By Hugo Ferpozzi of CONICET
The workshop entitled, “Open Science Collaborations Facing Social Demands in Non-Hegemonic Countries” took place in Buenos Aires between July 24 and July 26, 2015. The event was proposed as an opportunity to gather together OCSDNet project participants, advisors, consultants and other colleagues interested in the intersections between open science and social needs.
The workshop aimed not to be limited to analysis, deconstruction and critique, but also to devising principles for participation and practice, so as to discuss what open science means, the challenges it faces, and, most importantly, what can we do about it through our scholarly practice.
Open science is a vast, polysemic term, and it is in its wide scope, precisely, that we believe lie opportunities for collaboration, practice, and engagement with social demands. In this sense, the workshop featured the participation of OCSDNet researchers and advisors, as well as other participants who are concerned with issues related to open knowledge and open science collaboration.
Some reflections from the workshop:
Science as commons and commons as science. To become a common good, proposed Antonio Lafuente, knowledge must not be just for everyone but by everyone. Neither should science be “public but open”, or simply “open to citizens’ demands and evaluation”. Science does not become commons by being more functional, open, or active. It may become commons, however, when its practices are entirely implemented in contrasted, collective, and recursive ways. Lafuente’s argument is inspired in Elinor Ostrom’s claims about the commons: these are not just things but also ways in which those things are managed. Open science and open knowledge do not succeed in becoming public (as opposite to becoming private); on the contrary, the submission of the commons to the public sphere, as it has been traditionally conceived, might be a sign of the failure to support collective management practices for knowledge and science.
Raising a critique demands proposing an alternative. As obvious as it may seem, this principle is not always put into practice: what kind of journals, evaluation methods, and institutional practices are supporting – directly or indirectly – through our scholarly practice? In this sense, Dominique Babini not only collaborates with us in the Open Repository for STS Literature, but has also given very constructive advice on how to deal with, for example, meta-data for disseminating draft or publications that have not been yet published.
We are all equal (but some are more equal than the others). The production and uses of scientific knowledge we participate in can often take place among networks with clear asymmetries of power and resources. That includes open science as well. Intellectual property and scientific publishing is just one example. “Global” discursive and institutional devices can be dangerously insensitive to the needs and constraints of local contexts. There are “extractive” views on open science collaborations that miss (or disregard) the specificity and uniqueness of collective knowledge management practices outside the scientific mainstream. Authors, practitioners, researchers (and everyone else involved) should be encouraged to consciously pursue open sharing practices that meet democratization and collective participation goals in their contexts, not deterred from them by one-sided (and one-minded) ambiguous knowledge sharing regulations and intellectual property protection.
We are looking forward to holding the next annual workshop, in which we hope to extend this debate to the stakeholders implicated in our project: scholars, policy makers, and NGO representatives in the fields of territorial governance and tropical disease research. At the present stage, this extended collaboration has started through conversations with University of La Plata’s research team lead by Mariana Sanmartino, who is working on dissemination (or ‘mediation’ between experts and affected people) of existent knowledge of Chagas disease called Speaking of Chagas (in Spanish: ¿De qué hablamos cuando hablamos de Chagas?).
Read more about our project here!
 Lafuente, A. and Estalella, A. (2015). Modos de ciencia: pública, abierta y común. In S. Albagli, M. Maciel and A. Abdo (Eds.), Open science, open issues. Brasilia: Ibict; Rio de Janeiro: Unirio (27-58).