What do brain machine interfaces and Open Science have in common?
They are two examples of concepts that I never thought I would get to see materialised in my lifetime. I was wrong.
I had heard of the idea of Open Access as Public Library of Science was about to launch (or was in its early infancy) . It was about that time that I moved to New Zealand and was not able to go to conferences as frequently as I did in the USA, and couldn’t afford having an internet connection at home. Email communication (especially when limited to work hours) does not promote the same kind of chitter-chatter you might have as you wait in cue for your coffee – and so my work moved along, somewhat oblivious to what was going to become a big focus for me later on: Open Science.
About 6 years ofter moving to New Zealand things changed. Over a coffee with Nat Torkington, I became aware of some examples of people working in science embracing a more open attitude. This conversation had a big impact on me. Someone whom I never met before described me a whole different way of doing science. This resonated (strongly) because what he described were the ideals I had at the start of my journey; ideals that were slowly eroded by the demands of the system around me. By 2009 I had found a strong group of people internationally that were working to make this happen, and who inspired me to try to do something locally. And the rest is history.
What resonated with me about “Open Science” is the notion that knowledge is not ours to keep – that it belongs in the public domain where it can be a driver for change. I went to a free of fees University and we fought hard to keep it that way. Knowledge was a right and sharing knowledge was our duty. I moved along my career in parallel with shrinking funding pots and a trend towards academic commodification. The publish or perish mentality, the fears of being back-stabbed if one shares to early or too often, the idea of the research article placed in the “well-branded” journal, and the “paper” as a measure of one’s worth as a scientist all conspire to detract us from exploring open collaborative spaces. The world I walked into around 2009 was seeking to do away with all this nonsense. I have tried to listen and learn as much as I can, sometimes I even dared to put in my 2 cents or ask questions.
How to make it happen?
The biggest hurdle I have found is that I don’t do my work in isolation. As much as I might want to embrace Open Science, when the work is collaborative I am not the one that makes the final call. In a country as small as New Zealand it is difficult to find the critical mass at the intersection of my research interests (and knowledge) and the desire to do work in the open space. If you want to collaborate with the best, you may not be able to be picky on the shared ethos. This is particularly true for those struggling with building a career and getting a permanent position, the advice of those at the hiring table will always sound louder.
The reward system seems at times to be stuck in a place where incentives are (at all levels) stacked against Open Science; “rewards” are distributed at the “researcher” level. Open Research is about a solution to a problem, not to someone’s career advancement (although that should come as a side-effect). It is not surprising then how little value is placed in whether one’s science can be replicated or re-used. Once the paper is out and the bean drops in the jar, our work is done. I doubt that even staffing committees or those evaluating us will even care about pulling those research outputs and reading them to assess their value – if they did we would not need to have things like Impact Factors, h-index and the rest. And here is the irony – we struggle to brand our papers to satisfy a rewards system that will never look beyond its title. At the same time those who care about the content and want to reuse it are limited by whichever restrictions we chose to put at the time of publishing.
So what do we do?
I think we need to be sensitive to the struggle of those that might want to embrace open science, but are trying to negotiate the assessment requirements of their careers. Perhaps getting more people who embrace these principles at staffing and research University Committees might at least provide the opportunity to ask the right questions about “value” and at the right time. If we can get more open minded stances at the hiring level, this will go far in changing people’s attitudes at the bench.
I, for one, find myself in a relatively good position. My continuation was approved a few weeks ago, so I won’t need to face the staffing committee except for promotion. A change in title might be nice – but it is not a deal-breaker, like tenure. I have tried to open my workflow in the past, and learned enough from the experience, and will keep trying until I get it right. I am slowly seeing the shift in my colleagues’ attitudes – less rolling of eyes, a bit more curiosity. For now, let’s call that progress.
I came to meet in person many of those who inspired me through the online discussions since 2009, and they have always provided useful advice, but more importantly support. Turning my workflow to “Open” has been as hard as I anticipated. I have failed more than I have succeeded but always learned something from the experience. And one question that keeps me going is:
What did the public give you the money for?
2012 was a really interesting year for Open Research.
The year started with a boycott to Elsevier (The Cost of Knowledge) , soon followed in May by a petition at We The People in the US, asking the US government to “Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.”. By June we had The Royal Society publishing a paper on “science as an open enterprise” [pdf] saying:
The opportunities of intelligently open research data are exemplified in a number of areas of science.With these experiences as a guide, this report argues that it is timely to accelerate and coordinate change, but in ways that are adapted to the diversity of the scientific enterprise and the interests of: scientists, their institutions, those that fund, publish and use their work and the public.
