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The [R]evolution of Open Science – all chapters available for free

Recently, I published a book called “The [R]evolution in Open Science“, which is available on Amazon now for $3. While all of the chapters are already available online for free, they weren’t all indexed in one place for easier discovery. Well, now this post brings them all together! So, you don’t have to pay, or hunt around to find the articles. Easy. I’ve included the book Introduction here too just for some extra context. Enjoy!

Introduction

This book is an evolutionary anthology all of the texts I have written or contributed to in a significant way over the last 9 years on the topic of ‘Open Science’. They are presented in approximate chronological order to show the ‘progress’ of my thinking through time, and also the flow of the discussions around the various threads of Open Science. Hopefully, this text will be a useful reference source for many of the ongoing and future developments in Open Science, which seems to represent a critical point of transformation in the [r]evolution of global higher education systems.

My early curiosity for Open Science began around 2011, and grew from an initial keen interest in public engagement with science, as well as through working in science policy in the UK with the Geological Society of London. The exact moment my eyes were opened was when I learned about the profound reality about how most scientific knowledge we have ever produced as a global society remains inaccessible to those it is supposed to serve (i.e., you), and that the scholarly publishing sector is designed precisely to make money of this unethical and bizarre knowledge apartheid. The more I learned, the crazier it got: some publishers making obscene 35% profit margins off the work of academics, numbers that make even the biggest oil companies wince; the careers of researchers and the distribution of 100s of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds being dictated by administrators who care more about lazy bean-counting methods of evaluation rather than anything to do with intrinsic quality or merit; researchers who are forced to commit all sorts of questionable methodological practices to massage their work into positive narratives, and donate their work to ruthlessly exploitative commercial journals in exchange for the possible glory associated with their illustrious brands. As soon as I learned about the innumerable injustices embedded in our scientific knowledge production system, I knew I had to be part of challenging them.

My writing about it started very early on, around 2012, so before my PhD had even started. Most of this was pretty casual to begin with, relating to how I wanted to be more public-facing with my research and really expose the human elements behind the process. As a palaeontologist, when people ask what I write about, I usually shrugged and responded “I dunno, fossils n shit”, hence the dignified name for my website and main blog. Over the years, this blog documents a reasonably transparent history of my research in real time, and my thinking about how to more effectively communicate it. I did this as a way to hold myself accountable to ‘open research practices’ (i.e., ones that made sense to me), making sure that all of the methods and discoveries were as publicly accessible as possible, including for non-palaeontologist audiences. That was the ‘fossils’ part, at least.

Which brings us on to ‘and shit’. As anyone who has ever suffered the joys of learning the English language, ‘shit’ can mean just about anything depending on the context. In this case, it means pretty much everything besides fossils. Which, over the years, began to focus more and more on developments in Open Science as it became more mainstream. My early interest in the interface between ‘the public’ and science, as a communicator and policy wonk, solidified during my PhD at Imperial College London due to the significant developments in Open Access at the time in the UK. Open Access is this shocking idea that those who fund our scientific research, which includes you, dear taxpayer, should have the right to access the results of it without additional payment; something eminently feasible given readily available modern Web technologies. For the last 5-10 years at least, Open Access has dominated the discourse within Open Science, developing from initial coffee-break small talk to now international policy discussions.

London was a hub of debate during the 2010s, with an endless stream of talks, debates, workshops, and conferences on ‘open scholarly communication’. Through time, I became increasingly engaged informally in a sort of ‘activist’ manner as part of a strong local community. Probably just because I tend to be brutally honest about things and speak my mind, and there are obviously a lot of problems our research culture faces. Early on, several prominent voices in UK palaeontology made a number of direct and aggressive threats to me, my work, and my career because of this, attempting to censor my voice in this space. Strangely, this disheartening lapse only ultimately renewed my belief that, both ideologically and pragmatically, Open Science in its various forms made total sense and was something worth vigorously supporting. Many brilliant others also took this position over the years, and the fruits of our labours began to show in the increasing awareness and uptake of open research practices around the world, even reaching the highest policy levels of the United Nations.

Towards the end of my PhD, after losing taste for much of the UK palaeontology academic community, I moved to Berlin, helping to found the Berlin Open Science Community. Here, I found much more of an equivalent ‘activist’ spirit, and less apathy and elitism than I had found in the UK research culture. Berlin was an incredible community hub for all sorts of hackers, technologists, and researchers to come together in a brilliant melting pot to advance Open Science. I was fortunate enough here to land a job at the tech start-up ScienceOpen, where I was able to learn more about the technical and publishing sides of scholarly communication. These combined experiences gave me a fairly decent breadth of understanding of the various and complex elements and viewpoints involved in debates around scholarly communication. I still very much consider myself to be ‘learning on the job’ when it comes to Open Science, and enjoy learning from the different perspectives that people and organisations have, especially when they challenge the views that I have. You can read more about my weird journey into Open Science in this interview with Asger Larsen for Revy, if you wish.

At the present, I am writing this book while on a period of leave, having just finished short-term research fellowships in France and Denmark. I am using much of my time to reflect on the last few years of my life, how I got to where I am now, and how to use this more effectively to advance Open Science in the future. This introspection was what prompted me to compile this book, which I consider to be a useful milestone in my developing understanding of Open Science and its role within wider cultural change. It is a truly fascinating exercise, to see how your personal style, language, and understanding of concepts dynamically changes through time, much like keeping a journal. Being able to spot mistakes, patterns, predictions that came true, things that are still being hotly debated, all encoded in a record, is a powerful way to take stock on what the best strategy for the future is. I remain deeply optimistic for a healthier, fairer, and progressive egalitarian research culture.

Many of these articles were co-written with others, some for specific websites, and others for my own personal website. All are freely available at their source or openly licensed for re-use in this manner. Others were written for specific organisations I worked for at different times, including paleorXiv, the Open Science MOOC, and ScienceOpen. I have not included posts that seem to heavily focused on one product or company, and have removed a lot of images that were not relevant or for copyright reasons. For some time, my personal blog was also hosted by the European Geoscience Union, and I was also a blogger for Nature. Some of the articles here have received a light copy-editing just to make the format consistent, but the content all remains the same as at the original published source.

This book is dedicated to all of the ‘Open Heroes’ out there who have dedicated their work to public rather than person gain, and who act with honour, compassion, and love. You are a constant source of support and inspiration for me. Any funds raised from the sale of this book will be reinvested in all future non-profit Open Science projects that I am involved in. Enjoy!

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

  • The great brain robbery. Co-written with Charlotte Wien. Originally appeared in Weekendavisen in Danish.

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