Where do science and innovation stand in terms of their degree of openness? What are the effects of current developments, such as the Corona pandemic or the climate crisis? And, can this also lead to effective changes in the long term?
We get in touch with our community and give it a voice here.

  • Dr. Felix Müller

    Ecosystems and local collaborations are becoming increasingly important as innovation drivers. An interview with Dr. Felix Müller.

    Good afternoon, Mr. Müller! Nice to talk to you. Can you tell us a little about your background?

    Gladly. I’m a chemist, got my doctorate in chemistry in 1992, and then worked in the chemical industry. First at Goldschmidt, which then turned to SKW, which then turned to Degussa, which then came to Evonik. For many years, I worked in a field that involved detergents, cosmetics, foodstuffs, and a whole range of everyday products that are nowadays usually marketed through Open Innovation, in cooperation with companies that bring the products to market. For the past ten years, I’ve been a partner for universities at Evonik, taking up Open Innovation topics and driving joint projects forward.

    We first interviewed you a year ago. Where do you observe changes in open practices in science and innovation and in the willingness to use them, sparked by the Corona crisis?

    Back in 2020, I personally felt that we were still at the very beginning with the Corona crisis. At that time, I said – no one can competently assess the health and economic consequences, especially in countries with limited medical infrastructure.

    I expected dramatic dislocations, especially in the modern service industry, and predicted that the supplying sectors, agriculture and industry would have to prepare for a more locally oriented supply chain. For Open Innovation, I thought, this would certainly be a significant burden. Projects and initiatives would continue to be pursued, but the strong focus on more or less one topic would make new approaches difficult.

    And what do you say today?

    To put it bluntly, I think the German government has probably read my assessment word for word, because it has focused strongly on maintaining the functionality of the manufacturing industry during the crisis.

    And you can see quite clearly that this is still a burden for Open Innovation. Especially in the collaboration between companies and universities. In the last 12 months, we felt that we saw a third less in research output than in previous years. There were also fewer master’s theses, doctoral dissertations and papers. In our field, this was mainly due to the lack of lab time; these have fallen by the wayside with the pandemic. Sharing data continues to be difficult, but we have learned to improvise and there are now better technical solutions. New innovations are currently emerging.

    What opportunities and challenges are associated with the changes described?

    I see both opportunities and challenges. A year ago, I had already said in our conversation that new local innovation alliances in particular need to be set up and that whoever manages to position themselves as a university or company and forge new connections has an advantage. This has proven true in the pandemic. Of course, it’s not far from Darmstadt and Hanau to Mainz, and collaborations work perfectly even in a crisis. Some things are easier than in cooperation with America or Asia, for example. I see more and more local innovation alliances in more and more areas – in Germany and also in Europe. For example, we have many collaborations between North Rhine-Westphalia with Belgium or Holland. There are some great initiatives as the Brightlands Network in the Netherlands or the there that function in particular via regional networks like the NWMP network (Cluster NanoMicroWerkstoffePhotonik). It is certainly helpful here that these are also politically supported.

    What do you think your workspace will look like in terms of openness and collaboration after the crisis?

    Even after the Corona crisis, no industrial stakeholder in the value chain will be able on its own to carry out fundamental innovations in a limited time frame. Therefore, an ecosystem from the university to the consumer goods producer or OEM will then be just as necessary as before the crisis. However, the partners will then probably be more local for the time being.

  • Dr Lutz Möller

    The opportunities for Open Science as a movement are great and obvious! An interview with Dr Lutz Möller, Deputy Secretary General of the German Commission for UNESCO.

    With our Openness Scanner, we aim to detect and track transformation processes. In interviews, we explore the question of where science and innovation stand in various fields with regard to their degree of openness, what impact current developments, such as the Corona pandemic or even the climate crisis, are having, and to what extent this can result in effective long-term changes.

     

    Dr Lutz Möller is Deputy Secretary-General of the German Commission for UNESCO. In 2019, its 193 member states commissioned UNESCO to develop a Recommendation on Open Science. This international legal document is to be adopted in the fall of 2021 – the first ever global intergovernmental legal document on Open Science. UNESCO’s intergovernmental negotiations on this topic have just taken place in May 2021; there is no more obstacle for its adoption in November.

    In our Openness Scanner, we discussed with Lutz Möller how open practices have changed in the wake of the Corona crisis, what opportunities and risks are associated with them, and what role science can play as a pioneer for an open society across national borders.