The Finch report had a large share of media coverage [pdf] -
Our key conclusion, therefore, is that a clear policy direction should be set to support the publication of research results in open access or hybrid journals funded by APCs. A clear policy direction of that kind from Government, the Funding Councils and the Research Councils would have a major effect in stimulating, guiding and accelerating the shift to open access.
By July the UK government announced the support for the Open Access recommendations from the Finch Report to ensure:
Walk-in rights for the general public, so they can have free access to global research publications owned by members of the UK Publishers’ Association, via public libraries. [and] Extending the licensing of access enjoyed by universities to high technology businesses for a modest charge.
The Research Councils OK joined by publishing a policy on OA (recently updated) that required [pdf] :
Where the RCUK OA block grant is used to pay Article Processing Charges for a paper, the paper must be made Open Accesess immediately at the time of on line publication, using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.
By the time that Open Access Week came around, there was plenty to discuss. The discussion of Open Access emphasised more strongly the re-use licences under which the work was published. The discussion also included some previous analysis showing that there are benefits from publishing in Open Access that affect economies:
adopting this model could lead to annual savings of around EUR 70 million in Denmark, EUR 133 in The Netherlands and EUR 480 million in the UK.
And in November, the New Zealand Open Source Awards recognised Open Science fro the first time too.
2013 promises not to fall behind
This year offers good opportunities to celebrate local and international advocates of Open Science.
The Obama administration not only responded to last year’s petition by issuing a memorandum geared towards making Federally funded research adopt open access policies, but is now also seeking “Outstanding Open Science Champions of Change” . Nominations for this close on May 14, 2013. Simultaneously, The Public Library of Science, Google and the Wellcome Trust , together with a number of allies are sponsoring the “Accelerating Science Award Program” which seeks to recognise and reward individuals, groups or projects that have used Open Access scientific works in innovative manners. The deadline for this award is June 15.
Last year Peter Griffin wrote:
The policy shift in the UK will open up access to the work of New Zealand scientists by default as New Zealanders are regularly co-authors on papers paid for by UK Research Councils funds. But hopefully it will also lead to some introspection about our own open access policies here.
There was some reflection at the NZAU Open Research Conference which led to the Tasman Declaration – (which I encourage you to sign) and those of us who were involved in it are hoping good things will come out of it. While that work continues, I will be revisiting the nominations of last years Open Science category for the NZ Open Source Awards to make my nominations for the two awards mentioned above.
I certainly look forward to this year – I will continue to work closely with Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand and with NZ AU Open Research to make things happen, and continue to put my 2 cents as an Academic Editor for PLOS ONE and PeerJ.
There is no question that the voice of Open Access is now loud and clear – and over the last year it has also become a voice that is not only being heard, but that it also generating the kinds of responses that will lead to real change.
I just came back from another amazing kiwi foo. I have talked about it before, so I will not bore you with the details of what kiwi foo is all about. This time, unlike other years, I went with a very focused view of what I wanted to achieve. And it was as stimulating as ever.
Over the past year, I have gone into a rather quiet reflexion of what ‘open science’ is and how to make it work. I have become increasingly frustrated with a model of science that increasingly rewards self-promotion rather than knowledge sharing. And the emerging theme of my reflexion was ‘context’.
If we want a ‘global’ open science, the formula for adoption needs to be able to adapt to local personal, institutional, social, political, economical and legislative contexts. I may be wrong, but I think many of us who support open science struggle at times with how to make it work in the particular contexts in which we need to operate.
As I was struggling with the frustration of the commodification of science over the past two years, I started thinking about the open source community. I can’t blame universities for encouraging scientists to produce revenue at a time when public funding for education are research appear to be in constant decline. So I went to Webstock a year ago to try to learn more about how open source projects generate revenue. After all, their business models are built around giving their ‘product’ away for free, something that is well aligned with the ethos of science. One of my highlights at kiwi foo was a conversation with Don Christie from CatalystIT, a company that produces high quality open source software. I am looking forward to continuing this conversation and exploring how these business models can be adapted to the different demands and constraints for science. I got a lot of insight from him, and am hoping he and people like him can help us move forward.
On the second day (or rather the first long day) there were a few sessions that centered around science. Great things came out of it, and it would be impossible to name everyone that provided insight. Nick Jones, Leonie Hayes, Alex Holcombe , Alison Stringer and I partnered in crime and ran a couple of sessions where we hashed a few issues around. I personally wanted to explore what Open Science meant in the New Zealand / Australia context (I can’t speak for the others’ motivations!). I think that the local context in NZ/OZ is slightly different than in the Northern hemisphere and there are some things that differentiate this region. Perhaps we can/should capitalise on that.
