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The Impact of Open

Transformational Possibilities for Education and Research

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19 July 2010

28th July - 16.30 - 17.30 - Auditorium

JISC is committed to the open environment where pre-competitive ideas are shared and where new models of learning, research and knowledge transfer are supported.  A number of the JISC Innovation programmes support the exploration and implementation of this environment. This plenary session will present different aspects of the open agenda and invite the audience to discuss, question, challenge and raise issues to the panel. 

Session Chair

Craig Wentworth - JISC Programme Director - Organisation and User Technologies

The panel will discuss what particular open agendas can offer and their potential to impact on education and research


  • Rufus Pollock: Openness: Innovation and Efficiency – the potential
  • Ross Gardler: Open Source and Open Standards - what can they deliver?
  • Helen Beetham: Open Educational Resources and Open learning
  • Sal Cooke: Openness and Accessibility
  • Hugh Look: Open research - Open Access and Open Science

The panel will present their vision of the transformation that their open topic can enable for 5 mins each.

Following the panel visions the discussion will be opened to the audience to discuss whether the visions presented realistic and feasible? How can they be achieved? What are the implications for research, learning and HE organisations? To reach these visions what needs to be done?

A summary from the JISC strategy can be found below to add some context on the session

Extra content

Extract from the JISC Strategy 2010–2012 – Generic Themes

The open agenda has many elements:

  • Open source, which JISC will continue to support through policy and technical advice from the Open Source Software Watch
  • Open standards, which are essential to enable institutions (and other organisations in the sector such as research funders and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Sevice – UCAS) to maintain flexibility in their IT systems, so they can build their IT infrastructure to suit their needs in a rapidly evolving technical environment
  • Open educational resources to expand the availability of academic and scholarly resources to students, potential students and informal learners
  • Open Access to support the need to make the outputs of publicly funded research widely available and ensure that research has as wide an impact as possible both within higher education and beyond
  • Open data to strengthen the scholarly record, and to facilitate data aggregation and re-use, collaboration, open science and innovation
  • Open science, which describes a range of innovative new scientific practices, for example wherein researchers immediately share their methods and results, as well as peer-reviewed outputs and data, with the research community and more widely, using networks to provide the potential for fast feedback and validation, enrolling a broad community into research work and providing for a complete, accessible and persistent record of research across its lifecycle
  • Open innovation, wherein universities are partners with business, government and others in an innovation system that promotes the sharing of ideas across sectors, building relationships of trust between them, and enabling the exploitation of discoveries wherever that is best undertaken

16:48 on 26 July 2010

Blogpost of The Impact of Open

The stage for the panel discussion on the impact of 'open' may have looked like a set from a highbrow late night TV arts programme – all leather easy chairs around occasional tables – but this discussion was anything but laidback. The panel featured five experts in the field who are all passionate about their take on open, whether data, source code, educational resources or accessibility. Their individual five minute presentations set the bar high for the audience, who responded with wide-ranging questions and comments that took the debate from newspaper business models to whether closed access to academic research is 'blocking the progress of humanity'.

Rufus Pollack of the Open Knowledge Foundation pitched the tone for the session with a fast-paced and impassioned argument for open data. First off, he clarified the terminology. For him, something is 'open' if we are 'free to take it, use it, reuse it and redistribute with no restrictions'. This also means that you have to be able to actually get your hands on the data – it's no good it being hidden away on a mouldy CD in a drawer somewhere.

'The creation, storage, analysis and transmission of information are the fundamental activities of the academy and are becoming the dominant economic activity in much of the world," said Rufus, and we are seeing an 'openess revolution'. Information is special, he explained, it's non-rivalrous, it is very cheaply copied at zero cost and when it's open it can be scaled, broken up into reusable pieces and weaved back together again. By easily sharing material we get optimum use of it – 'the best thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else,' claimed Rufus.

Ross Gardler followed with a speedy rundown of the benefits of open source, as befits the manager of OSS Watch and Vice President of Community Development at The Apache Software Foundation. Open source is a faster, higher quality development process that results in more innovation, said Ross. Proof? The internet. 'Is that innovative enough for you?' he asked with a smile. It's built on opens source software. This kind of software is more innovative because it means that we do not have to keep reinventing the wheel – agile processes are open development, allowing us to iterate and build upon previous innovations. Open source also allows mutually beneficial partnerships and enables us to spread the risk and the burden of sustainability.

A different tack was taken by Helen Beetham, a consultant who was involved in the JISC OER pilot programme. She intrigued the audience by setting out four different 'open' scenarios of the future, lightly touching on the benefits and drawbacks of each.  'Open market' described a policy at a university which is making the most of the benefits of open content – enhanced reputation, syndication of quality assured open content, boosted teaching ratings and 'star' teachers. 'Open choice' featured a student who has made up for lack of science A levels and used transitional materials to get a diploma and is now engaged in  self-directed learning, accessing knowledge from anywhere while at  the 'uni of anytown'. While she could not have got where she is without OER, she worries that she is maybe missing out on learning same thing with same people, sees  other students struggling, and notices that support does not come from the teachers who wrote the material. The third scenario, 'open access' showed how open content can help an Ethiopian student aces material from all over the world, but none in her own language and highlights the need for more partnerships between universities in the west and developing countries. Finally, 'open sharing'  showd the limits to openness in an institutional open repository where all the researchers share material, find profiles, follow, comment, and learn together but worry about research reputation issues.

'Equality and diversity is not a specialist subject, it affects everyone,' said Sal Cooke of TechDis, 'and openess and accessibility should go together.' She urged developers to think about the range of things they can do to make apps and other innovations more accessible, pointing out that, worst case scenario, it can take 170 clicks to read one page of ebook. We have to be careful of raising the barriers, she said: 'we don’t need higher ladders, we need lower walls'.

Hugh Look rounded off the panel by arguing that the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it argument' simply doesn’t apply in this case because the current models are not fit for purpose and we are 'running out of the kinds of resources that will allow us to spend large sums of money on things that are locked away.'



Michelle Pauli
21:36 on 28 July 2010

Embedded Content


Rebecca Galley
3:48pm 28 July 2010 (Edited 3:56pm 28 July 2010)

Rufus Pollock ( "Giving you a copy of my car is a problem, giving you a copy of my data isn't" "the best thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else"

Gráinne Conole
9:12am 29 July 2010

I'm really interested in the concept of openness and I am heading up a new research programme on this theme at the OU. We are exploring 4 main themes:

  • Open design
  • Open delivery
  • Open research
  • Open evaluation
Will add a link to the recent keynote and paper I did about this at this year's Edmedia conference.

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