I get easily bored at conferences.
Especially if they are lecture-based and speakers are talking about their published work. I did my K12 education in Senegal, West Africa and it was not hands-on. We just sat and listened all day. After I moved to Europe, and later the US, my education became more interactive. Now, I have developed an utter dislike against formats that aren’t interactive. Conferences should be organized in a way that encourages people to talk to each other and be proactive. Many scientists I know (including myself) are introverts. I do not like talking just for the sake of talking: I need a stimulus from the environment to really participate.
When I arrived in Washington DC to attend OpenCon 2016, I had limited knowledge about OpenCon itself. I just expected that it would be like any other conference—that I would be a passive attendee as usual and would talk a bit about SeeSD, the STEM education not for profit I started in Senegal. I was also very confused about the program and was not really sure what was going to happen during the conference. I am glad I was wrong. OpenCon is an excellent self-organizing conference that requires active participation from attendees. The meeting started with a keynote talk by Brewster Kahle, the founder of Internet Archive. He walked us through the concept of a “decentralized Internet”, something I was not very familiar with, but that I fully embraced now and even advocate for.
My favorite part of the conference was the story circles: a storytelling session where conference participants were divided into small groups and each group member tells their story by answering: what brought them to OpenCon? In my case, I applied to OpenCon because I cared about diversity in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and because I believed the main barrier stopping African communities from fully embracing STEM is cultural relevance. To bring that cultural relevance, it is imperative to design Open Educational Resources using local languages.
OpenCon not only gave me a platform to share my ideas but also helped me understand that I had already been an Open Science and Open Education advocate. I even ended up leading an unconference session panel about Open Education in Africa, where we discussed about strategies to democratize education and overcome challenges related to Internet access in the continent. Believe it or not, I did not consider myself an Open Science and Education advocate before OpenCon. I was not even familiar with those terms. I applied because I saw possibilities to network and I thought my vision in terms of science education fitted some of the OpenCon mission.
Since OpenCon, I have fully embraced being an Open Education and Open Science advocate. It has helped me build an important network of collaborators with similar vision and goals. Through them, I became aware of many opportunities (funding, fellowship, workshops) that I would have otherwise missed. I would strongly recommend anyone—especially minorities and young leaders from the Global South—to apply for OpenCon 2017. You may already be aware (or not) that you are an Open Access advocate; either way, you will build an open and dynamic network if you attend.
I recently came across a paper that highlighted that Open networks are the most important predictor of career success. OpenCon is a conference where you can build an open network that leads to collaboration with wonderful and brilliant open-minded people.
Khady Sall just received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Oregon State University. Her research uses next generation sequencing technologies to dissect the gene regulatory pathway of the stress hormone Abscisic Acid (ABA) in plants. Khady is also the founder of SeeSD (www.SeeSD.org), an organization that promotes STEM education in Senegal. You can follow her on twitter @KhadidiatouSALL and watch her project presentation on SeeSD at OpenCon 2016 here.
When I filled out my application to OpenCon 2016, I talked about knowledge and power, arts-based education and my dream to involve youth in research. What I did not say was that I was very skeptical of what we could achieve in three days. Would OpenCon be the same-old scholarly communications conference we keep going to? Academic-centric, overly technical and not particularly inclusive of (or interested in) more diverse or critical views?
Well, I was wrong. OpenCon was the most transformative conference I have attended in my short academic life. From November 11 to 13, OpenCon gathered students and early career researchers from over 60 countries in Washington DC to discuss open access, open education and open data initiatives. But the experience of attending was so much more than that. OpenCon was a diverse, equitable and inclusive space, where we could reflect, engage in critical debate and deliberate on how open access to knowledge can bring us closer to a more just and equitable world.
"OpenCon and the wide diversity of participants that attended helped me realize there was no formula on how to be an advocate for openness."
OpenCon and the wide diversity of participants that attended helped me realize there was no formula on how to be an advocate for openness. I met a DOAJ ambassador who majored in dance and is passionate about women’s rights, a medical student who uses comedy skits to advocate for affordable healthcare and a Creative Commons ambassador who hosts a community radio show (shout out to Ivonne, Peter and Juli). The common denominator between them, on top of their grit and drive, was that they thought of openness as a practice beyond scholarship, intimately linked to their creativity and aspirations for social justice. This is what brought us together.
"We were really talking about power, global inequities, and the infinite greed of the publishing industry; but like any good story, we dropped the jargon and focused on the very real ways enclosure of knowledge affects people’s lives."
