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Open Knowledge Foundation CEO Catherine Stihler awarded OBE

- November 27, 2019 in Open Knowledge

Our chief executive Catherine Stihler has been awarded an OBE by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge.

She was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her service to politics.

Yesterday, Catherine took part in the investiture at Buckingham Palace, watched on by her proud family.

Catherine said: “It was an immense honour to receive this recognition and be awarded an OBE by Prince William.

“When I entered the European Parliament as Britain’s youngest MEP 20 years ago it was because I believed in public service as a force for good. That’s something I still passionately believe today.

“At the Open Knowledge Foundation I continue to fight to improve politics, tackling disinformation and lies and working towards a future that is fair, free and open.

“The overwhelming majority of people who choose public service do so to improve lives for their communities, and we should never lose sight of that.”

Catherine has been chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation since February 2019. Prior to this, she represented Scotland as a Member of the European Parliament for Labour since 1999. As Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, she worked on digital policy, prioritising the digital single market, digital skills, better accessibility of digital products for the disabled, as well as citizen online data protection and privacy. As leader and founder of the All-Party Library Group she promoted and advocated for the importance of libraries and how libraries can remain relevant in the new digital age.

Born in Bellshill in 1973, Catherine was educated at Coltness High School, Wishaw and St Andrews University, where she was awarded a MA (Hons) Geography and International Relations (1996), and a MLitt in International Security Studies (1998). Before becoming a MEP, Catherine served as President of St Andrews University Students Association (1994-1995) and worked in the House of Commons for Dame Anne Begg MP (1997-1999). She has a Master of Business Administration from the Open University, and in 2018 was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews. Catherine was elected to serve as the 52nd Rector of the University of St Andrews between 2014 and 2017.

A recap of the 2019 eLife Innovation Sprint

- September 26, 2019 in Events, Frictionless Data, Open Science

Over 36 hours, Jo Barratt and Lilly Winfree from Open Knowledge Foundation’s Frictionless Data team joined 60 people from around the world to develop innovative solutions to open science obstacles at the 2019 eLife Innovation Sprint. This quick, collaborative event in Cambridge, UK, on September 4th and 5th brought together designers, scientists, coders, project managers, and communications experts to develop their budding ideas into functional prototypes. Projects focused on all aspects of open science, including but not limited to improving scientific publishing, data management, and increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Both Jo and Lilly pitched projects and thoroughly enjoyed working with their teams on these projects.  Lilly pitched creating an open science game that could be used to teach scientists about open best practices in a fun and informative way. Read on to learn more about these projects, and their experiences at the Sprint. Jo proposed making a podcast documenting the Sprint experience, projects, and people aiming to that would be fully produced and edited and publish the piece during the Sprint.  Lilly’s inspiration to create an open science game came from her experience at Force11 in 2018, where she played a game about FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). She realized that playing a game can be a great way to learn about a subject that might otherwise seem dry, and creating a game prototype seemed like a fun, accessible, and achievable goal for the Sprint. The open science game team formed with eight people from diverse backgrounds, including a game designer, board game enthusiasts, publishers, and scientists. This mix of backgrounds was a big asset to the team, and played a large role in the development of a functional game prototype. To start designing the game, the team first decided that the goal of the game should be to teach scientists about open science best practices, while the collaborative goal for the players would be to make an important scientific discovery – like curing a disease. The team crafted the storyline of the game, and finally worked on the game play mechanics. In the end, the game was made for 2-5 players and ideally would take about 30-45 minutes to play. To play, each player gets a role card — Lab Principal Investigator, Graduate Student, Data Management Librarian, Teaching Assistant, and Data Scientist. Each of these roles has personas and attributes that impact the game. For instance, the Principal Investigator has negative attributes that make sharing research openly harder, while the Teaching Assistant has positive attributes that make it easier to teach new tools to other players. On each turn, the players can draw research object cards or tool cards that help advance the game, but might also draw an event card, which can have positive of negative effects on the gameplay. The ultimate goal is for the players to share their research findings, which requires the player to draw and “research” an insight card and it’s related methods card, data collection card, and analysis card. The game ends once enough research findings are shared (either openly or with restricted access). A fun and interesting part of the game is that the players can role play their characters and see how attitudes towards open science differ and how those attitudes affect the progression of science. Hint: to win the game, the players have to cooperate with each other and openly share at least some of their research findings. The team is currently digitising the game so others can play it – keep track of their progress on their GitHub Repository.
“My team was fantastic to work with. I came to the Sprint with a basic idea and a hope that we could create a fun, educational game on open science, but my team really ran with the idea and created a game that is so much more than I had hoped for!” – Lilly Winfree, OKF

