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The annual OpenCon global conference convenes the most promising students and early-career academic professionals advancing open access, open data, open educational resources, and many other aspects of open scholarship. However, OpenCon is more than a conference; it is also a growing international community of people who support each other in sharing their work and advocating for transparency that will lead to better research and education worldwide.
Latin American representation in the OpenCon community has been growing since 2014. At OpenCon 2016, we had the largest number of Latin American participants to date and for the first time, were able to hold a conference session entirely in Spanish and Portuguese. We had participants from 10 countries - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, Perú, and Puerto Rico. The outcome of that session was the formation of an international organizing committee dedicated to establishing a regional satellite meeting - OpenCon Latin America (OpenCon LatAm).
Our first OpenCon LatAm planning session at OpenCon 2016. November 2016, Washington D.C.
Latin America is a leader in open scholarship
Latin America is in a unique position with respect to open scholarship. The region has been a leader in open access, with a high percentage of our journals free for readers and authors, and several countries (Argentina, Brazil, México, and Peru) adopting national level open access policies in the last four years. Our countries have important experiences to share with each other—and the rest of the world—about alternative publication funding models and policy development.
Despite these successes, Latin America continues to face a number of economic, technological, and social challenges to increasing adoption of open scholarship. Our goal with OpenCon LatAm is to bring together students, early-career professionals, faculty, funders, and more, who face these challenges everyday and are ready to brainstorm solutions and advocate for change at the institutional, national, and international levels. We aim to forge new connections between organizations in each of our countries to coordinate global advocacy efforts. In addition, we hope our event will lead to cross-border collaborations that will benefit the science and technology sectors of each country, and raise the visibility of Latin American research.
Support OpenCon 2017 Latin America
OpenCon LatAm will be held October 12-13th, 2017 at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. Our speakers will include Ana María Cetto (Latindex), Carolina Botero (Fundación Karisma; virtual presenter), Diego Gómez Hoyos (ProCAT Conservation), and many more. You can find our preliminary program and RSVP to attend the event here.
We are looking for international organizations to help us make this meeting a resounding success. Specifically, we are looking for sponsors that can help us provide participants with coffee, food, and maybe even pay for some travel costs, as mosts participants will not have travel funds available through their universities. This latter support will particularly help us to make this a diverse event by bringing speakers from different countries in Latin America. If you cannot support us financially, we are also happy to have other types of support, including helping us spread the word about the event. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us. Thank you for considering supporting our meeting!
Some of the members of the OpenCon LatAm organizing committee at OpenCon 2016.
Erin McKiernan: email@example.com
Ivonne Lujano Vilchis: firstname.lastname@example.org
OpenCon Organizing Committee: email@example.com
OpenCon Latinoamércia convocará promotores de movimientos de ciencia y educación abierta en toda la región: ¡Apoya sus esfuerzos!
La conferencia anual OpenCon global convoca a los estudiantes más prometedores y profesionales académicos en primeros años de carrera que impulsan el acceso abierto, datos abiertos, recursos educativos abiertos, y muchos otros aspectos de la cultura científica y de educación abierta. Sin embargo, OpenCon es más que una conferencia; también es una creciente comunidad internacional de personas que se apoyan mutuamente en compartir su trabajo y promover la transparencia que conducirá a un mejor sistema de investigación y educación en todo el mundo.
La representación latinoamericana en la comunidad OpenCon ha ido creciendo desde el año 2014. En OpenCon 2016, tuvimos el mayor número de participantes latinoamericanos hasta la fecha y por primera vez pudimos realizar una sesión totalmente en español y portugués. Tuvimos participantes de 10 países: Argentina, Brasil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, Perú y Puerto Rico. El resultado de esa sesión fue la formación de un comité internacional de organización dedicado a promover una reunión satélite regional- OpenCon Latinoamérica (OpenCon LatAm).
América Latina es líder en apertura en investigación y educación
América Latina se encuentra en una posición única con respecto a la investigación y educación abiertas. La región ha sido un líder en acceso abierto, un alto porcentaje de nuestras revistas son gratuitas para lectores y autores, y varios países (Argentina, Brasil, México y Perú) adoptaron políticas de acceso abierto a nivel nacional en los últimos cuatro años. Nuestros países tienen experiencias importantes para compartir unos con otros -y con el resto del mundo- sobre modelos alternativos de financiamiento de publicaciones y desarrollo de políticas.
