Building Blogs of Science

Kiwi foo’s eye view of Open Science

Posted in Health and Medicine, Science, Science and Society by kubke on February 13, 2012

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 AotearoaNew Zealand nor CCAustraliahave 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: (which is probably the one that @kayakr refers to as pending legislation)

7 Responses

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  1. Kiwi foo’s eye view of Open Science said, on February 20, 2012 at 12:44

    […] the details of what kiwi foo is all about. This time, unlike other years, I went with a ve…Via Share this:ShareStumbleUponDiggFacebookEmailPrintReddit Posted by George Uncategorized […]

  2. Mark McGuire said, on February 16, 2012 at 21:22

    Hi Kubke

    Very good overview of the complexity of the issues around Open. During her visit to Otago today, Jane Hornibrook mentioned an initiative that seems to be in the planning stages for a get together in June in Auckland. The aim is to gather people in the tertiary sector in NZ together to exchange notes and collaborate on strategies to increase institutional support for the use of CC and open data, journals, publishing, courses, etc. Here in Dunedin, we have the Otago Polytechnic charging ahead with various projects (including an institutional policy for CC-BY as a default licence on all teaching material, and the OERu effort at the OER Foundation). The University fo Otago admin. doesn’t seem very interested (perhaps they can’t see how it supports their strategic objectives). In any case, developing links between institutions at lover levels is certainly a good idea. There are a lot of Open advocates at Otago, but we don’t all know each other. It must be similar at Auckland.

    Thanks for the post and the links, which are very useful.


    • kubke said, on February 17, 2012 at 10:09

      Thanks Mark for your positive feedback. I am really interested in following what Otago is doing in the open space. I am also glad to hear there is a plan for a get together in June, I will follow up with jane on that and see whether I can be of any use for her. One of the things that I walked away after a year of reflection, is exactly that, the local community needs to sit in a room and figure out how we can do this within the frameworks of or local pressures, like, as you indicate, the strategic objectives of our institutions. You might want to consider attending the eresearch symposium, there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in that space, and a nice inclusion of the GLAM sector. Russell Briggs, from Auckland Museum, for example, who was at kiwifoo was keen on sharing their learned lessons with the rest of us. I think that NZ is reaching critical mass to get things going, if we only could just find each other! The Open Otago blog I think is a great initiative to start aggregating like- minds

      I also like that you point out the educational sector. Indeed, I am a big fan of the work that OERu and OER (including Otago Polytechnic) are doing. There were interesting conversations about education too at kiwifoo – but I had left that for another post.

      • Mark McGuire said, on February 19, 2012 at 17:01

        Hi Kubke

        I’ve heard about the the eresearch symposiums, but I’ve never attended one. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the next one. Jane Hornibrook, and a few others, mentioned the kiwifoo. I think the Auckland CC event might be something along the lines a BarCamp. A group of us @ Otago are putting in a proposal for the Internet Research 13 conference ( for a “Fishbowl”. And they will have Ignites, too. I think we are going to need a shared glossary so we can make sure we all know what we are talking about. Maybe someone should upload a Pecha Kucha on the topic.

        I’m following developments @ Otago Polytechnic. The 2 OERu meetings were streamed and archived. Otago University had a representative at the first one, but not @ the second. The different approached of the two institutions is very interesting, and it reflects fundamentally different strengths and business strategies.

        We have a terrific collection of Open academics and staff (and students!) here at Otago as well as at the Polytechnic, and I’m sure you have good people at Auckland Uni, too. The trouble is, we don’t all know where the others are or what they are doing, because we are spread out all over the country (and beyond). There is no one institution, organization, department, discipline, or administrative area where “Open” is located (I suppose that’s the idea – Open, in the best sense, is also Distributed). The opportunities for improving what we do (research, teaching, administration – even building new collaborative structures) is immense. I think we can have a lot of fun seeing what we can do when we work together with clear objectives and a carefully thought out plan that makes the most of Open and Distributed structures, processes, and practices.

        I’m following your blog and Twitter messages, and I’ll keep you in the loop regarding developments here @ Otago that may have relevance further afield.


      • kubke said, on February 19, 2012 at 17:52

        Hi Mark, I think you are right – we need to be better connected. There are enough of us out there, but I think we operate in such diverse disciplines that as individuals it is hard not to feel a bit isolated. I think the eResearch group ( tracks some developments very well, and I do recommend attending the symposium – I have attended the previous 2 and have been a great investment in time. I am yet to contact Jane from @CC-Aotearoa to see what you are planning and see if I can help her in any way – an unconference would be great (even if only part of the event took that format). I have given a couple of PechaKuchas and an ignite that are relevant to open science, but I can guarantee there are better talks there that I can direct you to! In the meantime, if this video is of any use to you guys we have placed it in the public domain (for obvious reasons!).

        I am liking what I saw in the @OpenOtago setup – but it might be worthwhile to have something more national. Indeed there are some cool people here in Auckland – but perhaps Otago has a similar problem of having a bit of trouble finding each other and identifying the adequate space to work from. There were some ideas dropped at kiwi foo, and we may have more concrete around sorting out some of those issues soon!
        I’d love to hear what you are planning for the Internet Research Conference – being in the UK it is unlikely I will be able to go!

        And thanks for following the blog and twitter!

  3. Jonathan Hunt (@kayakr) said, on February 14, 2012 at 08:12

    Good post Fabiana. Unfortunately, software is covered by patents in NZ and there are some poor examples of patents being granted for common practice (such as CSS and Javascript aggregation for a content management system). There is pending legislation to remove patentability for software but it’s yet to be passed into law (and it may yet be thrown under a bus to support TPP).

    • kubke said, on February 14, 2012 at 09:31

      Ha! thanks for that clarification – It was my understanding that it was the other way around. (trying to introduce a bill to get the patentability). Will look into the legislation again.

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