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Naturalist Datathon: Bogotá (Datatón Naturalista)

- May 15, 2019 in colombia, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. The Karisma Foundation from Colombia received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project to organise an event under the Open Science theme. This report was written by Karen Soacha: her biography is included at the bottom of this post.

Open data, naturalists and pizza were part of the Open Data Day celebration in Bogotá

Why and how to improve the quality of open data on biodiversity available in citizen science platforms, were the questions that brought together more than 40 naturalists in the event organized by the Karisma Foundation, the Humboldt Institute and the Biodiversity Information System of Colombia (SiB Colombia) on 2nd of March 2019 as part of the global celebration of Open Data Day. Expert naturalists, amateurs and those interested in citizen science came together to review the open data generated for Bogotá through the City Nature Challenge 2018. The City Nature Challenge is an annual event that invites city-dwellers across the world to hit the streets for two days to capture and catalogue nature which they might be too occupied to notice otherwise.  Using their smartphones, hundreds of people generate thousands of observations of plants, birds, insects and more, which they share through citizen science platforms such as iNaturalist. Generating the data is just the beginning of the process: improving its quality, so that they have the greatest possibility of being used, is the next step. During the Naturalist Datathon we shared guides to facilitate the identification of species, tips to review observations, as well as good practices for users and reviewers to improve the quality of the data. After a morning of collaborative work, the groups shared their learning and engaged in a discussion about the importance of data quality and its potential use in environmental monitoring especially in the context of environmental issues in Bogotá.

1.Introduction and guides for the activity 2. Roles of the participants 4. Organization of work groups 5. Collaborative review of observations 6. Discussion 7. Naturalist Kit for all the participants

The Datatón Naturalista left us with a set of outputs, specific lessons learned and a set of good practices for the participants, the organizers and the community of naturalists and open data. To begin with, this activity contributed to increasing the community of experts who actively participate in the “curation” of observations published in Naturalista Colombia, which is necessary in order to improve the quality of the data. At the end of the datathon, the quality of the data the participants worked on was vastly improved — so much so that the data will be integrated into the SiB Colombia (the official national continental biodiversity portal). As a result of this datathon, more Colombians were encouraged to participate as urban/rural naturalists. Participants also shared good practices for taking photographs and collecting data necessary for observations to be useful for multiple uses, they mentioned the importance of use licenses for facilitating the reuse and  sharing the information (Creative Commons). They also gave recommendations for the 2019 City Nature Challenge (CNC), such as the need for guides in easy-to-consume formats (such as short videos) that ought to be shared in advance of the CNC.  This guide should go beyond basic information on data capturing, and should include good practices, as well as ethical recommendations for the creators, curators, and users of information. One of the challenges that the participants highlighted was the need to recognize and integrate citizen science data as a source of information for the environmental management of the city. For the organizers, the datatón turned out to be an effective means to create conversation, connections and reflections on the how and for what of the open data, at the same time that allowed to strengthen capacities and contribute with open data of quality. Finally, this event showed that more and more citizens are becoming involved in citizen science, actively contributing to our knowledge of biodiversity, and are working collaboratively to further understand their environment and to generate information that is useful for decision-making. Therefore, it is necessary to continue promoting spaces that allow community-building and facilitate networking around open science and citizen science.  For that reason, we in Bogotá are looking forward to the next Open Data Day.   Biography Karen Soacha is interested in the connection between knowledge management, citizen science, governance and nature. She’s been working with environmental organizations for over 10 years, in the management of data and information networks, especially with open data on biodiversity. She is convinced that science is a way to build dialogue within the society. She is also a teacher, an amateur dancer, and an apprentice naturalist.  

Open Data Day: Open Science events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Costa Rica

- May 14, 2019 in congo, Costa Rica, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. AfricaTech from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Society for Open Science and Biodiversity Conservation (SCiAC) from Costa Rica received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project and by the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA), to organise events under the Open Science theme. This report was written by Stella Agama Mbiyi and Diego Gómez Hoyos.

AfricaTech

We organized in the UCC in Kinshasa on March 2, 2019, the Open Day event 2019. Our event was focused on Open Science in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We had about 50 participants in the event, especially students and some researchers who participated positively in the different sessions and discussions on Open Science in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its implications for sustainable development. 5 Speakers among 4 women presented various concepts related to Open Science to participants. The conference started at 8:00 and ended at 17:30. Several participants made positive comments about the event such as Florent Nday, a Biological student at University of Kinshasa who said: “This is my first time to hear about Open Science, it’s a huge opportunity for us students from developing countries. Because we will have access to a wide range of knowledge easily.” The social science researcher at Kinshasa’s Institute of Social Science, Mr. Jiress Mbumba commented, “It’s time for us Congolese researchers to promote Open Science in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have an interest to share our researches, and findings with everyone to spur the development of science.” The event ended with a dinner offered to all participants.

