Guest Post — A COS Ambassador’s Journey Toward Openness Where it is Most Necessary

May 15th, 2024,
Posted in: Ambassador, Open Science

For the past two years, I've been an Ambassador for the Center for Open Science (COS), and throughout my journey, I've actively contributed to the COS's mission of promoting accessible open science practices worldwide. In this post, I will try to summarize some of the barriers and triumphs that I experienced so far, particularly pointing out the main questions that guided me in this effort. 

I could synthetically say that I've encountered numerous challenges in understanding and accessing open science resources. But amidst this journey, I also discovered that within the South American landscape we already have something that every researcher is looking for: open access journals that do not charge authors or readers for publishing. Why is this great initiative overlooked on the global stage? Could this be implemented on a global scale? I believe it can be, and my experiences suggest that others can learn how to help make it happen.

Getting Familiar with Open Science Practices

A few years back, I took the initiative to email a researcher, requesting access to the dataset associated with one of his published articles. My expectations weren't high, considering my prior attempts to obtain datasets from other researchers had yielded no responses. To my surprise, this researcher not only replied but also agreed to share the dataset under the condition that I preregister the hypotheses I intended to test with it. “What is preregistration?” I thought, and this request led me to discover this tool, which was entirely new to me. Curiously, when I searched for information about it in my native language, Brazilian Portuguese, I found very little available, marking my initial introduction to the principles of open science and its alleged scarcity here.

During my exploration of preregistration, I discovered it was just one of several tools aimed at enhancing research transparency and streamlining the researcher's workflow. Indeed, if all published articles made their datasets openly accessible, the need for numerous emails and frequent disregard would diminish. Recognizing that preregistration and open datasets were part of a broader effort to make knowledge more accessible, I felt compelled to become more deeply involved in this endeavor. Specifically, I was eager to promote these concepts among my fellow Brazilian researchers.

Extending My Knowledge to Benefit My Researcher Community

My initial hurdle with open science resources mirrored that of many others - the scarcity of materials for open science platforms that are available in my mother tongue. Motivated to address this issue, I reached out to COS to explore the possibility of translating key materials on their website into various languages. The aim was to broaden accessibility for non-English speakers by translating key onboarding information for the research platform Open Science Framework (OSF) in order to reach a much larger audience. As a result, I helped lead a group of researchers from diverse regions around the world to collaborate to translate OSF onboarding help guides into nearly a dozen different languages, readily available here

The global impact of translating resources into your preferred language can not be understated. With the availability of materials in multiple languages, I eagerly anticipated disseminating them and the message of open science across different countries. Thankfully, I was honored with the International Bridge-Building Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in 2023, granting me the opportunity to travel to Peru and visit the Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Peru, as well as to travel to Colombia and visit the Universidad LaSalle. This funding facilitated the promotion of the translated help guides and enabled me to delve into the cultural norms around open science practices in their contexts and how open science practices may need to be adapted to other cultural contexts. 

Workshop held in the Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Peru

Workshop held in the Universidad LaSalle in Colombia

Through numerous workshops and discussions with international researchers from South America, I observed two significant phenomena. Firstly, the majority of researchers did not know available open science resources, including preregistration and platforms for datasets, material, and preprint uploads. Secondly, despite this lack of awareness, researchers displayed a degree of familiarity with openness within their contexts, particularly in one crucial aspect: publishing their findings in Latin American journals that operate on a completely open access model, devoid of publication or access fees. This realization dawned upon me that South America stands as a potential future pioneer in facilitating research accessibility, yet this achievement remains largely unrecognized on the global stage.

I pondered the extent to which South American journals remained unknown to the global community of researchers, prompting me to delve into an investigation. Fortunately, during this period, I was selected by the Brazilian Psychological Society as one of the emerging leaders in Brazilian Psychology, and this designation led me to participate in the Global Psychology Learning Leadership Institute, organized by the American Psychological Association. In this initiative, we have the valuable opportunity to meet psychologists from all over the world who are involved with research in one way or another, and notably, the issue of closed knowledge frequently surfaced during discussions, prompting me to inquire about their awareness of our open access journals in South America. Utilizing this opportunity, I seized every chance to highlight our journals, emphasizing their publication of content in various languages, including English. However, this raised broader questions for me, that have guided my mission as an Ambassador: How could we elevate awareness of our valuable initiatives on a global scale? How might they be replicated elsewhere? How could researchers in other parts of the world promote similar initiatives?

What are some concrete actions that could foster openness in my context?

Throughout my journey, while serving as a reviewer and editor for various journals worldwide, I've come to realize that Southern American journals remain relatively unknown, similar to other great initiatives that have not yet been acknowledged. As a COS Ambassador, my new main goal is to promote the recognition of our journals and openness initiatives because they may foster openness in distinct contexts, possibly setting a template that other researchers from the global south could follow. Hence, I have been trying to put forward collaborative efforts that are focused on promoting knowledge instead of generating profit. In this sense, being elected as the chair of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access Committee of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) along with my Argentinian colleague Anabel Belaus was key to gathering researchers who share the same objective. Among other things, we have advocated internationally for the promotion of opportunities for graduate students from the global south to serve as reviewers for journals that do not charge authors or readers. Not only can journals benefit from the expertise of professionals focused on academic work, but this also offers valuable insights into the editorial process for students. 

Another important task that I have set to myself is advocating for the engagement of professors in editorial activities as part of their contractual working hours. Some, but not all, local universities authorize that professors allocate a part of their contractual working hours to editorial activities, so the traditional 40-hour/week contract could involve dedicating one, two, three, or four weekly working hours to journal management. I have been involved in such negotiations myself, and setting this agenda along with unions of professors could help put it forward. 

Finally, in the wake of defending open knowledge against closed initiatives, I have also been trying to raise awareness about the concerning trend of certain major publishers making enticing offers to acquire journals that do not charge authors or readers. Notably, once acquired, most of these journals often transition to a closed-access model, imposing fees on either authors or readers. This is particularly critical for a developing country like Brazil, where the minimum wage is circa US$ 284, whereas article processing charges cost around US$ 2,860. Framing this phenomenon as an important barrier toward open knowledge could make a systemic change on a global scale, and making researchers aware of this trend could foster a movement against this concerning trend.

Towards a Brighter Future: Embracing Open Science 

I may hold an idealistic viewpoint that some might think seems out of place in the current landscape of the scientific community. Scientific knowledge should be open, without financial barriers to researchers and the general public. Current practices not only jeopardize the development of scientific research but also deepen the disparities between developed and developing countries. This is only exacerbated by putting articles behind paywalls, which hinders a disproportionate majority of the world’s ability to access them.  Despite these issues, I have also observed researchers in various countries that face numerous funding constraints but successfully advance critical open initiatives, which fills me with hope. My role as an Ambassador at COS has not only connected me with an incredible community that introduces me to innovative tools but has also exposed me to diverse perspectives on the barriers faced by individuals of different ages, disciplines, and world regions. If I could make a plea to those contemplating how to foster transformative changes toward enhancing global knowledge accessibility, I would urge them to engage with other researchers and heed their insights regarding the challenges of academic life. This dialogue is pivotal. Who knows, one day we may find common ground on the necessity of making all journals open and truly fostering knowledge and development on a global scale, rather than perpetuating international divisions through financial barriers.

About the author


Felipe Vilanova, Psychology Ph.D. Candidate, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, and Faculty Member, Universidade LaSalle, Brazil

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