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What's all the FORCE about? Conference report from FORCE 2016

Amanda Lawrence

Recently I had the priviledge of attending the FORCE11 conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon, (inspiration for the terrific comedy series Portlandia) supported by a conference Travel Fellowship. FORCE11, for those unfamiliar with the group, stands for Future of Research Communications and E-scholarship – but I admit it sounds like researchers dressing up and staging Star Wars re-enactments with the open access librarian rebels resisting the publishing storm troopers.

In fact FORCE 11 is a community of researchers, librarians, organisations, publishers, technology projects and companies, and various other parties that have come together over the last 5 or so years to advocate for, discuss and collaborate on new forms of scholarly communication. The group formed in 2011 (hence the 11) around the FORC Workshop held in Germany and has continued with the support of volunteer time and some in-kind administration support.

Like many similar groups, FORCE 11 is interested in open access to academic journals, however this is only one of the many challenges that need to be addressed if we are to have an efficient, effective and innovative research system. There are problems with the entire research process from the reproducibility of scientific experiments and the peer review process to the ability of researchers to communicate effectively about their results and the lack of reward mechanisms to do so. The solutions are many and varied, residing in new technologies, standards and practices on the one hand and changes to legal and policy settings, and institutional cultures on the other.

Changes to research practices and communication have been underway since the early 2000s but things are really starting to gain momentum in a significant way. As well as open access to journals we now have advocacy groups and policies encouraging open data, open educational resources, open science and even open government. There is now a bewildering number of projects, advocacy groups, government inquiries and other mechanisms established around the world to look at the these issues, with FORCE 11 being yet another one. A question immediately arises, how does this group differ from the numerous other groups active in the scholarly communication space and which ones should we be following? To be honest I’m not sure of the answer however at this point FORCE 11 distinguishes itself by its commitment to facilitate the discussion across all disciplines and sectors, without requiring financial investment (although organisations are encouraged to join the membership program). Given the amount of discussion and activity occurring across so many groups in so many countries, this is an important role.

Another distinction seems to be a commitment to go beyond national boundaries or even the Global North by making an effort to include participants and voices from around the world at the 2016 conference. The executive applied for and received support for travel fellowships for around 35 participants from diverse countries. I was fortunate to receive a fellowship to attend and was, I think, the only Australian at the conference (apart from Cameron Neylon, FORCE 11 president, who recently moved to Curtin University). It was great to be able to meet researchers and librarians from the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe as well as US, Canadian and European attendees. The active development and support for the networks required to transform scholarly communication at a global level are one of the most important benefits of the FORCE 11 group.

Force 2016 Travel Fellows (I am front row 4th from the left)


So what happened at FORCE 2016?

The event consisted of a day of workshops based around the working groups currently established by the FORCE 11 community, followed by 2 days of conference. The workshops reflect the three key interests of FORCE 11: technology, standards and systems, and the big picture - the overall ecosystem of scholarly research and communication. The technology focus covered semantic publishing and infrastructure, OpenRIF, open software, and data management amongst other things. The standards and practices workshops covered an open standard for annotations, innovations in curation, open peer review and organisation identifiers amongst other things. And the big picture workshops covered defining the Scholarly Commons, and defining the principles that underlie open standards for publishing and curation.

FORCE 11 has its origins in the sciences, particularly biology, so as a social scientist interested in research communication for public policy it was fascinating to hear about the issues around standards of publishing that are inhibiting reproducibility amongst other things and the work underway to improve this. Keynote speakers such as Cesar Hidalgo from MIT discussed the data, visualisations and tools available for predicting economic development while John Brownstein from Boston Children’s hospital gave an impressive, and at times scary, picture of how social media, blogs, local news and other platforms can provide public health surveillance and epidemic intelligence gathering. The poster and demo sessions also showed an extraordinary proliferation of tools and technologies for producing, accessing, managing and mining data and publications with software developers and metadata experts joining forces with discipline experts to find tailored solutions as well as large scale applications for the wider research community.

