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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

By Paul Ayris, on 28 September 2017

Openness as a feature of Global Universities

On 27 September, I spoke as a panellist in Brussels at an event organised by the European University Association and Digital Europe.

Brando Benifei, MEP

The theme was Openness as a feature of Global Universities. One of the panellists was Brando Benifei MEP (pictured here), an Italian Member of the European Parliament, who spoke eloquently on the power for good that Universities were in Society.

I spoke as a member of the panel immediately after the MEP, and my topic was Open Science. I took this to include Open Access to publications; Open Research Data; transparency in the use of bibliometrics, including the use of alternative (or new) metrics; a recognition of Openness in career and promotion criteria; and Citizen Science.

These were the main points I made, which were extremely well received by the audience:

  • Open Science is a new paradigm for how research (in all subject areas) is conducted and disseminated;
  • Openness and transparency are good for research, as they allow opinion and findings to be tested, debated and validated;
  • Truth knows no national boundaries. It cannot be confined behind national or regional borders.  This is important because  ‘The research function of universities also makes them the engine of progress in today’s society’ – Dr Gerald Chan speaking at UCL, 14 July 2016;
  • ‘University research is now the most powerful impulse for human progress’. ‘A university is first and foremost a community of scholars teaching, learning and pursuing scholarly inquiries that spring from human curiosity’ – Dr Gerald Chan speaking at UCL, 14 July 2016;
  • UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy:
    • We are London’s Global University – in, of and for London and the wider world. Our mission is to deliver sustainable and globally relevant impact in research, education and enterprise for the benefit of humanity.
    • We look to generate practical impact, not expand our global footprint.
    • We will do this through ‘partnerships of equivalence’, and a small number of strategic ‘anchor’ partnerships, to co-create mutually beneficial solutions. We will support the internationally collaborative creativity and initiative of our individual academics and faculties – see http://www.ucl.ac.uk/global/strategy/.
  • By way of practical example, UCL Press embodies the values of Openness. It is the UK’s first fully Open Access University Press. Established in June 2015, it has published over 50 books and 9 journals. This has resulted in 450,000 downloads in 193 countries;
  • The Why We Post series studying global social media usage has now exceeded 200,000 downloads.

Open Science is a growing phenomenon, where Europe can assert global leadership. In the 15th century, the invention of moveable type printing in the West revolutionized the way new ideas were disseminated across Europe. The Protestants in particular seized on the new technology of the printing press to advocate their views. Such technology changed European Society – and Open Science has the power to do the same in the 21st century.

Paul Ayris


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