For example, you will never see a ‘Research Works Act’ bill here, because we don’t seem to have Open Access mandates. Instead, we have NZGOAL and AUSGOAL which are frameworks for data licencing. The Australians have ANDS and NZ has eResearch, all focused on the data. Tim O’Reilly mentioned the PantonPrinciples in this context – but the Panton Principles (which I have personally endoresed) cannot be exported ‘as is’ to Australia and New Zealand because neither Creative Commons Aotearoa-New Zealand nor CC-Australiahave CC0, for example. Software hopefully will not be covered by patents
is covered by copyright (not patents) in NZ*, so maybe we can capitalise on that to develop tools for open science. New Zealand has a Treaty of Waitangi, and any local open science needs to respect and work constructively to meet our treaty obligations. Lets add to that, that different research groups are going to be subject to obligations related to the international treaties their countries have signed up to. We all have different copyright restrictions and freedoms, we have different systems that determine how to assign funding, and different mandates and guidelines, and are at different points of our careers with different job securities.
So, how do we make open science work within these diverse contexts? We can all agree on the philosophy, but perhaps we need to also agree that the implementation will take different shapes. I think wee need to continue the global conversation and continue to support each other, but we also need to start working locally in smaller groups to ‘make things happen’. And the battles we choose to fight perhaps should be aligned with local contexts so that we can each capitalise on our strengths. I loved having this dialogue at kiwi foo, getting great insights from a diverse group, and mainly feeling that this is something for which we have support.
The rest of the things that happened at kiwi foo will slowly seep into future posts.
I would really like to thank Jenine, Nat Torkington and Russell Brown for putting kiwi foo together (and inviting me!), my partners in crime Alex, Nick, Alison, and Leonie for their hard work on the sessions, all the attendees for their contributions and especially Tim O’Reilly for providing us with valuable insights. You all have complicated my life, but I look forward to a 2012 of hard work and of ‘making things happen’.
*Edited on 16/2/2012 to reflect the correction made by @kayakr (thanks for that!). I was thinking of this bill: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/latest/DLM1419230.html (which is probably the one that @kayakr refers to as pending legislation)
[also posted in http://www.science3point0.com/evomri/2011/05/03/drafting-proposals-in-the-open-sketching-out-project-ideas/] This post is licenced under a CC0
“Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose.” Vannevar Bush, 1945
As announced last week, we – Fabiana Kubke and Daniel Mietchen – are currently participating in the Getting your CC project funded course at Peer-to-Peer University, and have decided to draft our proposal collaboratively and in the open. Part of our motivation is our (and others’) perceived need for making scientific information more useful by positioning it where it can be easily found, used, linked to, repurposed, and updated.
The introductory meeting of the course took place on April 26 (UTC) via Skype. We have since incorporated some of the feedback we got so far, and in this post – which Claudia Koltzenburg helped us draft – we will outline the next steps in the hope to entice others to get involved as well.
- May 3, Workshop 1: How do we move from having an idea to realizing those ideas in terms of having aims, and goals?
- May 6, Workshop 2: Which funding bodies are there that can give financial support, and how do we find appropriate sponsors for our project?
- May 10, Workshop 3: How can we structure our proposed work in terms of tasks and how do we make a realistic timeline?
- May 17, Workshop 4: Knowing how long time we estimate, and the resources we need, how do we put together a reasonable budget?
- May 24, Workshop 5: What happens after the funding period is over? How do we make the project sustainable?
- May 31, Workshop 6: What would we look at when reviewing another proposal.
The grant proposals are to be drafted in parallel to these workshops until June, when the proposals produced will be peer-reviewed, and professional feedback will be provided to increase the chances of getting funded. In preparation for today’s workshop, we will use this post to explore the aims and goals of our project(s).
The candidate projects in a nutshell
The ideas submitted as part of the application for the course all center around what could be thought of as an Encyclopaedia of original research, which shall therefore be the default focus of the grant proposal (as idea 1). Two smaller projects (ideas 2 and 3) build on idea 1 but are more specific and could thus be integrated into a proposal about idea 1, or developed independently, whereas idea 4 is wider in scope than idea 1. We expect the final scope of our grant proposal to be defined more precisely before attending Workshop 3.
“In the academy [..] we need to recognise an ethical obligation [...] which is at the core of our mission which is universal access to knowledge.” Larry Lessig, in the video embedded below, which is CC-BY-licensed.