OKF delivery manager, Jo Barratt, brought his storytelling talents to the forefront for the eLife Sprint by proposing the creation of a podcast to document the people and ideas at the Sprint. Jo has produced many podcasts over the years, and thought the podcast format would offer a unique perspective into the inner workings of the Sprint. He was delighted to have two other Sprint members join his Podcast team: Hannah Drury and Elsa Loissel from eLife. Neither Hannah nor Elsa had worked on a podcast before, but both were eager and quick learners. Their project started with Jo giving Hannah and Elsa quick lessons on interviewing, using recording equipment, editing and sound design. Jo was really excited to have such collaborative team members to work with, which was very in line with the synergistic spirit of the Sprint. To capture a feel for the essence of the Sprint, Hannah and Elsa began by interviewing most Sprint members, asking them questions like about their backgrounds and what they hoped to get out of the sprint. Interviewees were also asked to give their views on what ‘open science’ means to them. Next, the team interviewed several projects for a more in depth discussion into how the Sprint works and what types of projects were being developed. In the final podcast, there are interviews with the teams from the open science game project, one on equitable preprints, the project looking at computational training best practices, and the high performance computing in Africa team. Each of these segments shows the people, methods, and progress of the projects, highlighting the diverse people and ideas at the Sprint and giving listeners insight into the process of this type of event as well as many of the problems that face the open science community. Jo’s highlight of the podcast was a conversation between current Innovation officer at eLife, Emmy Tsang, and the past officer, Naomi Penfold. They discussed their experiences hosting the Sprint, and to commented on changes they have witnessed in the open science movement. Listeners to the podcast will notice the overarching themes of openness, collaboration, excitement, and hope for the future of science, while also being challenged to think about who is being left behind in the progress towards a more open world. You can hear the full podcast (and see pictures from the Sprint) here, or listen on Soundcloud here.
“I supported them but really this was made by two scientists who had zero experience in this and I think making this in 2 days is really quite impressive!” – Jo Barratt, OKF
The OKF team would like to thank Emmy and eLife for a great experience at the Sprint!

Part of the Open Knowledge Foundation team met up in Cambridge the day before the Sprint began, and saved the world from a meteor (at an escape room)!

Frictionless Data at the EPFL Open Science in Practice Summer School

- September 16, 2019 in Featured, Frictionless Data, Open Science

In early September our Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research product manager, Lilly Winfree, presented a workshop at the Open Science in Practice Summer School at EPFL University in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Lilly’s workshop focused on teaching early career researchers about using Frictionless software and specs to make their research data more interoperable, shareable, and open. The audience learned about metadata, data schemas, creating data packages, and validating their data with Goodtables. The slides for her workshop are available here, and are licensed as CC-BY-4.0. The Summer School was organized by Luc Henry, Scientific Advisor at EPFL, and was a week-long series of talks and workshops on open science best practices for research students and early career researchers. A highlight of the workshop for Lilly was having the opportunity to work with Oleg Lavrovsky in person. Oleg is on the board of the Swizz chapter of OKF, Opendata.ch, and created the Frictionless Data Julia libraries as a Tool Fund grantee two years ago. Oleg wrote a recap of the workshop, which we are republishing below. The original can be read here. Thanks for your help, Oleg, and for Luc for organizing!

“Open” is the new black. Everybody talks about open science. But what does it mean exactly?

