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Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Tag Archives: OpenCon

OpenCon 2018: Open Space for Critical Discussion

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2018, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Diana M. Franco Duran, a Ph.D. candidate in Civil Engineering in the Construction Engineering and Management program. Diana attended the conference in Toronto, Canada on November 2-4, and sent the report below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2018 highlights.

Diana M. Franco Duran writes:

Diana M. Franco Duran

Diana M. Franco Duran

OpenCon is a community with a culture of openness that seeks everyone who can participate. It promotes an open, safe, and diverse space in which ideas are respected. This year, OpenCon focused the discussion on two main topics: 1) community as the foundation for culture change, and 2) diversity, equity, and inclusion in open research and education. The conference’s goal was to motivate the attendees to change the culture towards a more open research and educational system with diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Open research and open education are about more than sharing the work. Open research and open education are about people. There is no way to make research and education open if we do not know the community. The community must be engaged into the discussion, so we can discover how openness can help them do what they want to do. Openness as a problem solution must work in the context of the community.

During the workshops, two of the topics for discussion were 1) how to motivate students to incorporate open access in research related activities, and 2) how to reward open research and education in higher education institutions.  It is important to communicate open access, open data, and open education to students as well as faculty, and to develop program policies/ strategies to incorporate any form of open access as an objective in the research of graduate students.

Do-a-thon at OpenCon 2018

Do-a-thon at OpenCon 2018

From my point of view, open access, open data, and open research have become significant in higher education in the last few years. However, open education has not reached that status yet. There is still the misconception that open education is only sharing educational resources. Open education is the collaborative development of educational resources to provide everyone access to high-quality resources and experiences. As a younger generation, we live surrounded by technology and unlimited resources provided by the internet. Therefore, we have all the tools to make the academic environment relevant to others by giving them access to education and knowledge.

At OpenCon, the voices and stories of all attendees are heard. I personally connected to the story of one of the panelists, Adbullah Alghurabi, a master’s student in Canada, who developed educational resources for his community in Yemen. He translated scholarship opportunities into Arabic to help students find these opportunities. He also provided students with educational materials they needed to prepare for the TOEFL and IELTS exams that did not require internet access, since students in Yemen often lack an internet connection. Undoubtedly, these stories connect to others.

Thanks to this opportunity, I am now part of the team organizing the OpenCon Latin America 2019 which will be held in Colombia. We want to focus on open education and how it is related to open access and open data, highlighting the Latin American context.

Organizers of OpenCon Latin America 2019

Organizing team for OpenCon Latin America 2019

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to attend OpenCon 2018 and represent Virginia Tech. This is a space where I had the chance to get to know people from all over the world but also I had the opportunity to know how open data, open research, and open education are helping the community. Through the workshops, story circles, open reflections, do-a-thons, and unconferences, OpenCon offers a space to work together and shape ideas to contribute the community by considering openness as an inclusive solution.

OpenCon 2017: The OpenCon Platform

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2017, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Alexis Villacis, a Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Applied Economics. Alexis attended the conference in Berlin, Germany on November 11-13, and sent the report below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2017 highlights.

OpenCon 2017 workshop

Alexis (left) at an OpenCon workshop

Alexis Villacis writes:

The progress of science and access to education varies widely geographically, and sometimes are very limited due to economic, cultural and social circumstances. Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data are key to support those who are left behind and bring empowerment to the next generation. OpenCon brings together the worldwide champions who are working towards the advancement of the Open Movement. Students, early career academic professionals, and senior researchers all come together under one roof to share their initiatives. Participants hear their inspiring stories, from Canada to Nepal, of sparking change during a three-day conference; a conference I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of, as a representative of Virginia Tech.

Over these three days, participants showcased how Open is being advanced around the world. The discussion centered on how often higher education models (knowledge access, research questions, and research funding, among many others) marginalize underrepresented scholars and students. It was thought-provoking and sometimes shocking to hear how our western ways of knowing have colonized access to information and how this has impacted the progress of R&D in other parts of the world.

OpenCon 2017 selfie

Sharing with participants from other countries and hearing the challenges they face every day made me contrast our everyday realities and the privilege we have at VT. A privilege we take for granted in our everyday lives, where access to all types of tools, research, and content is one click away through our computers. We, as an institution of higher education, promote and share access to knowledge and new technologies throughout Virginia and beyond. The impact of these transfers is what keeps our society thriving every day, but where would we be if this access were restricted to us? Perhaps, VT as a Land Grant Institution would not exist at all, the state of Virginia would not be what it is today and neither many other parts of the US.