Society for Open Science and Biodiversity Conservation (SciAc)

The training workshop on Reproducibility in Science as a link between Open Data, Open Science and Open Education, was organized by SCiAC (Society for Open Science and Biodiversity Conservation) in collaboration with the Biology Department of the University of Costa Rica, ProCAT International, Abriendo Datos Costa Rica and CR Wildlife Foundation. The workshop included general presentations on open ecosystems and data management plans during research projects, as well as training in the use of GitHub and R language for data release and data analysis code in a context of Open Science practices. The four speakers in the workshop were Diego Gómez Hoyos and Rocío Seisdedos from SCiAC, Susana Soto from Abriendo Datos Costa Rica and Ariel Mora from the University of Costa Rica. Fifteen people (66% women) from different provinces of Costa Rica (Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Heredia and San José) participated in the activity. In Central America, especially in Costa Rica, considerable advances have been made regarding open data and open government issues. Our workshop has been one of the first efforts to offer researchers tools in order for open science and open education practices. This workshop has been inspired by the project Open Science MOOC and the “Panama Declaration for Open Science”, led by Karisma Foundation and in which SCiAC took part. From this experience we see a great potential and interest of researchers in knowing the tools with which they can share the elements of their research processes. We also recognize that open science practices could have a significant impact on the teaching of scientific practice. Finally, we identify the need to carry out these training activities as a tool that seeks to democratize access to and generation of knowledge in order to face the environmental, social and economic problems faced by our society.

Open call: become a Frictionless Data Reproducible Research Fellow

- May 8, 2019 in Featured, fellowship program, Frictionless Data, grant, Open Science

The Frictionless Data Reproducible Research Fellows Program, supported by the Sloan Foundation, aims to train graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and early career researchers how to become champions for open, reproducible research using Frictionless Data tools and approaches in their field. Fellows will learn about Frictionless Data, including how to use Frictionless tools in their domains to improve reproducible research workflows, and how to advocate for open science. Working closely with the Frictionless Data team, Fellows will lead training workshops at conferences, host events at universities and in labs, and write blogs and other communications content. In addition to mentorship, we are providing Fellows with stipends of $5,000 to support their work and time during the nine-month long Fellowship. We welcome applications using this form from 8th May 2019 until 30th July 2019, with the Fellowship starting in the fall. We value diversity and encourage applicants from communities that are under-represented in science and technology, people of colour, women, people with disabilities, and LGBTI+ individuals.

Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research

The Fellowship is part of the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project at Open Knowledge International. Frictionless Data aims to reduce the friction often found when working with data, such as when data is poorly structured, incomplete, hard to find, or is archived in difficult to use formats. This project, funded by the Sloan Foundation, applies our work to data-driven research disciplines, in order to help researchers and the research community resolve data workflow issues.  At its core, Frictionless Data is a set of specifications for data and metadata interoperability, accompanied by a collection of software libraries that implement these specifications, and a range of best practices for data management. The core specification, the Data Package, is a simple and practical “container” for data and metadata. The Frictionless Data approach aims to address identified needs for improving data-driven research such as generalized, standard metadata formats, interoperable data, and open-source tooling for data validation.

Fellowship program

During the Fellowship, our team will be on hand to work closely with you as you complete the work. We will help you learn Frictionless Data tooling and software, and provide you with resources to help you create workshops and presentations. Also, we will announce Fellows on the project website and will be publishing your blogs and workshops slides within our network channels.  We will provide mentorship on how to work on an Open project, and will work with you to achieve your Fellowship goals.

How to apply

We welcome applications using this form from 8th May 2019 until 30th July 2019, with the Fellowship starting in the fall. The Fund is open to early career research individuals, such as graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, anywhere in the world, and in any scientific discipline. Successful applicants will be enthusiastic about reproducible research and open science, have some experience with communications, writing, or giving presentations, and have some technical skills (basic experience with Python, R, or Matlab for example), but do not need to be technically proficient. If you are interested, but do not have all of the qualifications, we still encourage you to apply. If you have any questions, please email the team at frictionlessdata@okfn.org, ask a question on the project’s gitter channel, or check out the Fellows FAQ section. Apply soon, and share with your networks!

Citizen repository of open data and exploration of the contracting system in Bolivia

- April 1, 2019 in bolivia, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Fundación Internet Bolivia.org (FIB.org) and Pamela Gonzales, one of our School of Data Fellows from Bolivia received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) and by Hivos / Open Contracting Partnership, to organise events under the Open Science and Open Contracting  themes respectively. This report was written by Pamela Gonzales and Wilfredo Jordan: their biographies are included at the bottom. Bolivia is past due on issues regarding access to information and data. This is why Open Data Day is an opportunity to talk about data and how to generate public value through certain projects. We celebrated it with two activities.

A public repository of open data

The Fundación Internet Bolivia (internetbolivia.org) along with 14 volunteers came together to identify and save data sets about social research in Bolivia. In our country, several institutions publish data sets, studies plus information to promote their research. However, with time, some entities cease to exist and with it them the data they collected over the years. The most recent case is the Center for Information and Development of Women (cidem.org.bo), which until 2015 published data on femicide and gender violence towards women in Bolivia. This organization closed its doors and shut down its website locking us out to the data they collected over 32 years. This is why we decided to create an open data repository that works as a backup, for these lost data sets, and ensures permanent access to databases in a single place. With this in mind, we identified databases and updated their metadata. This was a good occasion to talk about the importance of open data, how they are being used, their principles, characteristics and potential uses. The second part of our workshop was intended to talk about GitLab (https://gitlab.com) and its potential to become a collaborative open data repository. After a few hours of work, we created our accounts and published some databases with their respective metadata which you can see here: https://gitlab.com/bases-bolivia/test-of-base The participants were interested in working on more datasets and learning the ropes to free information, so we decided to meet again every 15 days to improve our work and expand the data community in La Paz. If the interest to catalog more databases continue and there are more interested citizens, we will be ready to take a more significant step, e.g. create a catalog of open data of Bolivia. The community will have to decide. We would like to thank the facilitators for their support: Miriam Jemio, Wilfredo Jordán, Guillermo Movia, activists and open data enthusiasts who took charge of the workshop’s dynamics, and the Internet Bolivia Foundation, for letting us work in their offices and it’s interest on a subject as important as this one.