A pesar de estos éxitos, América Latina sigue afrontando una serie de desafíos económicos, tecnológicos y sociales para aumentar la adopción de un sistema académico y de educación abierta. Nuestra meta con OpenCon LatAm es reunir a estudiantes, profesionales de la carrera temprana, profesores, financiadores y más, que enfrentan estos desafíos todos los días y están listos para hacer una lluvia de ideas de soluciones y abogar por el cambio a nivel institucional, nacional e internacional. Nuestro objetivo es forjar nuevas conexiones entre organizaciones en cada uno de nuestros países para coordinar los esfuerzos mundiales de promoción. Además, esperamos que nuestro evento conduzca a colaboraciones transfronterizas que beneficiarán a los sectores de ciencia y tecnología de cada país y aumentarán la visibilidad de la investigación latinoamericana.
Apoyo para OpenCon 2017 Latinoamérica
OpenCon LatAm se celebrará del 12 al 13 de octubre de 2017 en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) en la Ciudad de México. Entre nuestros ponentes se encuentran Ana María Cetto (Latindex), Carolina Botero (Fundación Karisma, presentadora virtual), Diego Gómez Hoyos (ProCAT Conservation) y muchos más. Puede encontrar nuestro programa preliminar y RSVP para asistir al evento aquí.
Estamos buscando organizaciones internacionales que nos ayuden a hacer de esta reunión un rotundo éxito. Específicamente, estamos buscando patrocinadores que nos puedan ayudar a proporcionar a los participantes café, comida y tal vez incluso pagar algunos gastos de viaje, ya que muchos de los participantes no tendrán fondos de viaje disponibles a través de sus universidades. Este último apoyo nos ayudará particularmente a hacer de este evento un acontecimiento diverso, con la participación de oradores de diferentes países de América Latina. Si no puede apoyarnos financieramente, también estamos contentos de tener otros tipos de apoyo, incluyendo ayudarnos a difundir la noticia sobre el evento. Si usted está interesado en saber más, póngase en contacto con nosotros. ¡Gracias por considerar apoyar nuestra reunión!
Erin McKiernan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivonne Lujano Vilchis: email@example.com
Comité Organizador OpenCon: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Association for the Promotion of Open Science in Haiti and Africa (APSOHA) is a non-profit organization working for the visibility and circulation of knowledge that is produced by local universities and is relevant for local populations. Our strategy is to empower researchers through cognitive justice and and the commons. To do this, we are using the tools of Open Science, Open Access, Open Data and collaborative work; we are also promoting Open Educational Resources, free software and open licences. Our work is embedded in values of openness, sharing, and solidarity. These activities and values that we have been advocating for since the creation of APSOHA are also aligned with OpenCon mission’s.
APSOHA at OpenCon2016
Satellites Events in Cameroon and Niger
Last year, there were two satellite events organized by APSOHA members: one in Cameroon and the other in Niger. OpenCon 2016 Niamey was organized by Hamissou Rhissa Achafert on the theme: " Réflexions autour d'une politique du libre accès à l'information scientifique et technique au Niger ". This was a successful event where the state of Open Access in Niger was analyzed, an Open Access policy for Niger was outlined, and recommendations were made for the adoption of Open Access. During the 9th International Open Access Week, Prudence Nkolo organized OpenCon Yaoundé 2016 on the theme: Quelle action en faveur de l'Open Access au Cameroun?
The Meeting at Washington
Supported by a travel scholarship, I had the privilege to participate in OpenCon 2016 in Washington, DC. The objective of my participation was twofold: first, I wanted to meet people, learn from them and discover what happening everywhere else in the world. On this line, the different presentations proposed to us have been very enriching, thanks to the shared experiences and know-how that each presenter had developed in his context.
Secondly, the opportunity was given to me to share our SOHA experience, with the rest of the participants, and to improve our practices and ideas. I did it by leading two unconference sessions, the first was on the Panafrican-Institutional Repository (PAIR) and the second on Hacking School Textbooks in Cameroon. This meeting allowed me to learn useful lessons for the continuation of APSOHA activities, especially with respect to platforms for the free dissemination of knowledge, best practices of sharing and networking. In short, the lessons I learned at the OpenCon enabled me to overcome certain barriers that I thought were impassable.
