Open Insights: Open Research In South Korea - F1000
Open Insights: Open Research In South Korea

Open Insights: Open Research In South Korea

At F1000, we have always believed that open research or open science from diverse communities is central to meaningful scientific progress. After the pandemic, the potential of open, collaborative research across the globe became crystal clear, as the pressure to develop a better understanding of the virus and its effects pushed scientists to recognize the importance of sharing data rapidly and transparently; in comparison to 174 and 75 preprint openly shared during the Ebola and Zika virus updates, 30,000 were shared within 10 months when combatting COVID-19. The open research movement, which had already been gaining traction, entered the public debate with renewed vigour, with some experts saying in the future, open science would be the norm. 

This year, for our 10th anniversary, we’ve asked experts to take stock of the progress they’ve seen in their countries in the last 10 years, to get a deeper insight into open research around the world. In this contribution to the series, Tae-Sul Seo, editor of KISTI’s Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice (JISTaP), chairperson of the Information Management Committee of the Korean Council of Science Editors (KCSE) and Secretary-General of the Council of Asian Science Editors (CASE), gives us a look at the state of open research in South Korea.  

Progress in Open Science in South Korea 

Since open access was first introduced in the early 2000s, institutional repositories have been established in several universities and research institutes in South Korea. Open access journal publishing has also been spreading. However, institutional repositories were regarded as research performance management systems rather than open access infrastructures, and in the case of open access journals, they seemed to be more interested in increasing the visibility of their journals rather than sharing information. 

However, during this time, efforts were made to introduce South Korean researchers and research institutions to the practices and benefits of open access. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) has carried out an open access project for five years since 2009. Through the project, efforts have been made to raise awareness of open access not only among libraries and scholarly societies, but also among funders and the government by holding open access seminars, constructing institutional repositories, supporting open access journal systems, and developing open access policies. 

It is also KISTI that introduced additional elements of open science to South Korea, including open data. In 2018, KISTI organized the research data sharing center and made efforts to develop infrastructures and spread awareness about the importance of sharing research data openly. As a result, the government announced “Strategies for Sharing and Utilizing Research Data to Promote Innovative Growth” in 2018, and from 2020, the data management plan (DMP) regulation has been also introduced on a pilot basis. 

Then, in 2020, as the need for open science began to be known to government policymakers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, real progress in open science began to be made. Since then, KISTI has been developing national research data platforms and distributing institutional data repositories, and in 2021, a group of data scientists launched the first data journal, GEO DATA. KISTI hosted the Asian OA meeting in 2020, and the International Data Week in 2022 to discuss open science. 

Organizations Supporting Open Science in South Korea 

Despite the progress we have seen in recent years, awareness of open science is still relatively low. The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), as a policymaker in the field of science and technology, is strengthening research ethics guidelines to enhance transparency in research and development. In addition, the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), the largest national research funder in South Korea, recognizes the importance of open science but it seems that it will take time to come up with concrete policies. 

KISTI has been trying to establish open science infrastructure such as open research data platforms, DataON and AccessOn, to promote OS among researchers. Meanwhile, the Korean Council of Science Editors (KCSE) is conducting training on open peer review and data sharing policies. In addition, the National Library of Korea (NLK) has made it possible to deposit research data in institutional repositories it provides and is also holding seminars on open science. 

Challenges for Open Science in South Korea 

So far, in Korea, open science has been discussed among libraries and learned societies. In the future, research institutes and researchers must stand at the center of open science. To do so, the performance evaluation system of research institutes and universities must be changed. 

For example, we need a culture and system in which the metrics connected to research data sharing and data citation are recognized as a measure of research performance. While we can build the infrastructure for open science, researchers need greater incentive to adopt open science practices such as submitting and peer reviewing data sets. Traditionally, when evaluating research quality, assessors focus on measurements like the number of publications an author has, or number of citations of their published work. Very few institutions or funders consider if data has been published openly or reviewed by others. This means that the additional steps to publish studies openly are seen as added friction which delays the most important output: publication. This cycle becomes a barrier to the wider adoption of open science practices. To this end, it is necessary to reflect these matters in research and development project evaluation guidelines. 

In addition, DMP and data-related provisions must be included in the agreements of research funders like the NRF. Individual research institutes must consider publication of open research data when evaluating for promotions. Learned societies should include open peer review, data availability statement (DAS), data citation format, etc. in their journal publication regulations, and also publish data papers, or data notes. 

Thanks to the work of institutions like KISTI and the development of open science policies, infrastructure and roadmaps, there has been indisputable progress in advancing open science in South Korea. However, for open science to fully flourish, research institutions and assessors must build policies and practices which recognize and reward open science. This is a trend seen worldwide, as open research moves out of the realm of discourse and into practice. Today, South Korea has the infrastructure and expertise to meaningfully capitalize on the potential of open science, if the policy and research culture make room for it. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities he represents.

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