     

    Mr. Möller, where do you observe changes in open practices in science and innovation and in the willingness to use them, sparked by the Corona crisis?

    You don’t have to be an expert to see how much practices have changed since the outset of the Covid 19 pandemic. Most visible is the new importance of preprints. These have been standard practice in some scientific disciplines for more than 20 years; however, many researchers in other disciplines had not even heard of the practice. In the midst of the pandemic, suddenly even the “common citizen” knew that a well-known virologist had just published a preprint, and that this is how you publish to quickly achieve progress, but that you can’t immediately attach the same significance to its results as to peer-reviewed publication.

    There was just as much talk about research data, how important its exchange is for scientific progress – otherwise Prof. Drosten’s team at Charité in Berlin, Germany, would not have been able to develop the first global test for SARS-CoV-2 as early as mid-January 2020; otherwise we would not have gained a comprehensive understanding of the virus and its spread pathways at breathtaking speed; otherwise we would not ultimately have been able to develop half a dozen vaccines within just one year. At the same time, the fact that openness and privacy have to be weighed carefully was a constantly burning issue, not only in the development of the Corona apps, at least in Central Europe.

    In my opinion, two things happened at the same time: A clear, irreversible push for much more openness in science. And the rapid development of sober understanding that you can’t approach openness naively and rashly.

    It was a lucky coincidence that UNESCO had already decided at the end of 2019 to develop a document of international law (UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science) on this issue by 2021. Thus, it was able to support and advance the international discussion since the beginning of the pandemic.

    Already on March 30, 2020, UNESCO organized a global conference of science ministers on Open Science and Covid-19 research. This was attended by 77 Ministers from around the world, including several from the European Union and the relevant European Union and African Union Commissioners, as well as the WHO Chief Scientist. Many ministers spoke in favor of the targeted expansion and strengthening of the application of Open Science principles, especially in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic. For example, the French government had previously called for free public access to all pandemic research data and results, and this is even a requirement for specifically funded projects in France. It is an obvious result of the aforementioned videoconference that Open Science is now also being pushed by those governments that presumably have attached little importance to Open Science so far.

    UNESCO’s intergovernmental negotiations at the beginning of May 2021 on its international law text were also a powerful signal for a further opening of science. Without exception, the UNESCO member states spoke in favour of such further opening (“as open as possible”), the negotiations in detail were concerned with reaching an understanding on the conditions under which opening is not possible – the second half of the formula (“as closed as necessary”) did not even make it into the text.

    What are the opportunities and challenges?  

    The opportunities for Open Science as a movement are great and obvious. The same applies to the opportunities for science to further clarify its role as a pioneer for an open society that holds together and networks across national borders. Rapid progress now strengthens civil society’s confidence in the science system. However, several challenges exist, for example:

    First, there is the threat of too quick fixes in the open provision of data. Good research data should be reliably published anonymized and accompanied by meta-data so that the content, as contained in raw data, can be properly interpreted. As a consequence, it is important to provide data with properly agreed open licenses to secure copyrights.

    Furthermore, there is a risk that research data will be misused with intent. It must be ensured that scientists and other stakeholders have the necessary know-how to classify the data provided and to handle it technically. This also requires an enlightened civil society with an affinity for knowledge. What is needed now is rapid learning progress in scientific practice and supportive accompanying offers – not only in Germany and Europe, but for scientists worldwide. This learning progress must be accompanied by governments in a long term perspective.

    The German Open Science discussion is currently very much focused on Open Data and Open Access. However, Open Science means much more: from opening up science to society and the economy to international openness. The focus on Open Data and Open Access might be necessary in the pandemic, but should not distort the comprehensive aspiration of Open Science, which includes  Citizen Science and Open Innovation.

    What activities do you expect for your own work in terms of openness and collaboration after the crisis?

    The German Commission for UNESCO has intensified its work on Open Science in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Executive Committee had already adopted a statement on April 2, 2020, which has been taken up by some of our Partners around the world: Link

    We have published a comprehensive guide, organized several webinars, and made Open Science a topic in several conferences. We will continue to be engaged in the debate and will also link Open Science to the promotion of good scientific practice. Most importantly, we look forward to UNESCO adopting the first global international law text on Open Science in November 2021. We are also very glad that the quality of this text will be high and will advance Open Science worldwide in the coming years.

  • Jörg Trinkwalter

    "Cross industry" cooperations provide new impetus for innovation. An interview with Jörg Trinkwalter.