Our achievements since OpenCon 2016
From OpenCon to GOSH
Thanks to the remarks, advice and lessons I received at OpenCon 2016, I improved the design of the Parakou Open Access Box and the Pan-African Institutional Repository. It came out a poster that I presented to GOSH 2017 and that is accessible on the platform F1000.
The Pan-African Institutional Repository
The Pan-African Institutional repository, developed in part at OpenCon 2016, will:
Facilitate accessibility of African scientific works;
Allow the generation of publication lists per researcher, for evaluation committees
Offers member universities a showcase for their scientific work without investing in their own archive if they do not wish or cannot
Be interdependent with the open archives of the universities that will decide to invest to create a specific one
Ensure the visibility on the web of all archived work, in a more inclusive "open scientific conversation".
OpenCon provides an appropriate framework for actions in favour of free circulation and dissemination of knowledge, and APSOHA intends to continue to benefit from this framework.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin this November close on August 1st. Visit opencon2017.org/apply to submit your application today!
Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou is currently the International President of APSOHA, the Association for the Promotion of Open Science in Haiti and Africa. PhD student in public communication at Université Laval, his thesis focuses on the maker mouvement and free culture in sub-Saharan Africa. With a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry, and a Master in Didactics of sciences, Thomas Mboa is also passionate of Biohacking.
I am a 25 year old Master’s student in Cognitive Science. I like kickboxing, reading mangas, prefer Python over R, and I happen to care about Open Science. In this blog post I would like to tell you about the reasons why I applied to attend OpenCon 2016, why you should too, and finally—give you the needed push to fill in the form and hit ‘Submit’.
OpenCon 2016 was an amazing conference and fundamentally different from any other conference that I had attended so far. While OpenCon can indeed be described as a gathering of like-minded people, a series of talks (and questions), and a place to exchange and discuss ideas, it is also so much more. To me, OpenCon is first and foremost a global community of brilliant minds and secondly an annual conference. If you want to hear more about the reasons why OpenCon is not just like any other conference, be sure to check out Khady’s and Denisse’s blog posts!
In the spirit of openness, I want to share the ulterior motive behind this posting:
I want you to apply for OpenCon 2017!
In order to achieve this goal I have procured a failproof master plan:
Tell you why I applied to OpenCon
Tell you about my experience at last year’s OpenCon
Tell you why you should apply
Why did I apply?
During a job I was thrown into the world of Open and started to care about it. I applied once and failed.
I had just started a new part-time job in Vienna when my supervisor, Peter Kraker, told me about OpenCon and recommended that I should apply. Just a few months earlier I had been introduced to the world of Open Access, bibliometrics and scholarly communication and now I was I filling out my application for the OpenCon 2015. I was rejected.
Fast forward one year: I started studying full-time again, but had continued to work with Peter on various projects such as Open Knowledge Maps and the Vienna Principles. From time to time I still felt overwhelmed by the world of Open (so many initiatives, so many projects, so many new things), but I had realised that I truly care about these issues and that I wanted to make a change. I applied again and was invited to attend the OpenCon 2016.
I hate writing applications. Very much. That’s why I still remember how happy I was when Jon Tennant shared his application openly, because it helped me to organise and anchor my thoughts and ideas. I’ve decided to do the same and have shared my 2016 application, hoping that it helps all of you who struggle to write this kind of application.
Check out my application here: https://bubblbu.github.io/.../my-opencon-2016-application/
What was it like?
Three amazingly inspiring days of listening, talking, presenting, discussing, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing, sight-seeing, and so on and so on...
It is the diversity and variety of attendees that make OpenCon such an inspirational and enriching event. Having a diverse pool of attendees, speakers and panelists not only allows for a great mix of contributions and opinions during the conference but also leads to a diverse experience and reception, which is reflected in participants’ post-conference blog posts and summaries.
