Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

An Astronomy Open Science Champion’s experience of OpenCon2017

Advocating for openness in research is a big part of the work we do in the Library’s Research Services team. Trying to win the hearts and minds of skeptical researchers can be a challenge but increasingly we find that we are having conversations with researchers who are themselves advocates for open research. Facilitating the development of a network of open champions across campus is something we’re keen to do more of and two recent examples of this work are holding an Open Research Forum in Open Access Week and funding Rachael Ainsworth, an Early Career Researcher, to attend OpenCon2017. To do our job well we also need to be involved in developments and discussions, so we were delighted that Rosie Higman, a member of our team, won a sponsored place at OpenCon2017. Read about Rachael’s experience at OpenCon here and come back to read about Rosie’s later in the week…

AinsworthRround

Hello! I am Rachael Ainsworth, a Research Associate in Radio Astronomy at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) here within the University of Manchester. I am the Open Science Champion in my department where I advocate, give presentations and organise events relating to Open Science in Astronomy. I am also in the current cohort of Mozilla Open Leaders, working on the project Resources for Open Science in Astronomy (ROSA): an Open Science how-to kit for astronomers to help them research openly from proposal to publication. Are you running or starting an open project and want to grow as an open leader? Apply now for the next round of Mozilla Open Leaders! You can view my application for Round 4 on my GitHub here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I applied to attend OpenCon 2017 to be inspired by and network with other pioneers of the Open Movement. There were thousands of applicants for this year’s event from over 175 countries, but there were only a few hundred places at the conference to represent our global community. I was waitlisted to attend based on my main application (which you can read on my GitHub here along with the response from the OpenCon 2017 Organising Committee). This was pretty good considering the odds, but I was still gutted. However, I was lucky enough to see that the University of Manchester Library was holding a competition to sponsor a student or staff member to attend. I therefore remixed my main application to answer the University of Manchester-specific questions (which you can read on my GitHub here) and submitted it to the competition. I was very happy when it was announced that I won the sponsored place!  

I arrived at OpenCon ready to dive into the challenges still facing Open, collaborate and brainstorm actionable solutions – big and small. I gained a lot through the European regional workshop – How might we help individuals shape the culture around them in a university? We broke into groups to establish personas/stakeholders associated with our workshop topic, we considered their pains and gains, and brainstormed potential solutions to the challenges they face. I worked in a group focusing on the persona of a 30-something year old researcher, discouraged by toxic culture in academia and seeking allies to make it a more open and inclusive environment. You could say her challenges resonated with me 🙂

As a larger group, we voted on which problems/challenges we wanted to discuss further in the second half of the workshop. We then broke into new groups based on the topics we wanted to work on, and I chose the group addressing “How might we tackle time issues?” as many researchers perceive that open science practices will involve extra time and effort without much reward. It turns out that a how-to kit and templates could be a good solution to this problem. As a result, I have met enthusiastic people to collaborate with on my Mozilla Open Leadership project, ROSA.

Since I knew I would be writing a blog post to reflect upon my OpenCon experience, I participated in the Unconference session: “How can openness be advanced with podcasting, blogging and other DIY media?” I am not a natural when it comes to blogging, vlogging, podcasting or whatever the kids are doing these days, so I went to this session to learn from those that are. We discussed how to be more effective science communicators through Open Media, and joined together to form the OpenComm Network, a group to share resources, best practices, and openly licensed content to support science communication based on our various backgrounds and expertise.

During the Do-a-thon sessions on Day 3 of the conference, the OpenComm Network collaborated to record a podcast and write a blog post around Open Media and our OpenCon experience. We set up a mini recording studio in the cloakroom for interviews and answered prompts such as what does Open Media mean to you? What are the challenges to communicating about Open issues? How would you describe your experience at OpenCon?

Photo by: Rachael Ainsworth, License: CC-BY

We then transcribed the interviews, edited the recordings, and re-wrote the transcriptions into content for the blog. Because we only had a few hours for the Do-a-thon, we ran out of time to complete our goal, but you can hear version 0.1 of our podcast here and read version 0.1 of our blog post here. We hope to have full version 1.0s at some point, but I quite like that this session resulted in a demonstration of Open Media and collaboration in progress! In the meantime, you can hear my interview here 🙂

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

The most impactful session/moment of OpenCon 2017 was hands down the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel. I won’t write too much about it here, because you absolutely need to watch and listen to it for yourself (skip to 7:47:00):

 

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

Through their stories, the panelists reminded us to stay critical, pay careful attention to who is missing from the room, to who is writing policy/history, and to deliberately collaborate with underrepresented communities. I was moved to tears and after three standing ovations for this session, I was eager to return to Manchester to turn these insights gained into action.

Photo by: R2RC, License: CC0, Edited by: Rachael Ainsworth

I cannot thank the University of Manchester Library enough for sending me to OpenCon 2017, and I am looking forward to working closely with them to advocate for openness across our campus and encourage researchers to take advantage of the resources and training available through the Library’s services. Next up: collaborating with Research Data Management to conduct training as part of the JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS) in December, to train postgraduate students on best open data practices!

 

2 thoughts on “An Astronomy Open Science Champion’s experience of OpenCon2017

  1. Pingback: OpenCon 2017

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