    With our Openness Scanner, we aim to detect and track transformation processes. In interviews, we explore the question of where science and innovation stand in various fields with regard to their degree of openness, what impact current developments, such as the Corona pandemic or even the climate crisis, are having, and to what extent this can result in effective long-term changes.

    Jörg Trinkwalter belongs to the Executive Board of Medical Valley, the medical technology cluster in the European Metropolitan Region of Nuremberg. We interviewed him for the first time a year ago. After one year of the Corona pandemic, we now talk again about how he assesses the resulting changes then and now.

    The interview answers reflect Jörg Trinkwalter’s personal opinions.

    Good afternoon, Mr. Trinkwalter! It’s nice to talk with you today.

    Can you tell us the changes you saw in Open Practices in science and innovation at the beginning of the Corona crisis and in the readiness to use them?

    I’d love to.  At the time, we in Medical Valley noticed that when the Corona crisis began, there was an increased eagerness to enter the “health care” field, even from institutions and companies outside the industry. For me, the potential of this development at that time clearly lay in the establishment of interesting “cross-industry” cooperations and a resulting surge in innovation.

    And how do you think about this today?

    The Corona pandemic has clearly shown that the healthcare industry is an important field and is becoming increasingly significant in economic terms. And that the whole topic of digitization can be a very relevant and beneficial area when we think of telemedicine, digital health, and so on.

    Many initiatives on the legislative side, such as the Digital Care Act or the Hospital Future Act, are currently creating an investment backlog. This creates a sense of optimism and increases the interest of larger companies to move more strongly into the area of digitization. I’m thinking of the automotive industry, which wants to bring health applications into cars, or kitchen appliance manufacturers who want to integrate digital fitness applications.

    I can’t say whether this has improved the culture for Open Innovation processes, but the pressure is definitely there. Large companies like Siemens Healthineers, are innovating less and less on their own, and more and more through Open Innovation processes. That means they have to open up more and more to early-stage ideas and startups. The same trend can be seen in the pharmaceutical industry, which is also trying to round out digital, complementary products around its pills.

    In our field, which is medical technology, Corona has created quite an ambivalent picture. We have medical device manufacturers who have suffered and are still suffering greatly from the fact that elective procedures such as hip implants were suspended worldwide in the lockdown. However, this has also created a real push towards innovative digital applications. This has resulted in up to 400% revenue growth in areas such as telemedicine.

    What opportunities and challenges did you see in this a year ago?

    The healthcare industry is one of the most stable growth sectors worldwide. In cross-industry collaborations, I saw an opportunity for more German companies to participate in this value creation. One of the key challenges was regulation. As soon as companies want to enter the production and marketing of medical devices, they have to meet the relevant regulatory requirements.

    And what is the current status?

    Not much has changed. An automobile manufacturer will not become a medical device manufacturer; that would have too great implications for its quality management and risk management systems. And that was and still is a big barrier and hurdle! In the first lockdown, we got a lot of request, from automotive manufacturers who wanted to make ventilators. Technically, that would have been possible, but regulatory-wise, that fell through.

    But what will be much more important to integrate across sectors than the manufacturing of healthcare products are digital applications and the platforms on which healthcare applications, entertainment and so will continue.

    What activities do you expect for your own work in terms of openness and collaboration after the crisis?

    Innovations for health have always required transdisciplinary collaborations. This need will continue to grow. That doesn’t necessarily mean that companies like Continental will have to enter the medical technology field themselves, but that they will participate in corresponding companies. That is also a kind of openness.

    And the Corona times have taught us something else: collaborative formats don’t work well in purely digital form! Viral events in the sense of knowledge transfer, i.e. congresses, workshops, lectures, are no problem. But the informal exchange that is so important for building trust did not happen. And that is crucial for moving from networking to collaborative work and products.

  • Dr. Max Voegler

    We need trustworthy filters to evaluate science and research - especially in an open innovation system. An interview with Dr. Max Voegler.

    With our Openness Scanner, we aim to detect and track transformation processes. In interviews, we explore the question of where science and innovation stand in various fields with regard to their degree of openness, what impact current developments, such as the Corona pandemic or even the climate crisis, are having, and to what extent this can result in effective long-term changes.

    Max Voegler is VP Global Strategic Networks – DACH at Elsevier. In the interview, we talked to him about “Thinking, Fast and Slow” as an important evaluation criterion for openness in times of the Corona crisis and discussed the general need for new filters to assess research results.

