This weekend (13-16 November), I’ll be in Brussels attending OpenCon – a particularly lively conference about open access, open data and open research, which is aimed primarily at early-career researchers. (It was my privilege to give a talk at the Berlin 11 Satellite conference in 2013 that was the direct predecessor of OpenCon.)
I’m not one of the speakers this time: I’m there to meet up with some of the stellar cast, including PLOS co-founder Mike Eisen, CrossRef guru Geoff Bilder, scholarly-publishing iconoclast Björn Brembs, open-access catalyst Melissa Hagemann and perhaps even Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. I mention these attendees in particular because they’re all people I’ve never met in the flesh, but apart from Jimmy Wales, I know them well from email, blog and Twitter exchanges. It’ll be good to meet up with them in real life, and to see whether chatting over a couple of beers is a better way of coming to agreement on some of the things we’ve often argued about online.
As a long-standing and (too) voluminous open-access advocate myself, I’m going to have lots to discuss with the OpenCon crowd. But I’m particularly excited at the prospect of chatting with these people about The One Repo – a project that we at Index Data have been working on for the last few months, to resolve the fragmentation problems that beset the world’s 4000 or so institutional repositories. We’re gathering their metadata, mapping it all into a single coherent profile, and releasing that data to the world without restrictions on re-use.
The One Repo excites me both as a software developer and also, with my other hat on, as a researcher in vertebrate palaeontology. In the course of my research, I routinely run into paywalls that prevent me from accessing the published papers that I need for my own work, a common experience for researchers. We’ve reached the stage now where scholarly publishing is so dysfunctional that even Harvard, the wealthiest university in the world, can’t afford to subscribe to all the journals that its scholars need. Worse still, many other people – doctors, teachers, policymakers, patient groups, small businesses – have virtually no access to the research they need. We’re hoping that The One Repo will be an important piece in the solution to this problem.
So I hope that during our Brussels down-time, we get plenty of opportunity to talk about The One Repo, as well as the many other excellent open initiatives out there. It always feels good to be part of a group of people who are in this together, trying to open up the world’s research to benefit those who contribute to and pay for it.
(Read more about The One Repo here, if you’re interested.)