Best. Conference. Ever!

I’ve written more than once about the fact that most research isn’t accessible to the majority of people on Earth. It sucks. About 80% of research is funded by the public, and only about 20% is accessible.

Well, last weekend I was able to go and learn a whole lot more about this whole ‘Open’ business/approach/revolution/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Thanks to support from CARL, I was able to attend OpenCon 2014 in Washington DC, a conference on Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources. I shot a lot of footage while I was there, so I intend to make those categories clear with a video link as soon as I’ve edited that.

In the meantime, you can take a look at my notes – which I’ve posted as a google doc – and get a bit of a sense of what people were talking about. You can also search twitter for #OpenCon2014, if you have the patience to go through some thousands of excited tweets.

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We were about 175 early career researchers from 40 countries, brought together to learn about and advocate for openness in academia. We had some incredible talks on the schedule, and we even spent a day meeting with staff members and elected officials of congress and advocating for change. Thanks again to everyone who made this conference happen!

Academia has a long way to go to be open, but this conference was more than a little encouraging. Things are changing fast, and the push for Open is gaining real momentum.

There were many things that set this conference apart from any other I have been to, and I think the general reason became clear to me right in the closing speeches. Mike Carroll of Creative Commons referred to the attendees as ‘OpenCon 2014 Alumni’, and at first I thought this sounded like an awkward and pretentious thing to say, but then it hit me: this conference was much more like a short-course than any other conference I’ve been to. This was certainly one of the differences that made it so particularly delectable.

When they post the videos from the conference, I’ll be sure to scoot back here and post the link, so that everyone will have access.


  1. Hi Kurtis! Awesome blog! I was thinking to apply for Open Con this year, but looking at the amount of applications (said to be 1,700) and the number chosen (115 students – I’m a second year undergrad student), I feel that the odds aren’t exactly in my favour. What are some of your tips to stand out? Thanks!A

    1. Hi Anastasia! Don’t be discouraged by the number of other applicants – just go for it! I know the deadline is fast approaching, so now is the time. I met undegraduate students there, so do not think that this is a barrier. A big point that might be useful in evaluating your application is your interest in research – since you are probably not yet a researcher at this stage (??). The perfect time to learn about how to be an open research is before you get started doing the actual research – and you can stress this angle. Many researchers adopt their own personal open policies, but it can be complicated/slow when this is done partway into their careers.

      My application was largely about how I was interested in the topics but did not yet know enough about them. A big part of OpenCon is the community, so that might also be something to consider while you write. I showed some examples of my interest in the topics (linked to videos, blog posts, and tweets I have made about these topics), and I think that also helped.

      Sorry if that is a bit all over the place (ie. confusing), but I am a bit short on time right now 🙂 Hope it is still helpful!


    2. Hey Anastasia, I’m one of the OpenCon organizers. I hope you’ll consider applying!

      It is competitive, but by applying, you’ll get connected with the wider OpenCon community. We’ll also use your application in a number of ways we hope will be helpful: to let you know if there are OpenCon events or related meetings in your area; to notify you of opportunities for collaboration; and to pair you with scholarships for similar conferences that partner with us.

      The best way improve your chances is the get involved, and a great first step is to submit an application and get connected with the OpenCon community!


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