Utilizador:Solstag/Net-ativismo 2015 Paris
03/11/2015 - 16h10
Alexandre Hannud Abdo, Garoa Hacker Clube (GHC)
Net Activism in academia: the movements and the new forms of organization to open science
Let me acknowledge that my title should sound at least a bit odd. Openness, a concept popularized with Open Source Software and the Internet, isn't strange to academic research. In fact, it stems from it, where it used to be called by many names; by Kant as the 'public use of reason', by Merton as 'communalism' plus 'universality'. The term "open science" has, in fact, been used to reference public research in opposition to the secretive traditions from the middle ages and to research done in private by corporations. However, my aim is not to give an account of the evolution of these ideas, but to exemplify how they are being enacted today by practitioners and advocates of openness in research.
Still, I will ask you to consider whether, in your experience as researchers, the present organization of academia is based mostly on earlier traditions plus economic models derived for other pursuits. Yet our time is much different in possibilities, from recent times even, and knowledge as a pursuit has features that are not shared by the economic models being pushed to organize it. As a consequence, academic research has been kept hostage of its past and unaligned interests, while the world is leaping into the future, ironically, inspired by values of openness inherited from it. Because of the activism that I will talk about, this scenario has changed and some aspects of several fields no longer suffer from this. However, even for those, the transformation might be only just beginning.
I would like you to note that these actions are not simply about lifting resource and communication barriers to research. They relate to the capacity for collective reasoning and coordination of researchers, which in many if not most research communities and institutions did not scale with the growth of the enterprise. Thus, humanity's intelligence as a collective is both too small for the current volume of research being done, and improperly organized for the greatness of the questions it wants, often needs, to face. Open Science, as a movement, aims to improve this by updating what it means to do research in terms of participation, transparency and integration, maximizing the numbers and impact of people contributing and benefiting from it.
As research goes online editar
Perhaps the most important act of digital activism to open science was the establishment of the ArXiv repository as early as 1991, before the Web, widely sharing physics preprints that used to end up restricted to select groups until publication in a journal, and then still remained restricted to its subscribers.
Founder Paul Ginsparg exposed his motivations:
This was a problematic situation, because, in principle, researchers prefer that their progress depends on working harder or on having some key insight, rather than on privileged access to essential materials.
It is important to notice that this reasoning is already not particular to articles. Compare that no Michael Nielsen's more recent call to action:
Open science is the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery process.
Now, even though there had been researchers sharing pre-prints in their personal websites and on mailing lists, and librarians cataloging preprints since before the Internet, the usefulness of the ArXiv as an automated collectively organized repository eloquently exposed the opportunity for change, spreading to fields outside physics and helping disseminate an open access culture which eventually organized on three fronts: repositories, journals and mandates.
This movement resonated with new opportunities, but also to solve actual harm caused by the closed access model, in reaction to the advance of abusive practices from large publishers. Such harm was most visible in biomedical research, and from that community projects like BioMedCenral, PubMed and later the advocacy organization and publisher Public Library of Science (PLOS) originated. That is also where the first open access mandates were established, such as the National Institute of Health's Public Access Policy.
The history of PLOS also speaks clearly to net-activism, as it started from an online petition. Initially penned and signed by a group of renowned researchers, it asked others to stop publishing in closed journals. After amassing 34.000 signatures from researchers in 180 countries, they decided to move towards a do-it-yourself operation, establishing their own non-profit publishing that would advance their vision for "... an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse ...".
Meanwhile, moved by their communities and missions, existing organizations in information science and libraries also adopted the goals of open access, working and campaigning for it, with some being formed specifically around openness such as the library organization SPARC and its student branch Right to Research Coalition. These two currently promote an annual conference called OpenCon, focusing on open access, open data and open education, and organized by its very participants in order to grow an international network of young researchers who can effectively coordinate online to refine and advance those goals.
Why net-activism? editar
Because reasons editar
Actors autonomously interacting in networked environments change the ecology they inhabit.
Hacks - intentional autonomous change - allowed by the availability of programmable communication networks.
Community - hacks that change the ecology for a group of actors, or that help groups coordinate to change it.
Based on a set of shared goals with a multiplicity of underlying principles.
Motivations are intrinsic and goals are continuously negotiated.
Reaction to what is seen as abusive or obstructive behavior against those goals and principles.
By virtue of the nature of research, actions tend to scale globally - unsurprisingly as research motivated the creation of the Internet.
Reaction is mostly towards industries that rent on intellectual property, like editorial corporations, pharmaceutical companies etc, but also institutions with harmful policies, as some governments and universities.
