“He has been one of the scientists who dared to stand up against established customs and expectations and argue that Open Science is the way forward”

When SPARC announced their “Europe’s Open Access Champion Showcase” Egon Willighagen from Maastricht University replied to us on Twitter and wrote in an email:

”a lot of attention now goes to already established researchers that happen to now also do Open Access. However, the real effort was done by those who repeatedly and consistently supported Open Access, and in particular *gold* Open Access, from the early days. This is an unfortunate pattern I see in many countries, but if you are interested in people who convinced supervisors to adopt Open Access *before* it got mainstream, Ola Spjuth is a good person to talk to!”

Willighagen continued his email: ”Ola started more than 10 years ago working in Open Science, during his PhD studies (very few PhD students dare make this decision!). As such, he has been one of the scientists who dared to stand up against established customs and expectations and argue that Open Science is the way forward”.

After reading this we could not resist to get in touch with Ola Spjuth at Uppsala University and ask him about his work with Open Access. Thank you Ola for answering our questions and inspiring us with your work, and thank you Egon for writing to us with your recommendation.

When you first came in contact with the concept of open research and open access, what benefits did you see that made you continue to work for open access?

Ola Spjuth. Photo: Martin Mentell.
Ola Spjuth. Photo: Martin Mentell.

– During my PhD studies I got involved in open source development, and realized the huge advantages this has for collaborative efforts. Egon Willighagen from Maastricht University has here been of great inspiration for me. Working in computational sciences, you also rely heavily on the availability of data in order to develop new methods and often try new published methods by other scientists.

Having open access to manuscripts with detailed methods sections and the underlying data publicly available is instrumental in order for others to reproduce, validate and extend your results, and this is why I work actively to promote it.

What kind of challenges do you encounter talking to other researchers about open research?

– There are scientists who invest a lot of time and money in producing data, with the goal of publishing multiple scientific manuscripts during several years of subsequent data analysis, and who claims that making this data public would reduce their chances to publish many manuscripts on the data.

Also, many researchers do not make data publicly available because of uncertainty regarding legal issues, e.g. for data of sensitive content. When it comes to publishing, the majority of scientists will prioritize higher-impact journals rather than open access journals as they still in many cases are evaluated by this metric.

What is your vision when working for open access today?

We spend a lot of public funds in science, and in order to maximize the usefulness of this investment we cannot justify that the results are not open for other researchers to use in other studies. My vision is that it should not be possible to publish in scientific journals without making the manuscript text, methods, data and results publicly available.

More about Ola Spjuth

– My name is Ola Spjuth, and I am Assistant Professor at Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences at Uppsala University where I lead a research group in pharmaceutical bioinformatics.

We develop methods and tools for improving computational analysis in drug discovery, and to enable scientists to take advantage of the new high-throughput data-generating technologies. All data that we use and produce we make available as Open Access, the tools we produce we make available as Open Source, and we actively participate in and contribute to initiatives on Open Standards for interoperability in the life sciences. One example is Bioclipse, which we developed to serve as an integration platform so that other open source software could be added as plug-ins. To me it is hence very natural to publish in open access journals.

Who is your Open Access hero?

Would you like us to interview another person active in promoting open access? Please comment, or email us your recommendation.


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