Lilly Winfree of the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project at OKF ran a workshop at Open Science in Practice, a week long training organized by the EPFL with Eurotech Universities. It was a top grade workshop delivered to a diverse room of doctoral students, early career researchers, “and beyond” in Lausanne. I had the opportunity to assist her, and learn from her professional delivery, get up to speed with key points about Open Knowledge Foundation, the latest news from the small, diligent people working to make open data more accessible and useful. With a fascinating science background, she connected well with the audience and made a strong case for well published open research data. The workshop reignited my desire to continue publishing Data Packages, contribute to the project, develop better support in various software environments, and be present in community channels. In our conversation afterwards, we talked about the remote work culture and global reach of the team, expectations management, and the challenges ahead. Thanks very much to @heluc and the rest of the #OSIP2019 team for organizing a great event, to all who participated in the workshop for patiently and interestedly hacking their first Data Packages together, and kudos to Lilly for crossing distances to bridge gaps and support Open Science in Switzerland.

Next events

There are two upcoming events that Oleg is involved with that might be of interest to the Frictionless Data and OKF communities: the DINAcon Digital Sustainability Conference, on October 18 in Bern, and the Opendata.ch Tourism Hackathon on November 29 in Lucerne.

Women in data can help tackle gender inequality

- September 10, 2019 in data literacy, Events, gender, News

Encouraging more women and girls to learn data skills can help tackle gender inequality and build a more diverse society, a conference will hear today. Speaking at the annual ‘Doing Data Right’ conference in Edinburgh, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler will call on governments to do more to engage young women in data skills, particularly outwith maths and science. She will argue that this will help empower more women to use data to improve their local communities, their cities and their countries. Former MEP for Scotland Ms Stihler will call for more citizen-generated data through schools, libraries, churches and community groups to generate high-quality data relating to gender equality and diversity, as well as other issues such as air quality and climate action. Ms Stihler is speaking at The Scotsman conference, Doing Data Right: Through people and partnerships, on a panel on ‘Women in data’ – along with campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez, Gillian Hogg of Heriot-Watt University, and Talat Yaqoob of Equate Scotland. Speaking ahead of the event, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said:
“Governments across the world must work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives, building a fair, free and open future. “Without data skills, people will be ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future. “We need to encourage more women and girls to learn data skills, particularly outwith subjects such as maths and science.

“These skills will then pave the way for pioneering new ways of producing and harnessing citizen-generated data through schools, libraries, churches and community groups, which in turn can help tackle gender inequality, build a more diverse society, and address issues such as climate change and air quality.”

Women in data can help tackle gender inequality

- September 10, 2019 in data literacy, Events, gender, News

Encouraging more women and girls to learn data skills can help tackle gender inequality and build a more diverse society, a conference will hear today. Speaking at the annual ‘Doing Data Right’ conference in Edinburgh, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler will call on governments to do more to engage young women in data skills, particularly outwith maths and science. She will argue that this will help empower more women to use data to improve their local communities, their cities and their countries. Former MEP for Scotland Ms Stihler will call for more citizen-generated data through schools, libraries, churches and community groups to generate high-quality data relating to gender equality and diversity, as well as other issues such as air quality and climate action. Ms Stihler is speaking at The Scotsman conference, Doing Data Right: Through people and partnerships, on a panel on ‘Women in data’ – along with campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez, Gillian Hogg of Heriot-Watt University, and Talat Yaqoob of Equate Scotland. Speaking ahead of the event, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said:
“Governments across the world must work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives, building a fair, free and open future. “Without data skills, people will be ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future. “We need to encourage more women and girls to learn data skills, particularly outwith subjects such as maths and science.

“These skills will then pave the way for pioneering new ways of producing and harnessing citizen-generated data through schools, libraries, churches and community groups, which in turn can help tackle gender inequality, build a more diverse society, and address issues such as climate change and air quality.”