Exploration to the public contracting system of Bolivia

In order to learn more about public budgets allocated to gender, on Saturday, March 9, 2019, we commemorated with a workshop held at the offices of Bolivia Tech Hub (the most influential collaborator of the technological ecosystem in Bolivia). This event was held in the city of La Paz, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the participation of 22 people with a technical background. The workshop was led by Pamela Gonzales, a fellow of the School of Data, and began with an explanation of basic concepts of open data, followed by an introduction to open contracting. In the second part, we reviewed the Public Contracting System of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (SICOES) and the procedure to extract data from its website sicoes.gob.bo, the types of searches, documents obtained and formats. Although the data and information on employing are public, the problem is that this website is designed for public officials to publish the procedures and not for the users or citizens who want to navigate the website, which hinders accessibility, search and collection of data. A second point is that one of the ways to obtain all the routes of a specific contract is only possible with the Unique Code of State Contracting (CUCE in Spanish), which makes it difficult to search and obtain information, so a standardization of this Transparency platform according to open contracting standards is still a pending issue in Bolivia. In the third part of the event, we started with the data expedition. We searched for contracts related to gender, for this, we put in practice the techniques learned in the first part of the workshop, for example using Open Refine to clean the obtained data. Finally, the participants exchanged their contacts to develop common projects. As a result of this workshop, a survey we conducted for the public showed 70% interest in knowing more about open contracting and learning its standards.  

Biographies

Pamela Gonzales: I’m a serial entrepreneur at Bolivia Tech Hub, a collaborative space for Technological Projects. I also organized hackathons. My main goal is to manage and develop projects. I enjoy very much building teams who enjoy taking on challenging projects. Wilfredo Jordan: Digital journalist specialized in new media. Open data activist. Blog: https://wilfredojordan.blogspot.com/  

Open Data Day in Venezuela

- March 29, 2019 in Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science, venezuela

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Centro Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Sobre Internet from Venezuela received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) to organise an event under the Open Science theme. This report was written by Jose Luis Mendoza. We organized events in two locations simultaneously, at two of the most important cities in Venezuela (at almost 700 Kms each) Mérida and Caracas. Within the facilities of the main universities, Central University of Venezuela and the University of the Andes. We used audiovisual aid and internet tools to host international speakers and to exchange experiences between cities. With a joint attendance of 52 students, plus authorities of the Universities and speakers from Geneva, London, Santiago de Chile, Caracas and Mérida. The event moved between the melancholy of remembering times of ingenuity and not so distant development, with great advances in open data and access to information, as well as the strong crisis that crosses the country with the challenges that this represents; and on the other hand of new proposals, programs and projected solutions that excited the assistants. Thus, we remember the times of the “bibliobus”, a walking library that the University of the Andes developed to take the reading to all the towns of the Andean mountain range where there are children of scarce resources and that makes it difficult to reach a traditional library, project that unfortunately was suppressed by the central state when removing the vehicle they had donated, also the crisis that crosses the country hindered the maintenance of said vehicle. The local chapter of Internet Society came to explain their career and the resources they make freely available to students and researchers on their website, as well as telecommunications infrastructure development projects for low-income schools. Speaking from Geneva and London, the founders of the Virtual Center of High Studies of High Energy for Venezuela, belonging to the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the Alan Turing Institute, explain how the open data of the Large Hadron Collider made possible one of the discoveries that have revolutionized science in our century, as well as the set of educational activities that in remote mode is directing your organization. The Universidad de  Andes has been recognized worldwide by its online library and the resources available in it to every user, we could not but invite the Director of the library to tell us how they make this possible even in the midst of the crisis in the country, as well as the telematics infrastructure management of the university and finally the Director of the library network of the state of Mérida. It was possible to appreciate the enthusiasm of the attendants for this type of activities, in which they learn in an experiential way the opportunities they can access through open data, both work and study, as well as being able to carry out investigations that are not visibly affected by the structural impoverishment of the universities of the country, enthusiasm that came to demand loudly that activities like these are repeated, and that cover in addition to the open data other areas and aspects of their interest, that is, the application of these data open to certain areas of knowledge.

Open Data Day in Taiwan and Zimbabwe

- March 26, 2019 in Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Mapping, Open Science, taiwan, zimbabwe

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. OpenStreetMap Taiwan, Wikimedia Taiwan and the Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) received funding through the mini-grant scheme by Mapbox and the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project, to organise events under the Open Mapping and Open Science themes respectively. This is a joint report produced by Dennis Raylin Chen and Josiline Chigwada: their biographies are included at the bottom of this post.

Taiwan: Holiday with More than Thirty Participants

The initiative of hosting an event starts simply with a few people wondering about the lack of proper self-learning material and content of traditional Chinese on Wikidata. And also the same on the OpenStreetMap project. Therefore, we, Wikimedia Taiwan and OpenStreetMap community organizers, decided to host an event, dedicated to tackle the topic mentioned above. It turned out to be quite a success, with more than 30 people joining us at the event. And we want to give our special thanks to the minigrant program of Open Knowledge International for kindly funding our event, the Mozilla Community Space of Taipei for providing the venue and at last our hard-working group.