As I walked through the halls of the Max Planck Society, where the conference was held, I kept wondering: is this not what we are doing today? What changes are we withholding from the rest of the world by limiting access to data, knowledge, and education? The essence of this and the significance of Open Access clearly goes beyond journals and data, and it is also about social justice, equity, and the democratization of knowledge. We Hokies can make a difference in Open Access. More importantly, we are the key players called to work towards its advancement.

OpenCon 2017 group photo

OpenCon 2016 Reports from Virginia Tech Graduate Students

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered two travel scholarships to OpenCon 2016, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. This is the third year we have jointly supported graduate student travel to the conference. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Mayra Artiles, a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education, and Daniel Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology. In addition, Mohammed Seyam, a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science, attended. All were in Washington, D.C. for the conference November 12-14, and sent the reports below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2016 highlights.

Mohammed Seyam, Mayra Artiles, and Daniel Chen at Sen. Warner's office

Mohammed Seyam, Mayra Artiles, and Daniel Chen at Sen. Warner’s office

Mayra Artiles writes:

Being as open as possible – OpenCon 2016

This year I had the opportunity to attend OpenCon 2016 in Washington, DC. When I initially applied for the scholarship, I had a vague idea of how the Open agenda tied into my research and why was it important to me. However, I was not prepared for what the conference would spark. While in the US Open is mainly focused on open access to journals, the global idea of open is as diverse as are our problems. Interacting with people from different parts of the globe, who were amazingly passionate about Open in general, I learned that open access to journal articles is relatively a first world problem. While some countries fight for journal access, many more fight for textbooks and others fight for reliable internet. The more people I met, the more I learned how all of these unique issues are all nested under the large umbrella of making knowledge accessible on a global scale. One of the things that came out of these conversations was my involvement in a collaboration to create OpenCon Latin America – a conference similar to the one we had all just attended but held entirely in Spanish, empowering people and spreading the Open ideal in a language spoken mainly by over 425 million people.

This made me think about the following question: How can we, as Hokies, be as open as possible with our research? While fighting the academic tenure process and breaking the paradigms of open access journals is an endeavor of huge proportions, we can take small steps on being more open every day. We need to be as open as possible and as closed as necessary. It is for this reason I have made a list of steps on how we can be open today. The best part is that all these resources are open:

  1. Take stock of all your publications and make a list of the journals you’ve published or plan to publish in.
  2. Visit Sherpa Romeo and look up these journals. This page will provide information on which parts of your work are shareable and whether or not there is an embargo on your work. If you’re lucky, you can share a copy of your pre-print.
  3. Share as much as possible on repositories such as VTechWorks and other sites such as ResearchGate.
  4. Create your impact story at ImpactStory – all you need is an ORCID profile. Our work should mean more than amount of times we get cited. This website shows just that: it will give you a score for how ‘open’ is your work, show how many people saved, shared, tweeted, and cited your work and across how many channels, among other great things. As researchers, we are more than our H-index.
  5. Have a conversation with your research peers and advisors on the value of open research. While we can’t convince everybody to suddenly publish in open access, we can begin the conversation and break the paradigms. A great resource to learn more about the value of open research is Why Open Research?

OpenCon 2016 logo

Daniel Chen writes:

What is “open”? Merriam-Webster tells us that it is “having no enclosing or confining barrier: accessible on all or nearly all sides”. For OpenCon, access (to academic publications), education, and data lay at the center of its mission.

The conference brings together a select group of like-minded individuals who are all passionate towards openness. Since the conference was single-tracked, it allowed everyone to focus on the various projects, hurdles, and conversations people have about Open around the world. We had plenty of time and space to roam around American University to continue conversations. I was lucky and privileged enough to be one of the select attendees and represent Virginia Tech.

My road to Open revolves mainly though open education and open data. I teach for Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry and support NumFOCUS. It is logical then, that my definition of Open mainly focuses around open source scientific computing. It’s a very specific subset of Open, and OpenCon helped me remember what role I play in the the larger Open movement.

For me Open Education is teaching the Creative Commons-licensed Software Carpentry material the past 3 years. Over the years, my idea of open education revolved around higher education: textbooks for university students, scientific computing materials for graduate students, resources for open source. I was reminded that open education was not just for the graduate students trying to improve the quality of their research, textbooks and educational materials were not just for university students. Open education is used to teach students from all ages, lesson materials and books for elementary school, textbooks for middle school, high school, and university. It allows students and educators to invest resources in other ways to help foster better learning. Here at Virginia Tech, you may notice OpenStax books in the library, but the Rebus Community is another resource and place to get involved with open education materials.

As a data scientist, I am constantly combining disparate datasets from a myriad of sources to answer a research question. I rely heavily on open data sets. Many cities in the United States now have open data portals (e.g., NYC Open Data), and government agencies, such as the Department of Commerce house a plethora of open datasets. These datasets are great for an analyst such as myself, but open data sources such as OpenStreetMap and ClinicalTrials.gov help with urban planning in cities and provide drug trial data and results to people all over the world.