Since the first day, our personal stories were at the center of our conversations. In story circles, we talked about that paper we could not access, those hefty price tags on our university textbooks, and that moment when we saw a light in open. We were really talking about power, global inequities, and the infinite greed of the publishing industry; but like any good story, we dropped the jargon and focused on the very real ways enclosure of knowledge affects people’s lives. It was not so much about what we were doing but about why it matters.
Reactions after the story circles
As the conference progressed, participants (including myself) started growing in confidence as a result of these raw displays of honesty; raising our hands to participate in the discussion. An intervention by a nonprofit law resource librarian stood out to me. She seemed antsy, overall frustrated with the group, hesitant to participate, until she finally grabbed the mic (and I paraphrase):
“We keep talking about availability when we should be talking about accessibility. Every day, I watch people struggle to understand the information in which their access to rights, safety, sometimes survival, depend upon. As a librarian, I am not allowed to offer interpretations, I can only point them to the right resource, so I have to sit there and watch them struggle. Open, accessible knowledge can save lives…”
Equity & Open panel speakers
A similar sentiment was echoed in ‘Equity and Open’, a panel on why equity matters in scientific production. Mark Puente discussed the need to procure safety for marginalized, racialized and LGBTQ+ voices both in and outside the scientific community.
April Hathcock addressed colonialism and the domination of the English language in academia, by alternating between Spanish, French, Portuguese and English in her speech; and Penny Andrews commented on the silence around disability, mental health and low self-esteem experienced by young researchers in academia.
The critical voices of OpenCon reminded us that we do a far greater service to openness by staying critical than by being its cheerleaders; that we were not in OpenCon to build yet another model or “scholarly utopia”, because among other reasons the people most affected by the enclosure of knowledge were not in that room; and that our idleness has very real consequences, particularly for disenfranchised, marginalized and oppressed communities. Isn’t this what we want out of conferences? To learn, unlearn and be challenged?
OpenCon is building a community that defines openness in terms of the hope it offers, the voices it amplifies and the relationships it nurtures. Spending a weekend with the incredibly ambitious and inspiring young researchers who attended, made me hopeful that open research initiatives will continue building its strongest arguments based on the experiences and knowledge(s) of diverse groups of people; drawing from stories of resilience that demonstrate how an inclusive and accessible science can truly change lives and help us flourish.
"As a Latin American, feminist, and young researcher I need to be vocal about why barriers to knowledge contribute to systemic discrimination."
I left OpenCon feeling like I could do more. The community gave me the confidence to become louder and prouder in my advocacy. It showed me that as a Latin American, feminist, and young researcher I need to be vocal about why barriers to knowledge contribute to systemic discrimination. That as someone who cares about education, I need to advocate for plurality and diversity in knowledge production. And that as someone who cares about social justice, I need to be aware of how open research can help us get there. OpenCon believed in my ability to make a difference when I applied. After attending, I believe it too.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin close August 1st. You can apply at: opencon2017.org/apply
Denisse is an International Development and Sociology graduate from the University of Toronto. When she attended OpenCon 2016, she was the editor of an arts-based Research Lab for young researchers and contributing to inclusive education resources for Latinx youth in Toronto with the non-profit Casa - Pueblito. She currently works for Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet).
Read our OpenCon report on inclusive conference planning and contribute!
At OpenCon, we believe that scholarly information—academic journal articles, research data, educational resources—should be shared in an equitable way. It is important these values are also reflected in our communities and conference. Openness in research and education often embraces rhetoric around breaking down barriers to access, but are we practicing this in our own work? Although the Open movements are global in nature, privileged voices are typically prioritized in conferences. Marginalized voices—e.g. women, people of colour, those based in the Global South—are often underrepresented or sometimes excluded from the conversation altogether.
We want those involved in the Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education movements to ask: how can we minimize barriers to access—not only to academic materials and research data—but also barriers to participation in our own communities?
We understand that if we want dialogue about these issues, we need to start by assessing our own community: What have we learned? What practices have we found helpful for creating a diverse and inclusive space at OpenCon? Where is there still room for improvement?
Over the last few months, we have been working on the OpenCon Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report to address these questions. The report was created to keep OpenCon transparent and accountable to our commitments to these values. We also wanted to use the document to gather existing guidelines on planning accessible events, share our learnings, and to encourage other organizers to plan events that minimize barriers to participation. We hope the report can begin a discussion about these values in the broader Open communities.
A downloadable PDF version of the report can be accessed here.
A digital version of the report can be accessed here.
Let us know what you think.
