in Education

Impact: the most important reason for working in the open? (#openeducationweek)

“A man may do an immense deal of good, if he does not care who gets the credit for it.” (Father Strickland)

Working in the open comes naturally to me. I’ve never jealously guarded ‘my’ work and really cannot comprehend a person who would rather work in a closed and restricted environment.

Both this blog and my doctoral thesis are CC0 licensed, which means that I’ve donated them to the public domain. If you want to take my work, copy it word-for-word and pass it off as your own or sell it, that’s fine. Seriously. Do what you like. I’m flattered you like it.

I found out today that the minor rewrites I submitted after my thesis defence have now been accepted. I now go onto the ‘Pass list’ at Durham University meaning that I can call myself Dr. Belshaw. This makes me happy.

Another piece of news I received today was via Twitter from Joe Wilson attending the NAACE conference 2012 (#naace12). NAACE is a membership organization for those involved with ICT education in the UK and beyond.

(Note: Joe made a typo in his haste – I’m actually @dajbelshaw)

This came as a bit of a surprise. Whilst I’m aware of people referencing my work, I didn’t realize that NAACE as a body knew of/was using it. Certainly their press release (if that’s the right one) doesn’t mention anything. But to insist on acknowledgement (see discussion here), I feel, is a form of ownership. And no-one owns ideas.

The most important value of working in the open for me? Impact.

I write about things that interest me and ideas that I hold to be good in the way of belief. As a consequence, and like most other people, I think the ideas expressed in my work may be of use to others. If ‘impact’ is getting others discussing, debating and accepting your ideas then, yes, I want to impact other people.

Academics in UK universities will soon have to demonstrate their ‘impact’ under the terms of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). I can’t help but think that one of the best ways for academics to achieve this is to dramatically improve the accessibility of their work. The easiest method? Release it under the least restrictive license you can. This seems so obvious to me as to be a no-brainer.

There are some caveats, of course: less restrictive licensing may be problematic for commercially-sensitive areas and huge fields.

Let me explain.

There are two main reasons why I can ‘afford’ to give my work away without asking for attribution or compensation:

1. I know that most people will, actually, reference it (and there’s a large chance that those who don’t will be called out by others in such a relatively small field)

2. I have a salaried occupation that does not depend upon me attracting funding to commercialise my ‘Intellectual Property’.

Perhaps I’m young and naive but I can’t help think that, if you can, you should give away your work. For free. Without copyright.

That’s how ideas gain traction.

This week is Open Education week. There’s lots of stuff on the JISC website about it.

  • christian petersen

    Dear Doug, 
    Interesting post. It is an interesting notion you have presented. In Denmark and most Scadinavian countries, as you may know, education is free. So it would actually make sense that since the government (or the people if you like) are paying people to study. It should also somehow be mandatory to release these studies to public use. Then it hit me, that there are no one teaching the students how to do this. We got the tools (e.g. Blogging, Wikipedia, GoogleDocs, Slideshare, Academia, etc.), but no one encourages them. I made it all the way to a Msc and thinking about a Phd, but having followed you blog for some time I realise I never attended lessons on how to share my projects, research and findings or find that of others? Interesting thoughts you have shared. Have you heard about http://www.managementexchange.com/? It is an attempt to change some of the perceptions about management and organisation in companies. One idea goes on implementing transparency of information, much needed I think. Don’t you? 

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      Hi Christian, thanks for the comment and the link! I’ll check it out. :-)

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    The most important reason for working in the open to me? Feedback – not the “rah rah” sort of feedback, but the “you may want to look at this from another angle” sort of feedback.

    Impact comes or goes of its own accord and I’m not going to strive for that, as – like fame – the more you strive for it, the less it’s worth.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com/ Doug Belshaw

      Perhaps, and I’ve certainly benefitted from the feedback you mention (especially from you), by at the end of the day if you want to change the world with ideas then people need to know about them! :-)