I also want to briefly share my very personal highlights of my first OpenCon:
The Equity & Open Panel - Growing up with a deaf father had not prepared me for the full scope and meaning of providing an equitable, diverse and inclusive (EDI) space. The whole session was truly inspiring and I can only recommend to watch Mark Puente, April Hancock and Penny Andrews speak about EDI concerns in academia. (You can watch the panel on R2RC’s Youtubechannel)
Story Circles - I am not a huge fan of icebreakers, but these short storytelling sessions were amazing. In small groups of 6-8 people, the participants took turns to answer the question “What brought you to where you are now?” We simply listened to each other without commenting, questioning, or interrupting the speaker.
Presenting a project - I had the chance to present Open Knowledge Maps and lead an unconference session on this project as well. I was super nervous—really, really nervous. But I’m also really, really happy that I did both, as they were great experiences and wonderful opportunities to discuss our project within the community.
Nights out - Yes, making friends is also part of OpenCon! OpenCon is all about the community and after “talking business” it’s great to have some off-conference time. I enjoyed every minute laughing, dancing, joking and having terrible American beer with my fellow OpenConners. (#OpenBruno #cheesus)
This is nervous me during the project presentations. Sweating, smiling sheepishly, and waiting for my turn to speak.
Why should you apply?
Afraid of applying because your full CV reads like a one page résumé? You’re short on money? You’ve got the plan to save the world, but don’t know how to set it into action?
If you care about Open and have answered at least one of the questions with “yes”, you should immediately (translates to “last day of the application period”) apply to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin. Here’s why:
OpenCon is for students and early career researchers. This is important because students often feel discouraged due to their status within the academic hierarchy.
OpenCon offers travel scholarships. This is important because travelling is expensive and students don’t like expensive things.
OpenCon is about creating and catalysing action. This is important because sometimes there is just too much talk and too little action.
Last but not least I want to emphasize that I’ve had the opportunity to spend three truly inspiring and encouraging days in Washington DC. It was exhilarating to become part of this community and I feel deeply grateful for having been invited to attend OpenCon 2016, as well as be part of the Organizing Committee of this year’s OpenCon in Berlin. Please feel heartily invited to submit an application this year. I am hoping that more and more will join the Open(Con) community and am looking forward to meeting some of you soon.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin this November close on August 1st. Visit opencon2017.org/apply to submit your application today!
Asura is a Master’s student in Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna. This autumn he will begin to work in the #ScholCommLab at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and investigate the theoretical and philosophical bedrock of Scholarly Communication as part of his PhD. Furthermore, he’s part of Open Knowledge Maps. You can find him online on Twitter and GitHub.
As a Psychology Professor at a public post-secondary institution with an open admissions policy, I care a great deal about Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights—the one that asserts that “higher education shall be equally accessible to all”. This is doubly true when you consider that my university is located in Canada's fastest growing city, one that is ethnically diverse and home to the largest number of refugees in British Columbia. But while higher education is a vehicle for economic and social mobility, I confess that the closer I look, the more I see how higher education is structured to replicate existing power structures.
But then this should hardly surprise anyone. After all, this is the Matrix, where publicly-funded research remains inaccessible to the public, the scientific community continues to incentivize publishing non-replicable but sexy findings over more rigorous, cumulative research, and students are routinely assigned “required” textbooks that they cannot afford. And while these realities are evident to those of us who work in the academy, what is equally evident is that even those who would dearly love to challenge the status quo are beholden to the rules and norms dictated by existing power structures—editors-in-chief, department chairs, and tenure and promotion committees who equate open access journals with vanity or predatory publications, who label open science advocates as the “replication police,” and who are so tethered to the commercial industry that they cannot imagine how a freely available resource could possibly be of high quality.
"But while higher education is a vehicle for economic and social mobility, I confess that the closer I look, the more I see how higher education is structured to replicate existing power structures."
This is precisely why OpenCon offers hope. Something akin to the annual meeting of the Resistance, OpenCon brings together early career change makers who are not content with education and scholarship advancing one retirement at a time. Focused squarely on action, these emerging leaders are already making a difference in their contexts. Through OpenCon, they further develop the knowledge, skills, and network to implement systemic change.