The First Major Event in Taiwan

This is the first major event of Wikidata in Taiwan. Besides OpenStreetMap and Wikimedia communities, we also work with people with people who are interested in cultural data. Allen gives a talk about Wikidata and Dennis Raylin Chen gives a talk on OpenStreetMap. Prior to this event, our last Wikidata event dates back to 2013. Lydia Pintscher, Project Manager for Wikidata, was invited to give a lecture of Wikidata on one of the biggest Open Source Conference COSCUP in Taiwan. In 2018, Butch Bustria, a Wikipedian from the Philippines, shared his knowledge about Wikidata during a session of COSCUP. However, before the Open Data Day Events, we did not have any organized promotion in Taiwan. At the event, we used a dashboard tools developed by the Wikimedia Foundation to keep an eye on the edits on Wikidata. We ranked the contributions by bytes created and the prizes are presented before the end of the event to the top three editors.

Language Barrier on Wikidata

We ran into a translation problem due to the fundamental difference between languages. We found out that the Chinese translation of P31 is ambiguous and causing confusions. Despite some potential solutions that were proposed by experienced participants, we were still not able to find a proper Chinese translation, as its language structure is different from European languages like English or German Language. We might find out a way to work around this issue in a more direct approach as we writing the learning materials to explain the definition of P31.

Working on Geodata on both Wikidata and OpenStreetMap

Another topic on the same event is OpenStreetMap, Dennis gave a demo how to draw a building around a museum. He encouraged participants to fill the gap of the date query by Overpass API of Taiwan museums, adding address information, Wikipedia and Wikidata links.

Suggestion and Experience

After the events, organizers received feedback suggesting that we should explain more clearly the logic of Wikidata Database design, something like Q P Q triple store format. Other participants say we should edit a good item, so that others could follow our steps. From this event we gain lots of precious experience. By seeking outside-aid, we are able to host a bigger event, which we could have a full-day time to cover several issues, and the participants could have a much more deeper discussion with others.

Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) Library, Zimbabwe

Using a mini-grant that was offered by Open Knowledge International with support from other organisations, BUSE held two activities to commemorate International Open Data Day. The commemorations were held on 15 and 20 March respectively at Bindura University of Science Education Library in Zimbabwe. The first presentation was done to 16 library staff members to introduce them to open data, so that they are able to assist those who enquire about the subject in the library. The second presentation was for lecturers from the five faculties at BUSE and 26 people graced the occasion. It was attended by the Pro Vice Chancellor, Academic Deans, Chairpersons of departments and lecturers.

Group photo for participants at the Open Data Day Breakfast Meeting at BUSE

The presentation was titled ‘Introduction to open data at BUSE” with the aim of creating awareness on the importance of open data at a research institution. The comments from the evaluation forms indicated that researchers want to learn the skills to break barriers to open data, how to carry out awareness in institutions with important data which they do not want researchers to freely access, and how policies can be enacted to promote open data. Some researchers indicated that they are willing to open their research data and would encourage others to do so.

Way forward

The presentation would be done in faculty board meetings where most researchers would be available. The library would continue to create awareness among the members of staff as a way of building capacity towards open data, since there are a lot of misconceptions when dealing with open data. There is also the need to influence policy makers so that there are policies to protect both the researchers and the end users.

Josiline Chigwada making a presentation on the Introduction to open data @ BUSE

 

Biographies

Dennis Raylin Chen is a member of Wikimedia Taiwan and a core community organizer of OpenStreetMap meetup in Taiwan. His day job is tech reporter and in his spare time, recently, he likes to review the edit of OpenStreetMap around Taiwan. Promoting Wikidata of Taiwan is one of his main focuses, making sure the Taiwan related-items are all well-organized. Josiline Chigwada is the Sub Librarian for Information services at Bindura University of Science Education Library in Zimbabwe. She holds a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy in Information Science from the University of South Africa (UNISA). Her research interests are value addition, open science, research data management, information literacy, indigenous knowledge, advocacy, marketing library products and services, and the changing role of librarians. She has a keen interest in promoting open science among researchers in Zimbabwe.

Open Data Day 2019: open science events in Benin and Cameroon

- March 21, 2019 in benin, cameroon, Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open Science

This report is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2019. On Saturday 2nd March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. AfricArxiv and APSOHA received funding through the mini-grant scheme by the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project, to organise events under the Open Science theme. This is a joint report produced by Justin Sègbédji Ahinon and Yves Valery Obame: their biographies are included at the bottom of this post.

