Open science in e‐science: contingency or policy?

Jenny Fry (Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Ralph Schroeder (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Matthijs den Besten (Oxford e‐Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 16 January 2009



This paper seeks to discuss the question of “openness” in e‐Science.


The study is based on 12 in‐depth interviews with principal investigators, project managers and developers involved in UK e‐Science projects, together with supporting documentary evidence from project web sites. The approach was to explore the juxtaposition of research governance at the institutional level and local research practices at the project level. Interview questions focused on research inputs, software development processes, access to resources, project documentation, dissemination of outputs and by‐products, licensing issues, and institutional contracts.


The findings suggest that, although there is a widely shared ethos of openness in everyday research practice, there are many uncertainties and yet‐to‐be resolved issues, despite strong policy imperatives towards openly shared resources.

Research limitations/implications

The paper concludes by observing a stratification of openness in practice and the need for more nuanced understanding of openness at the level of policy making. This research was based on interviews within a limited number of e‐Science/Social Science projects and the intention is to address this in future work by scaling the study up to a survey that will reach the entire UK e‐Science/Social Science community.

Practical implications

The fundamental challenge in resolving openness in practice and policy, and thereby moving towards a sustainable infrastructure for e‐Science, is the coordination and integration of goals across e‐Science efforts, rather than one of resolving IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) issues, which has been the central focus of openness debates thus far.


The question of openness has previously been posed on the macro‐level of research policy, e.g. whether science as a whole can be characterized as open science, or in relation to the dissemination of published outputs, e.g. Open Access. Instead, a fine‐grained perspective is taken focusing on individual research projects and the various facets of openness in practice.



Fry, J., Schroeder, R. and den Besten, M. (2009), "Open science in e‐science: contingency or policy?", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 65 No. 1, pp. 6-32.

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