Toward open research information - Introducing the Information & Openness focal area at CWTS Header image: Jonas Jacobsson

Toward open research information - Introducing the Information & Openness focal area at CWTS

The Information & Openness focal area at CWTS studies and promotes openness of research information. In this blog post, we present our agenda for the coming five years.

How to find the most relevant scientific literature on topic X? How to evaluate the research carried out by department Y? And how to establish new strategic priorities for university Z? These are just a few examples of the many important decisions that researchers, research evaluators, and science policy makers need to make on a daily basis. Decisions like these are increasingly made in data-driven ways, guided by research analytics ranging from simple scientometric indicators and university rankings to complex dashboards that bring together data from a variety of sources.

The Information & Openness focal area

Last year the Information & Openness focal area was established at CWTS. In this focal area we are concerned with the complex interplay between decision making processes in science, the information used in these processes, and the nature of this information in terms of properties such as openness, transparency, inclusiveness, and ownership. This complex interplay is subject to ongoing disruption from two movements with global aspirations: open science and responsible research assessment. Our work in the focal area builds on decades of experience we have at CWTS in using scientometric data to support research assessment and strategic decision making in science. Having been at the forefront of developments in scientometrics, we not only have a lot of knowledge about scientometric data sources, indicators, and algorithms, but we also have a deep understanding of the role scientometrics plays in all kinds of decision-making processes.

Building on our experience and recognizing that decisions in science are increasingly being made in data-driven ways, the Information & Openness focal area aims to study and promote responsible approaches to the use of data in decision making processes in science. We are interested in the properties of the data sources that are being used and how these properties contribute to, or impede, responsible ways of decision making. The field of scientometrics has a long tradition of working with proprietary data sources, especially Web of Science and Scopus. However, the closed nature of these data sources is increasingly seen as an obstacle to transparent and responsible decision making, for instance in the context of research assessment. In the Information & Openness focal area we are therefore particularly interested in studying and promoting openness of scientometric data, and of research information more generally.

Three pillars

In line with the organization of the broader knowledge agenda of CWTS, our work in the Information & Openness focal area is organized in three pillars: understanding, intervening, and practicing. In the box below we outline our plans for each of these pillars.


In the understanding pillar we perform research projects with the broad goal of developing a comprehensive and critical understanding of the open research information landscape. Based on our scientometric expertise, some projects in this pillar may focus on systematically monitoring and tracking the availability of open research information. Drawing on our expertise in sociology, anthropology, and science and technology studies, other projects may be aimed at describing and explaining what shapes, enables, and constrains the spread, or non-spread, of open information practices.


In the intervening pillar we take concrete actions to advance openness of research information, aiming to make openness of research information the norm and to enable more transparent and responsible approaches to decision making in science. An example is the transformation of the CWTS Leiden Ranking to a tool that is entirely based on open data, resulting in a fully transparent and reproducible ranking. The first release of the Open Edition of the Leiden Ranking will take place later this month, on January 30. Another example is the launch of the course Scientometrics Using Open Data, in close collaboration with colleagues at the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI). The first edition of this course took place in November last year, and a next edition will be organized in March this year. Other actions to advance openness of research information are currently in preparation. We expect to share some announcements in the coming months.


Following the idea of ‘practice what we preach’, the practicing pillar focuses on implementing openness of research information in our own way of working at CWTS. Within the next few years, we want our work at CWTS (including CWTS BV) to be fully based on open research information. In particular, our aim is that future scientometric analyses performed by our center will use only data from open sources, such as Crossref, DataCite, ORCID, OpenAlex, OpenCitations, OpenAIRE, and others. This is part of a broader ambition to open up the work we do at CWTS, for instance in the way we communicate about our research and about other activities of our center. This will also include a revision and expansion of our policies for open science and research data management.

Our way of working

The team of the Information & Openness focal area consists of more than 20 CWTS colleagues. Some of us are focused primarily on activities in the understanding pillar. Others are more focused on the intervening or practicing pillars. We meet once every two weeks to discuss the latest developments around open research information, to share updates on ongoing projects and other activities, and to make plans for new initiatives.

Our work also aims to contribute to strengthening the other two focal areas of CWTS: Engagement & Inclusion and Evaluation & Culture. Through the UNESCO Lab on Diversity and Inclusion in Global Science we for instance connect some of the work we do in the Information & Openness and Engagement & Inclusion focal areas. Likewise, our work in the GraspOS project and the CoARA working group on Open Infrastructures for Responsible Research Assessment (OI4RRA) demonstrates the value of cross fertilization between the Information & Openness and Evaluation & Culture focal areas.

We are also setting up collaborations with external partners working on open research information. Many organizations are doing crucial work in this area. This ranges from research groups that study openness of research information to organizations that provide infrastructures for open research information and organizations that put the use of open research information into practice (e.g., CNRS, COKI, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Dutch Research Council (NWO), SURF, and Sorbonne University).

Are you interested in exploring opportunities for working together? Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the coordinators of our Information & Openness focal area: Zeynep AnliClara Calero-MedinaNees Jan van Eck, and Ludo Waltman.

Current members of the focal area: Zeynep Anli, Juan Bascur Cifuentes, Clara Calero-Medina, Carey Chen, Rodrigo Costas Comesana, Dan Gibson, Margaret Gold, Kathleen Gregory, Myroslava Hladchenko, Andrew Hoffman, Kwun Hang Lai, Marc Luwel, Mark Neijssel, Ana Parrón Cabañero, Alex Rushforth, Clifford Tatum, Bram van den Boomen, Nees Jan van Eck, Jeroen van Honk, Thed van Leeuwen, Martijn Visser, Ludo Waltman, Alfredo Yegros, Qianqian Xie


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