Open Data Day 2019 Cotonou, Benin

On Saturday, March 9, 2019, Open Data Day Cotonou took place at the Blolab in Cotonou, jointly organized by AfricArxiv and the Waziup Iot Clubs. Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data around the world. The main organizer of this event on a global scale is Open Knowledge International, a global non-profit organization whose purpose is to foster and encourage the use of open data to solve societal problems. Open Data Day is in 2019 at its ninth edition, and the themes selected this year are:
  • Open science
  • Monitoring the flow of public funds
  • Open mapping
  • Data for equal development
For the Cotonou edition, the main theme chosen for the discussions was that of open science. The main objective is to raise public awareness of the importance of open science and open data for Benin and Francophone Africa in general and of open access publishing. With about twenty participants and three speakers, many topics related to open in general were discussed. These include open science in Francophone Africa, open educational resources, open data and citizenship. The various speakers during the day were people who were experts in open science and open data, which made the discussions all the more interesting and at the same time stimulated public participation.   These are the themes of the different discussions of the day as well as their speakers:
  • Open Science: Introduction, State of Play and Participation in Francophone Africa
    • Justin Sègbédji Ahinon: WordPress developer, co-founder of AfricArxiv
  • Open Data Promotion in Benin: what is the role of citizens?
    • Maurice Thantan: Web Journalist, President of the Association of Bloggers of Benin
  • Open Educational Resources and Use Cases
    • Franck Kouyami: Systems and Networks Engineer, Technical Officer of the Cotonou Francophone Digital Campus and Chair of the Benin Internet Governance Forum
  • Round table: #OpenScience, #CivicTech, State of play in Francophone Africa
    • Justin Ahinon, Maurice Thantan, Franck Kouyami

Open Data Day 2019 Yaoundé, Cameroon

In fellowship with international actors for Openness, The Cameroon Laboratory for Research on Contemporary Societies (CERESC) in partnership with APSOHA and the OER-Cameroon Association, organized a conference on “Discovering infinite wealth of open data in scientific research” with the objectives of: sensitizing researchers at the University of Yaoundé I to adopt best practices of open research data; sensitize and socialize the Cameroonian scientific community to the concept of Open Data. Open Data, which was at the center of the exchanges, are data to which the access is completely public and free of right, in the same way as their exploitation and reuse. In Cameroon, Open Science and its components (open data, open access, open education …) is not yet widespread and renowned in academic circles because of weak communication and a lack of activities related to open science. Cameroonian researchers and students are therefore not always well informed of the opportunities and benefits they can derive from embracing this movement. The celebration of Open Data Day 2019 was therefore a good opportunity to continue to sensitize the research community of State Universities in general and those of the University of Yaoundé I in particular of the importance to adhere to this worldwide movement. The focus of this day’s work was sharing the experience of the National Institute of Statistics (INS), a government agency that hosts a project and Open Data database. This sharing of experience, through hands-on access to this database, allowed over 80 participants to see the benefits of open data to researchers. The majority of participants was not even aware of the existence of such a database available and opens for their research and that they themselves could supply. Challenges for the implementation of open data in academia in Cameroon remain numerous: the indifference of decision-makers, the absence of openness-friendly research policies, the glaring lack of digital infrastructures, the lack of literacy among decision-makers and researchers are a few. The very rich exchanges between participants and speakers of this conference made it possible to take the measure of these difficulties and gravities and the measures to face them. The flagship resolutions at the end of the work were to build, with external partners, an open access digital database portal for research, and to draft an Open Science policy for the University of Yaoundé I. The complete report is available at www.ceresc.org

Biographies

Justin Sègbédji Ahinon is a WordPress developer with a background in applied statistics. He is strongly interested in open access issues in Africa as well as in the dissemination of knowledge and the means by which it is carried out on the continent. He is a fellow and recently a mentor of the Open Leaders program of the Mozilla Foundation. Yves Valery Obame is a teacher in the Government Teacher’s Training College (GTTC) in Cameroon, member of Cameroon Laboratory for Research on Contemporary Societies (CERESC) of the University of Yaoundé I and a Ph. D candidate in Sociology. Founder of OER-Cameroon (@oer_cameroon), an open movement devoted to raising awareness and promoting the use of open educational resources in Higher and Secondary Education in Cameroon. He discovered the open perspectives (Access, Education, Data, Science) quite recently but its vision and objectives are in line with this work of awareness, through his teachings, that he leads and shares with his students in Cameroon and developing countries on the need for equal, justice and free access to knowledge. He is equally involved, with APSOHA, in advocacy work in the academic milieu.

Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context

- February 4, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, Open Textbooks, open-education, world

