Creation of Scientific Knowledge ». In Communication: the Essence of Science, 1‑39. Pergamon, 1979. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-023344-4.50006-4.
  5. [5] Galison, Peter. Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  6. [6] Nielsen, Kristian H. « Scientific Communication and the Nature of Science ». Science & Education 22, no 9 (1 septembre 2013): 2067‑86. doi:10.1007/s11191-012-9475-3.
  7. [7] Borgman, Christine L. Scholarship in the digital age: Information, infrastructure, and the Internet. MIT press, 2010. See also: Hjartarson et al.: Modelling Collaboration in Digital Humanities Scholarship: Foundational Concepts of an EMiC UA Project Charter, in: Brown, Susan. Cultural Mapping and the Digital Sphere: Place and Space. University of Alberta, 2015.
  8. [8] Lavoie, Brian, et al. The Evolving Scholarly Record. OCLC Research, Dublin, Ohio, 2014.
  9. [9] Van de Sompel, Herbert and Carl Lagoze: All Aboard: Toward a Machine-Friendly Scholarly Communication System, in: Hey, Tony et al.: The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery. Microsoft Research, 2009.
  10. [10] Geoffrey Crossick, Monographs and Open Access, 2015, Eve, Martin Paul. Open access and the humanities. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  11. [11] For an extensive review of Open Access policies in Europe, see:
  12. [12] Ochsner, Michael, Sven E. Hug, et Hans-Dieter Daniel. « Humanities Scholars’ Conceptions of Research Quality ». In Research Assessment in the Humanities, edited by Michael Ochsner, Sven E. Hug, et Hans-Dieter Daniel, 43‑69. Springer International Publishing, 2016. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-29016-4_5.
  13. [13] The Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science: p. 22-23
  14. [14] Larivière V., Haustein S., Mongeon P. (2015) “The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era”. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502
  15. [15] Barbara Cassin, « Les intraduisibles », Revue Sciences/Lettres [Online], 1 | 2013,; DOI: 10.4000/rsl.252
  16. [16] Sivertsen, Gunnar. “Patterns of internationalization and criteria for research assessment in the social sciences and humanities.” Scientometrics 107.2 (2016): 357-368. doi:  10.1007/s11192-016-1845-1 andJohan Heilbron, Thibaud Boncourt, Rafael Schögler, Gisèle Sapiro. European Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in a Global Context. Preliminary findings from the INTERCO-SSH Project. February 2017
  17. [17] Benneworth, Paul, Magnus Gulbrandsen, and Ellen Hazelkorn. The impact and future of arts and humanities research. Springer, 2016.
  18. [18] Assessing the impact of arts and humanities research at the University of Cambridge, Ruth Levitt, Claire Celia, Stephanie Diepeveen, Siobhán Ní Chonaill, Lila Rabinovich, Jan Tiessen, Rand Report, 2010
  19. [19] Belfiore, Eleonora. ‘“Impact”, “value” and “bad Economics”: Making Sense of the Problem of Value in the Arts and Humanities’. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 14.1 (2015): 95–110, DOI: 10.1177/1474022214531503. Bate, Jonathan, ed. The public value of the humanities. A&C Black, 2011.
  20. [20] Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Beyond metrics: Community authorization and open peer review.” Debates in the digital humanities (2012): 452-459,
  21. [21] For a comprehensive view on digital humanities, see Schreibman, Susan, Siemens, Ray and Unsworth, John . A New Companion to Digital Humanities. 2 edition. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. Dacos, Marin. Read/Write Book: Le livre inscriptible. OpenEdition Press, 2010. Mounier, Pierre. Read/Write Book 2: Une introduction aux humanités numériques. OpenEdition Press, 2012.
  22. [22] “Riding the wave. How Europe can gain from the rising tide of scientific data”. Final report of the High level Expert Group on Scientific Data. A submission to the European Commission, October 2010,
  23. [23] European Commission, ed. Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World: A Vision for Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016, DOI: 10.2777/061652
  24. [24] Unsworth, John. “Scholarly Primitives: What Methods Do Humanities Researchers Have in Common, and How Might Our Tools Reflect This?” Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, 2000,˜jmu2m/Kings.5-00/primitives.html

Additional Bibliography