Sunday, April 15, 2012

#OAHackday at PLoS

Yesterday, I attended a mini hackathon at PLoS in San Francisco to discuss strategies and work on tools to encourage the adoption of open access and shared content policies at research universities, publishers and elsewhere. We hope the event will be the first of many and plan to hold a larger, multi-day event in late June. While some focus on open access to scientific research, it's really part of the broader movement toward opening our entire culture, whether viewed through the lens of OER, Creative Commons, open source software or shared open data.

Similar issues are back on the table in Congress with the re-introduced Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bill that would require that taxpayer-funded research is made available to the public, similar to the NIH Public Access Policy. A competing bill in the House aimed at scrapping the NIH policy (to protect publisher's interests) led to a boycott of academic publisher Elsevier. The Right to Research Coalition is promoting a FRPAA Day of Action on April 25 to encourage students and others to notify their legislators of their support for the bill.  It's unfortunate that these points are still being debated; providing public access to materials the public has already paid for seems like a no-brainer with respect to promoting science, education and innovation.  For a more detailed look at the benefits of OA, check out Creative Commons' Comments to the White House Inquiry on Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Publications, Data, responses to two RFI's issued in accordance with Section 103 of last year's America COMPETES Act. Others' comments can be found here.

At yesterday's event, I worked with a few others (including fellow CfA fellow Ben Sheldon, who first suggested the idea) on applying the Code for America Adopt-a-Hydrant project to academic institutions, very tentatively titled Adopt-An-Institution. The code and progress can be viewed on Github. We spent most of the day considering how to change the user and registration model so that one could indicate their role and relationship to the university or department, then placed a few spots on the map to start seeing what it might look like. At this point, the goal is to allow students, librarians, administrators and others to declare their interest in adoption of an open access policy at their institution and communicate with one another to begin moving forward. Later steps will include pre-populating the map with indicators of universities with successful OA policies, providing guidance on policy development, links to commonly used (open source) repository technology, how to set one up and encouraging authors to start using it. Another way we considered features was by Social layer, Policy layer, Compliance layer, and Competitive layer. If people begin by declaring their interest, we'll then have a core to work with on developing future features. 

Other groups worked on launching a site to collect OA news, tools and events ( - very beta), a markup tool for extracting and understanding scientific research (notes), data collection about OA and a planned weekly podcast series highlighting OA news, case studies and interviews. Many other ideas other ideas were proposed and hopefully will get tackled at some point. It was a fun day with a great group of passionate people. We're all looking forward to pushing these projects forward at future events.  Of course, everything can be seen on the wiki at and you should get involved!

Update 4/19 - Thanks to CfA fellow Alicia Rouault for the new logo.  Check out the live proof-of-concept here.