It was good to also hear about some of the complexities that exist outside of the laboratory when researchers working with Indigenous and community groups discussed the politics of openness for groups long exploited without consultation. On the other hand the discussion about research dissemination and uptake to the wider community sometimes lacked an understanding of the many audiences that might exist for both research data and results and the need to tailor communication to different groups – not only the general public but for practitioners, industry and business, government departments and agencies etc. – based on an understanding of what exactly these groups want from research and scholarly communication. There is also some way to go in acknowledging the amount of research produced outside of academia and how this is to be evaluated and managed alongside university-based research.

To sum up, it was an incredibly informative conference which has given me many ideas and a lot of homework. I had a number of conversations with people eager to do something about the ongoing issue of grey literature management, for public policy, international development and other areas and look forward to working with my new global network to do so. I also had many conversations with people for whom the world of research and publishing by government, NGOs, consultants and research centres was an unknown but interesting new area.

For anyone interested the FORCE11 website has plenty of information, and a discussion forum and groups that you can join or initiate a new group or follow them on Twitter @force11rescomm. Or get in touch with me directly (alawrence@swin.edu.au) or via Twitter @amandaslawrence to discuss what we can do from our corner of the world to improve the way research is practiced and communicated for public benefit.



Amanda Lawrence is Research and Strategy Manager at APO and has written and researched on grey literature,  public policy and digital libraries. More publications available here: http://apo.org.au/creator/amanda-lawrence

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ANDS DOI service expands to include grey literature

By Amanda Lawrence

In recent years the value of data has been increasingly recognised along with the need to make more of it accessible and better managed. The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) was set up by the federal government to improve the discovery, access and management of research data in Australia. One of the key services ANDS offers is to be the Australian organisation providing Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) issued by the international collaboration Datacite.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) provide a stable address for online content via a resolving service which locates the content even if it has been moved to a new location (providing the details have been updated). The identifier also helps to link digital content to related content or information such as authors. DOIs have been used in journal publishing for some time and are now being applied to data sets, partly also to emphasise their legitimacy as a scholarly output on parr with articles.

So we have DOIs for journal articles and DOIs for data, but what about all the other valuable research content being published? Reasearch reports, working papers, technical reports, discussion papers, evaluations, surveys etc etc. Also known as grey literature. These resources are often forgotten in the discussion of how to improve scholarly communication and better manage research outputs. Despite their value and essential role in research and public policy grey literature publications such as reports and brefings lack sufficient recognition and reward in the academic system and therefore are often overlooked (see our research on this).

Here at APO we are of course highly aware of the value and impact of reports and other grey literature resources for research, policy and practice. We are also very aware of the need to find better ways to manage digital resources and improve their discovery and access. So we were thrilled to discover that Datacite could mint DOIs for grey literature and through an ANDS Major Open Collections Project grant to Swinburne University we implemented our own DOI minting service for full text resources and datasets in 2015.

This was pioneering stuff as there was little awareness that Datacite could mint DOIs for grey literature or that this could be as useful and important as DOIs for data. It has resulted in increased data and full text hosting on APO and allowed APO metadata to integrate with the researcher identification system ORCID (and visa versa). Its been an important step in the battle for increased recognition of the diverse publications and research outputs that count when it comes to public policy.

That battle just had a major win this week when ANDS Director, Dr Adrian Burton, announced that ANDS is expanding their DOI service to cover grey literature as well as research datasets and collections, associated workflows, software and models. As he states, "Extending the service to allow DOIs to be assigned to this type of material will fill a community need to persistently reference and cite these types of resources." This is a great decision for ANDS and for the research and policy community. According to ANDS the expansion was made in response to a request from the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL). We appreciate the work done by CAUL to pursue this change of policy. We also take some quiet pride in being the first repository in Australia to lobby for and implement DOI minting for grey literature.

Our service has been running successfully for the past year and we encourage any organisation wishing to secure a DOI for a research output - grey literature or data - of relevance to public policy issues to add their resource to APO for hosting on APO and tick the box to request a DOI.

