Arabic speaking members of the OpenCon Community had their first Arabic language webcast a couple of weeks ago to discuss the status of Open Data and Open Access in the Arab World. This was the first non-English OpenCon Community Call, and organizer Riyadh Al Balushi has provided a summary of the discussion.
Arabic speaking members of the OpenCon Community had their first Arabic language webcast a couple of weeks ago to discuss the status of Open Data and Open Access in the Arab World. This was the first non-English OpenCon Community Call, and as OpenCon is open to replicating this experiment with other languages, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things we discussed in this webcast in a blog post so that other members of the community have an idea of what is happening in our region.
The webcast I moderated featured a number of OpenCon alumni from different Arab countries as well as a couple of Arab Open Data experts. The panel consisted of Aisha Gharaibeh - Jordanian Alumni of OpenCon 2014 and medical intern doctor in King Abdullah University Hospital, Osman Aldirdiri - Sudanese Alumni of OpenCon 2014 and founder of Open Sudan, Mohamed Hegazy - Egyptian Alumni of OpenCon 2015 and co-founder of Transport for Cairo, Sadeek Hasna - lawyer from Syria and Open Data advocate, and Yousuf Al-Busaidi - lawyer from Oman and co-founder of Qanoon.om. The webcast was only a few days after the Open Data Day and took place during the Open Education Week. We decided to focus on Open Data in the Arab World, but also touched upon Open Access and Open education.
The first panelist to speak was Aisha who shared with us the difficulties that the Open Access movement in Jordan faces. We learnt from Aisha that academics in Jordan are under the same pressure facing academics in universities all around the world to publish in traditional high profile journals to improve their chances of getting promoted. Institutional repositories are also unheard of in Jordan, and even though many Jordanian universities have electronic system for managing their educational resources, such systems are not available to other universities or the public in general. On the bright side, there are a number of promising educational initiatives in Jordan, such as the Jordan Education Initiative - an initiative for providing schools with integrat educational systems and e-resources, and Edraak - an Arabic language MOOC portal. Even though such initiatives are not “Open” in technical sense, they signal the existence of efforts in Jordan to share knowledge and improve education using technology.
Osman spoke to us about Open Sudan, a student initiative that he founded to raise awareness of Open Data, Open Access, and Open Educational Resources in Sudan. Open Sudan has a number of projects that currently focus on medical Data and medical research. The first of these projects is a database for collecting research data from medical student research results. This database is already available to the public and is used in developing programs for combating diseases in Sudan. Another project by Open Sudan is a public database concerned more with educational materials that provides Open Access to the research output of medical students and academics across Sudan. The project currently focuses on research in medicine, but there are plans to eventually make it available for other disciplines outside medicine.
I recently worked with Sadeek on a report about Open Data in the Arab World and he gave us an overview of the status of government Open Data across the Arab World. Sadeek highlighted some of the recent good examples of Open Data in the Arab world such as the websites for the Emirati National Budget Data, the Qatar and Omani Legislation Data, the Egyptian Elections Data, and the Bahraini Company Data. Sadeek explained that these success stories are strangely not part of the official government Open Data projects in these countries, but are independent run by organisations not directly concerned with Open Data. On the other hand, official government Open Data portals in the Arab World appear to be not user friendly, and the data published on them is usually out of data. Sadeek also pointed out that this problem probably arises out of the lack of understanding of the principles of Open Data by government employees in these countries, and that the principle of technically openness and legal openness must be seriously considered for government Open Data in the Arab World to achieve its potential.
Hegazy shared with us his experience working on Transport for Cairo, a project that aims to create a map for all the means of public transportation in Cairo. Hegazy shared with how ‘scale’ is the biggest problem for achieving such a project, and how his team saw the ‘Open Data’ approach as a key element for the success of Transport for Cairo, especially because having the data open can help members of the public develop applications around Transport for Cairo, can provide researchers with analytical data, and provide entrepreneurs in Egypt with new business opportunities. Hegazy’s team has been working on this project for six months now and already have a database that covers the metro details such as the map and train timing using the GTFS open standard.
Yousuf told us about his experience as a co-founder of Qanoon.om, a website for making Omani legislation data available the public. The website is the only resource that publishes all primary Omani legislation text for free on the internet. Even though the Omani government attempts to make this data available to the public, it is lacking in several areas. Yousuf noted that what makes Qanoon.om possible is the fact that the government has a legal obligation to release this data periodically and that the data is exempt from copyright protection, hence the data can be provided on Qanoon.om easily and systematically. The website is already used by thousands of people in Oman such as lawyers, civil servants, researchers and members of the public.inset
It was great to learn about the developments of “Openness” in the Arab World and to learn about the different Open Data projects in the Arab World. Like the rest of the world, members of the public in the Arab World are data-hungry and are looking forward to see their governments put more effort in this regard.
Watch the Community Call
Rachel Obbard, Assistant Professor of Engineering at Thayer School of engineering at Dartmouth, attended OpenCon 2015 and shared her experience in a two part blog post. Check out her posts on Darmouth College Library's blog: Making Opportunities for Scholarship More Open: Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education (part 1) and OpenCon: Early Career Researchers Pave the Way (part 2).
If you weren’t able to join us for OpenCon 2015 (or even if you were!), you can enjoy the inspiring, enlightening, and provocative talks from the conference through our high quality video recordings. Nearly every session was recorded, and most are complete with slides, photos, and notes.
