In the last few decades, developed economies in the European Union (EU), followed by the developing countries inside and outside the EU, are trying to move to more ‘open’ approach to research, development and innovation. Therefore, several initiatives where academia and industry are working together to boost innovation are seen. The main idea behind these initiatives is to provide open data to as broad an audience as to increase usage of academic research to disseminate knowledge and learning. The open data definition which states that it is freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike, is in particular interest of those who are not the primary data producer. The Horizon 2020 program is formed around open access to publication and data, and European Commission (EC) is seeking to support ‘Open Science’ trough Open Agenda to cover not only how the data and publications are used and shared, but also how the research is performed and how knowledge is shared. The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) arises from the EC’s aim to promote the access and reuse of research data which comes out of publicly funded research.
European Research Infrastructures are now expected to align with the open science principles, as well as Horizon 2020 funded projects. OpenAire as Horizon2020 project make the open access as the core element of the project, now a legal entity, with the mission to shift scholarly communication towards openness and transparency and facilitate innovative ways to communicate and monitor research. CESSDA and ESS are members of EOSC working groups with the aim to ensure similar conditions for social science research in all member countries.
Research Infrastructure (RI) can provide the basis for attracting and retaining good researchers as well as providing contract research services to enterprises and other external organisations. While highly specialised RI such as CERN and ELI can form the basis for global collaborative research programs, smaller laboratories, facilities and expertise can form the basis for strengthening Open Innovation at local, national and regional levels, with associated benefit to the economy. Smaller RIs can also create the nucleus for a Centre of Excellence (CoE) to promote collaboration between science, technology and industry and to provide a platform for education of young scientists and engineers.
Open Access policies and protocols to Research Infrastructure can enable better efficiency and use of the existing RIs, streamline the investments into the future RIs, to ensure optimisation of access to RIs by industry and wider research community, public sector and civil society, as well as cross-border cooperation. Open Access policies and protocols to RI can be a good entry point for a wider discussion and development of long-term management plans for RIs.
In June 2020, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) has launched Open Access Research Infrastructure in the Western Balkans Support Programme to assist the development of research infrastructures in the region within the Multi-annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area (MAP REA) endorsed at the WB Leader’s Summit in July 2017 in Trieste. The aim of the programme was to guide and assist the preparation of the Open Access policies (OAP) for 30 selected Research Infrastructures (RIs) in the Western Balkans, specifically, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. During the programme management, administrative and research staff were trained to introduce principles of Open Access to 30 selected RIs in the Western Balkans. In the period June-October 2020, selected RIs developed their own Open Access Policy and now are invited by RCC to join the Regional Initiative Network of Open Access Research Infrastructure in the Western Balkans. The network was launched on 21st December 2020 with the main goal to promote and utilise access to resources at member institutions which are offered on open access principles. The institutes which are members of the Western Balkans European Social Survey Regional Network were involved in this programme and have developed its OAP. One of these members is Centre for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research – CREDI.
CREDI, as a research infrastructure supports and incorporates open access to its resources since its foundation, including access to data, software and training. To follow all developments related to the social science research community, CREDI became a partner of two ERICs, namely ESS-ERIC and CESSDA-ERIC. We are also a regular member of OpenAIRE, which we joined just recently. Together with the members of these European networks, we are working on promoting, as well as adapting national frames for application of openness in sharing data, knowledge and resources for social science research purposes. Following all these activities that CREDI has done in the previous period, it was our pleasure to join the new regional initiative that is launched by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). The initiative Network of Open Access Research Infrastructure in the Western Balkans recognised CREDI as the potential member from Bosnia and Herzegovina and invited us to join their support program in period June-October 2020. During the technical assistance provided by RCC in this period, CREDI developed Open Access to Research Infrastructure Policy (OAP). The policy aims to allow a broader research community in the field of social sciences to use our infrastructure. Principles of open access were already included to different degrees in other policies developed at the level of CREDI departments. This policy expended it to all resources and services designed under CREDI. We are looking forward to all events and activities that Network of Open Access Research Infrastructure in the Western Balkans plan to conduct to increase the exchange of resources between research infrastructures in the region.
On 26th January 2021, CREDI hosted an online event “Open Access Initiatives in Europe and Western Balkans”, discussing potential benefits of cooperation of the WBESS network with open access initiatives that CREDI is currently a member of.
Presentation from the event can be found here.