As a vocal advocate for Open Education, over the years I have had the good fortune of crossing paths several times with Nicole Allen and Nick Shockey from SPARC, both of whom encouraged me to apply to attend OpenCon. So while I followed OpenCon 2015 at a distance, I first attended OpenCon only last year, when over 3 unforgettable days in Washington, DC my knowledge of the Open Education, Open Access, and Open Data movements (as well as their many points of overlap) widened and deepened. Even more importantly, I forged many new wonderful relationships with talented colleagues across the world. I recall specifically being struck by the humility and sense of purpose carried by the many accomplished young leaders at the conference. Their energy and enthusiasm was truly infectious. It was clear that everyone was there to learn and grow, but also to support one another. It is the opportunity to join this community that in my mind is the biggest attraction of OpenCon.
"Over 3 unforgettable days in Washington, DC my knowledge of the Open Education, Open Access, and Open Data movements (as well as their many points of overlap) widened and deepened."
And what a strong sense of community this group has. When my Open Access edited book about the Open movements was published earlier this year, the OpenCon community help spread the word (including Chealsye Bowley, who has since become the Community Manager for Ubiquity Press). But it hasn't stopped there. In the months since I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Josh Bollick (U of Kansas) to help advocate for OER, liaise with Zoe Wake Hyde (Rebus Community) on an open ancillary resource project, contribute a chapter to Andrew Wesolek’s (Clemson U) upcoming handbook for librarians about Open Education, strategize and co-present with Brady Yano (SPARC), provide some assistance to Erin McKiernan (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and Juan Pablo Alperin (Simon Fraser U) for a research project, join the OOO Canada Research Network (which includes OpenCon16 alums Haley Kragness, Juan Pablo Alperin, Lorraine Chuen, Olga Perkovic, Alicia Lunz, Rachel Harding, Bruno Grande, Brady Yano, Erin Hogg, Michael Galang, and Zoe Wake Hyde), and will soon also teach and learn alongside Penny Andrews (U of Sheffield) at Digital Pedagogy Lab Vancouver. I even enjoyed a couple of unforgettable road trips (and more than a couple of karaoke sessions) with Nicole Allen (SPARC), Beck Pitt (Open U), and Michelle Reed (U of Texas at Arlington). Come to think of it, even when a metal pole struck my forehead at the CC Global Summit in Toronto earlier this year, it was Roshan Karn (Open Access Nepal) and Ahmed Ogunlaja (Open Access Nigeria) who rushed forward to assist me!
Road Tripping at Stone Henge with Nicole, Michelle, and Beck
But of course a shared sense of purpose and community is not the only wonderful way in which OpenCon stands apart. Indeed, as an advocate for open education, I am acutely aware of just how easy it is for well meaning people to replicate existing power structures. And this is precisely why I love OpenCon, a model for how a conference ought to be organized, especially one that emphasizes social justice as much as this one does. For a glimpse into the conference’s systemic commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, take a look at their recently-released report. While we have a lot to learn and can always improve, it is heartening to see critical self-examination at the heart of their planning process.
Attending OpenCon has opened doors for me and enabled me to go further than I would have been able to by myself. As I embark on a new role as the Open Education Advisor at BCcampus, supporting open education initiatives across our province, I will look to draw on the wisdom, strength, and experience of this extraordinary community.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend OpenCon and cannot recommend it more highly. It really is an experience like no other, one that is humbling, inspiring, and invigorating. Please consider this an invitation to join our community.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin this November close on August 1st. Visit opencon2017.org/apply to submit your application today!
Rajiv Jhangiani is the University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies and a Psychology Professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC, where he conducts research in open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He currently serves as the Senior Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellow with BCcampus and an Associate Editor of Psychology Learning and Teaching. His most recent book is titled Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (2017, Ubiquity Press, CC-BY). You can find him online at @thatpsychprof or thatpsychprof.com
I get easily bored at conferences.
Especially if they are lecture-based and speakers are talking about their published work. I did my K12 education in Senegal, West Africa and it was not hands-on. We just sat and listened all day. After I moved to Europe, and later the US, my education became more interactive. Now, I have developed an utter dislike against formats that aren’t interactive. Conferences should be organized in a way that encourages people to talk to each other and be proactive. Many scientists I know (including myself) are introverts. I do not like talking just for the sake of talking: I need a stimulus from the environment to really participate.