Guest post by Werner Westermann & Carlos Ruz
Just as the new Open University of Recoleta was announced in November 2018, it immediately sparked a nationwide discussion about the public role of universities, due to an informal institution calling itself university.  Recoleta’s major, the leader of a traditional but impoverished borough in Santiago, has been clear when saying that the mission of the Open University of Recoleta is to “promote the democratisation of knowledge and access to a plurality of knowledge and disciplines through teaching, research and extension activities aiming at facilitating the integral development of its students in a cultural environment based on collaboration, citizen participation and innovation“. The Open University of Recoleta’s mission is supported by an institutional policy based on Open Educational Resources, the first institution in Chile to explicitly uptake openness, although this policy can be still considered.  An unfinished “open” policy, as they do not explicitly have an open licensing scheme or a set of clearly describe Open practices that will flow in this Open “Pluriversity”, a new concept to elude the legal technicalities of being a “real” university, which is similar to the concept of Volkshochschule in Germany, where the idea of popular universities is widely adopted and well regarded. This case is very illustrative of Chile’s slow progress around openness and OER, despite the growing interest and awareness across the world.  There has been in the last decade very few small initiatives and projects related to OER (showcased here in the OER World Map)  Surely there are many reasons for this situation, but we could highlight:
  1. Disregard  and indifference towards user’s rights:  Although the Ministry of Education websites have declared their contents are  attributed with open licenses (CC-BY) in their footers, that is not translated to the contents and educational resources stored  in their repositories, as the case of the YoEstudio and the CRA School Libraries. In both cases, the educational resources do not specify the rights to use the resources they host or distribute, therefore, and by default, these are all rights reserved, as specified in the law.
  2. If explicit, user’s rights are restrictive:  Copyright (all rights reserved) is ubiquitous  as the default user’s rights. A good example is the largest  educational resources repository for K-12 schools, EducarChile.  They have added a Creative Commons license as to their website, but the Terms and Conditions of use of their educational resources are highly restrictive
  3. Publicly funded  does not mean public use: Despite Chile’s pledge to foster open access to information and data funded with public resources and having a law on access to public information, in Chilean Higher Education, almost, if not all, public funds promote exclusive institutional ownership of the results and the knowledge created in those projects. Those public funds are disputed in a competitive scenario, where universities and researchers  struggle within a capitalistic and privatised education system framework has made competition its matrix, at the expense of open cooperation and mutual collaboration.
  4. Lack of incentives:  In Higher Education, academic or professional development incentives are is not focused on the field of teaching, even less with learning.  Normally, these incentives aim at supporting research activity (mostly publicly funded) that must be published in high impact journals , as the pernicious higher education rankings and metrics foster a toxic scholarly culture in which he results of the research are  focused on the commercialisation, conceived as an exclusive asset. The logic of treasuring my personal assets is fuelled by an ecosystem regulated by large monopolies (Elsevier) that control indexation, thus the dissemination and citation of scientific research and by the University Rankings corporations that feed this malignant system for the sake of climbing up in a system that has nefarious consequences in emerging economies, by draining public funds when paying corporations excruciating high fees and subscription to publish publicly funded research.
Despite the educational landscape seeming to be unable of  providing a fertile soil to foster Open Access, Open Science, Open Education and and OER, there are some advancements in this area worth showcasing Through a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Embassy in Santiago, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso developed an Open Textbook project.  This project resulted in the development and translation of open textbooks that were deployed formally in different courses.  One book was developed by faculty remixing existing open content from whose resources are in the public domain.  Another book was reviewed and enhanced by students, an open educational practice that stunned faculty and fully-engaged students.  This led to translate to Spanish the award-winning book from REBUS “Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students”. For next academic year, new strategies are considered to promote theses results, highlighting the potential of open pedagogies that build OER, showed how students engaged in both processes and how innovation in teaching flourished.  The results and more details can be seen here:  http://openbooks.biblioteca.ucv.cl/ Another grant funded by the Chilean Cooperation Agency (https://www.agci.cl/) made possible a project to see how Digital Citizenship creates a new scenario for civic engagement, in collaboration with the Library of National Congress of Chile and the Instituto Belisario Domínguez from the Senate in Mexico.  A series of OER were developed (state-of-art content, a learning outcome matrix, assessment item bank, e-learning professional development course) to include Digital Citizenship in schools. We adapted and piloted these resources in Chilean as well Mexican schools (with very exciting results in Mexico!!).  The openness of these resources has already made an impact, as the Council for Transparency reused the assessment item bank in a videogame they developed ().  More details of this project can be seen here:  http://www.bcn.cl/formacioncivica/chile_mexico In the spirit of cooperation, and to foster citizenship and participation,  a national commitment to develop OER for digital citizenship was included in the 3rd OGP Open Government Action Plan (2016-2018), which has been an important platform to promote openness in Chile from the Open Government guidelines. That work will continue in the recently published 4th OGP Government Action Plan (2018-2020), where the commitment is to create OER to define and configure the critical skills for Open (Government) Citizenry, which in indeed  aligned with the SDG 4.7 emphasising on sustainable development and global citizenship. It should be noted that the process of building this commitment it has involved a series of actors in order to co-create this commitment, continuing with what was initiated in the previous action plan, seeking to provide a capacity building model of citizenship competencies through OER, and to provide opportunities for people contributing to democratise citizen participation   Mainstreaming openness and OER in the chilean educational context will be a long and rocky journey, but definitely is core to foster a pathway to guide the nation in fostering   quality education for by promoting Open Science, Open Access and Open Education to further democratise access to knowledge .  
About the authors Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).   Carlos Ruz is a Maths teacher, the innovation and research director of Maule Scholar, and head of the LabDatos Chile. He frequently writes for  Chile Científico and is an active member of the civil society network for Open Government.

SCOOTER – a reflection.

- January 30, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, open-education

(Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources)

