Open Science Formal Training Report


Training Workshop on ‘Introduction to Open Science: Principles of Transparency and Collaboration in Doctoral Research’ (DOC6060)
Date & Duration: 11/10/2023, 09:00 – 12:00
Facilitators: Dr Ritienne Gauci (OSA), Dr Adam Gauci (OSA), Ms Audrey Zammit (OSA) and Professor Godfrey Baldacchino (UM ReSEArch-EU Principal Investigator)

The workshop entitled ‘Introduction to Open Science: Principles of Transparency and Collaboration in Doctoral Research’, was offered as a formal training module (DOC6060) as part of the Professional Development Programme 2023-24 for doctoral students and research support officers, under the patronage of the Doctoral School of the University of Malta. The workshop delved into the critical aspects and methodologies of Open Science (OS), providing an expansive overview of its relevance in present-day doctoral research. With its transparency and collaboration emphasis, the workshop directed the participating doctoral students through exercises and discussions tailored to stimulate awareness and adoption of OS principles. Below is a detailed report of the workshop, encompassing the major components, discussions, and outcomes of the workshop.

Description of activity

Introduction & Ice Breaker (09:00 – 09:30)
The workshop commenced with a brief introduction and the formulation of working groups consisting of 2-3 persons each. The intention behind these micro collectives was to foster an initial discussion and collaborative learning among participants. An ice-breaker session was initiated through form fill-ups and a round-up activity, facilitating participants to mingle and establish a comfort level for subsequent interactive sessions

Ice-breaking session facilitated by OSAs Dr Adam Gauci and Ms Audrey Zammit

Introductory Presentations (9:30 -10:00)
Brief presentations from Dr Adam Gauci and Dr Ritienne Gauci introduced the participants to SEA-EU, ReSEArch-EU, and intrinsic details of Open Science. Dr Adam Gauci presented a short exposition of SEA-EU, ReSEArch-EU, and their synergies with OS was presented, to showcase the vision of the SEA-EU Alliance in bridging research initiatives with OS ideologies. Dr Ritienne Gauci presented an overview about the breadth and depth of Open Science.

Two brief presentations by Dr Adam Gauci (left) and Dr Ritienne Gauci (right)

Exercise 1: Prioritization of Training Needs in Open Science (10:00-10:30)
The objective of this hands-on session was for the participants to identify areas of proficiency and areas demanding further training in Open Science for their respective fields. The exercise began with an introduction to the Open Science Taxonomy and its constituent activities. Participants were instructed to identify 2-3 areas they felt adept in and similarly, 2-3 areas where they desired further training, relating to OS. They used blue coloured sticky notes on a communal A0 layout of the OS Taxonomy for areas they were knowledgeable about, and orange coloured notes for areas requiring additional training. The subsequent group discussion, stimulated by the visual representation of collective knowledge and raining
gaps on the taxonomy, unveiled not only individual learning trajectories but also potential collaborative learning opportunities amongst participants. It was observed a certain degree of familiarity in terms of training proficiency around concepts related to Open Peer Review, Open Access, Open Data, Open Data Journals, Open Peer Review and Open Repositories.

It was also evident that while participants felt confident about the broader categories such as Open Access, Open Data, and Open Reproducible Research, they recognized a need for more granular knowledge in the specific sub-components within these categories. For example: while students felt confident in the overarching concept of Open Data, they recognized knowledge gaps in definitions, standards, journals, and use/reuse aspects. This indicates a desire for more hands-on, practical knowledge in this domain. Students show proficiency in the broader concept of Open Access Routes, but they’ve indicated a desire to know more about specific routes, particularly the Gold and Green routes, suggesting they might want a deeper dive into the nuances of these methods. The orange stickers in the metrics and tools area also show a clear interest in understanding the various metrics used to evaluate open science and a desire for practical application.

The final result of Exercise 1 in identifying areas of proficiency (blue) and knowledge gaps (orange) in Open Science.

A cluster of training needs surrounding Open Data Definition, Journals, Standards, Use and Reuse, and Government Data, indicates an aspiration to delve into the specifics of Open Data. They might be seeking clarity on terminologies, best practices, and the nuances of data sharing and usage outside the realm of academia. The concepts surrounding Open Reproducible Research were also identified as a training need. These indicate an interest in the entire lifecycle of reproducible research. Students may want to understand the barriers to reproducibility, tools and practices that facilitate it, and guidelines to ensure their research is transparent and reproducible.

The subsequent group discussion, stimulated by the visual representation of collective knowledge and training gaps on the taxonomy, unveiled not only individual learning trajectories of the participants but also potential operational synergies between the various components of OS, interlinking them as feedback loops within the OS system.

Presentations on Open Data (10:30-11:00)
Dr Adam Gauci elaborated on the positive and successful aspects of open data, notably through platforms like COPERNICUS and EMODNET, integrating Citizen Science, and assessing its strengths and weaknesses in oceanographic research. Dr Ritienne Gauci, divulged into the economical and knowledge-driven value of open data, exploring whether there is a tangible ‘price’ to be paid for its acquisition and dissemination.

Exercise 2: Open Science Workflow – Practices in Research Cycle (11:00-11:30)
The objective of this second hands-on session was to encourage participants to understanding and visualizing examples of open science practices across different research phases. Two A0 images of the Research Cycle were displayed prominently on two separate tables and also projected on the screen. Prior to the activity, cards demarcating Open Science activities were distributed on two working tables. The participants were encouraged to select and place the cards representing critical OS practices across the research cycle workflow, aligning them with relevant research phases.

