Responsible open science: moving towards an ethics of environmental sustainability
Samuel G., Lucivero F.
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. The integration of open science as a key pillar of responsible research and innovation has led it to become a hallmark of responsible research. However, ethical, social and regulatory challenges still remain about the implementation of an internationally-and multi-sector-recognised open science framework. In this Commentary, we discuss one important specific challenge that has received little ethical and sociological attention in the open science literature: the environmental impact of the digital infrastructure that enables open science. We start from the premise that a move towards an environmentally sustainable open science is a shared and valuable goal, and discuss two challenges that we foresee with relation to this. The first relates to questions about how to define what environmentally sustainable open science means and how to change current practices accordingly. The second relates to the infrastructure needed to enact environmentally sustainable open science ethical and social responsibilities through the open science ethics ecosystem. We argue that there are various ethical obstacles regarding how to responsibly balance any environmental impacts against the social value of open science, and how much one should be prioritised over the other. We call for all actors of the open science ethics ecosystem to engage in discussions about how to move towards open data and science initiatives that take into account the environmental impact of data and digital infrastructures. Furthermore, we call for ethics governance frameworks or policy-inscribed standards of practice to assist with this decision-making.