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Improving research quality through open science

The first lecture series of the Berlin University Alliance will look at research quality and open science in theory and practice

May 12, 2021

Owing to the pandemic, the lecture series is set to take place in digital format.

Owing to the pandemic, the lecture series is set to take place in digital format.
Image Credit: Matthias Heye / HU Berlin

There’s lots of talk about research quality in scientific institutions at the moment. This discussion has recently been fuelled by various publicized cases of “scientific misconduct” and internal debates surrounding standards and research practices. The first lecture series of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) hopes to use these debates in the summer semester to examine more closely the interface of open science and research quality. The main question here concerns how open science can contribute to improving the standard of research quality. Topics to be discussed include, among others, peer reviews, evaluation practices, accessibility and usability of free research data and results, and the emerging digital infrastructures. National and international guests from research and application fields will give their views on the various topics and open the floor to participant input at the end of each event. The lecture series “Open Science and Research Quality in Theory and Practice” is organized by the BUA’s objective for research quality (Objective 3: Advancing Research Quality and Value) in cooperation with the master’s degree program “Science Studies” offered by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

An open science strategy for the Berlin Excellence Alliance

“What’s special about the lecture series is that is brings research and practice together,” says Martin Reinhart. He is a professor at the Department of Science Studies and a member of the Steering Committee for Objective 3, and is also responsible for heading up the lecture series. “Students, and anyone else who’s interested, should be able to understand that a productive relationship exists between science studies and the organization and practice of research.” A good example of this would be measures for improving research quality which, for their part, raise new research questions.

On July 12, as part of the lecture series, Martin Reinhart will take part in a panel discussion, among other things, in which the open science strategies of the Berlin Excellence Alliance will be discussed. “The fact that the BUA has decided to make research quality and open science central themes of the alliance is not only the motivation behind this lecture series, but can also serve as an example of practical-based thinking about how research quality can be improved.” The sociologist hopes that the discussions at the end of each event will help demonstrate to students just how multi-layered and complex the task of improving research quality is, while encouraging them to critically follow up when such measures are not implemented or are only implemented half-heartedly. “Since it is not always easy to measure the quality of research or have this checked by external bodies, science needs functioning institutions for quality assurance, such as peer review.”

Social-scientific and technical perspectives

The lecture series not only examines social-scientific, but also technical perspectives on the topic. Dr. Sonja Schimmler, head of the research group “Digitalisation and Science” at the Weizenbaum Institute, project lead at Fraunhofer FOKUS, and a scientist at Technische Universität Berlin, is heavily involved in the topic of research data infrastructures. In her talk planned for June 28, she’ll be discussing how digitization is shaping the discourse on open science. “As a computer scientist, I want to give students an insight into current developments in research data infrastructures at national and European level, and I want to sharpen their technical understanding.” According to her, this understanding is essential if only because open science takes place in the digital space. In addition, she points out that the topic of research quality is being discussed in both the social sciences and computer science, but that there is little exchange between the two disciplines: “Researchers in the social sciences are not aware of the latest technical developments; researchers in computer science are not aware of the latest discourse within the social-scientific realm.”

The lecture series seeks to shed light on precisely these interfaces between social-scientific and technical, between theoretical and practical perspectives. Ultimately, students should be able to translate theoretical approaches to science management and organization into practice with a view to ensuring research quality.

The lecture series is aimed at students of the master’s degree program “Science Studies” at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and is open to master's and doctoral students of all disciplines from the partner institutions. Furthermore, the event is open to all interested parties. It takes place digitally every Monday from 2 pm to 4 pm (except for one date).

You can participate in the event via this zoom link.