    Mr. Voegler, nice to talk to you. Has the Corona crisis fundamentally changed the practice of science? And if so, how?

    Has the Corona crisis fundamentally changed the practice of science? There is clear evidence for this: the Corona outbreak began in China in mid-December 2019. As early as 24 January 2020, the first peer-reviewed articles on it were released in the renowned journal The Lancet. The first genome sequencing was published in February and in the meantime a three-digit number of articles have appeared globally on Corona. The crisis has thus clearly influenced the quantity and speed of research.

    A second aspect is the openness with which a wide range of research results were made available. Data from a wide range of laboratories was made globally accessible in the fastest possible way, and many research groups made their own research available as a pre-publication. Central institutions, such as Elixir/EMBL-EBI, have published a data repository on Covid 19-relevant scientific datasets as part of the EU Open Data Portal. Commercial providers, including Elsevier, have released relevant articles, textbooks, repositories and other products to make important information available to physicians, nurses and researchers. Elsevier has now put together several “Corona Hubs”, which are tailored to different target groups (researchers, patient care) and offer relevant articles and textbooks, podcasts as well as access to researcher profiles and newspaper articles on Corona.

    Both were evident at the very beginning of the Corona crisis and are still true today. The numbers have increased and the impetus for science to publish more and more and to open up data continues. Currently, it is becoming apparent that findings from Open Science can be not only fast, but also of good quality. And that is a question of resources. If you provide enough resources, then within a year you are able to develop not only vaccine, but also to break through regulatory hurdles. And that wasn’t so clear six or eight months ago whether that would work. That’s an important realisation, that fast doesn’t have to be bad. With enough resources, fast can also be good.

    What opportunities and challenges do you see in the change processes? 

    Last year, I often thought of the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, in which he distinguishes between two types of thinking processes: “Fast” happens quickly and automatically, based on subconscious prior knowledge and biases. This type of thinking is immediate and determines our everyday life. “Slow”, on the other hand, is logical, calculating, conscious and thus more reflective. In this crisis, it became and still is clear that we should not only reflect on the processes in science, but above all on the interaction between science, politics and society against this backdrop, and the opportunities and challenges associated with it. Increased speed and quantity can mean that the results of scientific work end up in the media and the general public relatively unreflected and unfiltered. This is what happened to some extent last year. And even though we now see fast and high-quality research, I think that in this context we also have to make a very conscious distinction between “fast” and “slow” – that is, between ongoing research and research whose results already allow conclusions to be drawn. This distinction must be communicated very clearly to society and also used as an evaluation criterion for political decision-making processes. Because it has a direct impact on society’s trust in science. This is important – when we talk about opportunities and challenges – we have to deal with Trust in Science.

    What do you think your field of work will look like in terms of openness and collaboration after the crisis?

    In relation to my field of work – from the point of view of a publishing house that works and move strongly in the direction of information and analytics – openness is very much about the possibilities of qualitatively assured and subject- or discipline-related filters in order to make the open innovation system usable. Because the completely open world is first of all a world without filters. There is no good or bad, left or right, but initially only unfiltered knowledge that is not necessarily useful if you don’t understand the context. So it’s all well and good that science produces scientific knowledge, but society must also be able to use and evaluate it for itself.

    What exactly do you mean by trustworthy filters and how can we get there?

    The problem is that we are currently in a process in which scientists themselves are considering what “better” or “worse” means. Publishers can support this with their developments in terms of peer review or also in terms of impact measurement. Citations are basically a kind of currency in science. But another filter could be, for example, the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) – in other words: is the science community producing the knowledge that the world needs to solve SDG6, “Water and Sanitation for All” as a global challenge. We can show how good universities are in terms of their research and topics in climate action or gender balance. The term “impact” is changing. And of course we can also consider other things – for example a transdisciplinary ranking, i.e. how often publications are cited within one’s own discipline and outside it. The question is whether that is seen as useful? But back to the topic of “openness”: Overall, openness needs an evaluation, i.e. what should be disclosed when and how and to whom? And this assessment is an orientation filter that can be put on the open world to make it useful. The difficult thing: what do such orientation aids look like and how do they work? To answer this question, that is exciting at the moment.

    What would you like to see in the next five to ten years in terms of openness?

