Today, we’re announcing a shift in how SPARC supports OpenCon to reflect the OpenCon community’s evolution. Instead of hosting a global conference in 2019, we will focus on laying the long-term foundation for the OpenCon community, and will host a reconfigured global meeting in 2020. This decision was driven by the community’s commitment to put equity at the core of its work and represents the culmination of OpenCon’s first five years.
Since launching in 2014, OpenCon has grown from an idea into a global community of next generation leaders working to make research and education more open and equitable. Driven by these emerging leaders, OpenCon has evolved into a global network that has now hosted events in 44 countries and 24 unique languages, reaching more than 9,500 participants. Community members have helped advance open policies at all levels, launched projects and organizations, built new tools, and fostered the adoption of open practices in their local communities. Throughout these efforts, OpenCon’s community has made it clear that equity is essential and inclusion is non-negotiable, and that these values must be built into the foundation of this work—not added on afterward.
From the beginning, the aspirations for open research and open education have been connected to equity: the idea that open systems can be fairer than closed ones and should be explicitly built to address the causes of marginalization. As open research and open education transition from aspiration to implementation, we have an unprecedented opportunity. In redesigning systems for creating and sharing knowledge to be open, we can address deep inequities in the current system.
The decisions we make now—as individuals and organizations—and the values those decisions reflect will determine whether the promise of creating fundamentally inclusive systems is delivered or deferred. Openness can enable equity, but does not ensure it. Equity can only be achieved by design, with accountability, and in partnership with those who have been excluded.
Pursuing this opportunity for equitable, open systems for research and education has become the focus of the OpenCon community. The next generation leaders have taught us that the current time of transition isn’t just a bridge to what comes next. It will define the contours of what the future will look like and what is possible, and we cannot wait to act. Over the next year, we will prioritize aligning how we support the OpenCon community with this focus, a process that will require deep engagement with both the OpenCon network as well as established projects and organizations committed to this work.
The structure of the next global OpenCon meeting will reflect this shift. In the second half of 2020, we will bring OpenCon’s international network of emerging leaders together with more established community leaders to explore ways to advance open research and education that put equity at the core. The goal is to move from conversations to commitments and to create accountability in making progress together.
The OpenCon community represents a global network of leaders who are well placed to assist institutions and projects committed to equity. They can serve as a conduit with underrepresented groups to address inclusion and provide the expertise and feedback necessary for organizations to review their own actions and make internal changes in this area. We will engage OpenCon’s robust network of community-hosted events and calls to catalyze local conversations around the world ahead of the next global meeting, with the goal of surfacing local priorities to weave into the discussions and actions at the 2020 event.
Evolving how we sustain OpenCon over the long term is also a priority. Since its start, OpenCon has relied on annual sponsorships for core support. The generous support from dozens of institutions and organizations has made OpenCon possible to this point, and the flexibility of this model has helped OpenCon to evolve; however, this model also has limitations. Over the next year, we will also focus on developing a long-term sustainability plan to provide the support the community needs.
This is just the beginning of the conversation we hope to have about what’s next for OpenCon, and the community’s input throughout this work will be essential. To start this process, we will have two open calls to provide more context on this shift for OpenCon and to begin to get feedback from the community. The first will take place at 16:00 GMT on August 21st (timezone translator here | register here) followed by a second at 09:00 GMT on August 22nd (timezone translator here | register here).
We’ve seen firsthand the leadership the next generation is already providing in building systems for research and education that are equitable by default, and we believe there is nothing more important than supporting this leadership to make progress together. We hope you will join us.