The replication crisis – a phrase coined in the early 2010s on the basis of failure to replicate findings in psychological science – attains growing awareness, fuelled by a methodological crisis in which it has been found that many scientific studies are difficult or impossible to replicate or reproduce. The replication crisis is provoked by critical assessments of reproducibility that affect disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience, economics and medicine. Lack of reproducibility can come from many sources but there is a growing consensus that the way forward is more transparency, sharing data, more and better collaborations, and rethinking the incentives for scientists and journals to publish.
Open science is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods. In 2016, the ‘FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship’ were published in Scientific Data. The details can be found on the Fair Principles website. The authors intended to provide guidelines to improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and re-use of digital assets. The principles emphasise the capacity of computational systems to find, access, interoperate, and re-use data with none or minimal human intervention. This is critical, since we as scientists rely on computational support to deal with data as a result of the increase in volume, complexity, and creation speed of data.
ECNP is supporting open science. One of the goals of the ECNP Preclinical Data Forum Network is exactly to systematically advance the status of preclinical research through identification of the best research practices, development and implementation of novel data quality standards and providing recommendations to the neuroscience community. This also involves building a data exchange and information repository.
When it comes to data from humans, however, sharing has become much more difficult after the European Commission in 2018 adopted new data sharing rules. These so-called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements apply to each member state of the European Union and they aim to create more consistent protection of personal data across EU nations. Among other things, the GDPR requirements include consent of subjects for data processing, anonymising collected data to protect privacy, and safely handling the transfer of data across borders. Whereas GDPR serves a higher purpose of better safeguarding the processing and movement of citizens’ personal data, it has also become a major challenge for open science and it urgently needs to be dealt with at a high political level in order not to set back European science.
The EU flagship programme the Human Brain Project now enters its final phase; the €1-billion programme, launched in 2013, is in its last three years. The project now aims to consolidate its legacy in a single, integrated, open science platform termed EBRAINS. The goal of EBRAINS is to make an impact by sharing neuroscientists data, models and software, as an important European infrastructure (https://ebrains.eu/service/share-data/).
Open science is here to stay and I am hopeful that in one way or the other, sharing data, transparency and methodological standardisation will become an integrated part of future basic and clinical neuroscience.
Gitte Moos Knudsen