Idea 1: The primary aim of the Encyclopaedia of original research (henceforth EOR) is to arrange the existing scientific literature in a way that allows it to become dynamic in nature. The primary goal is to develop a platform that is able to capture and archive the open scientific literature such that the original work is being preserved (like at arXive or PubMed Central) but becomes dynamically and collaboratively editable (like at OpenWetWare). By way of such a platform, scientists and others could share their knowledge more effectively than through papers: Work on related matters could be more easily identified and conceptualized, and so could gaps in knowledge. Besides the possibility for direct editing, facilities for annotation, commenting and other ways of interaction with the community of researchers in the field would ensure the widest possible peer review.
The Encyclopaedia of original research combines two of the principles for open science that have been put forward by Science Commons: it takes the “Open Access” literature and recognizes that it too – like data – is a lost opportunity “without structure and annotation”. The characteristics of the platform that would contain the encyclopaedia are complex: it needs to track individual contributions to enable proper attribution, the content needs to be granular enough to be able to be cite individual elements within an entire piece, individual pieces of works or elements within it need to be able to be dynamically linked, indexed and contextualized, and the metadata needs to be structured to enhance discoverability, an attribute that is essential for reuse. The user interface also needs to be suitable for the different technological levels of knowledge or levels of comfort appropriate for individual scientists, so that technology is not a barrier for adoption and/or contribution.
We expect that the encyclopaedia will benefit science by helping to avoid duplication of research efforts (and related funding), providing a faster means of updating information otherwise delayed by prevalent publication cycles or not deemed “worthy” of formal publication (practical example case) and promoting the open discussion of research findings in light of new evidence.
Idea 2: The aim here is to take advantage of such a repository to facilitate the delivery of scientific and health-related information to remote areas where this information may not be readily available but where access to it is essential for the well-being of those communities. What we imagine is that the above EOR could incorporate (or lead to) lay summaries (similar to AcaWiki of the scientific literature or such as those that already exist in blogs) as part of its knowledge base and both the original research as the lay summaries can be translated to local languages. Specific content that is relevant to specific world regions (e.g., malaria in Africa, Chagas in South America) can be bundled in formats that are compatible with existing local technology. One way to at least partially achieve this goal is to bundle region-relevant information so that it can take advantage of ongoing deployments associated with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and where it can reach the communities that would benefit most from that research.
Idea 3: The aim here is to take advantage of the infrastructure of the EOR (and part of the information contained within it) to complement (or support) digital collections not typically considered part of the scientific “literature”, e.g. from museums or databases. Take, for example this artifact from the Matapihi digital collection. The interaction of the user with the digital object could be enhanced by linking it to different representations of the same specimen (say, an MRI scan), or to relevant scientific information pertaining to similar specimens. It could further be brought back to life by linking it to other cultural artifacts: for instance, ‘Have specific works of poetry or music been inspired by these types of specimens?’, or ‘Are there local traditions or myths that are associated with the artifact?’, or ‘Is there a personal notebook of the individual who brought this specimen to where it is? As an example, this other digital object from the New Zealand National Library presents not just the artifact but the cultural context of what the object represents and how it relates to the local cultural heritage.
The fate of these ideas will depend on how the grant writing develops; the project as a whole could be shrunk to either of these projects (or similar ones), or these projects could be spinned off or retired.
Idea 4: The project could in principle also be expanded in scope, e.g. to test the efficiency of open versus traditional science. However, in order to produce a competitive grant on this big issue, we would require considerable support from beyond our current team of three.
The next steps
By May 10, we will need to identify in a first instance the type (or types) of funding bodies that would be suitable (at least in principle) to fund and/or sponsor the project. We would like to invite feedback and suggestions for that part of the process as well. For that purpose, we have set up a page on Wikiversity were we will be aggregating the relevant feedback we receive, and draft the next blog post in this series.
We would also like to invite feedback on which platform would be most suitable for the drafting of the full proposal. Different wiki spaces seem to be appropriate, as are Google Docs, but the idea of drafting it on GitHub is also on the table.
[By Fabiana Kubke and Daniel Mietchen, Original post in
This is the first of a series of initially 5 posts in which we – Fabiana Kubke, Daniel Mietchen, and anyone interested to join us – are planning to reflect on a number of projects related to science in the digital age. We have applied for (and admitted to) the Getting your CC project funded course at P2P University that started today and is scheduled to help participants on their way to submission-ready grant proposals by mid-July.
Default to open
The underlying assumption is that open collaborative environments would have a positive impact on science and the relationship between science and society.