    I think it would be good if people understood that openness is not the real value, but making knowledge useful. That must be the goal. For that, we need to clarify how to make scientific knowledge as accessible, transparent and re-usable as possible. Openness is one possible strategy to get there, but not the only one.

  • Luiza Bengtsson and Verena Haage

    Collaborative Open Science platforms and freely accessible webinars are increasingly used. Luiza Bengtsson and Verena Haage out of a survey at the Max Delbrück Center Berlin.

    With our Openness Scanner, we aim to detect and track transformation processes. In interviews, we explore the question of where science and innovation stand in various fields with regard to their degree of openness, what impact current developments, such as the Corona pandemic or even the climate crisis, are having, and to what extent this can result in effective long-term changes.

    Luiza Bengtsson works as a science communicator at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association. Together with Verena Haage, who has meanwhile moved to the USA as a post-doc, she launched a survey at MDC in April 2020 on open science in the Corona Crisis. From these survey results delivered by MDC scientist, they extracted the responses for our openness scanner. In a follow-up interview a year later, Luiza Bengtsson gave us her personal, up-to-date insights to the same questions.

    The answers represent the survey results and opinions of the scientists, as well as the personal opinion of our interview partner.

    Where do you observe changes in Open Practices in science and innovation and in the willingness to use them, sparked by the Corona crisis?

    Response to the first survey in April 2020:

    The MDC scientists indicated that Open Science platforms such as bioRxiv.org, collabovid.org, MediArXiv were used more frequently since the outbreak of the Corona crisis, while current research on COVID-19 being discussed and commented on more intensively by scientists on Twitter. Another COVID-19-related innovation is an increased number of virtual scientific meetings/conferences as well as freely accessible scientific webinars.

    Response to follow-up survey in April 2021:

    A new factor from the point of view of Luiza Bengtsson – also separate from Corona – is the growing relevance and attention to the topic of data management. Data stewards now exist at almost every institute, and the topic is also being integrated into doctoral training. National data infrastructures are being established, the work of the European Science Cloud is picking up the speed, while data management and data stewards are also becoming increasingly present in BMBF funding calls.

    Open Data is following the Open Science movement: There will always be good reasons, , for example to keep business data private. But the willingness to share data and the awareness of the added value are growing on all sides.

    What are the opportunities and challenges? 

    Response to the first survey in April 2020:

    The scientists were critical of the fact that peer-reviewed quality and subject-specific review of COVID-19 scientific studies seem to suffer in some cases, possibly in part to get published more quickly due to the timeliness of the topic as well as to establish themselves in the COVID-19 field.

    Their hope from the Corona crisis is that the scientific community will recognize the utility and value of public platforms such as bioRxiv.org, and that in the long run this will allow science to be discussed critically, openly, and transparently by the broader scientific community earlier in the publication process.

    They also expressed the hope that in the wake of the Corona crisis and the associated increased demand of rapid and publicly accessible publication of studies on COVID-19, more scientists will recognize the need for a shift in the scientific publishing landscape from time- and cost-intensive processes to a more transparent, rapid, and efficient culture.

    Response to follow-up survey in April 2021:

    According to Luiza Bengtsson, the fear that scientific quality will suffer from the paradigm shift is still there. However, new mechanisms are establishing, with much broader and more public discussion now enabling a REAL peer review process. Besides the classic ranking by three unknown reviewers, public discussions on Twitter or recently even ClubHouse help the community to rank and evaluate science. Classic journal publications are no longer the only relevant sources of information.

    The original fears of critical exposure and trolls have largely not materialized; all in all, the discussions are just as valuable, critical, and sometimes heated as at live conferences.

    What activities do you expect for your own work in terms of openness and collaboration after the crisis?

    Response to the first survey in April 2020:

    When asked if they expect sustainable changes in Open Science practices or collaborations in their research field in response to the Corona crisis, the scientists stated that the use of virtual communication and data sharing platforms have certainly gained popularity because of the crisis, but otherwise they do not expect any long-term changes.

    Despite the above-mentioned opportunities that the Corona Crisis created for the Open Science movement, the concerns raised indicate that while the Corona Crisis may have led to an increase in the scientific community’s awareness of Open Science practices, there is still a long road ahead to sustainable change with the goal of Open Science even after the crisis.

    Response to follow-up survey in April 2021:

    Luiza Bengtsson’s feeling is, that the trend is going towards more virtual, or in the intermediate term, mainly hybrid ways of collaboration. Awareness of data is growing, and data science and data sharing are becoming more important.