Like many communities, we understand OpenCon still has significant work to do when it comes to building diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of our work. We hope this can be the start of an ongoing conversation. We welcome feedback and contributions by email [email@example.com], or directly to the online version of the report via Github. Details on how to contribute can be found here.
The application period for OpenCon 2017 on November 11-13 in Berlin is now open! The application is available at http://www.opencon2017.org/apply and includes the opportunity to apply for a travel scholarship. Applications will close on August 1st at 11:59pm U.S. Pacific Time.
OpenCon seeks to bring together effective, engaged students and early career academic professionals from around the world to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data—regardless of their ability to pay for travel costs. In OpenCon’s first three years, most invited attendees who required financial support received full or partial scholarships to attend the conference. For this reason, attendance at OpenCon is by application only.
The benefits of applying for OpenCon 2017 extend far beyond attending the meeting in Berlin this November. It’s an opportunity to find new collaborators, get connected with scholarships to attend related conferences, and actively participate in a larger community of Open advocates year-round.
Students and early career academic professionals of all experience levels are encouraged to apply. We want to support those who have ideas for new projects and initiatives in addition to those who are already leading them. The most important criteria is an interest in advancing Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data and a commitment to taking action. You can learn more about the types of projects and impact OpenCon community members are working on to advance Open through our recently released community report.
Like previous years, OpenCon 2017 will feature a program of keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, and hackathons on Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Participants will build skills in key areas, network with diverse attendees from dozens of nations around the world, and engage with leaders in the Open movement. Speakers at previous OpenCon conferences have included Jimmy Wales (Co-founder of Wikipedia), Amy Rosenbaum (Director of Legislative Affairs to the US President Barack Obama), Julia Reda (Member of the European Parliament), and Brewster Kahle (Founder and Digital Librarian of Internet Archive).
While attendance at the main conference in Berlin is by application only, everyone is invited to participate freely in the interactive webcast, OpenCon 2017 Live. OpenCon is also looking for partners to host satellite events—meetings that combine themes from the global conference with local presentations, workshops, and discussions to advance the conversation around Open in your local community. In 2016, there were 28 OpenCon satellite events in twenty countries—all thanks to our incredible hosts, who included students, scientists, librarians, researchers, and advocates from around the world who are working hard to increase action around Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education. To express interest in hosting your own satellite event and get more information, please visit http://www.opencon2017.org/satellite.
The meeting in Berlin serves as the centerpiece of a much larger network to foster initiatives and collaboration among the next generation across OpenCon’s issue areas. We hope that you can become an active part of the community by joining our discussion list, tuning in for our monthly community calls, finding collaborators for Open projects, or hosting an OpenCon satellite event in your region.
Apply now, and join the OpenCon community today!
OpenCon is the conference for students and early career academic professionals interested in advancing Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. OpenCon is hosted by SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition.
SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education. SPARC empowers people to solve big problems and make new discoveries through the adoption of policies and practices that advance Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education. Learn more at sparcopen.org.
The Right to Research Coalition is an international alliance of graduate and undergraduate student organizations, which collectively represent nearly 7 million students in over 100 countries around the world, that advocate for and educate students about open methods of scholarly publishing. The Right to Research Coalition is a project of SPARC.
Today, SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition, in partnership with the Max Planck Society, are excited to announce that OpenCon 2017 will take place on November 11-13 in Berlin, Germany at the Max Planck Society’s Harnack House.
OpenCon is more than a conference. It’s a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information—from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital research data. OpenCon 2017 is at the center of a growing community of thousands of students and early career academic professionals from across the world working to create an open system for research and education.
OpenCon brings together the most energetic, engaged students and early career academic professionals—regardless of their ability to cover travel costs. Because of this, attendance at OpenCon is by application only, and the majority of past participants have received travel scholarships.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin, Germany will open on June 27th. For more information about the conference and to sign up for updates, visit www.opencon2017.org/updates.
OpenCon 2017’s three-day program will begin with two days of keynotes, panels, and interactive workshops. OpenCon places an emphasis on highlighting diverse, early career voices, while complementing them with leading experts, such as Jimmy Wales (Co-founder of Wikipedia), Amy Rosenbaum (Director of Legislative Affairs to US President Barack Obama), and Julia Reda (Member of the European Parliament). The third day will feature an all-day “do-a-thon,” where participants have the opportunity to craft new campaigns, lay the foundations for new resources, and form collaborations that will continue long after the November conference is over.
