Open Science | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Open Science

Open Science is the movement of science where every output, methods, resources or tools (including research data, lab notes, software…) at any stage of the research process are made freely and publicly available to the world (FOSTER Open Science Definition). It increases the quality, efficiency and impact of science by enabling reuse redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods.

A variety of practices like open access to publications open research data, open source software, open collaboration, open peer review, open notebooks, open educational resources, open monographs, citizen science, or research crowdfunding, fall into the boundaries of Open Science.

VLIZ has already taken important steps in the field of Open Access and Open Data, expertise has been built up within the Data Centre and the Library and at this stage it is recognized that Open Science is the only way forward. Outside VLIZ dedicated investment from different levels of government have been made and various new organising bodies were established to help govern and align the transition to Open Science, e.g. the FOSB and EOSC.

Inspired by the principles of the 'San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment' (DORA) that VLIZ had signed (see more), VLIZ will examine which concrete actions can be taken in the further development of research assessment procedures. One of the actions is the establishment of the the VLIZ Open Science Platform (VOSP) which will shape the transition to Open Science such that it is most beneficial for researchers, policy, industry and society

(Infographic: © Open Universe, University of Salamanca)

Open Science @ VLIZ

Open access

VLIZ wants to make open access publishing a natural part of the research workflow in marine science. This is on the one hand achieved by raising awareness on the importance of Open Science for research (beyond the ethical ideals), i.e. more visibility, more impact, more interdisciplinarity, more possibilities for global scientific networking and international collaboration, increased efficiency (thus lower cost) of innovation by reducing time needed for search, translate, understand and repurpose, and more integration with society. On the other hand VLIZ provides the necessary support through advice, guidance and building the supporting systems to its researchers. Accessibility, understandability (including translation of concepts and texts) and reusability outside of the original research require capturing and providing the necessary context (metadata, vocabulary terms, links, provenance information, etc.) together with the expected deliverables of the science work.

Fair & Open data

Open data science is becoming more and more a norm in scientific research. Public funding agencies on all levels require data management plans that describe how research data will be archived and shared. More and more scientific journals require that the data upon which a paper is based is accessible and that the analysis is reproducible. In the near future, the requirements for open data science will even increase. Therefore in VLIZ every researcher is obligated to write a data management plan for the research they are carrying out with the help and support from the data centre.

The trend towards open science can also help researchers. Research projects will benefit from applying open science principles as they: make research data discoverable, safeguard your data now and in the future, foster collaboration, and make research more efficient as other scientists can use your data in other projects. In other words, data will become FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable. Each step towards open science brings benefits..


Applying these principles require some extra time and effort. In VLIZ we are supporting marine researchers with (i) managing and storing their research data and (ii) storing their publications. The Marine Data Archive (MDA) is an online repository specifically designed to archive and publish marine data files groups, and project consortia to store, preserve, document, and share their data. The Open Marine Archive (OMA) repository provides permanent and free access to digital publications on marine, estuarine and coast All researchers are encouraged to use these services to archive and publish their data, and to share their scientific publications to foster collaboration within the Marine Science Community.

Citizen science

In Citizen Science, members of the wider public collaborate with scientists to generate and use data relating to the natural world. For marine and coastal research, this is a particularly powerful approach as the sheer scale of coastal and ocean environments mean that it would take several lifetimes for scientists to study them alone. By collaborating with citizens, a much greater number of people can be mobilised to gather a wealth of data and develop new scientific knowledge and understanding. Meanwhile, citizen science creates a deep public engagement with regard to marine and coastal areas.

Citizen science is one of the actions in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science (“Member states are encouraged to enhance the inclusion of citizen and participatory science as integral parts of open science policies and practises at the national, institutional and funder levels”). It is also one of the eight ambitions of the EU’s Open Science Policy. It states that the general public should be able to make significant contributions and be recognised as valid European science knowledge producers. This voluntary participation of non-professional scientists in research and innovation takes place at different stages of the process and at different levels of engagement, from shaping research agendas and policies, to gathering, processing and analysing data, and assessing the outcomes of research. Active engagement with citizens and society has the potential to improve research and its outcomes and reinforce societal trust in science.

VLIZ is a leader in marine and coastal citizen science in Belgium, and contributes to a strengthening of citizen science in the ocean realm in Europe. At the national level, VLIZ is active in several smaller initiatives and coordinates – in cooperation with various partners – four major citizen science programs: (1) ‘SeaWatch-B’, a  standardised multi-parameter long-term monitoring project for the shallow North Sea coasts of Belgium; (2) the ‘Big Seashell Survey’, an annual event where citizens count and identify ten thousands of shells on the beach, assisted by experts; (3) ‘CoastSnap-Belgium’, a programme that allows citizens - using their smartphone - to measure beach change and help understand and manage our dynamic coast; (4) Recreational Sea Fishing, an initiative whereby amateur fishermen contribute to science by sharing their logbook data. In addition, VLIZ is a member of the steering group of Scivil, the Flemish knowledge center for citizen science, and VLIZ coordinates, together with Natuurpunt, the working group on citizen science & ‘Nature, plants & animals’.

At the international level, VLIZ made an inventory of North Sea marine and coastal citizen science initiatives, and it co-authored the European Marine Board positon paper ‘Advancing Citizen Science for seas and ocean research‘ and the paper ‘Marine Citizen Science: current state in Europe and new technological developments’. VLIZ has also actively contributed to the BANOS CSA report on how to deal with citizen science in the North Sea & Baltic region. In addition, VLIZ is partner in the COLLECT project, acquiring data on marine plastic debris by training citizen scientists on African beaches.


(Photo: © VLIZ/Decombel)

Ocean literacy

The essence of the Ocean Literacy concept is ‘Understanding the ocean’s influence on you, and your influence on the ocean’. It builds upon creating an open and global ocean-literate society able to make informed and responsible decisions on ocean resources and ocean sustainability, through formal education and informal learning. There are seven essential principles to Ocean Literacy. These principles are shaping a wide spectrum of educational, outreach, communication and public engagement activities, carried out worldwide.

The Ocean Literacy movement finds its origin in the United States in the early 2000s. In 2011, it gained the attention of European educators (VLIZ, MBA, University of Gothenburg) who formed the first OL network in Europe, the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA). By organizing the First Conference on Ocean Literacy in Europe in Bruges (Belgium) in 2012, VLIZ played a major role in widening the network to a multilateral (UNESCO) level. Parallel to those initiatives, Portugal started the first initiative to adopt OL content into formal education. Since then, there has been a major shift towards a more literate society in Europe. At present, the European Ocean Coalition (EU4Ocean) connects diverse organisations, projects and people that contribute to ocean literacy and the sustainable management of the ocean. This bottom-up inclusive initiative funded by the European Commission, aims at uniting the voices of Europeans to make the ocean a concern of everyone.

VLIZ is co-founder of EMSEA, organizer of the First Conference on Ocean Literacy (2012) and member of the EU4Ocean network. VLIZ was one of the main actors in the European Ocean Literacy project ‘Sea Change’ (2015-2018), with a focus on public engagement. Since 2017, Ocean Literacy is one of the strategic goals of VLIZ. This translates in a wide variety of education, outreach & communication activities and products (publications, events).