At OpenCon 2014 I had the chance to talk to many brilliant researchers about issues surrounding access to articles, data, and educational resources. Here are some clips from some of those interviews. Thanks to the Canadian Association of Research Libraries for making this video possible, and thanks to everyone who took the time to talk with me, and sorry for the wait!
I’ve written morethanonce 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.
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.
So you do a lot of amazing research, whatever. Your research will not matter to anyone else on Earth – at least, not until you make it accessible to them. If we’re not making it available, we’re just wasting science.
The number of research projects that are sitting in desk drawers waiting to be written and published, or those that get published but remain behind paywalls is saddening. But with the boom of open-access journals, that is rapidly changing. There are some growing pains – including the high rate of fake and falsified papers.
If you do a lot of amazing research, and publish it in an open access journal, there is still a chance that a lot of your work is being wasted. Looking through a few papers I recently read (this is called a biased sample), the average journal article has roughly about 5-10 tables and figures. I’ve seen enough of other researcher’s excel sheets to know that this summary is hardly the tip of the iceberg. This isn’t the print era anymore, publishing data is very possible. But, well, where is all the data?
In most cases, it is sitting on aging hard-drives under file names that quickly forget their ways into obscurity. Some lucky files manage to make their way onto websites like FigShare and Research Gate, while some Big Datasets (like genomics data) are too big to have a home anywhere on the internet.
There are a number of astonishing recent studies, meta studies, that use the results from hundreds or thousands of papers to come to fascinating conclusions. These papers are just a glimpse into what the future of meta-analysis has at hand. They are a glimpse at how essential making data accessible is going to be in just a few years.
Researchers are all about getting publications, and that is understandable, given the pressures that they are under. However, a lot of signs indicate that those pressures are changing. We are on the brink of a revolution in science. If you want to stay competitive you would just be silly not to start making your data available now.