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Sybille Hinze

Head of Center for Open and Responsible Research (CORe) in Objective 3: Advancing Research Quality and Value

Feb 24, 2022

Dr. Sybille Hinze

Dr. Sybille Hinze
Image Credit: Berlin University Alliance

The four partner institutions of the Berlin University Alliance are pursuing a joint strategy to develop and promote the value, quality, integrity, and credibility of research. In the objective Advancing Research Quality and Value, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin are pooling their research activities on quality in science and are developing measures to monitor, evaluate, and ensure research quality at the institutions.

Sybille Hinze has headed the Center for Open and Responsible Research (CORe) since July 2020. Previously, she was deputy head of the Research Area “Research System and Science Dynamics” at the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies.

Dr. Hinze, you work in the objective, which aims to foster quality and value of research. What exactly do you do?

The goal of our work is to develop elements for research governance based on a shared understanding of core values for research. To this end, we support projects that look into research practices considering the specificities of the individual disciplines. One focus is on open science and its sub-areas. This includes making knowledge accessible, i.e. open access to research results and in particular publications or open data, as well as procedures that enable a opening up the review of research projects and research results, i.e. through open peer review procedures.

Since we also want to live up to our own standards in our processes, we have applied an open peer review in our own call for proposals. With this funding line, we support projects that pursue and implement open science practices and address questions like: What do we mean by the term research quality? How can we assess it? And, how can we ensure it in the long term? In this way, we want to contribute to ensuring that the manner of conducting research at BUA partner institutions is aligned with these values and that the framework conditions for research are designed accordingly.

You are in charge of the Center for Open and Responsible Research. What goals are you pursuing with CORe?

CORe is the platform through which we coordinate work on these topics and through which we initiate measures and projects. On the one hand, CORe aims to initiate research on quality in science, which will then, in the best case, result in concrete measures designed to change and further improve structures.

On the other hand, there is a focus on monitoring. That is, we take a look at whether and how research practices are changing. Are open science practices becoming more prevalent in everyday science? How do scientists cooperate with each other? As part of one of our pilot projects, the Berlin Science Survey, we are developing a tool that monitors these changes in the long-term.

The OpenX initiative is one of the measures your team is pursuing. What exactly does this initiative entail?

The OpenX initiative aims to develop an open science policy together with the stakeholders within the BUA partner institutions. Open access and open data policies are already in place, but open science goes well beyond that and touches, for example, on the issue of assessment systems, the reform of which is nationally and internationally intensely debated right now. The development is moving away from approaches heavily relying on metrics, i.e., from approaches geared to measurability, to embrace more balanced approaches in which the quality of research plays are more central role and, in which additional dimensions of scientific activity are also taken into consideration, such as commitment to open science practices. The amendment of the Berlin Higher Education Act (BerlHG) also aims at creating incentives for the latter.

You are invited to a conference of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research on the topic of impact of science on February 18, 2022. What exactly is meant by impact?

There is no quite simple answer to this question. But, the question that is behind this is: What does science actually accomplish? There are areas of science focused on discovery. Impact then consists of an expansion of knowledge about society, nature, the interaction of society and nature. This is usually referred to as scientific impact.

But, increasingly we are asked about the 'societal impact' of science: What does society, and what do individuals gain from the fact that we devote considerable resources to science? It is often difficult to argue with the fact alone that knowledge is generated. People would rather have very practical evidence of the relevance of science, such as a cure for cancer.

The term impact aims to make the significance of research tangible and assessable. To what extent this impact can be attributed to specific scientific activities is again a tricky question. Often, the societal effects of research in particular emerge with protracted time lags and rely on a wide range of research activities. Nevertheless, scientists are increasingly asked about the societal impact of their work and are also assessed by this criterion. To do this, however, we first have to agree on what this construct impact actually means. This is what the Fraunhofer Institute conference is trying to explore.

What perspective can the BUA contribute to this issue?

Within BUA we are addressing this issue from different perspectives. In our team, we focus on the quality of research. Only high-quality science can ultimately lead to sustainable effects that are also evident in the societal context. Ensuring the quality of science in the long term is therefore one of the prerequisites for creating impact.

The transparency and opening up of science are another aspect because open science also includes an exchange about the needs of society and, how science can contribute to addressing them? While taking into account societal needs, at the same time, however, we should bear in mind that there must of course still be a space for science that is not geared to these needs from the outset. Other colleagues of the Berlin University Alliance are also working on these questions, for example in the objectives Fostering Knowledge Exchange and Focusing on Grand Challenges.

What is particularly exciting about this topic for you personally?

Framework conditions for science must be such that they enable high-quality research, and thus research with a societal impact. To achieve this, science, science policy, and society must cooperate and design interfaces between the relevant stakeholders.

At the same time we need to bear the individual scholars and scientists in mind. How can we design the system to allow individual scholars and scientists to reliably engage with scientific questions? This is a challenging task, and the current debate in Berlin clearly shows that we have not yet found any reliable answers. But I find the discussion of these questions stimulating, and I hope to be able to contribute to finding concepts for solutions.