World Library Congress – Closing Libraries is ‘short-sighted’

- August 26, 2019 in Featured, library, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

Closing down libraries to save money is ‘one of the most short-sighted decisions that public officials can make’, the World Library and Information Congress has heard.
Speaking at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) annual congress in Athens, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said ‘libraries are too often seen as an easy target for cuts’. The former MEP for Scotland said libraries can also ‘fill the gap’ in the delivery of coding lessons and data practice in schools, to ensure people across Europe and the world have the skills for the jobs of the future. In 2017, it is estimated that more than 120 libraries closed their doors in England, Wales and Scotland. But a recent study by the Carnegie UK Trust found that people aged 15-24 in England are the most likely age group to use libraries. And nearly half of people aged 25 to 34 still visit them, according to the study. The IFLA World Library and Information Congress (https://2019.ifla.org/) is the international flagship professional and trade event for the library and information services sector, bringing together over 3,500 participants from more than 120 countries. In her address to the World Library and Information Congress, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said:
“Governments across the world must now work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; as well as making powerful institutions more accountable; and ensuring vital research information that can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change is available to all.
“In short, we need a future that is fair, free and open.
“But this is not the way things are going in the UK, the EU, the US, China and across our world.
“Instead, we see in the UK, councils across the country facing major financial pressures, and libraries are too often seen as an easy target for cuts.
“But closing down a library has to be one of the most short-sighted decisions that public officials can make, with serious consequences for the future of local communities.” She added:
“There is a widespread misconception that the services offered are out-of-date – a relic of a bygone age before youngsters started carrying smartphones in their pockets with instant access to Wikipedia, and before they started downloading books on their Kindle.
“Today, the most successful libraries have remodelled themselves to become fit for the 21st century, and more can follow suit if they receive the right support and advice, and have the backing of governments and councils.
“I have long championed the importance of coding as part of the education curriculum, especially given that my home country of Scotland is home to more than 100,000 digital tech economy jobs.
“But while there remains a shortfall in what is delivered in our schools in terms of coding and data practice, libraries can fill that gap.
“Our world is moulded in code, and libraries offer young people an opportunity to bring ideas to life and build things that will bring joy to millions.
“So by embracing the future, they can continue to be an unrivalled place of learning, like they always were for previous generations.”

EU must work harder to tackle disinformation

- July 2, 2019 in disinformation, eu, News

The European Union must work harder to tackle the spread of disinformation on the internet, the Open Knowledge Foundation has warned. In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, chief executive Catherine Stihler has called for action to be ‘prioritised’ regarding online platforms that fail to do enough to tackle disinformation or do not fulfil promises made. She said ‘no sufficient progress has been made in developing tools to increase the transparency and trustworthiness of websites hosting adverts’, and Google and Twitter need to take steps to ensure the transparency of issue-based advertising. The letter comes after disinformation was discussed at last month’s European Council summit. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“Words are not enough in this battle to build a fair, free and open future. It is essential that the European Commission prioritises action regarding online platforms that fail to do enough to tackle disinformation or do not fulfil promises made. I firmly believe the institutions of the European Union must use their influence to force online platforms to provide more detailed information allowing the identification of malign actors, put pressure on Google and Twitter to increase transparency, and encourage closer working with fact checkers to prevent the spread of disinformation. The best way to tackle disinformation is to make information open, allowing journalists, developers and the research community to carry out analysis of disinformation operations.

With upcoming national elections across the EU, this is of paramount importance to help rebuild trust in politics and build a fair, free and open future.”

New Open Knowledge Foundation board chair and vice-chair appointed

- June 25, 2019 in News, Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is delighted to announce that Vanessa Barnett has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors, and Helen Turvey has been appointed as Vice-Chair. Vanessa Barnett said:
“It is a great honour to be appointed Chair of the Open Knowledge Foundation, at an incredibly exciting time for the organisation. We’re returning to our founding principles and fighting for a fair, free and open future. Our mission is to create an open world, where all non-personal information is open, free for everyone to use, build on and share; and creators and innovators are fairly recognised and rewarded. Our vision has never been more important, and I am excited to be supporting the organisation as Chair.”

