Motivations & Apprehensions When Putting Your Stuff Online
In this initial blog post on Open Science practices in Higher Education, we (Naomi Truan & Dennis Dressel) reflect on our process while considering publishing our teaching materials as Open Educational Resources.
And we did so in a project that was still very much work in progress. What did we publish, why did we do it, but also, crucially, when did we do it?
Open Science unites highly diverse practices that range from sharing resources (e.g., code, data, research materials, and methods), publishing formats (e.g., uploading preprints, i.e., manuscripts that have not been subjected to a peer-review evaluation, to an open repository or to one’s personal website) to sharing research questions and methodologies (Allen & Mehler 2019: 2).
When considering engaging in Open Science, our argument is twofold:
- First, we emphasize the importance of intermediary steps prior to the release of the end product, and we argue that it is okay to be hesitant about sharing first drafts early.
- Second, we plead for more openness regarding when authors feel ready to share their work with the world, or, as Naomi suggested somewhere else, “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and you’ll be fine”.
Go public if you want to, but at your own pace
In our case, the final products comprise both the Open Educational Resources produced during the semester and several academic papers (currently submitted or in preparation), whose preprints are not available (yet).
An Open Science approach based on the process could have implied that we publish the Open Educational Resources one after another throughout the semester, in order to show not only the evolution of our reflection but also the order in which we produced the materials. We decided, however, to release the Open Educational Resources all at once, upon completion of the semester.
This decision reflects our uncertainties during the process: We were uncertain whether all the announced resources would be produced as planned, and whether they would live up to our expectations in terms of content and quality. Moreover, we wanted to integrate the participants’ feedback. Finally, we altered the resources to make them somewhat generic and to make them more easily reusable: For instance, we removed the dates from the research process described week after week in one of the handouts. We also added the citation format only at the end. We made all resources available on a Padlet, which enabled us to check for typos and to avoid that many versions of the resources circulate.
As we are publishing this blog post in early August 2021, the resources are still not available on an OER platform (but we are still writing this, oh hello procrastination), mostly because we have been wanting to introduce some minor changes to the handouts and had been waiting for the revised versions of the seminar participants’ academic posters.
What can we learn from this? Does it really make a difference whether there are typos in the first version of the Open Educational Resources? Does anyone care?
Well, probably not. Or, rather, no one but us. But this is an essential point: When funding agencies and institutions indistinctly ask scholars, no matter how experienced they are or how advanced they are in their academic career, to engage in Open Science, they fail to see that not everyone feels comfortable being visible and exposed.
Publishing seminar materials (i.e., syllabi, handouts, worksheets…) as Open Educational Resources entails academic visibility and transparency beyond research. Making one’s own teaching publicly available increases the (subjectively perceived) pressure to ensure that teaching materials are of exemplary academic and didactic quality while being comprehensive and usable for third parties.
Importantly, we are not interested in promoting Open Science uncritically. Rather, we want to engage in thinking together when to publish what.
- A short answer to when may be: whenever you are ready—in our case, only once the semester was over and we knew how many hand-outs we actually produced and got informal feedback from the participants.
- Regarding what, we published only final versions of the materials, although two (unplanned) rounds of (very) minor revisions took place once the Open Educational Resources were released on the Padlet.
And that’s okay. We were lucky enough not to receive any external pressure on when the Open Educational Resources had to be made available and we felt ready to share within the timeframe of the funding. Still, the whole “phew, this is online now for everyone to read” is scary, and it may feel safer to simply add a line to one’s CV rather than being faced with people actually reading what we thought.
Saying that it’s hard does not make you less qualified
So, instead of “just” publishing our Open Educational Resources, we wrote a blog post saying how hard it was and how insecure we sometimes felt during the process. But why? Why are we saying this?
Because specifically when it comes to Open Science practices in education, we believe it is important that students get to see that instructors are sometimes struggling, too. If we want to encourage our students (as well as each other) to engage in Open Science practices, to collaborate, and to “trust the process”, we should also cultivate an honest conversation about how practicing Open Science feels like.
In a paper we’re currently writing, we analyze the students’ experience with Open Science, and especially their readiness to publish their scientific poster in Open Access. In doing so, we reflect on our own roles prior to and during the seminar, as we believe that our prior assumptions and experiences with Open Science should be considered when interpreting the data. When referring to the students’ insecurities or hopes, we thus do not intend to position ourselves merely as analysts, but we aim to reflect on how the students’ individual and collective perceptions may resonate with our own journey, what we can learn from it, and how to possibly overcome our own limitations.
And… what does this mean in practice? More on this in the next blog post on ideas to foster Open Science in Higher Education.
Allen, Christopher & David M. A. Mehler. 2019. Open science challenges, benefits and tips in early career and beyond. PLOS Biology. Public Library of Science 17(5). e3000246. https://doi.org/10/gf4hqr.
NB: This blog post has been co-written by Naomi Truan and Dennis Dressel but the website displays only Naomi’s name in the citation.