A new lease of life for OpenEdition Lab

By redefining OpenEdition Lab’s key research areas in early 2024, OpenEdition has paved the way for theme-based and cross-cutting collaborative inquiries into open science practices in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). Our ambition is for OpenEdition Lab to become a leading research hub for open science practices in HSS by placing OpenEdition at the heart of a national and European research network.

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We relaunched our Lab following the appointment of Simon Dumas Primbault as CNRS junior professor of open science in HSS. OpenEdition Lab’s mission is to define, structure and support a fundamental and applied interdisciplinary research programme focused on investigating how knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is produced, disseminated, reused and regulated in an open science context.

A wide range of studies, from extensively open and experimental to thoroughly operational and applied, will enable the Lab to contribute to the development of open science through publications and academic conferences, and by sharing research data and methods, developing and prototyping new software tools and new means of communication, collecting data on indicators and writing reports for public policy-makers and, last but not least, through interdisciplinary teaching at undergraduate and master’s level.

Key research areas

1 – Usage and users

The goal is to gather as much data as possible about open science platform users and their information practices. Who are these users – academics, GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), journalists? Are there any ‘surprises’ as to how the content and services are used – private companies, not-for-profit organizations, NGOs? How do users find, produce, consume and disseminate information and knowledge on these platforms and from one platform to another? What digital and information literacy skills do users have, develop, or need to navigate within the open science ecosystem? In what way do these practices and skills rely on, repurpose or bypass existing tools, metadata and standards? In return, and to promote an integrated user experience, how can these users and the findings of the usage observatory nourish the design and prototyping of interfaces, training modules or new tools?

2 – What is ‘open science’?

Open science can be thought of as a boundary object: some define it as knowledge circulating and being reused freely in an ideal spirit of sharing and universality, some as a reaction to the oligopolistic scientific publishing giants, and others as a watchword for creating and managing knowledge commons, with a focus on including knowledge that has been disregarded or marginalized. In such a context, how can or should open science be defined? What role can or should it play? And what is its purpose?

This key research area serves to develop a greater understanding of the ‘ecosystem’ that is the condition of possibility of open knowledge and open science. It will highlight the immense diversity of stakeholders within open science, along with their interests and the skills they harness, as well as the highly complex dynamics of such an ecosystem.

3 – Teaming up to move forward: the Lab as a key partner in maintaining and developing OpenEdition

In a spirit of experimentation, drawing on the findings of key research area 1 and on OpenEdition Lab’s position within our infrastructure, the Lab will also be tasked with exploring the functional requirements of OpenEdition and its communities. The goal will be to formulate lines of inquiries (in the fields of data science, information and communication science, UX/UI, or sociology) and help draw up funding requests to carry out or oversee the prototyping of innovative tools that will boost content discoverability and user navigation on our platforms. This objective will make the Lab a key partner in maintaining and developing our infrastructure by creating a dialogue between its research activities and the functional requirements of the OpenEdition infrastructure. This interaction will take place on a case-by-case basis, as projects arise, to find the right balance between research activities and functional requirements.

4 – Open data

The OpenEdition portal is a key resource for the research community. It offers a vast collection of documents and includes a wide range of publishing formats and languages. The collection co-exists with a data repository describing readership practices. In line with the prospective studies on OpenEdition Data, the goal here is to make it easier to access data on OpenEdition’s various platforms and participate in the ‘open data’ movement. The idea is to better exploit the information contained in these resources. Several types of data are already in circulation, but not always easy to access, such as statistical data, OpenEdition Lab data, the OAI-PMH repository and the CORE information system. Other types of data could also be better exploited, such as the full version of texts hosted on OpenEdition platforms, citations from works published on Journal and Books, the status of series, or even server logs.


This general ‘research on research’ project has a duty to be as interdisciplinary as possible. The research plan is structured around the nexus of four disciplines:

  • Science and technology studies (STS), which opens the door to understanding open science infrastructures and platforms as sociotechnnical systems that are part of a larger ecosystem in which users navigate.
  • Information and communication science, which sheds light on the reuse, bypassing and repurposing practices of users as they navigate on and between these platforms to satisfy their access, read-write and data reuse-production needs.
  • Data science, which provides the means to follow the traces left by users, through tools that are able to identify the types of interaction with the various data and platforms.

Critical data studies, which provides a basis for critically analysing data production and use, especially the situatedness of the knowledges that are thereby produced and its impact on the construction of an embodied objectivity, paving the way for re-examining our relationship to the field.

Exploring practices: approach and methods

The policies and practices of open science, as well as the audience it attracts, including non-academics, are changing as swiftly as the digital tools that enable it. That is why we have to document, analyse and tool up these practices in a measured way by combining two approaches:

  • A qualitative approach based on survey instruments from the fields of sociology and ethnography (interviews, questionnaires, observations, discussion groups), as well as semiotics (study of interfaces, documentary classifications, tools for research and content ranking).
  • A quantitative, or computational, approach based on surveys, traces left by users, and tools developed previously by OpenEdition Lab – generally speaking, the methodological tools will be sequence and topic models, graph neural networks, representation learning, or click-based information retrieval models.

The fields of inquiry and the instruments chosen by OpenEdition Lab are:

  • multi-situated, firstly, through the three COMMONS infrastructures, and secondly by following users and factoring in their material and institutional context
  • multi-scalar, with a focus on various ‘units of inquiry’, from individual users to projects and communities
  • multi-temporal, based on one-off surveys, pre- and post-training impact studies, or continuous monitoring of a selection of respondents
  • modular (as much as possible) by being structured around several secondary protocols, which in turn are designed to be replicable – without necessarily being reproducible – thereby enabling stakeholders to reuse all or part of the instruments according to their needs and resources, and ensuring the longevity of the observatory and the sharing of commons
  • ethical and GDPR-compliant by including a management plan for the data collected and produced which specifies the methods and tools used for processing, annotating, saving and displaying data and research findings

Contact : simon.dumas-primbault[at]openedition.org, Lab Department manager.

Cite this blog post
OpenEdition team (2024, May 21). A new lease of life for OpenEdition Lab. Open Electronic Publishing. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/11oyf

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