Institutions sign Barcelona Declaration

‘Metadata about research must be open and transparent’

Wetenschap. Foto: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

For many scientists, publishing their work in prestigious journals like Nature or Science is a dream come true. Such publications can also boost a university's position on international rankings. That's why institutions are interested in data about who has published in which journal, who they collaborate with, where they get their funding from, etc. 

For-profit providers
Universities rely mainly on commercial providers to access this data. Web of Science, owned by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), and Elsevier’s Scopus are two popular providers.

These commercial databases are not openly accessible, the information they contain cannot be reused without restriction and data are not easily verifiable or rectifiable, according to sixteen European universities that want to set an example by offering open access to their research information moving forward. In their opinion, this ought to become the standard practice in the scientific community.  

The universities and a further nineteen research institutes, mostly from France, Germany, Italy and Spain, have laid out their intentions in the Barcelona Declaration, published last Tuesday. In the Netherlands, alongside the University of Groningen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Leiden University, research funding organisations ZonMW and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) are participating. Ludo Waltman, scientific director at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University, is one of the initiators. 

Black box
The CWTS gathers and analyses metadata related to publications. According to Waltman, universities use that data to make decisions that determine researchers’ future careers and set research priorities. “But the analyses provided by commercial companies to universities are a black box. It is essential to control the data behind such important decisions.”