Why I am positive to Plan S

Plan S has been the biggest political topic in the research community here in Norway this fall. Several researchers have raised their concerned voices. I am among the positive ones, and I will here try to explain why.

Just to rewind a little first. Coalition S is a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC). On 4 September 2018 they announced Plan S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality:

“By 2020 scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants provided by participating national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

There has been a political shift to making research openly available over the last decade. In many countries this has also been added to various types of policy documents. Here in Norway it is part of the Government’s longterm research plan. The difference with Plan S is that it is not just “fluffy” words, it is a concrete plan with a concrete deadline.

The 10 Principles

Plan S is based on 10 principles:

  1. Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  2. The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;
  3. In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
  4. Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
  5. When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
  6. The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
  7. The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;
  8. The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;
  9. The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
  10. The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.

My reason to support Plan S

I have both idealistic and practical reasons for supporting Plan S.

I am working at a public university, and think it is obvious that the results of what I am doing should be available for anyone. That is why I also for a long time have been uploading my publications to our institutional archive (DUO), have made my source code available on GitHub, uploaded educational material to YouTube, and so on.

I have published my research in a number of different channels over the years. Several of these, and particularly all the conference proceedings, are freely available online. In my field we are also lucky to have some high quality open access journals, such as Empirical Musicology Review, Music & Science, and TISMIR. There are also the more general open access publishers, such as Plos ONE, Frontiers, etc. All of these are still fairly new, but have been helped by the political push for open access.

Many of the critics of Plan S argue that they don’t have anywhere to publish if they cannot use their traditional channels. The answer to that is that now is the time for traditional publishers to change their business model. The ones that do today, will be the winners tomorrow. If they do not, there will be new alternatives developed, either by the researchers themselves (as has happened in my field), or by the new commercial players (Plos ONE, Frontiers, PeerJ, etc.).

The challenging thing right now, and the reason why it is important that Plan S has a short deadline, is that it is tricky to leave with two different publication systems at the same time. Currently, most of the money in the system is spent on paying for old-school, expensive subscriptions to (some few) commercial publication giants. That means that there is little money left for those of us who want to pay so-called article processing charge (APCs). Changing the model quickly is therefore important, freeing up money for a pay-to-publish model.

An important thing in the discussion, is that the individual researcher should not suffer. Changing the publication system, and the underlying payment system, needs to be done at an institutional/national level. That has been very difficult up until now, because the players have been too small and not coordinated. Plan S changes this, since many of the major European players are on board, and more are joining forces from the rest of the world as we speak.

Plan S is disruptive. That is the point, and that is why it will succeed!

Open Research vs Open Science

Open Science is on everyone’s lips these days. But why don’t we use Open Research more?

This is a question I have been asking regularly after I was named Norwegian representative in EUA’s Expert Group on Science 2.0 / Open Science committee earlier this year. For those who don’t know, the European University Association (EUA) represents more than 800 universities and national rectors’ conferences in 48 European countries. It is thus a very interesting organization when it comes to influencing the European higher education and research environment.

The problem with the term Open Science

It appears that EUA has adopted the term Open Science because it is used by the European Commission. I understand that there has been a lot of political investment (branding, if you like) in the term over the last years, but I still think it is unfortunate.

My biggest problem with using Open Science as a general term in European academia, is that it indicates that this is something that researchers in the arts and humanities should not think about. Of course, this was never the intention. I have yet to meet anyone that means the Open Science is only meant for people working in the sciences. The result is that you sometimes see strange sentences like “… the sciences (including the arts and humanities) …”.

All this confusion could easily be resolved by using Open Research as the general term. This is more inclusive, making all the arts and humanities researchers feel involved, but also including researchers working outside academia. They too may be interested in opening their research, even though they would not call themselves “scientists”.

Usage

I have not had time to do proper research on this, but some quick googl’ing reveals around 3.3 million hits for “open science” and 2.5 million for “open research”. So Open Research is obviously used a lot, at least outside official European channels. Searching in books, however, reveals that “open research” is used a lot more than “open science”, as shown in the ngram below:

On a side note, it is interesting to see that Open Research, and even Open Access Research, is used by the UK Research and Innovation.

The situation in Norway

We had some very interesting discussions about open research during the Universities Norway conference earlier this year. As expected there was a lot of confusion about the terms “open science” (“åpen vitenskap”) and “open research” (“åpen forskning”). The Minister of Research and Higher Education even managed to use both terms interchangeably in her opening speech.

Fortunately, the CEO of the Research Council of Norway, John-Arne Røttingen, was very clear in saying that they only use the term “åpen forskning” (“open research”) in their communication.

Sitting in different national committees, I am now trying to be careful to always talk about Open Research, and it seems like this will end up being the “official” Norwegian term.