“I definitely believe that science in general is more effective the more open people are,” says evolutionary biologist Jonathan Eisen of the University of California (UC), Davis, who keeps much of his research open. “There are unquestionably risks for people that come with [openness], but the benefits to society are enormous. Given that taxpayers are paying for our work, I think that the default should be to be open unless you can prove that it’s a bad idea.” 
The ultimate goal of defaulting to ‘open’, as Eisen suggests, requires suitable (and sustainable) collaborative environments with low adoption barriers. The initial focus must therefore be on how to ‘build’ those environments (or on how to re-purpose existing technology to serve this goal).
Reusing and repurposing existing knowledge
“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.” Paulo Freire
What we want to address is how to encourage the re-use and re-purposing (Freire’s re-invention) of scientific knowledge through collaboration between the scientific community and the wider society. This ‘invention and re-invention’ is currently hindered by the traditional systems through which science operates: closed notebooks, manuscripts behind pay-walls, no access to the primary data, etc., and especially copyright and licensing limitations. This inevitably leads to duplication of efforts that could otherwise be avoided if the processes were to be made more open. (See also .)
One place to start is by making existing scientific literature licenced under Creative Commons (or other open licenses) available in ways such that it can be edited, updated, commented upon and re-purposed. The goal is to shift the scientific literature from its current static format to a more dynamic one that is more aligned with both how science is done and how information is used.
The bigger picture
“Increasing the number of things you have can be useful, but increasing the amount of knowledge you have can be transformative.” Clay Shirky 
The general scheme of how we think of the bigger picture is here :
We see science as providing information; but that information can only be transformed into knowledge when the different spheres of society can interact with it in a usable manner. One crucial initial step is to make the information available in a way that allows diversifying the ways in which information/knowledge is being put to use so that it can have the desired transformative effect.
How are we planning to achieve (some of) this?
One proposal on how to achieve openness in scientific information was led by Daniel Mietchen and took the shape of the COASPedia project that aimed to “demonstrate to the scientific community that scientific articles published online under CC-BY-licenses can be arranged in a different and — importantly — more efficient manner than those published in classical journals.” The COASPedia project – initially presented at COASP 2010 – was a finalist in the Wissenswert initiative of Wikimedia Deutschland, but did not get funded.
We have now signed up (and were accepted into) a course on “Getting your cc-project funded”, run by P2PU. The course starts on April 26th, and we will be working on expanding on the original project during the course and after and drafting a proposal to get the project funded. To be admitted into the course we had to offer 3 ideas; each will specifically be described (and opened for discussion) in each of the following posts. They all sit around the concept of a basic repository (whatever shape this may take).
“Hence, in the name of the ‘preservation of culture and knowledge’ we have a system which achieves neither true knowledge nor true culture.” Paulo Freire 
This basic framework of our ideas for the course is not too different from what was proposed in the original COASPedia proposal: What we would like is for information to become useable, findable, and linkable while still capturing not only the original work but also the different contributions and their authors (i.e., preserving the cultural heritage of science). The 2 other ideas sit more specifically around how the usability, findability and linkability can help transform the way we relate with the information at hand.
The ultimate goal is not simply a modernisation of the way that information is made available, we also hope to capture the possibilities that this modernisation affords to improve the outcomes of science as a whole – with respect to how it interacts with society, how it becomes transformed into knowledge, and how it becomes part of our cultural heritage. Or in Shirky;’s words:
“what matters now is not the new capabilities we have but how we turn those capabilities, both technical and social, into opportunities” (emphasis added)
In the spirit of openness, we will keep the entire drafting process as open as possible, so as to invite feedback and other contributions from early on.
In order to help us identify the platforms that are best suited to a collaborative writing process of this kind, we will use this series of blog posts to experiment a bit with several potential drafting environments.
An aggregated view of the project will be maintained at https://tuhura.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/mahara/view/view.php?id=295.
Footnotes and references:
We will link directly where possible, and use the endnotes mainly to store the metadata of some key references.
 Wald, C. (2010). Scientists Embrace Openness. Science. doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1000036
 Quote was taken from Freire, P. (1985). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth Middlesex: Penguin. A website devoted to this work (http://www.pedagogyoftheoppressed.com/) has useful information on both the author and the text.
 Radder, H. (2010). The commodification of academic research : science and the modern university. Pittsburgh Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press.
 In Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive surplus : creativity and generosity in a connected age. London: Allen Lane. (ISBN 978-1-846-14218-5) (see book review here)
 This mindmap began as a discussion with Tabitha Roder over a NZ olpc testing session in Auckland. These ideas were thrown into a prezi and the derived mindmap now includes modifications suggested by Claudia Koltzenburg