Over the past year, I have coordinated a Faculty Learning Community on Open Scholarship. In this post, I briefly discuss the progress on the project associated with my participation and some of the lessons that I have learned through organizing and participating in this FLC.
First, my project has morphed significantly over the year. What began as a project to test a particular method for sharing geospatial data openly (see description here) has changed into a particular publication strategy. The essential problem is that I was hoping to solve what I now consider two separate and distinct issues; a means for collaborating openly and a means for publishing openly. Fundamentally, these two components of research should not be separated. That is, even after publication, collaboration should continue to be possible- this would be a model such as Wikipedia, where, at least theoretically, pages continue to get edited and refined to represent the best research. That does not jive well with peer-review, which is essential both for the purposes of ensuring high quality research and for punctuating a research project. Publication should occur at significant points along the process of a collaborative project (even if it is open-ended). The key, of course, is knowing what those significant points are. Ideally, these points would be part of an original research strategy. However, my project, which involves looking at the historical landscape of charcoal production in the 19th century, began organically more from pedagogical considerations than from research. The focus was on coordinating hands-on learning experiences for my students in courses such as Field Archaeology and Historical Ecology. It has become increasingly apparent, however, that I have reached an important milestone (and indeed probably reached this a year ago) and the work needs to be published. But, the key is to publish openly. Here’s my plan. I have completed an article for the journal, Historical Archaeology, as a part of it’s Technical Briefs series that discusses my work using open data and open source software to analyze LiDAR data to identify and map charcoal hearths. A description of the data will be published with the Journal of Open Archaeology Data and the actual data, I hope, will be published with Open Context. All three of these are peer-reviewed. The latter two are fully open access. The first is not, but it seemed to be the best location to publish the work.
This is the first FLC that I have lead. My biggest lesson may be that I tried to be too broad; open scholarship is a very wide net. This was intentional since I wanted to be sure to include everyone who was interested in “opening” their research (and associated scholarly practices) to a broader audience. Yet, that also meant that when it came down to choosing the readings, I tried to keep them as broad as possible. It is my impression that while each reading was broadly relevant to participants, they didn’t fit anyone particularly well. This broad net also means that everyone’s project was so very different that there was limited overlap. While it appears that participants were interested and excited about each others projects, it also means that there was limited interaction about these problems and I could provide little or no support. On the flip side, I’m not sure that I am personally interested in just one aspect of open scholarship, so I am not sure how I would reduce the scope of the FLC.
Lastly, I tried to keep communication as open as possible, but that meant that there were too many channels of communication and no one central “location” for participants to communicate.
I hope that participants in the FLC will provide additional feedback about the limitations of this FLC.