EFSA models transparency with open source ‘Knowledge Junction’

'We encourage others to deposit their own supporting evidence and tools for the benefit of the wider risk assessment community,' says EFSA head. ©iStock/boygovideo

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made all its models from the last 15 years available on an open source platform called the Knowledge Junction, which also encourages external submissions of data, images and videos that could go on to be used by EFSA in its risk assessments.  

The 14 models already on the platform can be shared and cited and users will also be able to submit their own models.

Head of risk assessment and scientific support at EFSA Hans Verhagen said: “Our aim is to improve transparency, reproducibility and evidence reuse. Anybody is free to use these tools – for example, together with information from EFSA’s Scientific Data Warehouse.

“Importantly, we encourage others to deposit their own supporting evidence and tools for the benefit of the wider risk assessment community. This will boost scientific capacity and further contribute to food safety in Europe.”

Each item uploaded will be given a citable unique Digital Object Identifier and submissions can include reports, datasets, images, videos, laboratory outputs, software, tools, models, code, protocols, study quality appraisal schemes and even FAQs.

This content could then be cited by EFSA or anybody else preparing a risk assessment.

Retooling researchers in the digital revolution 

Knowledge Junction will run on the EU-funded Zenodo research-sharing platform, which claims the digital revolution has “necessitated a re­tooling of the scholarly processes to handle data and software”.

Zenodo says its platform ensures “no one is left behind through lack of access to the necessary tools and resources” as different communities, disciplines and countries progress at varying speeds in this digitisation.

The move comes as part of EFSA’s ongoing transparency efforts.

In the past the Parma-based agency has said the ultimate transparency aim would be to make it possible for outsiders to input all the same data into the same methodology and come up with the same conclusion as EFSA.  

EFSA executive director Bernhard Url has expressed interest in concepts like crowdsourcing, telling us last year this could help tap into a “‘black sea’ of unknown expertise” outside of EFSA. 

Yet as this concept gathers momentum, caution has been urged when deciding who the 'crowd' should be. 

“The official ideology of these [crowdsourcing] projects often does not describe what actually happens within the project," wrote one group of researchers in a paper published in the Journal of Science Communication.

"CS [citizen science] projects are often designed by actors motivated by very different hopes than to democratise science."Hence we should be cautious when assessing the participatory rhetoric of CS promoters, and devise ways to identify cases where the instrumental employment of participatory language could have harmful effects.”

Tweeting science

EFSA has also launched a dedicated Twitter account @Methods_EFSA, from which it will be tweeting about all things methodological from machine learning to systematic reviews to bioinformatics.  

A discussion group on LinkedIn will also be launched soon.

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