Training-the-Trainers of Open Access
The Open Access landscape is changing. As advocates, we ought to be up-to-date with these changes. This is about the Train-the-Trainer platform adopted for Nairobi’s Open Access Week 2016. Inspired by this year’s Open Access Week theme, Open in Action, I thought of a platform where researchers, librarians, students and others who have committed to working in Open could share their experiences on how that decision has benefited them.
Photo courtesy of OpenCon 2016 Nairobi
This is my first year in Open Research and Open Education advocacy. Initially, I thought that realizing Open Access, Open Data and Open Education was a matter of simply pushing a button (i.e. a ‘one fix’ solution), only to find out how vast and technical it is. During my first year of advocacy, I encountered issues that plague work done by Open Access advocates in Kenya, which I believe are also being felt in different corners of the world. These issues include: few mentors, a lack of understanding of cultures and how cultures affect Open Access work, sustainability of Open Access initiatives, and inadequate infrastructure to foster advocacy work.
As an advocate who aspires for a community which understands the role Open plays in day-to-day economic and social developments, I am looking forward to a platform where people can be inspired as they join the Open Access community, and empowered as they continue advocating for Open. In order to bridge differences in the Open Access community, I believe we need to build the capacity of advocates, encourage collaborations, and work as a team while streamlining cultures during the development and implementation of Open Access initiatives. When every advocate’s voice is heard and embraced, solidarity amongst advocates will be attainable.
With more empowered advocates, it will be possible to roll out various OA initiatives in our higher learning institutions, research institutes and community. Anyone who has been advocating for openness in research will agree with me that you acquire new knowledge and skills as you undergo more training (and especially so while sharing with peers!).
Finally, Open Access means different things to individuals from different disciplines and with the cross cutting nature of development issues, we should work openly, hand-in-hand.
The goal of this year’s Open Access Week was for individuals and institutions in different parts of the world to come up with initiatives that went beyond what Open Access is, to how to practice Open Access: the focus was on taking steps to opening up research and scholarships and encouraging others to do the same. Our Train the Trainers program aligned with this theme. Through partnership with OpenCon and Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) as well as speakers from Electronic Information For Libraries (EIFL) and International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), more than twenty advocates from different institutions were trained during Open Access Week Nairobi.
Train-the-Trainer was a platform that brought together postgraduate students and early career researchers who have been advocating for Open Access and Open Science with the aim of training Open Access ambassadors. The purpose of the training was to provide a good platform to roll out OA training to a large number of students and ECRs in higher learning institutions as well as research institutes. We wanted to strengthen the capacity of Open Access advocates, strengthen institutional capacity in promoting Open Access, and provide instruction on how to incorporate Open practices into research workflows.
The event covered talks by experts, talk by peers, and practical tips on how to incorporate open access in day-to-day research workflows in various research disciplines.
Open Access has been embraced in Kenya, but only to a small extent. Still, the commitment, financial and moral support from the government, government institutions, academic and research organizations are of great importance. Here are advocates who are all out to reach the new frontiers, break and harmonize the barriers. The ambassadors will tackle issues which affect the future of Open Access, Open Data and Open Education both regionally and globally while receiving mentorship.
With the training, ambassadors are expected to become the voice of Open and will be responsible for advocacy of Open Access and related topics within their own institutions. They will be required to host workshops or lectures annually on Open Access and Open Data principles tailored by the needs of their institutions. However, for ambassadors to achieve this, they will need further training. I am working with the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA) to develop a proposal to secure funds so that the ambassadors can receive further training. We are looking for individuals who are willing to come on board and mentor these ambassadors as well. We want to create a network of advocates that ensures students, faculty, staff, librarians, and community members can speak and practice Open.
While organizing our Open Access week event, I shared the idea with individuals from various institutions; EIFL, ITOCA, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),ICIPE and RCMRD. I look forward to engaging with these groups during the initiative’s implementation, and to more individuals and institutions joining us on our journey.
I call us a country running even before crawling when it comes to openness in research. Kenya is a country where few people understand the role Open Research plays in science, technology and innovation, let alone research itself. Yet, there are OA policies in place. I’m ready to turn things around—are you?
Organizing an Open Access event for a second time was fun yet tiring at the same time. A second enjoyable time despite few challenges here and there. Appreciation and love goes to OpenCon, RCMRD and Iryna Kuchma (Open Access Program Manager, EIFL) for the support. The journey continues!
Lilian Juma is a spatial planner, environmentalist, and researcher who have recently developed passion in landscape planning and design. She works on participation as a tool for engagement, advocacy, skill building and social innovation.