In August we wrote about the European Commission’s request for information on the topic Opening Up Education. The point of the consultation is to gauge the need for EU action to promote the adoption and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Several Creative Commons affiliates in Europe have submitted a joint response to the survey. The jurisdictions signing onto the response include Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Serbia, Poland, Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria, and Ireland.
The joint response urges the Commission to support the recommendations in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which was unanimously supported by UNESCO member nations at the World Open Educational Resources Congress on 20-22 June 2012. As described in the consultation document (PDF), “the EU will use the tools at its disposal (policy guidance, EU regulation whenever relevant, funding mechanisms, exchange of good practices and innovative pilots).” By leveraging these various tools in alignment with the suggestions laid out in the Paris Declaration, the Commission can be very effective in promoting the development and use of OER. Those recommendations urge UNESCO member nations to:
- Foster awareness and use of OER.
- Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
- Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
- Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
- Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
- Foster strategic alliances for OER.
- Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
- Encourage research on OER.
- Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
- Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.
The European Commission is in a position to help coordinate, promote, and support most — if not all — of these recommendations. In addition, these recommendations align with the Europe 2020 priorities, especially in increasing effective investments in education by encouraging free open access to publicly funded educational content.
The Paris Declaration reaffirms OER as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” The EC should support this definition of OER so that users of OER know the rights available to them and so that producers of OER get the credit they deserve. Since a clear legal framework is crucial to the success of OER, we strongly suggest that the EC consider promoting the use of Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC licenses are globally applicable and are seen as the gold standard for open content licensing. It would be beneficial for the EC to adopt CC licenses because they are already established and understood, instead of creating customized licenses that may not interoperate with existing solutions.
The full response is available here.No Comments »
The European Commission has opened a public consultation period on the topic of “Opening Up Education.” The objective of the consultation is to explore the perceived need for EU action to promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Interested stakeholders (including organizations, public bodies, citizens) can complete the questionnaire on this consultation.
From the summary document (PDF):
While OER and the use of ICT in education are high on the agenda of policy makers in the educational sphere, OER and ICT have not yet reached a critical threshold to be fully exploited across all education and training sectors. Several actions have been undertaken over the years by the EU and Member States, but in a fragmented, short-term manner, without prospects for long-term sustainability. A comprehensive initiative at EU level could match the scope, size and complexity of the challenges, and respond to the increasing demand to tap into the potential of OER and ICT to modernize education. Such a strategy could provide a significant push to improve the way educational content is produced, accessed and used to teach, learn or connect with peers.
The consultation period ends 13 November 2012. Following on from the June 2012 UNESCO OER Declaration, the EU consultation can be a productive vehicle for continuing the exploration of and support for Open Education in Europe and around the world.3 Comments »
Some of these developments may be dated by a month or more, but we want to make sure they are on your radar by pointing them out here.
Several open data portals have launched, including a Brazilian Open Data portal powered by the open-source data cataloguing software CKAN (run by the Open Knowledge Foundation – OKFN). The Ministry of Planning in Brazil worked with the OKFN to develop the portal, cultivating citizen participation through an open and transparent development process. Furthermore, the portal itself carries a default license of CC BY-SA. Since its May 4 launch, the portal has grown and now hosts 79 data sets and 893 resources. As noted on the OKFN blog, “the portal is part of a larger project called the National Infrastructure Open Data, or INDA. The general idea of INDA is to establish technical standards for open data, promote training and support public bodies in the task of publishing open data. This entire process is done through intra-government cooperation and cooperation between government and citizens, always aiming to achieve a real platform for open government.”
You should also take note of the Open GLAM data portal. This portal also runs on CKAN and is a hub for open data sets from GLAM institutions, aka Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums. The datasets are licensed under various open licenses, and some with no rights attached thanks to the use of the CC0 public domain waiver.
In addition to open data portals, open data initiatives like the School of Data and the Open Data Institute are taking off. The School of Data is a collaboration between the OKFN and the Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) to “create a set of courses for people to learn how to do interesting things with data, from beginners to experts.” In late May, the School of Data held a week-long kick-off sprint in Berlin with a virtual component, which I participated in by helping to start an open data challenge with virtual colleagues. The challenge is still in development, and once completed it will be a part of the School of Open as well as the School of Data. You can help to build it at the P2PU platform.
The kick-off yielded a great foundation for many other data tracks as part of the School of Data, which you can read about here.
The Open Data Institute is an initiative by the UK government to “incubate, nurture and mentor new businesses exploiting Open Data for economic growth” and to “promote innovation driven by the UK Government Open Data policy.” £10m will be invested over five years by the Technology Strategy Board, a non-departmental public body. The UK government has published its implementation plan as a pdf online. You can learn more at The Guardian article from last May.
The data-driven economy is also a hot topic within the EU, with the emergence of a data session at the European Commission’s 2nd Digital Agenda Assembly taking place today and tomorrow. The workshop will “explore the potential of data, some of the most promising economic and business aspects involved, and discuss how policy for data and our investment in R&D can better address the challenges of businesses and the public sector and further support innovative business development.”
Lastly, to put all the current activity around data into perspective, is a thoughtful article by the OKFN’s Jonathan Gray on “What data can and cannot do.” The Guardian article reinforces the point that data, while valuable, when divorced from context and without interpretation, is not very effective. He encourages us to “cultivate a more critical literacy” towards data:
“Data can be an immensely powerful asset, if used in the right way. But as users and advocates of this potent and intoxicating stuff we should strive to keep our expectations of it proportional to the opportunity it represents.”