One of my favorite parts of the conference happened on the second day when we shifted from a single-track conference to an un-conference style meeting. Attendees from the conference pitched various discussion topics, and the attendees of the conference dispersed across the American University Law School. I attended a discussion about openness in academia where we talked how we incorporate it in our academic lives. For some of us (including myself), we are lucky that our advisors understand openness. Most, if not all, of my research code has a MIT Open Source License. Others found the challenge of pushing and fighting for ‘openness’ a way of disrupting the traditional ivory tower philosophy. One attendee was an undergraduate freshman who was trying to understand what openness was and how he can incorporate it as he begins his academic career. This was a great metaphor for what OpenCon stands for, empowering and pushing openness to the next generation.

I also attended the breakout discussion about global health, where we talked about how openness plays a role in improving global health. I met many people who work in the health space, and use open data and open access sources to improve health. For example, Daniel Mietchen from the NIH is part of a global infectious disease response team to build the tools and protocols necessary to respond to the next epidemic. The 2014 Ebola and 2015 Zika outbreaks are recent reminders of how much we can improve our global response to infectious disease outbreaks. In this unconference, we also talked about drug results reporting in at ClinicalTrials.gov. The problem is that even though clinical trials are listed there, not all of the results from the trials are reported after the initial trial listing. This takes away the ability for people looking to educate themselves about various treatment options for a disease, and more pressure is needed to make sure this information is adequately distributed in a timely manner.

Our final day at the conference had everyone in the conference work in groups to talk to various funding agencies and senators about openness. Essentially, we became lobbyists for Open. I was lucky enough to be in two groups. My first group talked with Rachael Florence, PhD, the Program Director of the Research Infrastructure program at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). We talked about how PCORI’s goal is to make study results and data more widely available, brought up the concerns about disseminating clinical trials results, and generally discussed faster reporting, lowering publication bias, reproducible research, and data sharing. We also talked about what OpenCon was, and intrigued Dr. Florence to attend next year.

My next stop was the office of Virginia Senator Mark Warner. We did not get to talk to him directly, but instead talked to his senior Policy Advisor, Kenneth Johnson, Jr. It was during this discussion that I wished we had more training on being an effective lobbyist. We only make 2 passes around the circle during our meeting. The first was introducing ourselves, and the second was how Open played a role in our lives. There was a small conversation about open data, open access, and open education for the state of Virginia, but I wished we were able to have a longer conversation. Senator Warner is already familiar with many aspects of Open, so not too much convincing was needed, but I worried about how other groups fared.

In the end, I felt OpenCon was a great experience. I made new connections with other people from all over the world, and gained new experiences on how to talk about Open. It has also given me some ideas for a side project about using ClinicalTrials.gov data to reporting rates for various clinical trials. I hope I am lucky enough next year to attend as well, and urge everyone at Virginia Tech to learn about Open, and get involved!

Getting to Know Open: A Grad Student’s Experiences at OpenCon 2015 in Brussels

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2015, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Sreyoshi Bhaduri, a Ph.D. student in engineering education. Sreyoshi attended the conference in Brussels, Belgium on November 13-16, and sent the report below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2015 highlights.

Sreyoshi Bhaduri writes:

Towards the beginning of Fall 2015, the graduate listserv announced an opportunity for a graduate student to travel to Brussels for a conference on Open initiatives. As a doctoral student starting my second year at the department of Engineering Education, I had been involved with some open education related citizen science endeavors, but was very new to the world of Open. I had always been fascinated with the idea of Open Access and Open Data, which can be understood as “unrestricted access and unrestricted reuse” of data, however I had never really delved deep into understanding and appreciating Open initiatives. Recognizing this as a perfect opportunity to learn more, I applied, detailing my interest in Open Education and eagerness to learn about the same. Application submitted, I promptly forgot about the scholarship, as course-work and exams and deadlines engulfed and occupied all thoughts and activities. On a busy evening in September as I sat finishing an assignment, I received an email from the University Library informing me that I had been selected for the scholarship. I was to represent Virginia Tech at the OpenCon 2015 in Brussels, scheduled for November 2015. This was the start of my journey to getting to know the Open community, and I slowly become an advocate for all things Open.

The message from the University Libraries notifying me of the travel scholarship was followed by an email from the OpenCon organizers, who warmly welcomed me to join their community. I was directed to a pre-OpenCon webcast, which helped me understand the basics of Open Data, Open Access, and Open Education. I was also asked to join in on a community call, and introduce myself to other attendees. The first thing that I realized about the Open community was that it is comprised of a group of very passionate and dedicated professionals who are determined to build a case for Open initiatives. The next month passed by, as I prepped to attend OpenCon, learning more and more about the community, the cause, and the rationale behind Open. I slowly grew to appreciate and understand the Case for Open, and was eagerly looking forward to exchanging my ideas at the conference.