WIN a free conference pass - Akolade’s 5th Annual Australian Fraud Summit 2016

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APO awarded grant for Linked Data Project Stage II

The Australian Research Council recently announced a round of grant funding for 2016 and APO is very pleased to have been awarded infrastructure funding to develop Stage II of our Linked Data capabilities. Linked Data PolicyHub Stage II: Urban and Regional Planning, Infrastructure and Communications will support researchers to access and analyse organised collections of diverse documents and datasets from the policy information ecosystem.

This is our largest grant to date and builds on the existing investments in open access knowledge infrastructure to develop key collections of policy documentation and data and new tools for problem solving and analysis. By enabling efficient universal access to historical and archived policy material the project aims to provide critical research infrastructure that supports innovative and applied approaches to Australian public policy research.

The Linked Data Stage II project (LDP II) brings together 11 investigators from 5 universities, Swinburne, RMIT, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, and two partner organisations, the Australian and New Zealand School of Government, and the Internet Archive, to develop linked, open access collections of resources to support policy related research. It aims to support the diverse and increasingly complex information needs of researchers working on a spectrum of intersecting problems comprising urban and regional infrastructure, planning, community development, sustainability, climate change, communications, access to information, public administration and social innovation. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of these fields, the project will also benefit researchers working in areas such as health, education, Indigenous issues, national security, economics, law and environmental science.

LDP II will support research in these and related areas by creating curated collections (PolicyHubs) of born-digital and digitised resources, providing linked, contextual metadata for understanding the relationships between resources, actors and organisations, and by developing the tools and functionality to support a range of traditional and emerging digital research methods. The open access knowledge infrastructure created will allow not only the CIs but researchers across the community to find, access, analyse and interrogate policy research and the wider policy context in new and innovative ways.

For more information on the project contact Amanda Lawrence, APO Research and Strategy Manager, alawrence@swin.edu.au.

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WIN a free conference pass to the Democracy in Transition conference






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Questions needed for the Influence seekers panel - 2015 Internet Governance Forum

http://www.advertise.apo.org.au/sites/default/files/styles/apoteaserimage/public...At this year's Australian Internet Governance Forum, to be held in Melbourne on 6-7 October 2015, Amanda Lawrence, from APO, is organising a panel to discuss how third sector organisations can use the internet to influence public policy and improve access to knowledge. The session is:

The Influence Seekers: Knowledge exchange, advocacy and public policy online

1:30pm - 3:00pm Wed 7 October, auIGF Conference Melbourne

Speakers are Julian Thomas (Swinburne University), Dina Bowman (Brotherhood of St Laurence) and Margaret Simons, Journalist and Chaired by Amanda Lawrence (APO Research Manager and auIGF ambassador)

Where does the evidence for public policy come from in the Internet age? Third sector organisations are increasingly using the Internet to publish research and ideas on a huge range of topics. What does this mean for our understanding of expertise, evidence, influence and the policy process? How important is this information for the decisions that are made, by politicians, business, or individuals? Can it be trusted? What does this mean for traditional forms of knowledge production and distribution? These are just some of the questions and issues that will be raised in this lively panel discussion featuring speakers from the third sector, media, academia and libraries.



The conference organisers are also calling for questions to be submitted to any other sessions you might be interested in. We invite and encourage you to submit questions that you would like answered in any of the sessions outlined in the schedule for this year.

All you need to do is email helen.hollins@auda.org.au the following:

  • The session you would like to have a question included in
  • Your name and organisation - if you would like it referenced or not
  • The specific question you have relevant to the session
  • If the question is for a specific person, who that is (you can refer to the speakers list on the auIGF website)

The deadline for receipt of questions is 5pm Friday 25 September. 

We can't guarantee all questions will be tabled, it really is dependant on time available on the day, but we will do our best to address the issues you wish to have covered, by session.

If you haven't yet registered for this year, we would recommend doing that sooner rather than later as tickets are selling fast and we have limited numbers available. You can register here.