How to be an open scholar (OA week 2010)

October 24, 2010, [MD]

Open Access Week is a great idea - now in its fourth year, it really enables communities to come together across the world to promote the concept of Open Access. Last year, we had a number of very successful events at University of Toronto, I gave a talk about institutional models for OER (video,Mp3, slides), and John Willinsky (video) gave a very moving talk about how he got Stanford University's School of Education to embrace Open Access.

This year, there was another great slate of events, and I was involved in a number of them. One of the talks I gave was about "What it means to be an open scholar". I gave three versions of this talk, a shorter one that was more focused on my own experiments, and ideas for others to try, at UT Scarborough, and a longer one, where I added a section about "future trends in scholarly communications", at the OISE/UT library. This final talk was video-recorded, and both the synced video+slides, as well as the slides themselves on Slideshare, are available.

This is a new talk that I have never done before, and it was a lot of fun putting it together. Much of my time as an OA advocate is spent trying to get people to deposit their works in T-Space, our institutional repository, and explaining the basics of Open Access, including green and gold OA. I did mention this briefly in the beginning of the talk, but most of my talk was trying to push the boundaries. Because while it's important to get all of our existing journal articles out there, a huge Web 1.0 database of PDFs isn't really that exciting.

So I started out with a quote from Academic Evolution, defining an "open scholar":

The Open Scholar, as I'm defining this person, is not simply someone who agrees to allow free access and reuse of his or her traditional scholarly articles and books; no, the Open Scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it--at any stage of its development.

I started out with T-Space, and showed that people are actually getting to the articles there through some very interesting pathways, including Wikipedia articles. The problem is that there is little or no statistic exposed to the authors, so professors will never know that their article is linked from a Wikipedia article, a blog, or even an undergraduate course syllabus. I think exposing this could create some very excited self-archiving evangelists - people like to be read.

I then discussed some of my own publishing experiments. The first was the translation of my BA thesis into Indonesian, based on my an early blog post where I speculated about creating a "fair trade logo" for academic research, of which one of the requirements would be to make your research available in the language of the people you researched.  I showed some interesting statistics, showing that the vast majority of people who had downloaded the thesis, had been from Indonesia.

I then discussed my ongoing efforts at sharing my MA research on the Chinese Top Level Courses Project. I have made the thesis available in many formats, including ePub, and I'm in the process of blogging the thesis right here.

I used another quote by Academic Evolution to talk about sharing not only the final polished output of your research, but also the many artifacts that are generated during the research:

The current Open Access model is provisioning for legacy genres and formats of scholarly communication. That's great for archival purposes, but this is not the next real destination for scholarly discourse. Why? Because consequential intellectual work takes place in myriad ways outside of traditional scholarly genres, that's why, and the digital realm is ready to capture, organize, value, and disseminate those other ways of generating knowledge.

I gave as example a Wikipedia article I've written about OpenCourseWare in Japan. This is based on material from my thesis, but it's not the main topic of the thesis - people interested in information about this would probably not download my entire thesis, but this way they can easily find it on Wikipedia - I even had citations, which Wikipedia loves.

I then talked about opening up the research process, giving a number of examples of Open Notebook Science, and mentioning the concept of distributed citizen science projects, for example the Wikiversity Bloom Clock project. As an example of somebody who has really opened up their PhD research process, I showed Cormac's PhD wiki, where he has put up all his research notes, including detailed notes from meetings with his supervisor. I noted that these kinds of attempts at opening up the process of research are not only useful to other people in the field, but can be a great resource for students who are curious about the scientific process.

I made the case for having an online profile, for example my page listing all my publications and presentations, and also made the point that I feel that I understand much better the research trajectories and "big ideas" of some open scholars that I have never even met physically, compared to some of the researchers in my own institutions who I see every day (I explored this further in this blog post). I also talked about my use of Slideshare and Twitter.

For the future of scholarly publishing (here my the formatting of my slides got mangled), I picked out a few key trends. I posited that we will need to recognize new forms of scholarship in the future, one of these could be curation, of which I think the blog Sociological Images is a great example. I discussed the shift from journal metrics to article metrics, and used PLoS One as an example. I mentioned experiments with open peer review, the idea of journal disaggregation, and in talking about getting away from PDFs, cited some of Anita De Waard's work on semantic markup. Finally, I used the Guardian datablog as an example of linked data, both sharing more data in usable formats, and linking these directly to the journal articles.

Putting together the presentation was a lot of fun, and I have been inspired by so many in the Open Access field. I got lot's of inspiration from my participation at ElPub 2009 and OAI6, as well as lots of great OA bloggers and open activists in general.


Stian Håklev October 24, 2010 Toronto, Canada
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