    Guest post by Viv Rolfe
The start of a new year seems a good time to reflect back on my past OER work. One project I was most fondest of was ‘SCOOTER’ – Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources [http://sicklecellanaemia.org]. The name not at all celebrating one of my favourite Muppet characters! This was very much inspired by Professor Simon Dyson a social scientist at De Montfort University (where I worked at the time) who’s research looked into the social and care surrounding young people with sickle cell and other haemoglobin disorders. Coupled with a geneticist colleague Dr Mark Fowler, we set to engage colleagues across our faculties in providing multidisciplinary teaching materials to raise awareness of the needs of young people with sickle cell, and provide education content on this vitally important subject. SCOOTER was funded by Jisc OER Programme in 2010 marking the 100thanniversary of the discovery of ‘peculiar elongated cells’ by James Herrick. What followed that year was a snowballing, or more of an avelanch, of enthusiasm and interest, not just from our faculty as intended but across the university. Some of my most cherished resources were from an arts student Jacob Escott who was utterly inspired by the human body and I remember my first meeting which went well past an hour and I had to hustle him out of the office so I could go and teach. Jacob inspired me in SCOOTER and various projects after that by providing the artwork which created strong project identities, great colour schemes and were utterly fabulous. SCOOTER shared resources on social care, nursing, genetics, personal experiences, art, and included the involvement of the pathology department at the local hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary.This started a collaboration where they would share biomedical content (data, graphs, photographs) under open licenses that we would repackage as educational materials. We’d both use the OER in our teaching or training of biomedical scientists in the lab. Professor Dyson’s main area of work is in providing healthcare policy documents for schools that give plain speaking guidance for helping young people, and these are certainly some of the projects most visited pages over the 8 years. These vital guides have been translated into many languages. Scooter received personal reflections from students and healthcare professionals. In one, Professor Elizabeth Anionwu shared a video of her experience of setting up the first nurse counselling services in the UK [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK0p8t-NA-Q]. My most favourite recent editions is a song composed and performed by students in a school in Africa – Sikul Sel. As I reflect back on the very first blog post on November 27th2010,  we achieved our goals of making the project ‘search engine optimised’ by using researched keywords, having content in multiple formats (also for accessibility), and sharing content on multiple social media platforms (for sustainability). The WordPress blog was perfect for this. I’ve just about managed to keep the blogs afloat in the subsequent years – slightly irked that I’d never received any thanks or support from the university as a whole, but very grateful that I’d discovered Reclaim Hosting who have been so generous as to assist with the very occasional technical difficulties.

Another goal was “building a vibrant community of users”.

We did at the time, but I wouldn’t say this has sustained over the years. In terms of Google rankings the site has definitely slumped, but resources on YouTube and Flickr still gain new views every year. We might have a vibrant community of users – I just have no way of knowing that now.

“New challenges will surely emerge as economic factors change the face of Higher Education in the UK and wider a field, and Open Education may hold the key to the future as students choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

Oh how I should have placed a bet on that one! How insightful of me at the time. Yes, there would be only one more year of OER funding in the UK, but within a few years any funding for digital, pedagogic or teaching-enhancement research in the UK would cease. The HEA is no longer and Jisc continues to merge with other sector agencies [https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/hesa-and-jisc-integration-10-jan-2019]. The fate of OER is shaky, with many of the original resources produced between 2009 and 2012 no-longer retrievable, and certainly the communities and the learning lost. Has OER held the key for students (to) choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”. I think I foresaw a booming OER sharing economy at that time, and I think students gained not so much by having access to these materials to support heir learning, but certainly were enthused and grew through co-creating and contributing to resources and the project.  Sadly I think UK higher education policy has put the nail in the coffin for that opportunity, with universities ever-more competing for students rather than investing in the sharing of resources. The quest to achieve good TEF outcomes has leveraged a culture of league tables at the expense of learning (in my opinion). What hampered all of my OER projects was the continual turnover of senior staff and continuing having to lobby for support for projects rather than them being embedded in learning and teaching and/or digital strategy. I don’t think we really considered how easy it would be to repurpose materials, although in my experience people are overwhelmingly happy to link to them and use them directly as they are. Maybe repurposing was a bit of a red-herring. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the buzz and excitement of working on this project – my first major external funding award. I’m proud that SCOOTER lives on and wish there was some way it could be reignited as a repository for educational materials for this all important subject. The Nursing Times only last year called for more teaching on this subject. In our paper that surveyed over 200 university educators, it was concluded that sickle cell was a major public health issue globally that is neglected in university curricula across the board, not just nursing and health professionals (1). Ref (1) Rolfe, V., Fowler, M., & Dyson, S. M. (2011). Sickle cell in the university curriculum: a survey assessing demand for open-access educational materials in a constructed community of interest. Diversity in Health & Care8(4). https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/2086/5952 — About the author
Viv Rolfe
(PhD) is member of the OEWG advisory board and is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites (http://vivrolfe.com/open-education/) sharing materials co-created with students, hospital laboratory staff and academics with global audiences. She is involved in the UK Open Textbook Project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation along with the OER Research Hub and Wonkhe.com, aiming to raise awareness of open textbooks and explore with academics, library and technology staff the possibilities of utilizing the amazing range of books available. As with all of her open education work, she aspires to widen access to educational materials and research, and encourage more open academic practice. She is co-chair of the #OER18 conference to be held in Bristol, April 2018 where global delegates and virtual attendees will discuss the impact of open education on learning and learner inclusion (and exclusion). She is a blogger, #DS106 learner and jazz musician, alongside working full-time as Head of Research for Pukka Herbs. She can be followed as @vivienrolfe on Twitter.

Open in order to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

- November 12, 2018 in Open Access, Open Access Button, Open Science

The following blog post is an adaptation of a talk given at the OpenCon 2018 satellite event hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Slides for the talk can be found here. When I started medical school, I had no idea what Open Access was, what subscriptions were and how they would affect my everyday life. Open Access is important to me because I have experienced first hand, on a day to day basis, the frustration of not being able to keep up to date with recent discoveries and offer patients up-to-date evidence-based treatment. For health professionals based in low and middle income countries the quest of accessing research papers is extremely time consuming and often unsuccessful. In countries where resources are scarce, hospitals and institutions don’t pay for journal subscriptions, and patients ultimately pay the price. Last week while I was doing rounds with my mentor, we came across a patient who was in a critical state. The patient had been bitten by a snake and was treated with antivenom serum, but was now developing a severe acute allergic reaction to the treatment he had received. The patient was unstable, so we quickly googled different papers to make an informed treatment decision. Unfortunately, we hit a lot of paywalls. The quest of looking for the right paper was time consuming. If we did not make a quick decision the patient could enter anaphylactic shock.

