OpenCon: Early Career Researchers Pave the Way

OpenCon 2015 graphicPosted on behalf of Rachel Obbard, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

Part 2 of 2 on what I learned at OpenCon 2015: Background and Open Access
(Read Part 1: Making Opportunities for Scholarship More Open: Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education)

Open Data

This is the second part of a two-part blog on the ideas I took away from OpenCon 2015. OpenCon is an annual conference where attendees work towards developing a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data.

A major topic of OpenCon 2015 in November was the difficult area of open data.

Data is open when it is publicly available and structured so that it is fully accessible and usable. In the U.S. (and in many European nations) there is a federal governmental push toward open data practices. Here, the White House Open Government Initiative has already trickled down into agency initiatives (for example, see http://www.nsf.gov/data/), grant requirements, and proposal guidelines. The deliberate structuring of data to be discoverable and usable is as important as the accessibility of the data itself. Agencies, repositories, and scientific communities are all working on developing common metadata terms so that users can more efficiently find data.  If you are hosting datasets yourself, you may be interested in a service of the Dartmouth Library to enable you to have DOIs for your datasets, an important aspect of making a dataset public and citable.  Having well-documented open data is a major path towards making it easier for you to get credit for your research, too.

Some of the challenges of Open Data include:

  • The sheer volume and increasing rate of data being produced
  • The lack of infrastructure and funding, not only for collecting, processing, and archiving data, but for maintaining those archives
  • The difficulty of data discovery across different repositories/registries, platforms, and data sets. Data discovery systems are still overly simplistic and catalog/registry-based OR very heavy weight and top-down
  • Development of data access systems is divergent in terms of infrastructure, data standards and conventions, and format
  • The long tail of data. Some data is open, managed, and usable. Even more is open but poorly managed or requiring the original authors’ assistance to use, but the vast majority is not openly accessible, not managed. It is still in individuals’ notebooks, hard drives, and thumb drives!

Practical (and sometimes required) Steps

  1. What can we do? As individual scholars, we can make a point of uploading our data to our institutional repositories, as well as to discipline-specific ones.  Most of these are members of world data centers or network data centers, umbrella bodies representing groups of data stewardship organizations with search services across multiple repositories. Figuring out which repository to use can be daunting to new researchers, but a librarian can help you.
  1. If you are applying for funding from government agencies or private foundations, you will probably be required to describe how you will make data publicly available in a data management plan. At Dartmouth, the Library, the Office of Sponsored Projects, and ITS have collaborated on implementing the Data Management Plan Tool. This is a very useful resource for those of us writing research proposals, as it provides not only data management plan formats for many agencies, but actual sample data management plans as well.
  1. Familiarize yourself with and use Creative Commons designations, so the right to use and republish your data is unambiguous and users know how to do the right thing. For guidelines see https://creativecommons.org/. To embed Creative Commons licenses directly into Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents, see CC Word Add-in.
  1. Help spread the word. Many scholars are resistant to sharing data because of fears that they will be scooped, or that their data will be used without attribution or even misused. I can’t say this won’t happen; I’ve seen it. But chances are that the benefits to society of sharing your data will outweigh the disadvantages. You know your data far better than other people. Even with good annotation, it is difficult to use someone else’s data. If other scholars find something you missed, then you probably weren’t going to see it anyway. What’s more, they may have a way of using it that is completely orthogonal to your purpose and will generate new knowledge.
  1. Institutions and agencies can also proactively make data archiving and metadata creation easier for scientists, improve sharing and collaboration infrastructure, and provide funding for data curation.

Open Educational Resources

We all know how expensive textbooks can be! At community colleges, the books often cost students more than tuition. Many students cannot afford textbooks, or choose not to buy them, even when forgoing textbook purchases affects their learning. Student groups on some campuses (e.g., the University of British Columbia) are fighting back, pushing for open educational resources to be used wherever possible, and working with their administration, professors, and even their bookstores to make it happen.

Practical Steps

Professors can work with their subject area librarians to identify open access resources for their students, or even consider writing an open access textbook. Like open access journal publication, this is an idea waiting for proven economic models. My own informal survey at the recent American Geophysical Union conference turned up a range of responses from publishers, ranging from, “Yes! We offer this” (http://www.frontiersin.org/) to “We are waiting to see what others do” to “What is open access?”

Of course, providing open educational resources is just the beginning. What we really want is to develop communities of open practice. We want students learning to work in (and to create and contribute to) an open environment. Students need to be shown how to identify, and find value in, good open resources. Some ways for teachers to promote open practices in the classroom include:

  1. Explain and model a philosophy toward open educational resources and open access publishing
  2. Find and use Creative Commons licensed materials and license your own materials that way
  3. Try to design your class without a required textbook purchase. Use an open access textbook (I like http://www.motionmountain.net/project.html) or resources available online. Ask your subject area librarian for suggestions. See
    1. CCOER – lists of open textbooks in various fields
    2. OpenStax – publisher of open source textbooks
    3. BC Open Textbooks Project – mostly social sciences subjects
    4. OER Commons – open educational resources
  4. Use peer review and annotation as a teaching tool. Have students critique one another’s work (using Canvas or social networking tools such as WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogspot) for participation grades
  5. Have students create content for Wikipedia or put their work on Wikibooks for an assignment or a final project

Wondering how to navigate the copyright waters when planning your syllabus or assigning research papers?  Ask a librarian!  Attend a copyright workshop, invite a librarian to your class to discuss this with your students, and advise on their specific projects.