Essentially, opening up data is just the first step — and arguably, a necessary step to ensuring that data can be reused, contextualized, and interpreted in meaningful ways.
To learn more about how CC tools may be applied to data, see our landing page and FAQ on data.1 Comment »
From 2007 to 2011, COMMUNIA was a project funded by the European Commission to explore the role of the public domain in the digital age. Over four years, COMMUNIA, or The European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain, gathered over 50 members from academia and the CC community to research, promote, and preserve the digital public domain. In 2011, COMMUNIA’s members decided to continue the network as an international nonprofit association.
We would like to highlight two recent publications by COMMUNIA that shed light on COMMUNIA’s progress:
In April, COMMUNIA released, “The Digital Public Domain: Foundations for an Open Culture” under CC BY:
“This book brings together essays by academics, librarians, entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers, who were all part of the EU-funded Communia project [from 2007-2011]. Together the authors argue that the Public Domain — that is, the informational works owned by all of us, be that literature, music, the output of scientific research, educational material or public sector information — is fundamental to a healthy society.”
“This Public Report is the outcome of the work of the COMMUNIA Network on the Digital Public Domain (hereinafter “COMMUNIA”). This Report was undertaken to (i) review the activities of COMMUNIA; (ii) investigate the state of the digital public domain in Europe; and (iii) recommend policy strategies for enhancing a healthy public domain and making digital content in Europe more accessible and usable. Each of the subjects indicated above will be further developed and detailed in Annex I, Annex II, and Annex III of this Report, respectively.”
The Final Report, along with the collection of essays above, highlights much of the good work completed by COMMUNIA over the years, including The Public Domain Manifesto, of which many CC affiliates, staff, and community members were a part of drafting.No Comments »
Along with over 50 organizations, I attended a recent European Commission public hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information. Among those present were representatives from national and regional ministries, higher education institutions, libraries, data repositories, public and private funders, scientific societies, supranational research centres, journal publishers and advocacy groups. A majority of those at the hearing were strong proponents of open access (OA).
Because science and digital technology are evolving so rapidly, the hearing was held to collect information in order to re-assess the European Commission’s 2007 Communication on scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation. European Commission communications are used to make policy, propose legislation, fund research, and raise awareness. European Commission communications also have a substantial impact on member state national activity.
Supporters of open access asked for continued European Commission financial and political support. The following specific observations and recommendations were made.
- Open access accelerates the speed of science. Time is wasted in serial submissions as researchers first seek the prestigious journals. Publication is not simply a method for communication among peers; it also has practical impacts (social, economic, consumer) that should also be taken into consideration when evaluating impact. A shift is needed away from evaluation of research based at the journal level to one that is based at the article level which can include a wider and more sophisticated variety of post-publication impact metrics beyond mere citations in other journals.
- The European Commission should encourage rewarding the release of data as well as of text articles. Support curation and preservation of data (in digital and non-digital forms such as images, artifacts, and tissues) as well as access. These fields require research themselves to produce globally useful, efficient, transparent and realistic data management plans with sound policy guidelines, longevity and consistent terminology.
- Careful investigation and planning will be required in order to build a strong and useful information architecture for a global research system. The architecture could do many things (link related information such as data sets and software to text articles, collect usage metrics, integrate user-friendly attribution and citation tools, develop unique identifiers for both research output and individual researchers, and develop methods of expressing linked data, structuring metadata, and for publishing data schema and code books that allow machines to give context); however choices should be made based on thorough study.
- Research and dissemination belong together as do access and re-use. The European Commission should recognize OA as a main strategy and support an open access ethic among researchers to encourage them to understand and value non-traditional assessment tools—as well as the value of sharing data—and to willingly contribute useful metrics to the open access publication. Dedicated funding and training should be provided for OA publication and compliance should be monitored.
- Scientific publication needs its own rules because it is profoundly different from revenue-generating work. Scholarship exists only as it is shared and circulated and should be treated as “give-away literature.” Intellectual property rights and even tax laws also need to be harmonized to enable, rather than inhibit, data use and mining and copying for preservation. An author’s right to self-publish in his own institutional repository should be ensured; a fair-dealing exemption should be established for text and data mining—including format shifting for technical purposes—for research purposes; and permissions should be extended for use of orphan and out-of-print works. Contract law should not be allowed to override such protections.
- Government agencies should publish their data management plans and budget for compulsory data preservation. Open formats should also be used in preservation to ensure consistency and compatibility. Clinical trial data should be publicly available to ensure integrity.
- OA needs to be approached globally. The European Commission should set standards for harvesting, curating, trusted processing and presentation of results.
Speakers from the funding, publishing and research communities also urged the adoption of Creative Commons licenses because of their widespread use.
Some publishers expressed caution lest the strengths and values inherent in traditional publication be lost. One approach may not suit all disciplines. Slow science is good for some and enhances the longevity of articles. Careful review procedures produce works with the level of integrity and permanence that deserve high prestige. These include taking time and resources for refereed interaction, keeping review independent from research funding, removing barriers for unfunded/underfunded authors, and ensuring long-term preservation of authoritative copies. And, lastly, open access needs to be sustainable.
My personal observations:
The majority of the attendees were text publishers, so discussion around data was limited with even less said about tissue samples or patent concerns. There are many technical, legal and social hurdles ahead and serious questions about how to best use OA for certain research disciplines. This observer wonders whether the European Commission will be able to coordinate the development of data architectures, standards and guidelines in time to avoid a plethora of incompatible market-generated systems and, even if so, how the European efforts will be coordinated on a global basis.2 Comments »