Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP Theme Section

The ethics and practice of openness in life sciences data

Idea: K.I. Stergiou
Editors: K.I. Stergiou and D. Damalas (Guest Editor)


New digital technologies offer unique prospects for science based on open processes. Open access, not only to scientific literature but also to related data, is increasingly viewed as a 'must' for creating new knowledge, validating scientific outcomes, steering policy making, boosting innovation and advancing science. Full and open access is promoted as the international norm for the exchange of scientific data by numerous scientific and political bodies (e.g. UNESCO, OECD, European Commission, International Council for Science, G8 Science Ministers, US Office of Management & Budget). According to the OECD, openness means ‘…access on equal terms for the international research community at the lowest possible cost, preferably at no more than the marginal cost of dissemination’.


The arguments in favor of open data touch various issues; for example, enhancing the quality of outputs, uncovering scientific corruption and adding to government accountability. In contrast, arguments opposed to openness include concerns about the sensitive nature of information linked to confidentiality, integrity and availability. Moreover, a number of scientific groups argue that data usage entails certain scientific skills and ethics that are not widely exercised.


As the debate on open data is still evolving, this Theme Section aims to cast light on issues and best practices related to the openness of life sciences data through the views and thoughts of stakeholders (e.g. senior and junior research scientists, academics, administrators, policy makers and NGOs). These issues range from theoretical and ethical aspects of the economics of open data and its governance, as well as educational, sociological and political implications.


Boero F
Open access revolutions
ESEP 17:1-8 | Full text in pdf format

Schofield G
REVIEW: Open Data requirements for applied ecology and conservation: case study of a wide-ranging marine vertebrate
ESEP 17:19-27 | Full text in pdf format

Mazaris AD
OPINION PIECE: Open data and the future of conservation biology
ESEP 17:29-35 | Full text in pdf format

Pauly D
Big data and the emergence of new ‘dissipative’ structures
ESEP 17:37-40 | Full text in pdf format

Wyatt T
The maladies of enlightenment science
ESEP 17:51-62 | Full text in pdf format

Bearzi G, Gimenez O
OPINION PIECE: Searching for meaning in marine mammal shared data
ESEP 18:9-13 | Full text in pdf format


Dörner H, Casey J, Carvalho N, Damalas D, Graham N, Guillen J, Holmes SJ, Natale F, Osio GC, Rätz HJ, Ribeiro C, Vasilakopoulos P
Collection and dissemination of fisheries data in support of the EU Common Fisheries Policy
ESEP 18:15-25 | Full text in pdf format


Damalas D, Kalyvioti G, Sabatella EC, Stergiou KI
Open data in the life sciences: the ‘Selfish Scientist Paradox’
ESEP 18:27-36 | Full text in pdf format

Pierce GJ, Theodossiou I
OPINION PIECE: Open access publishing: a service or a detriment to science?
ESEP 18:37-48 | Full text in pdf format

Shepherd I
European efforts to make marine data more accessible
ESEP 18:75-81 | Full text in pdf format