Emphasis on political action, to change institutions and their agendas, governance and policy, as research is heavily funded and regulated by them.
The pursuit of collaboration editar
... there is a URL to a laboratory notebook that is freely available and indexed on common search engines. It does not necessarily have to look like a paper notebook but it is essential that all of the information available to the researchers to make their conclusions is equally available to the rest of the world.
With those words, Jean-Claude Bradley explained the concept he called "open notebook science" and had been discussing with other chemists from a group called "The Blue Obelisk". He had been promoting this vision because he saw an untapped potential for learning and for faster and more reliable advancement of science, his personal goal being to pool resources for neglected diseases such as Malaria. Soon, not only this idea expanded, with Open Source Drug Discovery and Open Source Malaria being two initiatives funded by major institutions, but people in other fields followed. Tim Gowers started the Polymath Projects with the question "Is massively collaborative mathematics possible?", followed by an argumentation and describing the cultural and technological tools for his hack: a code of conduct, a blog and a wiki.
It seems to me that, at least in theory, a different model could work: different, that is, from the usual model of people working in isolation or collaborating with one or two others. Suppose one had a forum (in the non-technical sense, but quite possibly in the technical sense as well) for the online discussion of a particular problem. The idea would be that anybody who had anything whatsoever to say about the problem could chip in. And the ethos of the forum — in whatever form it took — would be that comments would mostly be kept short. In other words, what you would not tend to do, at least if you wanted to keep within the spirit of things, is spend a month thinking hard about the problem and then come back and write ten pages about it. Rather, you would contribute ideas even if they were undeveloped and/or likely to be wrong.
Some participants of these projects were among the first to do their math work openly in blogs, but here became the first to do so with the explicit and organized goal of massive collaboration. In doing so they moved from questioning the premises of math culture to, through collective action, call for a debate and transformation of the cultural standards for participation and recognition. This also means they would face the consequences of any resistance to such change, such as evaluation committees not considering their contributions. Not surprisingly, the same group which started this endeavor begun a campaign against the editorial company Elsevier's abusive practices, eventually deciding to constitute an Open Access mathematical journal of their own, with the goal of establishing a system of zero cost for authors to publish, threatening the existence of abusive editors in their field.
Data activism editar
Just close your eyes and remember Pierre's talk!
Science of the layman editar
The drive for collaboration I talked about is, although open, most directed towards people who already have the skills or resources to contribute. But some researchers have directed efforts to create networked environments in which non-professionals can engage and contribute to research. There are several benefits in doing this: educate people, increase the human resources available for research, increase the visibility and recognition of the value of research, increase the quality of the public debate about research etc.
One way in which this is happening is so called citizen cyberscience, which started with SETI@Home harvesting computer power from individuals to process extraterrestrial radio data. Beyond resources such as hardware and money, current citizen cyberscience projects let people contribute with their cognition, completing tasks that are hard to automate such as classifying planet craters, folding proteins and digitizing archaeological objects with unprecedented success.
Another way is the organization of hackerspaces, groups of science, technology and art enthusiasts that meet regularly to learn together and run their projects. These groups are networked internationally, and exchange ideas and practices through wikis, blogs and occasionally in conferences organized by them. At first focused on electronics, computing, arts and crafts, some hackerspaces have also been involved in robotics, rocketry and, more recently, biohacking. Hackteria is a network of people involved in biohacking, usually based in hackerspaces worldwide.
In between those, there are myriads of stars under the sky. Among them is a group in the south of Brazil teaching kids from public schools how to build weather stations with off-the-shelf electronics, install and use software to analyze the data and, soon, send the analysis to a university server where they will be aggregated and made useful to professional researchers.
I hope to have provided an overview of the different ways in which activist researchers and citizens have been collaborating to improve the range of people engaged in research, the resources available and ultimately its quality and direction. There are also other forms in which research practices are evolving towards greater openness, but which don't have such explicit elements of net-activism.
For the study and evaluation of science, these practices also enable a detailed record of research activities, drastically enhancing possibilities of understanding how research networks process facts, and also providing new possibilities for attributing credit in terms of the specific contributions recorded. The place of action becomes universally accessible, reducing the presence of black boxes and increasing the reach of study, criticism and collaboration.
The important message is that researchers and computers, once interconnected, display new modes of networked intelligence more compatible with the current scale of the research enterprise, and thus capable of effectively rethinking and reinventing its practices. They also exhibit coordination that gives rise to collective action, often in opposition to established norms and players.
Ale Abdo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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