Making Opportunities for Scholarship More Open: Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education

OpenCon 2015 graphicPosted on behalf of Rachel Obbard, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth

Part 1 of 2 on what I learned at OpenCon 2015: Background and Open Access
(Read Part 2: OpenCon: Early Career Researchers Pave the Way)

Background

There is something extraordinary happening.  Lots of extraordinary things, actually, all benefits of the internet – improvements in our understanding and appreciation of other cultures, support for marginalized segments of the population, new economic models, international collaboration, alternatives to traditional schooling – the list goes on and on.  One of the most powerful of these in the scholarly context is the Open Movement, the trend towards more open sharing of data, scientific publications, and educational resources.

In November, I had the good fortune to attend OpenCon 2015, an annual conference where attendees work toward developing a more open system for sharing the world’s information — from scholarly and scientific research, to educational materials, to digital data. OpenCon is more than a conference series; it is a community that aims to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Once a year, its members come together from across the world to learn about the issues, develop critical skills, and return home ready to catalyze action.

Thanks to a travel scholarship provided by Dartmouth College Library, I was able to attend two days of talks, panels, and project presentations in Brussels, Belgium (November 14-16, 2015), and take part in workshops on specific problems, strategies, and tools of the Open Movement*, including Creating Open Content, Advocating Open Access on Campus, The Role of Open Content in the Classroom, and What can Funders Do to Incentivize Open Science?  I came away with ideas, resources, and contacts to a vibrant OpenCon community. I describe in two blog posts the key messages I took home from the conference, and some practical steps for students and educators who want to support the movement.

*Although the Open Movement is a distributed effort, there are a few influential individuals, such as Michael Eisen, early Open pioneer and Founder and Editor of PLOS, and some organizations, the biggest of which is SPARC® (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and its the Right to Research Coalition project, an international alliance of student organizations that advocate for and educate students about open methods of scholarly publishing (see http://www.sparc.arl.org/).  At Dartmouth, the Library’s Open Dartmouth Working Group provides educational programming and consulting for the Dartmouth community on these issues.

Open Access and Public Access

Open Access refers to making scholarly work available to everyone, not just those who can afford it or those who have the good fortune to work for institutions that can. In theory, the greater the access, the greater our collective productivity. The devil in the details here lies in developing economic models for open access journals. Someone needs to pay for the editorial staff and infrastructure required to compile, publish, and curate quality work. Currently many open access journals require paper processing fees, which shift the cost from reader to author but may simply replace one barrier with another. Within the Open Movement there is a growing sentiment that “We need to abandon [traditional] scientific journals, not reform them” (quote from an OpenCon speaker). There were even stickers putting down a popular, and notoriously heavy-handed, publisher.

I came away from OpenCon with ideas for things I could do in each of the Open focus areas. I include them here as suggestions for action.

Practical Steps

  1. Sign the Open Pledge (http://www.openaccesspledge.com/) and post it on your webpage.
    “I pledge to devote most of my reviewing and editing efforts to manuscripts destined for open access. For other manuscripts, I will restrict myself to one review by me for each review obtained for me by an outlet that is not open access. Here, manuscripts destined for open access mean those that the authors or journal post on institutional or university repositories, or those that are made open access by the publisher within 12 months. Because I believe that access to publicly funded research should be free, I will also support open access in other ways.”
  1. Publish more. Publish openly. Make your past publications accessible wherever possible.
    1. Publish pre-prints on your web pages when you can. Talk to the librarians in the Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing Program about what you can post where. Publishing pre-prints is often permitted even by traditional journals. For guidelines on what is allowed, see the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ policies on copyright and self-archiving. You will be encouraged to deposit these in the Dartmouth Academic Commons, Dartmouth’s institutional repository,  as that develops.
    2. Publish negative data (data that doesn’t support your hypothesis, or is simply not being used).
    3. Be active on your scholarly or scientific journal editorial boards to effect change to a more open system in your field.
  2. The Directory of Open Access Journals is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. Dartmouth librarians can also help authors identify open access journals for their next papers.
  3. Apply for the Dartmouth Open Access Fund to cover article processing fees.
  4. On the institutional level, open access publishing could be enabled by changes in promotion and tenure guidelines that encourage open access publication. Many institutions are considering using this metric as well as impact factor or citations as proxies for impact, as open access publishing can lead to broader impact.

A Lot of Good This Daylight’s Gonna Do Us – Cult Cinema from 1968 to 1988: Three Directors

A Lot of Good This Daylight’s Gonna Do Us – Cult Cinema from 1968 to 1988: Three Directors is on display in  Baker-Berry Library, Berry Main Street: January 5 – March 11, 2016. This exhibit examines the work of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and George Romero within their larger cultural context. Curator Wesley Benash explains his long-standing interest in the subject:

Cult Film exhibit poster“When I was six years old, by father let me rent Brian De Palma’s film Carrie from the video store.  It scared the hell out of me, but it also spawned a lifelong fascination with the shadowy, macabre underbelly of the cinema.  As a young boy and teenager, I was interested in these films for their sensational elements –violence, gore, and sex.  As I grew up, I began to appreciate them for their sociopolitical elements instead, and I came to understand how less reputable forms of cinema, such as the horror film and exploitation film, frequently had much to say about the societies in which they were produced.  As a student, I have parlayed this interest in cult film into scholarship; the admiration and appreciation I have for these films serves as the backbone of the thesis I am writing in Dartmouth’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

“The films on display, and others like them, tend to function as cinema’s id, forcing us to acknowledge the ugliness within society and within ourselves; it is for this reason that they repulse so many viewers.  But for those who are willing to open their minds to these films, they are equally audacious and enlightening.

“I obsessively watched the works of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and George Romero as a boy and teenager.  I think they are great artists and that their best work stands up to the finest products of Hollywood, Italian neorealism, the French New Wave, or any other period in cinema history.  It is my hope that upon viewing their work, you will feel the same.”

Exhibit curated by Wesley Benash; design by Dennis Grady, Library Education and Outreach.