MDC to make research more publicly accessible in EU project

Supporting, organizing and carrying out research are the main tasks of scientific funding bodies and institutions. ORION, a Europe-wide collaborative project in the life sciences and biomedicine, aims to make these processes more transparent to the public. The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine joins eight other partners in the project, which kicks off in Barcelona this week.

Science should be accessible to all levels of society, to professional researchers and amateurs alike. Under the heading of “Open Science,” the European Commission aims to implement this concept across Europe with its Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) agenda. Under RRI, principles of ethics, gender, good governance, Open Access, public engagement, and science education will be incorporated in new ways into the policies, practices and processes of scientific institutions. Open Science involves widening participation and collaboration as well as expanding the ways research processes and outcomes are shared with the public. While the benefits or Open Science are generally recognized by all members of the European Union, the transition from the traditional landscape of research to “openness” still presents some challenges.

Paving new pathways for cooperation between science and society

ORION will receive four years of funding from the European Union to help research and funding organizations understand the challenges of the Open Science agenda and implement changes in the conduct and management of research at institutional, cultural, and behavioral levels. “New models of working require novel cooperative approaches that engage lots of different actors, such as researchers, funders, publishers, patient organisations, citizens, students, teachers, or companies,” says Michela Bertero, ORION project coordinator, who works in the area of International and Scientific Affairs at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain.

Training programs for professionals

Most researchers are already familiar with the concept of Open Science, but they also recognize the challenges of incorporating it into the daily work of a research lab. One of the central goals of ORION will be to develop training programs to help science professionals transform their working practices along the lines of Open Science principles. The training programs will be overseen by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) in Germany. These programs will target people in funding agencies, young researchers and established scientists across all Europe. The goal is to create the basis for an exhaustive implementation of Open Science. This is particularly important for research on controversial topics such as animal research and genome editing, as well as for funding bodies.

Co-creation in academia

Another essential part of ORION will be “co-creation” experiments that engage multiple stakeholders and explore different ways to make scientific research more participatory and inclusive. These experiments will tackle issues such as increasing the input of multiple stakeholders into research organizations, making research funding more inclusive, finding ways by which public dialogue can inform the content of research and the policies that guide it, and engaging citizens in fundamental research projects. “Open dialogues” on controversial research topics will be one strategy to bring various protagonists to the discussion table. Another will be fundamental research projects in which citizens and experts can cooperate.

Making the results of the project practical

The ultimate aim of these experimental formats will be to guide the development of guidelines for good practices and promote specific activities that can be implemented by research and funding bodies. Llessons learned and case studies will also be shared with other organizations. The project will produce a wide range of material, new types of training, good practices, reports and publications that will be disseminated freely and widely across Europe. ORION will run for four years with a 3.2 million Euros budget funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. Consortium partners represent a mix of expertise in fundamental research in life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences, funding, science communication, public engagement, and civil society. The project will work closely with EU-LIFE, an alliance life science research institutes from 13 European countries.

About ORION:

ORION is a 4-year project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 741527. This project addresses the Horizon 2020 call for “SwafS-04-2016” under the Science with and for Society Work Programme. The project website is currently under construction: Twitter: @ORION_OpenScien


1. Fundació Centre de Regulació Genòmica (CRG), Spain
2. Masarykova Univerzita (MU), Czech Republic
3. The Babraham Institute (BI), UK
4. Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft (MDC), Germany
5. Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), Spain
6. Vetenskap & Allmänhet (VA), Sweden
7. Universitat Autònoma de Brcelona (UAB), Spain
8. Jihomoravske Centrum Pro Mezinarodni Mobilitu, Zajmove Sdruzeni Pravnickych Osob (JCMM), Czech Republik
9. Fondazione ANT Italia Onlus (ANT), Italy

Associated partners:

1. Building and Promoting Excellence in Life Science in Europe (EU-LIFE), Europe
2. Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Germany
3. Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), UK
4. Neuron Fund for Support of Science (NEURON),Czech Republik
5. eLIFE (eLIFE), worldwide
6. European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), Europe
7. BIOCAT (BIOCAT), Catalonia
8. Foster Platform (FOSTER), Europe