- Why are you interested in participating and supporting the OCSDNet?
For me the point of open science, open access, open data -all of those things- is to provide opportunities for people to engage, interact and contribute to research and scholarship more generally. There has been no bigger gap in engagement and in particular, contribution to research than that between the countries in the Global North and those countries spending less on research or perhaps having less research capacity for historical reasons. So for me, this is part of a broader agenda to engage as many people as possible in research and scholarship. The contributions and perspectives, information, time and energy that they bring can really only help contribute to the progress of research more generally.
- What skills, insights and experiences do you bring to this initiative?
I have a background in open science and open data and actually came into this space from an open data perspective as a researcher when I was at the University of Southampton working on molecular biology. So I’ve had experience trying to do different kinds of open science: sharing notebooks, publishing in the open, making data available with some success and some failures along the way. I have some understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in that context.
More recently, I’ve really come to understand how little I know about research outside the context of North America, Europe and the UK in particular. So, I think I have learnt the lesson that the important thing is to listen and to offer advice where people have already decided what’s important to them. I think that’s sort of the experience I’ve had working on a couple of projects with various people, some to do with South America, and some to do with Africa, such as the Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really understand what was going on so while I might have some expertise and some experience, the first step is really understanding what it is that people need and want to achieve in their own context rather than saying “this is the way forward”.
- How do you think your own work will benefit from being involved in the network?
From my perspective, my own work will benefit from understanding more about what people’s needs and desires are in developing and transitional countries in terms of research. So, understanding more of what the challenges are, what the opportunities are and being able to bring that to the tools and systems that I’m involved in. At PLOS, we’re trying to ensure that we’re doing the right kinds of things to support this large and growing group of researchers and scholars who represent a huge resource of expertise, knowledge, energy, and experience, and particularly knowledge of the problems that matter in their particular context.
One of the problems we have in research communication is that we’ve built this entire system that is focused on rewarding people for focusing on the problems of a pretty limited proportion of the world’s population. So, figuring out how we can start to move that so that problems that are relevant in development contexts are seen as prestigious problems to tackle, and that the people with experience and expertise in those problems really have enormous resources to bring to solving those problems. That’s where I’d like to see this going. That way, we can start to change, modify or tilt the research system as a whole so as to rebalance it towards to the other 85% of the world’s population.
One thing that is interesting to probe is to try and understand what form resources are in development contexts. So I’m coming from a perspective of open access. And the challenge with open access and the research literature is that it costs money to make the research literature due to quality assurance and management. And we can work to bring that cost down, but its not going to go away. So it would be a terrible thing to take away the barriers for scholars without resources to be able to read the literature but place barriers for them to be able to write to the scholarly literature. So, we need to think about rebalancing the system in a way that allows people to contribute.
To access Cameron’s blog “Science in the Open”, visit http://cameronneylon.net/