I remember my mentor going up and down the hospital looking for colleagues to ask for opinions, I remember us searching for papers and constantly hitting paywalls, not being able to do much to help. At the end of the day, the doctor made some calls, took a treatment decision and the patient got better. I was able to find a good paper in Scielo, a Latin American repository, but this is because I know where to look, Most physicians don’t. If Open Access was a norm, we could have saved ourselves and the patient a lot of time.This is a normal day in our lives, this is what we have to go through everytime we want to access medical research and even though we do not want it to, it ends up affecting our patients.
This is my story, but I am not a one in a million case. I happen to read stories just like mine from patients, doctors, and policy makers on a daily basis at the Open Access Button where we build tools that help people access the research they need without the training I receive. It is a common misconception to think that when research is published in a prestigious journal, to which most institutions in Europe and North America are subscribed, the research is easily accessible and therefore impactful, which is usually not the case. Often, the very people we do medical research to help are the ones that end up being excluded from reading it.

Why does open matter at the scale of diseases?

A few years ago, when Ebola was declared a public health crisis, the whole world turned to West Africa. The conventional wisdom among public health authorities believed that Ebola was a new phenomenon, never seen in West Africa before year 2013. As it turned out, the conventional wisdom was wrong. In 2015, the New York Times issued a report stating that Liberia’s Ministry of Health had found a paper that proved that Ebola existed in the region before. In the future, the authors asserted, “Medical personnel in Liberian health centers should be aware of the possibility that they may come across active cases and thus be prepared to avoid nosocomial epidemics” This paper was published in 1982, in an expensive, subscription European journal. Why did Liberians not have access to the research article that could have warned about the outbreak? The paper was published in a European journal, and there were no Liberian co-authors in the study. The paper costs $45, which is the equivalent of 4 days of salary for a medical professional in Liberia. The average price of a health science journal is $2,021, this is the equivalent of 2.4 years of preschool education, 7 months of utilities and 4 months of salary for a medical professional in Liberia. Let’s think about the impact open could have had in this public health emergency. If the paper had been openly accessible, Liberians could have easily read it. They could have been warned and who knows? Maybe they could have even been able to catch the disease before it became a problem. They could have been equipped with the qualities they needed to face the outbreak. They could have asked for funds and international help way before things went bad. Patients could have been informed and campaigns could have been created. These are only a few of the benefits of Open Access that we did not get during the Ebola outbreak.

What happens when open wins the race?

The Ebola outbreak is a good example of what happens when health professionals do not get access to research.However, sometimes Open Access wins and great things happen. The Human Genome Project was a pioneer for encouraging access to scientific research data. Those involved in the project decided to release all the data publicly. The Human Genome data could be downloaded in its entirety, chromosome by chromosome, by anyone in the world. The data sharing agreement required all parts of the human genome sequenced during the project to be distributed into the public domain within 24 hours of completion. Scientists believed that these efforts would accelerate the production of the human genome. This was a deeply unusual approach , with scientists by default not publishing their data at the time. When a private company wanted to patent some of the sequences, everyone was worried, because this would mean that advances arising from the work, such as diagnostic tests and possibly even cures for certain inherited diseases, would be under their control. Luckily, The Human Genome Project was able to accelerate their work and this time, open won the race. In 2003, the human genetic blueprint was completed. Since that day, because of Open Access to the research data, the Human Genome Project has generated $965 billion in economic output, 295 billion in personal income, 4 billion in economic output and helped developed at least 30% more diagnostic tools for diseases (source). It facilitated the scientific understanding of the role of genes in specific diseases, such as cancer, and led to the development of a number of DNA screening tests that provide early identification of risk factors of developing diseases such as colon cancer and breast cancer. The data sharing initiative of the Human Genome Project was agreed after a private company decided to patent the genes BRCA1 & 2 used for screening breast and colon cancer. The company charged nearly $4,000 for a complete analysis of the two genes. About a decade after the discovery, patents for all genes where ruled invalid. It was concluded that gene patents interfere with diagnosis and treatment, quality assurance, access to healthcare and scientific innovation. Now that the patent was invalidated, people can get tested for much less money. The Human Genome Project proved that open can be the difference between a whole new field of medicine or private companies owning genes.

Call to action

We have learned how research behind a paywall could have warned us better about Ebola 30 years before the crisis. In my work, open would save us crucial minutes while our patients suffer. Open Access has the power to accelerate advancement not only towards good health and well being, but towards all sustainable development goals. I have learned a lot about open because of excellent librarians, who have taken the time to train me and help me understand everything I’ve discussed above. I encourage everyone to become leaders and teachers in open practices within your local institutions. Countries and organizations all over the world look up to the United Nations for leadership and guidance on what is right, and what is practical. By being bold on open, the UN can inspire and even enable action towards open and accelerate progress on SDGs. When inspiration doesn’t cut it, The UN and other organizations can use their power as funders to mandate open . We can make progress without Open Access, and we have for a long time, but while we make progress with closed, with open as a foundation things happen faster and equality digs in. Health inequality and access inequality exists today, but we have the power to change that. We need open to be central, and for that to happen we need you to be able to see it as foundational as well.   Written by Natalia Norori with contributions by Joseph McArthur, CC-BY 4.0.  

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