For our final webcast of 2015 Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman joined us. Together they discussed innovation in scholarly communication and how new tools are changing researchers’ workflows.
Bianca and Jeroen are librarians at Utrecht University Library conducting a global survey on research tool usage. They also maintain a partly crowdsourced database of online tools for all phases of the research cycle. Their survey aims to empirically test researchers' choices for openness, transparency and/or efficiency in their workflows. They test this across disciplines, career stages and countries, and they have garnered 6,500 responses so far. With the survey available in 5 languages—and soon to be 7—this might be the biggest multilingual survey into how open researchers really are in their work. All results will become public, for anyone to analyze.
Watch the webcast
Take away messages
If you don’t have time to watch the whole webcast, here are some key points:
Use their database of over 500 tools to find new tools to work with, and add any tools that are not yet listed
Take their survey and spread the word about it within your community. If your institution might be interested in distributing the survey among its own researchers and getting the corresponding (anonymized) data find more info here and please get in touch!
Follow the Force11 Scholarly Commons working group to stay informed about the workshops Force11 is organizing around defining the scholarly commons. We aim to have people from around the globe involved in these workshops and the activities around them.
With Open Access Week behind us and OpenCon just a few days away, we wanted to look to the future of collaboration for our community. OpenCon aims to empower students and early career researchers to advance Open Access, Open Education and Open Data. Currently, we do this by hosting OpenCon, facilitating OpenCon satellite events, and through our community calls, webcasts and discussion list. Today, we’re happy to release a new initiative hoping to bring us closer to achieving this mission: OpenCon Community Collaborate.
OpenCon Community Collaborate accelerates the impact of ideas, individuals, projects and organizations by connecting them and providing a range of support.
Alongside our public work, behind the scenes we support a number of initiatives. When we’re working with individuals and projects looking to make an impact many of the same issues surface. Below, are some of these issues and how we want to alleviate them.
1. A lack of time, or specific skillsets,
During the OpenCon application process, we collect information on literally thousands of students and early career academic professionals who want to advance open research and education. With this data, we’ve cr eated a searchable list of 3000+ individuals that people, projects and organizations can use to find people they need to take their work forwards. The list can be filtered by interest, location and skills while protecting privacy - we’ll then help you reach out to these people.
2. Struggling to find support and resources,
We know the challenges faced in creating initiatives to advance openness, we’ve faced them ourselves, and we work through them with people daily. With this initiative we’re hoping to surface some of the support we can provide to people, and make it easier to request that from us. From strategic guidance, to advise on building websites and getting funding, we’ve done it all and want to help you do the same. We hope that other organizations that can provide assistance to projects looking to push our issues forwards might join us in doing this (get in touch).
We’ve also started to put together a resource list, not about open issues, but about turning ideas into impact, projects into progress. While the internet is certainly already useful for doing this, there are certainly some gems we’ve found that aren’t on the first page of Google. This will be released soon, but you can contribute to the list here.
3. Not being sure how to get involved in impactful projects
For many of the 3000 people mentioned above, and the thousands more who’ve been engaged through OpenCon in the past 18 months, the perfect way to really get engaged in advancing these issues hasn’t come their way (we know, because we’ve read their applications). We’d really like to change that by providing them with diverse, interesting ways to get engaged, not just petition signing and going to events. To do that, we want to build up a directory of ideas, projects, and organizations people can get involved with.
We also hope this list will show just how much fantastic work is being done in the community. So, if even if you’re not interested in getting more people engaged we hope that you’ll sign up!
OpenCon Community Collaborate is still in an early phase of development, and we’re actively looking for feedback, especially constructive criticism. We’re excited about where this initiative could go, and if you are too we’d welcome your support in helping it get there!
In the run up to OpenCon 2015, we’re holding a series of three pre-conference webcasts to update the community on Open Access, Open Data, Open Education.
We’ve invited Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC, to discuss what progress has been made toward establishing open as the default for research publications over the past year. During the webcast, Heather will touch on social, economic and political progress which has been made.
The webcast will be held on Monday, November 9th, at 11am EST, 4pm GMT, 5pm CET. Join live to ask questions and participate in the discussion online using #opencon on Twitter. If you can’t join us, leave your question in the comments now and watch the webcast later!
If you want to learn more about Open Access before the webcast, we recommend you watch our previous Open Access 101 webcast from last year.
In the run up to OpenCon 2015, we’re holding a series of three pre-conference webcasts to update the community on the conference’s issue areas. We’ve already covered Open Access and Open Data, and we’re excited to announce the Open Education webcast is coming up tomorrow 4th November at 9am EST / 3PM CET.
In the State of Open Education 2015 webcast, we’ll hear updates from the following leaders in the field:
- Nicole Allen, SPARC (@txtbks)
- Kelsey Wiens, Creative Commons (@bella_velo)
- Megan Beckett, Siyavula (@MeganBeckett2)
- Kamil Śliwowski, Polish Coalition on Open Education / CC Poland (@kasliwowski)
State of Open Education 2015 Webcast
Wednesday November 4, 2015
9am EST / 2pm GMT / 3pm CET / 11pm JST
Watch the webcast
Join live to ask questions and join the discussion online using #opencon. If you can’t join us, leave your question in the comments now!
If you want to learn more about Open Education before the webcast, we recommend you watch our previous Open Education 101 webcast from last year.