A visually interactive display was produced, echoing the diversity and specificity of OS practices through various research stages. This facilitated a deeper understanding of practical OS application through research cycles.

Cards demarcating Open Science activities were distributed by the participants in different phases of the Research Workflow.

Exercise 3: Creating a Blueprint of Open Science Workflow (11.30-12:00)
Participants were then encouraged to scrutinize selected practices for one research phase from Exercise 2 and cherry-pick two practices deemed most implementable and impactful towards open research. They were then required to justify their selections to the entire cohort. Together, formulate a blueprint of an OS workflow using the selected practices.

The crafting of an OS workflow blueprint, supported by a subsequent discussion, fostered a pragmatic approach towards how to embed OS in their individual research endeavours. The discussion touched upon tools/platforms usage, anticipating incentives and barriers and postulating necessary policy/funding support. It was observed that the participants prioritized practices of Open Science more heavily towards the latter stages of the research cycle (especially in outreach and assessment phase), as compared to the initial stages. A few potential reasons for such practice choices could be various, such as:

Discussions on how to integrate OS practices in different phases of the research cycle

Practical Relevance: The end stages of the research cycle, such as “Outreach” and “Assessment”, are often the ones that researchers visibly encounter and engage with. For instance, activities like “Share posters, presentations at conferences,” “Creating immersive data visualizations,” and “Using blogs to share your research” have direct tangible outputs that can be observed, measured, and shared.

Accessibility: Open Science practices related to publishing, sharing, and outreach are often more accessible and easier to implement. Many platforms and tools are available that facilitate open access publishing, data sharing, and public engagement.

Familiarity: Many researchers might already be familiar with the importance of open practices in the dissemination phase due to existing norms within their specific research community, training, or prior experiences (especially for research support officers).

Tangible Impact: The latter stages of the research cycle often have a more direct impact on the researcher’s professional growth and the public’s perception of their work. Open practices in these stages can enhance visibility, foster collaborations, and amplify the societal impact of the research.

Bias/Less Fear towards Completion: There might be a natural bias towards emphasizing activities that represent the culmination of the research process. The end stages signify the realization of all the prior efforts, making them seem more significant or rewarding and in direct correlation with the stronger level of confidence acquired in the last stages of the research.

Lack of Awareness: It’s possible that the participants were not fully aware of the benefits or implementations of Open Science practices in the early stages of the research cycle.

In conclusion, while the beginning stages of the research cycle are undeniably crucial, the participants’ choices might reflect their perceptions of immediate relevance, familiarity, and the tangible benefits of Open Science practices in the concluding stages. It might be beneficial for future workshops to shed light on the importance and advantages of incorporating Open Science from the onset of the research cycle.


Five doctoral researchers attended the training workshop. They came from a range of diverse fields and backgrounds such as transport geography, Maltese literature, urban agriculture, biochemistry, and digital networks. Two research support officers from the Centre for Literacy and the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking also participated.


Participants gained insights about their collective strengths and knowledge gaps within the Open Science landscape. The hands-on sessions provided them with sufficient agency to discuss, emphasizing the potential for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. Through collaborative efforts, participants managed to distil key Open Science practices they deemed most feasible and effective. The activities also revealed a
pronounced focus on the latter stages of the research cycle. For future training sessions, it might be beneficial to allocate more time for group discussions post-identification, allowing participants to delve deeper into the reasons behind their choices. The collective blueprint serves as a testament to the group’s shared vision for a more open research paradigm. This observation underscores the need for future workshops to emphasize the significance of incorporating Open Science practices from the research’s onset. Utilizing more diverse and interactive teaching materials could aid in conveying the importance and practicality of early-stage Open Science practices. In subsequent sessions, facilitators could
consider inviting experts to discuss the implementation of the chosen practices, providing participants with actionable steps and real-world examples.

As a standard practice for all training modules offered by the Doctoral School, a feedback form will be sent to the participants in order to gather their perceptions on the overall participation experience and identify areas for improvement in the module. A second iteration of this training workshop DOC6060 will be offered during the second term in a remote instructional mode. It is the policy of the Doctoral School to offer a second online iteration as an alternative option to an in-person one held in the first term. This may require adjustments on how the design of the handson sessions are to be delivered.

Another second training module on Open Science – DOC606 Allies in Open Science: The Influential Role of Statistics and Library Data Repositories will be delivered in November 2023 by OSAs Ms Raelene Church (University of Malta Library) in collaboration with Dr Fiona Sammut (Department of Statistics and Operations).

It is hoped that these two doctoral training modules will become a permanent fixture of the Professional Development Programme of the Doctoral School. In accordance with the calendar provisions of the Professional Development Programme, doctoral modules are always offered in both Semester 1 and Semester 2. The two Open Science modules are therefore currently being both offered in Semester 1 (in-person mode) and then re-offered in Semester 2 (in hybrid mode).

Description of Open Science Module DOC6060 as part of the catalogue of the Professional Development Programme 23-24 of the Doctoral School of the University of Malta
A group photo of the participants at the end of DOC6060 training workshop. The workshop was facilitated by OSAs Dr Ritienne Gauci and Dr Adam Gauci (third and fourth from left), OSA Ms Audrey Zammit (absent) and UM ReSEArch-EU Principal Investigator Professor Godfrey Baldacchino (last from right).