When I arrived in Washington DC to attend OpenCon 2016, I had limited knowledge about OpenCon itself. I just expected that it would be like any other conference—that I would be a passive attendee as usual and would talk a bit about SeeSD, the STEM education not for profit I started in Senegal. I was also very confused about the program and was not really sure what was going to happen during the conference. I am glad I was wrong. OpenCon is an excellent self-organizing conference that requires active participation from attendees. The meeting started with a keynote talk by Brewster Kahle, the founder of Internet Archive. He walked us through the concept of a “decentralized Internet”, something I was not very familiar with, but that I fully embraced now and even advocate for.
My favorite part of the conference was the story circles: a storytelling session where conference participants were divided into small groups and each group member tells their story by answering: what brought them to OpenCon? In my case, I applied to OpenCon because I cared about diversity in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) and because I believed the main barrier stopping African communities from fully embracing STEM is cultural relevance. To bring that cultural relevance, it is imperative to design Open Educational Resources using local languages.
OpenCon not only gave me a platform to share my ideas but also helped me understand that I had already been an Open Science and Open Education advocate. I even ended up leading an unconference session panel about Open Education in Africa, where we discussed about strategies to democratize education and overcome challenges related to Internet access in the continent. Believe it or not, I did not consider myself an Open Science and Education advocate before OpenCon. I was not even familiar with those terms. I applied because I saw possibilities to network and I thought my vision in terms of science education fitted some of the OpenCon mission.
Since OpenCon, I have fully embraced being an Open Education and Open Science advocate. It has helped me build an important network of collaborators with similar vision and goals. Through them, I became aware of many opportunities (funding, fellowship, workshops) that I would have otherwise missed. I would strongly recommend anyone—especially minorities and young leaders from the Global South—to apply for OpenCon 2017. You may already be aware (or not) that you are an Open Access advocate; either way, you will build an open and dynamic network if you attend.
I recently came across a paper that highlighted that Open networks are the most important predictor of career success. OpenCon is a conference where you can build an open network that leads to collaboration with wonderful and brilliant open-minded people.
Khady Sall just received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Oregon State University. Her research uses next generation sequencing technologies to dissect the gene regulatory pathway of the stress hormone Abscisic Acid (ABA) in plants. Khady is also the founder of SeeSD (www.SeeSD.org), an organization that promotes STEM education in Senegal. You can follow her on twitter @KhadidiatouSALL and watch her project presentation on SeeSD at OpenCon 2016 here.
When I filled out my application to OpenCon 2016, I talked about knowledge and power, arts-based education and my dream to involve youth in research. What I did not say was that I was very skeptical of what we could achieve in three days. Would OpenCon be the same-old scholarly communications conference we keep going to? Academic-centric, overly technical and not particularly inclusive of (or interested in) more diverse or critical views?
Well, I was wrong. OpenCon was the most transformative conference I have attended in my short academic life. From November 11 to 13, OpenCon gathered students and early career researchers from over 60 countries in Washington DC to discuss open access, open education and open data initiatives. But the experience of attending was so much more than that. OpenCon was a diverse, equitable and inclusive space, where we could reflect, engage in critical debate and deliberate on how open access to knowledge can bring us closer to a more just and equitable world.
"OpenCon and the wide diversity of participants that attended helped me realize there was no formula on how to be an advocate for openness."
OpenCon and the wide diversity of participants that attended helped me realize there was no formula on how to be an advocate for openness. I met a DOAJ ambassador who majored in dance and is passionate about women’s rights, a medical student who uses comedy skits to advocate for affordable healthcare and a Creative Commons ambassador who hosts a community radio show (shout out to Ivonne, Peter and Juli). The common denominator between them, on top of their grit and drive, was that they thought of openness as a practice beyond scholarship, intimately linked to their creativity and aspirations for social justice. This is what brought us together.
"We were really talking about power, global inequities, and the infinite greed of the publishing industry; but like any good story, we dropped the jargon and focused on the very real ways enclosure of knowledge affects people’s lives."
Since the first day, our personal stories were at the center of our conversations. In story circles, we talked about that paper we could not access, those hefty price tags on our university textbooks, and that moment when we saw a light in open. We were really talking about power, global inequities, and the infinite greed of the publishing industry; but like any good story, we dropped the jargon and focused on the very real ways enclosure of knowledge affects people’s lives. It was not so much about what we were doing but about why it matters.
