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Greater innovation at greater speed: Blowing the lid off academic scholarship through “open science”

Greater innovation at greater speed: Blowing the lid off academic scholarship through “open science”

A leader in collaborative research, FIU hosts NASA-funded meeting on broadening public access to findings

May 16, 2024 at 3:04pm

Committed to the promise of impactful research, FIU brought together higher education leaders and the heads of federal agencies to promote widescale sharing of results and data. 

More than 50 university presidents, provosts and directors of research from a variety of institutions gathered with representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy to work toward greater exchange of information in support of greater innovations at greater speed. 

The conversation came out of a directive from the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy. In August of 2022, its then-deputy director posted a document stating that “free, immediate and equitable access to federally funded research” was meant to “serve our collective goals of accelerating scientific discovery, strengthening translation and policymaking and lowering the barriers of access to science for all of America.” Such an approach has general bipartisan support.

“Everyone wants to see the investments that we make actually have an impact on society,” says FIU Associate Dean of Research Rita Teutonico, a molecular biologist who for 10 years served as science advisor at the NSF. She spearheaded the FIU workshop with the Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship.


FIU brought together university presidents, provosts and directors of research from a variety of institutions to gather with representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy. 


The federal government currently funds 55% of all research conducted at American institutions of higher education, or $54 billion in fiscal year 2022. Now it wants to ensure that such taxpayer-funded work is easily accessible by others, including by researchers across the nation who are in the best position to build upon their peers’ findings.

Known as “open science,” the practice refers to “making research products and processes available to all while. . . maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility and equity.”

The pandemic provided perhaps the best example of how making high-level scientific information broadly available in real time serves the greater good.

“Immediate public access to COVID-19 research is a powerful case study on the benefits of delivering research results and data rapidly to the people,” stated the same Office of Science memo.

The Open Source COVID-19 Drug Discovery program relied on a consortium of universities that focused on speeding up research for COVID-19 drug treatments. Scientists from a range of fields were encouraged to participate, and findings were made freely available to researchers worldwide.

The Human Genome Project represents another important example. Twenty universities and research centers across the country participated in the 13-year sequencing work, which established an open approach to data sharing and adopted open-source software. The findings paved the way for the development of new diagnostic methods and treatments, as well as new research to establish the genetic mechanisms involved in certain diseases.

Demonstrated commitment

At FIU, researchers play a key role in several major open-access projects. The Carnegie R1 university, which saw research expenditures surpass $317 million during the most recent fiscal year, has garnered millions in grants for investigations related to environmental resilience and public health - two of its research pillars - and has already shared actionable results with the world.

Scientists in the Institute of Environment within the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, for example, for three decades have contributed to the largest restoration project on the planet. The NSF’s Florida Coastal Everglades Term Ecological Research program, based at FIU, brings together investigators from multiple partner institutions to better understand the needs of the fragile, historically mismanaged ecosystem, today the source of drinking water for some eight million Floridians.

“There is a common data methodology,” Teutonico says of how the consortium has implemented a uniform system. “They have a platform and set standards for how to pull the data, what is that process, what is the format. All that makes [the data] actually useable,” she explains.

Teutonico touches upon the hard details of making available ongoing research in an operable way. In the case of the Everglades work, data is shared publicly for use by South Florida water managers as well as by administrators in other parts of the world who seek guidance for their own efforts around saving endangered wetlands.

FIU’s decades-long scientific leadership in a long-term Florida Everglades restoration project is central to protecting South Florida’s freshwater ecosystem — and a model for the restoration of imperiled ecosystems worldwide. Read more.


Advancement of health and security

FIU is integrally involved in the National Institutes of Health Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. Twenty-one institutions nationwide are participating, and the initial results of the longitudinal study are available through the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive.

And FIU’s Population Health Initiative, launched recently with $10 million from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, will for two decades support university-wide collaboration in addition to partnerships with other universities, among them the University of Washington, with a goal of sharing data broadly. Areas of research will include climate change, food quality and sufficiency and housing availability, among others.

In another example of data transparency, the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs is successfully integrating and sharing social science and policy work with researchers and the general public with a single click. The Department of Defense-funded Security Research Hub uses public data and applies analytic tools that aggregate research, which leads to new, original findings that are shared openly in a series of online dashboards to enhance security and well-being in Latin America. Created in partnership with U.S. Southern Command, the repository focuses on topics such as transnational organized crime, migration, illegal fishing, regional health concerns and strategic competition.

The university’s strong, longstanding record of open scholarship bodes well for its newfound role as a thought-leader on the matter.

Digital technology has made possible the proliferation of open-source initiatives which contribute to the acceleration of knowledge, says FIU Provost, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth M. Béjar. FIU has long embraced the aim that through increased collaboration researchers, universities and industry together can solve the world’s most-pressing problems. Open scholarship contributes to greater economic benefits, research integrity and innovation and knowledge transfer.