Helen Turvey said:
“I’m delighted to be appointed Vice-Chair at a time when the Open Knowledge Foundation is going from strength-to-strength. The world has changed dramatically since our organisation was launched 15 years ago, and we need champions for openness. I’m looking forward to working closely with the great team involved in running the Foundation.”
Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“I’m pleased to welcome Vanessa and Helen as our new Chair and Vice-Chair, and look forward to working with them. I would also like to thank Tim Hubbard for his work as outgoing chair of the board and all the members of the board who support everything we do to promote openness. The Open Knowledge Foundation is uniquely placed to address the challenges of the digital age and work towards a fair, free and open future.”
  About Vanessa Barnett Vanessa Barnett is a lawyer who helps clients who are using technology and data to innovate or disrupt established ways of doing things, with particular expertise in Internet/platform based business models. She likes working with people who are changing the status quo. She has supported her clients from household-name global brands to nimble start-ups do this for over 15 years, first as a partner at two traditional City firms and now at disruptor law firm Keystone Law. She regularly advises boards on legal matters and strategy in her role as a lawyer. Vanessa has a specific interest in the cross over between technology, intellectual property and data, and right now is spending most of her working time advising on data related projects. She holds a degree in Law from Exeter University, is the founding author of the Internet section of Practical Commercial Precedents and sits on its editorial board. She is also on the editorial board of Digital Business Lawyer About Helen Turvey Helen has spent the past two decades working to make philanthropy better. She is honoured to have spent over half of that time working with the Shuttleworth Foundation, an organisation brave and nimble enough to be truly experimental in their approach to changing the world and its own DNA along with it. Having spent time at the beginning of her career travelling, learning and keynoting on most continents, Helen now spends her time working with the Fellows and Alumni of the Foundation, building, supporting, strengthening and enabling leaders who iterate towards a more open and equitable world. She is also on the board of several organisations that drive open ideals.

Statement from the Open Knowledge Foundation Board on the future of the CKAN Association

- June 6, 2019 in ckan, Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Board met on Monday evening to discuss the future of the CKAN Association.

The Board supported the CKAN Stewardship proposal jointly put forward by Link Digital and Datopian. As two of the longest serving members of the CKAN Community, it was felt their proposal would now move CKAN forward, strengthening both the platform and community.

In appointing joint stewardship to Link Digital and Datopian, the Board felt there was a clear practical path with strong leadership and committed funding to see CKAN grow and prosper in the years to come.

OKF will remain the ‘purpose trustee’ to ensure the Stewards remain true to the purpose and ethos of the CKAN project. The Board would like to thank everyone who contributed to the deliberations and we are confident CKAN has a very bright future ahead of it.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Steven de Costa, managing director of Link Digital, or Paul Walsh, CEO of Datopian, by emailing stewards@ckan.org.

UK Health Secretary challenged to tackle access to medicines

- June 4, 2019 in health, News

The Open Knowledge Foundation has written to Westminster Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand the UK Government plays its role in addressing the global lack of access to medicines. The challenge comes after the UK disassociated itself from an international agreement aimed at reducing the cost of drugs across the world. The resolution at the World Health Assembly was designed to improve the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health products. It brought together countries including Brazil, Spain, Russia and India in recognition of the critical role played by health products and services innovation in bringing new treatments and value to patients and health care systems. By sharing information on the price paid for medicines and the results of clinical trials, countries can work together to negotiate fair prices on equal terms with the aim of lowering drug costs. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“It is shameful that the UK Government is not willing to stand in solidarity with people most at risk of illness and death because of lack of access to medicines. We live in extraordinary times when new medical and technological advances are capable of saving millions of lives. The key to building equality for all is greater openness and transparency, and this philosophy must also be applied to healthcare. By sharing information on the price paid for medicines and the results of clinical trials, countries can work together to negotiate fair prices on equal terms with the aim of lowering drug costs. Quite simply, openness can save lives across the world.

I urge Matt Hancock to strongly reconsider the UK’s position.”