Reactions after the story circles
As the conference progressed, participants (including myself) started growing in confidence as a result of these raw displays of honesty; raising our hands to participate in the discussion. An intervention by a nonprofit law resource librarian stood out to me. She seemed antsy, overall frustrated with the group, hesitant to participate, until she finally grabbed the mic (and I paraphrase):
“We keep talking about availability when we should be talking about accessibility. Every day, I watch people struggle to understand the information in which their access to rights, safety, sometimes survival, depend upon. As a librarian, I am not allowed to offer interpretations, I can only point them to the right resource, so I have to sit there and watch them struggle. Open, accessible knowledge can save lives…”
Equity & Open panel speakers
A similar sentiment was echoed in ‘Equity and Open’, a panel on why equity matters in scientific production. Mark Puente discussed the need to procure safety for marginalized, racialized and LGBTQ+ voices both in and outside the scientific community.
April Hathcock addressed colonialism and the domination of the English language in academia, by alternating between Spanish, French, Portuguese and English in her speech; and Penny Andrews commented on the silence around disability, mental health and low self-esteem experienced by young researchers in academia.
The critical voices of OpenCon reminded us that we do a far greater service to openness by staying critical than by being its cheerleaders; that we were not in OpenCon to build yet another model or “scholarly utopia”, because among other reasons the people most affected by the enclosure of knowledge were not in that room; and that our idleness has very real consequences, particularly for disenfranchised, marginalized and oppressed communities. Isn’t this what we want out of conferences? To learn, unlearn and be challenged?
OpenCon is building a community that defines openness in terms of the hope it offers, the voices it amplifies and the relationships it nurtures. Spending a weekend with the incredibly ambitious and inspiring young researchers who attended, made me hopeful that open research initiatives will continue building its strongest arguments based on the experiences and knowledge(s) of diverse groups of people; drawing from stories of resilience that demonstrate how an inclusive and accessible science can truly change lives and help us flourish.
"As a Latin American, feminist, and young researcher I need to be vocal about why barriers to knowledge contribute to systemic discrimination."
I left OpenCon feeling like I could do more. The community gave me the confidence to become louder and prouder in my advocacy. It showed me that as a Latin American, feminist, and young researcher I need to be vocal about why barriers to knowledge contribute to systemic discrimination. That as someone who cares about education, I need to advocate for plurality and diversity in knowledge production. And that as someone who cares about social justice, I need to be aware of how open research can help us get there. OpenCon believed in my ability to make a difference when I applied. After attending, I believe it too.
Applications to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin close August 1st. You can apply at: opencon2017.org/apply
Denisse is an International Development and Sociology graduate from the University of Toronto. When she attended OpenCon 2016, she was the editor of an arts-based Research Lab for young researchers and contributing to inclusive education resources for Latinx youth in Toronto with the non-profit Casa - Pueblito. She currently works for Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet).
Read our OpenCon report on inclusive conference planning and contribute!
At OpenCon, we believe that scholarly information—academic journal articles, research data, educational resources—should be shared in an equitable way. It is important these values are also reflected in our communities and conference. Openness in research and education often embraces rhetoric around breaking down barriers to access, but are we practicing this in our own work? Although the Open movements are global in nature, privileged voices are typically prioritized in conferences. Marginalized voices—e.g. women, people of colour, those based in the Global South—are often underrepresented or sometimes excluded from the conversation altogether.
We want those involved in the Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education movements to ask: how can we minimize barriers to access—not only to academic materials and research data—but also barriers to participation in our own communities?
We understand that if we want dialogue about these issues, we need to start by assessing our own community: What have we learned? What practices have we found helpful for creating a diverse and inclusive space at OpenCon? Where is there still room for improvement?
Over the last few months, we have been working on the OpenCon Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report to address these questions. The report was created to keep OpenCon transparent and accountable to our commitments to these values. We also wanted to use the document to gather existing guidelines on planning accessible events, share our learnings, and to encourage other organizers to plan events that minimize barriers to participation. We hope the report can begin a discussion about these values in the broader Open communities.
A downloadable PDF version of the report can be accessed here.
A digital version of the report can be accessed here.
Let us know what you think.
Like many communities, we understand OpenCon still has significant work to do when it comes to building diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of our work. We hope this can be the start of an ongoing conversation. We welcome feedback and contributions by email [email@example.com], or directly to the online version of the report via Github. Details on how to contribute can be found here.