Roaming Brussels

So we networked and roamed about the streets of Brussels. This is posing with the Manekken Pis.

The day of the flight soon arrived, and after 17 hours of traveling from Roanoke to Charlotte and then to Philadelphia, I finally made it to Brussels. On the flight, I made a few friends who were also traveling to OpenCon. The great thing about OpenCon is that the organizers ensured that most attendees had half a day to themselves before the start of the conference, to familiarize with each other and network. I met a bunch of young professionals and grad students who were doing wonderful work in different disciplines, and learned how some of their work related to Open endeavors.

Days One and Two of the conference comprised various sessions. We had live tweeting (#OpenCon2015) and broadcast of the sessions, so that the larger Open community which wasn’t able to join in physically, was able to contribute in the discussions. Day One had also been the day we had woken up to the news of the France terror attacks. A poignant remark by one of the attendees, who was from Paris, on the importance of Open Education, was that Open resources fights the barriers of access and divide, which in turn seeks to eradicate disillusionment and hence fights terror. This remark truly spoke to me, and I was inspired by the commitment and grit shown by the attendees, especially those from France.

OpenCon, Hotel Thon

Sneak peek at the sessions at Hotel Thon conference center

On Day Two we had the Unconference sessions. I was totally new to the idea of Un-conferencing, but found it a very useful brainstorming and networking session. I recommend organizers of seminars and educational events to have similar sessions at all conferences. During this session, we grouped with people with similar interests and discussed ideas for implementation in “real-world” scenarios. For instance, in the group I un-conferenced with, we discussed the role of Open in academia. We discussed how difficult it is to convince faculty who are probably tenure track, at R-1 institutions, to publish in Open journals, since a large part of their tenure process depends on publication impact. Our conversations then drifted to the subject of impact factors, and how a single number could not truly capture the essence of a research publication. The second evening ended early, with a reception dinner, and more networking.

Day Three was the most anticipated day. This was Advocacy Day. Basically, we formed teams of 8 individuals and we met with Members of the European Union, and discussed Open initiatives. This was by far the best experience I had at the conference. It was very interesting to meet with and learn from members of the EU, and discuss the challenges of implementing Open policies.

EU open advocacy

All dressed up for Advocacy Day

Following the meeting with the MPs, we attended the last event for OpenCon, the final reception dinner, in which we had the opportunity to interact with the founder of Wikipedia: Jimmy Wales. Wales talked to the gathering about the importance of Open Education, and of inspiring early career professionals to take up causes pertaining to Open initiatives after the conference.

The conference was only three days, short but packed with information and activities. I had read up about the conference, before attending it, and had anticipated meeting talented and passionate individuals; but the clockwork precision of the management, the energy of the attendees, and the warmth of the community; truly inspired me to learn more and contribute more to the cause. I would definitely recommend learning about, participating in, and potentially even attending Open community events, for all students and early professionals. I would further urge readers to contribute to your immediate academic communities in Open endeavors. The University Libraries at Virginia Tech, for instance, does a fantastic job of making available resources for graduate students, researchers, and faculty to learn about and publish in Open channels. Over time, I have come to view Open as a part of my identity as a graduate student. I believe each one of us should commit to making our research publications easily accessible by everyone. I believe I was truly lucky to have been selected for OpenCon 2015, I learnt so many new things, met some wonderful spirited individuals, am associated with some great work, and hope to continue to advocate for Open in the future.

OpenCon t-shirt

OpenCon 2015 Memories

Grad Students: Travel to Brussels to Learn About Openness!

Graduate students at Virginia Tech are encouraged to apply for a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2015, the student and early career researcher conference on Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data to be held on November 14-16, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium.

OpenCon 2015

One scholarship will be awarded to a Virginia Tech graduate student, which will cover travel expenses, lodging, and some meals. Applicants must use the following URL to apply by Monday, September 21:

http://opencon2015.org/virginia_tech

To find out more about the conference, see the Participant FAQ and the conference program. This international conference offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the growing culture of openness in academia and how to become a participant in it. The travel scholarship is sponsored by the Graduate School and the University Libraries. For questions, please contact Philip Young, pyoung1@vt.edu (please note that the general application process for the conference closed earlier this summer, and related details in the participant FAQ will not apply).

Last year two graduate students received scholarships to the conference (which was in Washington, D.C.), and you can read about their experiences.

This year’s winner will be selected by the Graduate School and the University Libraries based on answers to the application questions, and announced on September 24. Please share this opportunity with all VT graduate students, and best of luck to the applicants!