Being a researcher (from the arts and humanities!), I know that terminology is important for a discussion. I therefore hope that more people will rethink their usage of the term Open Science. Why not try Open Research instead?

Reflecting on some flipped classroom strategies

I was invited to talk about my experiences with flipped classroom methodologies at a seminar at the Faculty of Humanities last week. Preparing for the talk got me to revisit my own journey of working towards flipped teaching methodologies. This has also involved explorations of various types of audio/video recording. I will go through them in chronological order.

Podcasting

Back in 2009-2011, I created “podcasts” of my lectures a couple of semesters, such as in the course MUS2006 Music and Body Movements (which was at the time taught in Norwegian). What I did was primarily to record the audio of the lectures and make them available for the students to listen/download. I experimented with different setups, microphones, etc., and eventually managed to find something that was quite time-efficient.

The problem, however, was that I did not find the cost-benefit ratio to be high enough. This is a course with fairly few students (20-40), and not many actually listened to the lectures. I don’t blame them, though, as listening to 2×45 minutes of lecturing is not the most efficient way of learning.

Lecture recording

I organized the huge NIME conference in 2011, and then decided to explore the new video production facilities available in the auditorium we were using. All of the lectures and performances of the conference were made available on Vimeo shortly after the conference. Some of the videos have actually been played quite a lot, and I have also used them as reference material in other courses.

Making these videos required a (at the time) quite expensive setup, one person that was in charge of the live mixing, and quite a lot of man-hours in uploading everything afterwards. So I quickly realized that this is not something that one can do for regular teaching.

Screencast tutorials

After my “long-lecture” recording trials, I found that what I was myself finding useful, was fairly short video tutorials on particular topics. So when I was developing the course MUS2830 Interaktiv musikk, I also started exploring making short screencast videos with introductory material to the graphical programming environment PD. These videos go through the most basic stuff, things that the students really need to get going, hence it is important that they can access it even if they missed the opening classes.

The production of these were easy, using Camtasia for screencasting (I was still using OSX at the time), a headset to get better audio, and very basic editing before uploading to our learning platform and also sharing openly on YouTube. The videos are short (5-10 minutes) and I still refer students to them.

Besides the video stuff, there are also several other interesting flipped classroom aspects of the course, which are described in the paper An Action-Sound Approach to Teaching Interactive Music.

MOOC

The experimentation with all of the above had wet my appetite for new teaching and learning strategies. So when the UiO called for projects to develop a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – I easily jumped on. The result became Music Moves, a free online course on the FutureLearn platform.

There are a number of things to say about developing a MOOC, but the short story is that it is much more work than we had anticipated. It would have never worked without a great team, including several of my colleagues, a professional video producer, an external project manager, and many more.

The end result is great, though, and we have literally had thousands of people following the course during the different runs we have had. The main problem is the lack of a business model around MOOCs here in Norway. Since education is free, we cannot earn any money on running a MOOC. Teaching allocations are based on the number of study points generated from courses, but a MOOC does not count as a normal course, hence the department does not get any money, and the teachers involved don’t get any hours allocated to re-run the MOOC.

We have therefore been experimenting with running the MOOC as part of the course MUS2006 Music and Body Movements. That has been both interesting and challenging, since you need to guide your attention both to the on-campus students but also to focus on the online learners’ experience. We are soon to run Music Moves for the fourth time, and this time in connection with the NordicSMC Winter School. Our previous on/off-campus teaching has been happening in parallel. Now we are planning that all winter school attendees will have to complete the online course before the intensive week in Oslo. It will be interesting to see how this works out in practice.

Flipped, joint master’s

Our most extreme flipped classroom experiment to date, is the design of a completely flipped master’s programme: Music, Communication and Technology. This is not only flipped in terms of the way it is taught, but it is also shared between UiO and NTNU, which adds additional complexity to the setup. I will write a lot more about this programme in later blog posts, but to summarize: it has been a hectic first semester, but also great fun. And we are looking forwards to recruiting new students to start in 2019.

Lecture-performance setup

I have not been very good at blogging recently, primarily because I have been so busy in starting up both RITMO and MCT. As things are calming down a bit now, I am also trying to do some digital cleaning up, archiving files, organizing photos, etc.

As part of the cleanup, I came across this picture of my setup for a lecture-performance held at the humanities library earlier this fall. It consists of a number of sound makers, various types of acoustic ones, and also some electronic. Note that I am not using a computer, and there was no projector, so the entire thing is based on talking and playing. Feels very “unplugged”, and gives me (and hopefully the audience) a feeling of performing more than lecturing.

I have been using a similar setup in several lectures over the past year, testing out some ideas that are part of a book project that I am working on. The short story is that I am trying to create a coherent theoretical model for both acoustic and electronic instruments. More on that later!