The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship

FSCI 2019 Group Photo

FSCI stands for FORCE11 Scholarly communication Institute. FORCE11 is an acronym for Future of research communications and e-scholarship. This year’s institute was held at Universality of California, Los Angeles from August 5-9, 2019. I was privileged to have attended this prestigious institute as a scholarship recipient. My profound appreciation to FORCE11 and the sponsors. FSCI2019 was a week-long program of intensive coursework, group activities, and hands-on training focusing on the latest trends in scholarly communication.  It was more than attending talks and presentations on scholarly communication. It equips and prepares one to be relevant and skillful in the practice of scholarly communication. As a researcher with keen interest in scholarly communication and open access, I attended the institute to learn new skills – both technical and theoretical – to get acquainted with global trends and current practices in scholarly communication. I must say that my expectations were met.

In my opinion, the diversity of the institute made it outstanding when compared with other conferences and events on scholarly communication. When registering for the institute, participants were expected to choose from arrays of interesting courses on scholarly communication. Some courses were particularly designed to equip participants with cutting-edge skills needed to use and innovate with technologies and inventions in scholarly communication. In my case, I selected three courses; working with R, Dataverse and the scientific paper of the future. I will be summarizing my experience in each course below.

Working with scholarly literature in R

R language was the major instrument that was used for this course and it focused on pulling, wrangling, cleaning, and analyzing structured bibliographic metadata. It was facilitated by Clarke Iakovakis, a Scholarly Services Librarian at Oklahoma State University. This course was very practical and hands-on. It was my first experience to use a programming language and the instructor was kind enough to teach in a pace that helped those of us working with a programming language for the first time. We learnt R language by starting with the basics, installing packages, getting data into R, understanding some basic functions such as “dplyr” which helps to rename, recode, select, arrange etc. I was particularly intrigued with using “rorcid” which makes it possible to look for ORCID ID. Sponsor information etc. of an article or author. I must say that while the instructor was demonstrating how to crawl ORCID data, I followed the coding using my name and I was happy when it opened up my ORCID in another web page. I tried crawling ORCID data of some Professors and to my amazement some of them do not have an ORCID account. This informed of the work that needed to be done in terms of awareness creation among faculty members. The instructor was magnanimous enough to share his github link with us so we can always go back to the codes and other R resources he used in the lecture.

Managing, Exploring, and Sharing Data with Dataverse

Dataverse Session Closing Slide

The instructors for this course were Gustavo Durand and Julian Gautier from Harvard University. With an increasing amount of data being produced in research process, there is fundamentally a need to create access to such data. Dataverse is one of the platforms that enables global visibility to research and organizational data. Dataverse is an open source software that allows reproducibility and data sharing. Researchers and universities could deposit their data in Dataverse. This is to ensure preservation of such data, create access, enhance global visibility to research data as well as ensure reproducibility of research. This course was not just on theories, it was full of practical class exercises which enabled the participants to understand how Dataverse works. Personally, I learnt how to open a Dataverse account either by using an institutional affiliation or by registering as an individual. Furthermore, by attending this course, I was able to create and manage datasets to ensure that metadata is accurate and well imputed, granting access permissions among others. This is one of the ways of ensuring good practices of open science and becoming an open scholar.

Scientific paper of the future

This course was led by Dr Deborah Khider and Dr Daniel Garijo from the University of Southern California. This course focused on four key areas which are modern paper, reproducible research, open science and digital scholarship. The facilitators emphasized the significance of depositing research data in data repositories and getting permanent digital object identifier (DOI). This would lead readers to data repositories (such as figshare, zenodo etc) which may increase usage and citation. Aside getting a reliable and consistent DOI for one’s data. it is imperative to cite the DOI in one’s article. This, they submitted, is a way of increasing the visibility of one’s data and making it reproducible. Scientific paper of the future is that which embraces open science. To practice open science, researchers should share by depositing software data/codes (including provenance and workflow) on publicly shared repositories. Researchers, innovators, software developers should provide open source licenses for data and software. In order to make data and software available, a structured description of their characteristic should be provided. Good metadata increases the discoverability of digital contents, and data/software are not exempted.

Aside the morning and afternoon sessions, FSCI also featured opening keynote, plenary sessions, lightning talks, do-a-thon and closing keynote. The opening keynote by Mboa Thomas gave a spark on decolonizing knowledge which expounds on the possibility of colonizing knowledge despite the growing advocacies and commitments to open science. He stressed on the significance of decolonizing knowledge with scholarly communication practices that encourage openness.

Lightning talks

There were interesting lightning talks in FSCI2019. The range of topics covered in the lightning talks shows presenters efforts and passion to accommodate growing changes in scholarly communication. I was also privileged to present a talk on "examining the realities of institutional repositories (IRs) and subject repositories (SRs) as alternative means of open access publishing". I examined the present situations of IRs and SRs, and highlighted the weaknesses, strengths of each as well as the infrastructures needed to make them feasible alternative means of scholarly publishing. In making SRs and IRs veritable alternatives for open access scholarly publishing, faculty buy-in and inclusion of peer-review processes are very germane. Aside faculty buy-in, and making provisions for the needed infrastructures, peer review is a crucial part if IRs and SRs would replace the already unsustainable publishing models. At present, SRs and IRs provide access, visibility and preservation roles, whereas they also have the potentials of functioning as publishing platforms for original contents, as some few IRs are working in that capacity, although with limited subject focus.

Closing Keynote: Would including open scholarship in tenure guidelines move the needle?

Closing Keynote by Prof Juan Pablo

This was a closing keynote address by Prof Juan Pablo Alperin of ScholCommlab where he unveiled interesting discoveries about what faculty believe others think about them regarding their open science practices. The keynote focused on findings from his research which revealed that the current system encourages continuous patronage of perceived high impact journals at the expense of making research open. Although faculty are interested in open access publishing, their decisions are constantly influenced by what their peers think, and they value prestige above all else. Hence, would including open scholarship in faculty promotion make open access publishing a reality?  For more information on this interesting topic, you can read his full article here.

In conclusion, this years’ scholarly communication institute ended with an open mike session where participants made commitments on further works and innovation in scholarly communication in their various organizations and institutions. I encourage scholars, students, librarians, publishers and everyone interested in staying abreast with the realities of scholarly communication to make it a responsibility to attend upcoming FSCI. FORCE11’s president, Prof Daniel O’Donnell, his amazing team and volunteers makes the whole experience almost hitch-free. I look forward to attending next institute which will be held at the prestigious UCLA.


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