Organized by the Right to Research Coalition and SPARC, OpenCon 2017 builds on the success of the first three OpenCon conferences, which collectively convened approximately 500 participants from 80 countries. In addition, OpenCon’s unique structure has supported 70 satellite events, enabling over 4,100 attendees across 32 countries to participate in an in-person OpenCon event. Throughout the year, hundreds of these individuals remain engaged through monthly community calls, regular webcasts, and a very active community discussion list. To learn more about OpenCon’s theory of change and the impact of the OpenCon community, click here to download the newly released OpenCon Community Report.
Satellite events will continue to be central to the success of OpenCon in allowing the community to scale. OpenCon satellite events are independently hosted meetings that mix content from the main conference with live presenters to localize the discussion and bring the energy of an in-person OpenCon event to a larger audience. These events are an excellent way to discover those interested in Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data within your community, build support, and catalyze action. If you or your organization are interested in hosting a satellite event, more information is available at www.opencon2017.org/satellite.
The OpenCon conference and community are only possible with the support of leading organizations with a strong commitment to support student and early career academic professional involvement across Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. We deeply appreciate the support of our past sponsors, including the Max Planck Society, PLOS, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, eLife, BioMed Central, SpringerOpen, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wikimedia Foundation, Overleaf, Microsoft Research, Figshare, Creative Commons USA, and the more than 30 universities and organizations that have sponsored individual scholarships. If your organization is interested in supporting OpenCon, you can find more information and a variety of sponsorship opportunities at www.opencon2017.org/sponsor.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 open June 27th. For more information about the conference and to sign up for updates, visit www.opencon2017.org/updates. You can follow OpenCon on Twitter at @Open_Con or #opencon, and on Facebook.
SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education. SPARC empowers people to solve big problems and make new discoveries through the adoption of policies and practices that advance Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education. Learn more at sparcopen.org.
The Right to Research Coalition is an international alliance of graduate and undergraduate student organizations, which collectively represent millions of students in over 100 countries around the world, that advocate for and educate students about open methods of scholarly publishing. The Right to Research Coalition is a project of SPARC.
The Max Planck Society is Germany's leading organization for basic research. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. Since initiating the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities” in 2003 the Max Planck Society is pursuing a broad and comprehensive OA agenda. The Max Planck Society is committed to persistently support Open Access on all levels. Therefore the Max Planck Society is proud to host OpenCon 2017 at the Harnack House, the society’s conference center and the place of birth of the “Berlin Declaration”.
On March 31, Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Faculty Senate passed an Open Access policy! The Open Access Archiving Policy ensures that future scholarly articles authored by FGCU faculty will be made freely available to the public by requiring faculty to deposit copies of their accepted manuscripts in the university’s repository, DigitalFGCU.
As Scholarly Communication Librarian, I worked with my supervisor, library administration, the university’s Provost, and Faculty Senate to write and pass the policy. Typically in the United States, Open Access policies are passed through the Faculty Senate as a faculty level policy rather than a “university policy” that requires a different approval process. Policies are usually proposed to a Faculty Senate team or committee, such as Faculty Affairs, and then proceeds to Faculty Senate for voting.
Although each institution will be different, in this blog post I’ll share some of the key decisions and learnings that allowed our team at FGCU to pass an Open Access Policy quickly.
How do we message this to a campus new to Open Access? We decided to tweak the name to “Open Access Archiving Policy” to emphasize archiving and to further communicate that the policy does not affect where an author chooses to publish.
What’s our timeline? There’s no wrong or right timeline to pass an Open Access policy. For some universities, passing an Open Access policy is a result of years of campus advocacy, but we jumped in and passed a policy in just six months. Passing a policy quickly may not be the right decision for your campus. We chose to take the leap because we are launching our institutional repository in the summer and wanted to give it the strongest start possible. FGCU is a young, public university about to celebrate its 20th birthday, and we built off lessons learned from other institutions to create a stronger repository and a successful policy.
When does it take effect? Most Open Access policies go into effect immediately, but we opted for the policy to take effect August 1, 2017 when the institutional repository was launched and to prepare the faculty for the new policy at a slower time of the academic year.
Creating a policy site
I highly recommend creating an informational policy site when you’re proposing your policy. A website can help you communicate with Faculty Senate how the policy will work in reality, how easy it is to participate or opt-out, and helps put a friendly face on the policy language.
I worked with our Web Development & Design Librarian to create a site heavily inspired by Open Access @ FSU (thanks, Florida State!). I sent individual emails to Faculty Senators inviting them to look at the website and share it with their colleagues. The Open Access Archiving Policy site was vital to passing the policy: it made it easy to understand how the policy would work in practice.
