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Open science was the subject of a debate held at the Inria Lille–Nord Europe Plateau on Monday, 14 April. Université Lille 1 students specialising in science journalism organised the event. It provided a setting to share thoughts on the open science movement, which has already left its mark on Inria.

Participants wove words, met quip with quip, and waved coloured cards. At the Inria Plateau, the debate on open science had begun and everyone had something to contribute. It was what you call a science café: experts and lay participants discussing a topic in a relaxed setting over a round of drinks. On Monday, 14 April, the theme was open science: What is this growing movement about? Can it change our way of doing research? What are its limits?

The SCité research team at Lille 1 had the idea of holding science cafés through its appropriately named Café SCité program. The goal is to organise discussions between experts and interested parties about topics at the crossroads of science and society with the aim of opening new avenues of research. Leading the gatherings are students from the science journalism program jointly run by Lille 1 and the École supérieure de journalisme de Lille.

Taïna Cluzeau and Nadège Joly were responsible for the 14 April Café SCité on open science, assigned the Twitter hashtag #CaféOS.

The decision to hold it at the 200 m2 Inria Plateau at EuraTechnologies was not arbitrary. The site showcases the latest Inria innovations for entrepreneurs looking into partnerships or technology developed through open-access research. Inria has played an active role in this movement since July 2004, when the late Gilles Kahn, a former Inria director, signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. Since 2005, ‘open source’, ‘open data’, ‘open access’, and ‘open science’ have slowly become a part of Inria vocabulary. HAL—which stands for Hyper Article en Ligne, or ‘online hyperarticle’—is one of the major consequences of signing the Declaration. Developed by the CNRS, HAL is an online platform of open archives that lets researchers submit and access data from research in computer science and information and communications technology. Inria has recently made submission of all its publications to HAL obligatory and is experimenting with the new platform, which combines open publication and peer review. 

The open science movement believes that science should be free and within reach of one and all, so that research is more accessible and more transparent. But that is the extent of consensus on its definition. You only have to relive the intense debate on open science—through the Storify record of the 14 April café event—to get a feel for its complexity and the diversity of arguments put forth.

The pleasure of organising such an event, the fact that it ran so smoothly, and the frustration born of the need to limit discussion that evening to a specific subtopic—open access—have fuelled interest and set wheels in motion. This is certainly to be continued. We can count on a caffeinated sequel for participatory science! Follow this story on the blog dedicated to the 14 April science café.