So, I kind of am in love with the FORCE conference I just went to. FORCE2016 is the annual conference from an organization called FORCE11 (ha, the year they started the org.). This year, 500 people came from around the world: researchers, librarians, software developers, large scale repositories, open science advocates, and everyone in between. It was not only a very diverse conference in terms of home country and job, but also in the way the conference and program was run.
First, one of the coolest things I have ever seen: in addition to the MULTITUDE of tweets around the event (seriously everyone was so active, it was amazing), they hired a company to take visual notes!! While everything was going on!! Everyone, the gist of their talks, panels, lightning talks, EVERYTHING! Such a great idea and it produced a great visual overview of the con!
There was a great program of people. I'm going to highlight my two favourites. The first was from Steven Pinker surrounding how absolutely astoundingly convoluted academic writing is, and how it contributes to a toxic publishing culture in academia. The question he examines is: why is SO MUCH communication ineffective? Is it on purpose? Or is it because of what he calls the Curse of Knowledge—the difficulty we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something we know? Pinker approached this in (duh) a really understandable way -- he is not only articulate himself, but perfectly explains how academic writing has changed over time -- from classic style, where the reader and writer are equals, and the writer is simply trying to provide a window into the world (showing not telling), to the currently popular postmodern/self-conscious style, where the goal is to not seem ignorant about one's own enterprise.
Check it out:
The other talk in my top 2 was from Laura Foster, Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at Indiana U, Bloomington. She spoke on current, multi-institutional work in South Africa examining how indigenous peoples articulate the effects of climate change and their strategies for adaptation. The institutions involved are: Natural Justice, University of Cape Town, Indiana University, and and members of the Indigenous Griqua peoples. The catch here is that the researchers were forced to grapple with two conflicting ideas: to share and not to share. Indigenous Griqua peoples asked researchers to not share all their findings and wanted to give input on publication decisions, but funders want them to publish everything openly with CC licenses.
This made me approach openness in a much different way than I ever have. Foster and her collaborators created a solution -- they developed contracts signed by everyone to protect the interests of indigenous peoples, while complying with mandates for open access by funders. Foster challenged the ideal that scholarly information should be openly shared and accessed. This is not something I ever thought to question before -- there's lots of privilege and entitlement embedded in this, and the way she called me (and everyone else) out on this assumption was not only a big game changer for me when I meet with researchers (some of whom DO work with indigenous peoples, refugees, immigrants, and other exploited peoples), but also, beyond IRB, the way researchers can protect their participants and research collaborators. I always say openness as combating intellectual colonialism, but Foster turned that on its head and it was immensely helpful.
Check it out -- Foster begins at 5:03:
Now, onto the fun stuff: I was able to get on stage!! This session was entitled "Starting Off on the Right Foot with Data Management" and was run by Rebecca Boyles and Danny Kingsley. It was essentially data management and open X debate club!! Goodness it was so fun.
The 8 of us on stage were split into two teams: the 'For' team and the 'Against' team. We were then given ballons to pop with statements inside, such as: 'Sharing data openly is a waste of time' and others in that vein. We then had to argue, and the audience voted on whose arguments were the strongest. I was on the 'Against' team and we won!! Mostly because we were given a bunch of double-negatives, so we argued for openness and well-managed data.
If you want to hear me cuss and rant about data management sitting next to the CEO of Figshare, check it out: