The assumption that research and science can be made open and accessible just by taking action from the inside has been shown to be erroneous for some time now. Regulatory and policy instruments to promote openness, or increased awareness on the side of those traditionally associated with producing research and knowledge, are part of the equation only. To a significant extent, the meaning and value of scientific research arises from those who use it, for what purposes and for whose benefit. It has also become clear in recent years that the untapped contributory potential of the citizen can usefully be harnessed in creative ways for the benefit of scientific research.
Citizen science is (or has been), mostly, about this: harnessing the skills of those usually labelled the lay people into systems of data gathering, processing or analysis. But using citizens in this way is not enough. Open research can constitute an opportunity for citizen expertise and citizen participation to be conceived of in more meaningful ways. Basically, the question we, as researchers, will have to address is: to whom do we want science and research to be open? Perhaps, as the ultimate users, citizens will have an active role in the process, one that promotes and sees them as co-creators in defining aims, scope, outcomes of research initiatives. One that values the multiplicity of ways of knowing available. There are quite a few initiatives wanting to ‘open-up’ scientific processes to citizens in a co-learning spirit – a democratic spirit. Some of them are taking shape at this University. What I want to propose at this conference and to all the researchers and others taking part is that all of those come together, that experiences are shared and learning carries on. We all know that citizens can have an active role in scientific research and knowledge production. Let’s connect the dots to link the agendas of citizen engagement/citizen (social) science with the call for open and accessible research.