Open Scholarship Week 2020: Embracing openness in Ireland and beyond

by Hardy Schwamm (NUI Galway) and Elaine Toomey (University of Limerick/Cochrane Ireland) 

Introduction from BITSS: In what is becoming an annual event, the Open Science Community Galway at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) hosted Open Scholarship Week 2020, featuring a series of workshops, seminars, and presentations dedicated to transparent, reproducible, and open research. This year’s co-chairs Hardy Schwamm and Elaine Toomey reflect on the event and offer insights for the open science community in Ireland and beyond. In case you missed the event, presentation slides and videos are available!

A week to celebrate Open Scholarship

Following the success of last year’s Open Science Week, a week of free online events were held to celebrate open scholarship practices at the National University Ireland Galway from May 11-15th. This year, the name was changed to “Open Scholarship Week” (OSW2020) to acknowledge the broad range of disciplines and methods important for embracing Openness. Events were organized by the NUI Galway Library and members of the Open Scholarship Community Galway (OSCG), a grassroots group of Open enthusiasts in the West of Ireland.

Going virtual

Although originally planned for mostly in-person events, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis the OSW2020 Committee decided to go virtual and hosted all events online. Thanks to the co-operation of our speakers, sessions including seminars, panel discussions, and workshops were delivered online via Zoom. We soon realized that going virtual is not just a “Plan B” but offers an opportunity to collaborate across Ireland and beyond and connect speakers and participants from a wide network. This is very much the spirit of Open Scholarship!

An inclusive interdisciplinary focus

Eight sessions were held which covered different aspects of Open Scholarship. We tried to make sure that the programme was inclusive of a wide spectrum of Open practices such as Open Data, Open Access, Open Education, and Citizen Science. OSW2020 kicked off with an inspiring keynote “Open Science Communities: to The Netherlands and Beyond!” by Antonio Schettino from the Erasmus University Amsterdam and the importance of ‘bottom-up’ grassroots movements. NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Prof. Lokesh Joshi, and Mr. John Caulfield, Director of Strategy Implementation in NUI Galway, positioned Open Scholarship within an institutional context. Pointing to opportunities afforded by Open Scholarship during the current Covid-19 crisis and increasing attention from mainstream audiences on aspects of Open research, Prof Joshi and Mr. Caulfield gave encouraging insights into the university’s support for Open Scholarship, providing a complementary top-down approach. It was particularly encouraging to hear that the commitment to openness and Open Scholarship is integral to NUI Galway’s strategy in the coming five years. 

Antonio followed his keynote with an afternoon  workshop on the Open Science Framework. Iain MacLaren from NUI Galway Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching organised a fully booked workshop on Open Educational Resources. Further sessions covered the use of Wikipedia in Higher Education (led by Sharon Flynn), a Wikipedia edit-a-thon by Rebecca O’Neill, lightning talks on Open Data & Open Software presented by Adam Leadbetter and Niall Moran, and an introduction to the Irish Arts repository ACERR (organised by Orla Murphy). 

We finished the week with a high profile international panel on Open Synthesis attended by more than 200 registrants. David Moher from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Cochrane’s Emma Thompson, Neal Haddaway from the Stockholm Environmental Institute, and Elaine Toomey from Cochrane Ireland discussed how transparency and openness can be embedded within evidence syntheses.  

David Moher, Emma Thompson, Neal Haddaway, and Elaine Toomey discuss transparency and openness in evidence synthesis.

Learnings and insights

Open Scholarship Week 2020 attracted a lot of interest. We had 766 registrations in total from all over the globe for our eight events. While the majority of participants were from Ireland (63%),  or the UK (27%), people joined from places as far as the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, India, Colombia, and Malaysia. Obviously, this is a far greater reach and impact than if we had organized a meeting here in Galway. Also, we were able to involve some high caliber presenters from across Ireland and beyond and show how active and enthusiastic our local community is! 

Despite some challenges with online events versus in-person events, we learned that online sessions provide some opportunities less possible in face-to-face events, such as using the chat function to comment on the talk in real-time and share relevant links and resources. Initial concerns that sessions would be somewhat didactic proved to be unfounded and we had some excellent interactive sessions that used, for example, collective Google sheets and online quizzes. 

But of course, we missed the coffee and lunch breaks where you can meet new people and talk about topics not directly related to the OSW2020 sessions. Inspired by the positive experience this year, Open Scholarship Week 2021 may be a blend of core face-to-face programs and online sessions. The principle of collaboration for which Open Scholarship stands works both offline and online!

OSW2020 sparked discussions on Twitter and blog posts such as this.

Open Scholarship Week 2020 highlighted the importance and power of interdisciplinary collaboration and bottom-up grassroots movements. However, the success of initiatives like this is heavily dependent on institutional resources and ‘top-down’ engagement and support. We also hope that more grassroots groups like the Open Scholarship Community Galway will emerge in the coming months and that institutional decision-makers recognise and support their contribution. Our keynote and the examples of the Dutch Open Science Communities such as OSC Utrecht or OSC Rotterdam prove that knowledge and enthusiasm of Open supporters really can make a difference. The journey to Open Scholarship is long and complex but is not one we should wait for policymakers to make it happen, but use our collective energy.

About the authors:

Hardy Schwamm (ORCiD) is the Open Scholarship Librarian in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway. In his role, Hardy explores the world of “Openness”, how Open practices will help with research and how that translates into different disciplines and areas of knowledge. Hardy is very interested in concepts of “community”, engagement and how we can work together to make Open work. Hardy is one of the co-founders of the Open Scholarship Community Galway and member of the Liber Working Group on Innovative Metrics.

Dr. Elaine Toomey (ORCiD) is a Lecturer in the School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Ireland, and a Cochrane Ireland Research Associate. She is the previous Associate Director of Cochrane Ireland and Irish Health Research Board Interdisciplinary Capacity Enhancement Fellow. Her research primarily focuses on methods used in the development, evaluation and implementation of health behaviour change interventions, particularly in relation to the treatment and prevention of chronic disease. She has specific expertise in implementation science, evidence synthesis, process evaluation and exploring the fidelity and adaptation of behaviour change interventions. Elaine is a member of the Health Research Board (HRB) Open Research National Steering Committee, Co-Chair of the European Health Psychology Society Open Science Special Interest Group, and a BITSS Catalyst. In 2016 Elaine was awarded a Leamer-Rosenthal Prize for Open Social Science for Emerging Researchers from BITSS and has recently been shortlisted for a European Young Researcher Award 2020 for her work in the area of open science and transparency in health research.

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