Flávio Azevedo aims to use the glossary to help overcome language barriers.

Breaking down language barriers and integrating social justice into open science

Political Psychologist scientist at the University of Jena publishes glossary of terms in open scholarship
Flávio Azevedo aims to use the glossary to help overcome language barriers.
Image: Jens Meyer (University of Jena)
  • Research

Published: | By: Vivien Busse

Almost every scientific subject area uses its own specific vocabulary. It is obvious that this can lead to misinterpretations or misunderstandings among outsiders. One area that is particularly affected by this is open science. Reflecting the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be, among other things, openly accessible, transparent, reproducible, replicable, inclusive, and free, science developed numerous research-related terms and uses terminologies that have changed in meaning over time. This linguistic change can be a barrier to access and understanding open science. The international FORRT community (Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training) directed by Flávio Azevedo, a scientist from Jena, has therefore developed a glossary that defines and contextualises the most important terms. The glossary has now been published in the renowned scientific journal "Nature Human Behaviour".

Enable access to knowledge and discussion

Due to the free accessibility of research results and data for all fields of science, a common and equal understanding of terms is essential. For this reason, the FORRT community has collected terms and their definitions that appear particularly frequently in open science. The aim was to clarify terminology, especially where terms are used differently or interchangeably, says Flávio Azevedo from the Institute of Communication Sciences at the University of Jena. He cites the term "preregistration" as an example. In the social sciences, the term refers to a time-stamped version of a research protocol, while in the health sector it refers to an accelerated course that qualifies students for rapid entry into a medical profession.

In an online-based project, researchers from various disciplines, including psychology, economics, neuroscience, humanities, medical sciences, and the social sciences, exchanged ideas on terms and their definitions within the FORRT community.

As one of the main organizers, Flávio Azevedo led the facilitation of the process together with two colleagues. "If the terms used are defined in an understandable and delimited way, effective understanding and communication can be created for newcomers and experts. To do this, we had to create consensus among our authors," explains Azevedo. The list of authors includes 112 authors, but many more contributed, between 150 and 200, says the communication scientist. "Finding a consensus was therefore not always easy." Together, more than 250 typical Open Scholarship terms were worked out. The FORRT community publishes the complete glossary on its websiteExternal link.

Social justice in open scholarship

Open Scholarship as an umbrella term expands the familiar term "Open Science" to include open research and also includes disciplines such as those in humanities. The glossary refers to the field of Open Scholarship and in this context, openness, integrity, social justice, diversity, equality, inclusivity and accessibility are to be included and improved in the glossary. This Open Scholarship ethos was taken into account by the authors of the glossary in the definition and use of the terms listed. For example, the term "bropenscience" is also included in the glossary, alluding to structural inequalities within academic systems.

Constantly updating

With the publication of the glossary, the team completes the first phase of its project. "However, as language evolves and changes, the glossary must be updated and improved continuously," says Azevedo. The FORRT community therefore invites all interested parties to contribute to the expansion of the glossary, to critically question the terms and definitions, and to get in touch with the community via its website or via the direct messaging program “Slack” linked there.

The FORRT organization

FORRT, an Early Career Scholar-led grassroots community working to integrate open scholarship principles into higher education, produces several open educational resourcesExternal link that are ready to be used by educators in their teaching and mentoring. FORRT uses a collaborative approach to science, in which teams of researchers from all around the world gather to produce goods that everyone and everywhere can use. This openness, coupled with social justice principles could have implications for the public, who not only would benefit from scientific advancements but also can more easily access state-of-the-art knowledge, resources, and data behind scientific findings. The FORRT community informs about current projects, and publications on its websiteExternal link.


Original publication:
Azevedo, F., Elsherif, M., Parsons, S. et al. "A Community-Sourced Glossary of Open Scholarship Terms", Nature Human Behaviour (2022), DOI: 10.1038/s41562-021-01269-4External link