Policies can be intimidating, and copyright legalese especially so. I wanted to make sure we messaged the policy for what it is: an exciting opportunity to make our public university’s research accessible to the public and increase the impact of our research. I started off my pitch to Faculty Senate with this introduction:
Hi, everyone. I’m Chealsye Bowley, FGCU’s Scholarly Communication Librarian. I’m here today to propose the Open Access Archiving Policy, a faculty policy that would provide public access to FGCU authored research. But first I have a couple questions for you all. By a show of hands - how many of you want more readers for your research? How many of you want more citations for your research? Okay, great. And finally, have you ever been asked to pay for a journal article because FGCU did not have a subscription? Thank you. The Policy is designed to help with all of that.
How can any researcher say no to more readers and citations? This friendly introduction at Faculty Senate shifted the framing to the faculty benefits and I think it helped engaged Faculty Senators in what are long Friday morning meetings.
Tips and Advice
Ensure that the policy is the best thing for faculty members - not just for you/the Library. Make it as simple as possible to participate and opt-out, if that’s an option.
Find Faculty advocates for the policy.
Be friendly! Get faculty excited about the policy and kindly address their concerns.
Be willing to adapt. We originally had a simple opt-out option that granted automatic waivers on an article by article basis, but after feedback from a few faculty members who were opposed to article opt-out we offered a blanket waiver option that a faculty member would just have to fill out once.
Never assume that a faculty member will embrace an Open Access Policy simply because of their field or their use of Open Educational Resources. Surprisingly, the faculty members who opposed the policy came from disciplines that have historically embraced Open Access and who used openly licensed materials in their classes.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel! If something worked at another university and you liked it, give it a try.
Collaboration is at the heart of the OpenCon community. Our global conference, satellite events, and community calls are all meant to be opportunities for those who are passionate about advancing openness in research and education to connect, find collaborators for their work, and discover new ways to get involved with Open projects. But beyond our community events, we realized we didn’t have a place online for people to discover ways to get involved with community projects or look for collaborators.
To address this, a few weeks ago, we launched a new page on our site: OpenCon Community Collaborate. This is a platform for connecting projects in the OpenCon community that are in need of collaborators, with people in the community looking to get involved with Open projects.
OpenCon Community Collaborate accelerates the impact of ideas, individuals, projects and organizations by connecting them and providing a range of support. This is a digital space for students, researchers, librarians, early career academics, and advocates around the world to connect with each other on Open issues.
In this iteration of the platform, there are three ways you can use OpenCon Community Collaborate:
1. Browse - and get involved with - existing Open projects!
Getting involved in an Open initiative can sometimes be intimidating. Or maybe you want to help out, but you just don’t know where to start. To address this, we’ve created a directory of existing projects (at various stages of development) that are looking for help from collaborators and volunteers! Each project listing provides a brief summary of the project’s activities, as well as more specific information on what kind of help and skills they are looking for. If you’re interested in getting involved, all you need to do is email the project contact in the listing.
We’re excited to share that we’ve already had a number of community members list a wide range of projects across Open issue areas, from the Rebus Community - an open textbook project, to Project Cognoma - an open source project that’s looking to create a webapp to analyze cancer data, and many more!
2. Share your project with us.
If you’re working on a project related to Open Research or Open Education and are seeking collaborators, we are happy to promote it by list it on our Collaborate community projects directory for others to discover! Projects listed under Community Collaborate can be at any stage of development, but our only request is that your project goals are clearly defined and that you have a good idea of what kind of help you’d be requesting from collaborators.
Interested? Submit a request to get your project up on our website using this form.
3. Connect directly with people in your region, with the skills you need.
We have an enormous, and detailed, database of students, librarians, researchers, and advocates, across a number of regions, with a broad range of skills in the OpenCon community. If you’re looking for someone with a specific skillset, or based out of a specific country to collaborate with on your Open project, we can help you! We’ll do our best to connect you with potential collaborators after you submit a request using this form.
We are looking to continue building on, and improving OpenCon Community Collaborate, so if you have any suggestions on how the platform could be better suit your needs, please let us know at lorraine(at)sparcopen.org
This month's OpenCon community call will be themed around collaboration and community support for projects and initiatives advancing Open! We’ll hear about some exciting projects happening in the OpenCon community that are looking for help & support. Interesting in speaking about your project during this call? Please let lorraine(at)sparcopen.org know!
The call will take place on Wednesday, April 26 at 12 PM ET / 4 PM UCT / 5 PM BST / 6 PM CEST . You can RSVP here.