|Speakers Stephen Pinfield, Florence Piron and Louise Bezuidenhout|
From this opening salvo, Florence Piron, Professor in the département d’information et de communication, Université Laval, Québec, Canada, countered with an impassioned alternate viewpoint on open science: “une autre science est possible” (another science is possible), which she clarified by the end of her talk to be a science that is open, fair and decolonial. In keeping with the standard that the convenors unwittingly set, Florence declared her positionality as well, (with Stephen, it was “ditto” to Andrew’s). She is a woman, she declared, a Franchophone and an immigrant. Furthermore, she contrasted herself from the “one world science” view (of John Watson, apparently) and knowledge “bubbles” by opening herself to other kinds of knowledges that do not depend on abstraction and theory (like Information Science) and which could be accessed from the pluralist mind of an anthropologist, philosopher and social epistemologist. While making strong statements about her identity as a scholar, she nonetheless acknowledged that these were also traits that could potentially reduce her privilege in a world dominated by a “great uniform narrative” about what constitutes scientific practice.
|Florence Piron presenting|
Louise Bezuidenhout was the next speaker, a South African researcher from the Science and Technology Studies (STS) field, who now practices in the UK (Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS), University of Oxford). Louise challenged us in her talk to remember that inequality starts with physical resources and infrastructure that can unwittingly be reproduced in online environments with the introduction of open science and the spectrum of online activities that are meant to support it. She reminded us that if we are not careful of the way in which we promote open science in low-resourced settings we may end up introducing unnecessary blockages to doing science in this way. Openness as an egalitarian ideology could thus be threatened by unnecessary barriers introduced inadvertently by a model of open science that does not really take into consideration the heterogeneity of research settings; the little differences of contexts. In keeping with the technologically deterministic thinking of some of the early ICT4D interventions in the Global South, she mentioned that there might be an impression that once infrastructure issues are “fixed” then access to resources would be considered the same in the low-resourced setting as they are in high income contexts. But such a view fails to understand issues about context that could be “invisible”, of which she gave several examples: the researchers who fund research out of their own pockets; the embarrassment of revealing you are using antiquated equipment; the fear that others could reproduce your research at a much quicker pace and render your work obsolete.
Louise made the interesting observation that, “…embedding open science in African research is not simply a case of raising awareness and telling people it’s an awesome idea and we should be enthusiastically embracing it. We need to find ways of overcoming the drastic divide between an endorsement of the values and an embodiment of the practices.” She also made it a call to arms for the open science community to fix this problem by being more conscious of their design decisions and the potential to reproduce inequality in online settings. But how could it be fixed? Louise proffered some ideas to reduce the incidence of creating more inequalities through open science including normalising the discourse on challenges to research practice (i.e., it’s not just an African problem), recognising how open science could work in a low-resourced settings by emphasising the “small things” that do work and resisting the perception that African scientists need to “catch up”. Indeed, they may be pursuing a vision of resource provision and research practice that is not endemic or achievable in their contexts. Open science cannot assume that accessibility and usability of resources is at the same level in all contexts. Context does matter in this case.
Dr Pamela Abbott
This blog has been a summary of the main points of the debate presented by the speakers at this workshop. We will have further blogs outlining more of the day’s proceedings to follow. The recordings of the presentations on this was based can be accessed at: https://digitalmedia.sheffield.ac.uk/media/Clip+of+Critical+Views+on+Open+Scholarship+workshop/0_814dkitp