Open up some space for your sharing abilities

Open Access, Open Science, Open Data. These are terms that I work with on a daily basis. Being a part of the scholarly communications landscape and the university sector makes me even more dedicated to the openness, as I find it being a meaningful argument for anyone (including me) who works to serve the public and the common good. However, this openness does not seem to come easy (kind of like the struggle of the cat in the image below trying to open a door) and it requires a shift not only in the minds of people but also in organisations that drive change. We have seen initiatives like the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) celebrating its 15th birthday. One could argue that it is humans that set the agenda for organisations, and that is indeed true, but there is a piece of the puzzle missing or else we would have already done all the necessary changes to have a more open and transparent world, right?

By Takashi Hososhima (Miyako opening a door) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The shift to Open Educational Resources (OER) is the goal of this course that we are taking together, and this concept seems to be the natural consequence of opening up access to other forms of knowlede-bearing information entities. However, it comes with two major obstacles in the way of total openness. I see them as being:

1) The knowlege necessary for creators of educational material to understand the implications of being open and to overcome their insecurities on the requirements and tools needed.

We are usually not all lawyers specialised in intellectual property law, nor are we trained producers of different kind of digital media. However, the digital media tools are becoming easier to use, and most of us hold a powerful piece of equipment in our hands including all the necessary technology to help is create digital content without too much fuzz, the smart phone. The open licensing through creative commons have also been designed for regular people to understand and learn how to use it, so we could become our own legal watchers by simply including enough information for users to understand our intentions.

2) The higher eduation sector could be seen as an exclusive club for those who have time and money to spend, could this be the reason why Open Educational Resources is not widely used already?

Opening education for anyone by means of open resources, allowing them join the party of knowledge, is not an easy step for a sector where requirements are high and applications are accepted in competition with others. Could it be that there is an unspoken fear of access to knowledge to become less exclusive and sought for if it is free for everyone? Also, is there a risk to loose control over the 'truth' when knowledge can be transferred outside of our immediate control? There are several ways in which learned institutions are adressing this, like for example opening up access to courses and material, but charging a fee in order to get the certificate of the knowledge achieved.

These are just two aspects of why the development towards more open educational resources is not moving faster. However, it is not as easy as just pushing a button, we have to consider the academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access (Tennant et al., 2016) as well as the value of knowledge and learned institutions. We also need to consider that technology is changing, and university teachers need time and means to keep up with the times in order to frame the knowledge they convey in a context that motivates learners so that they can assimilate the information.

Image by Oxyman (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Maybe it doesn't stop here, we need to open up in all aspects. There are interesting projects looking at more of the openness, for example, the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), the San Fransisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), the initiative, and much more. For me, who see many parallels between the OA and OER movements, I feel tempted to recite the distinguished Jean-Claude Guédon from his latest contribution to BOAI15:
"Science needs two independent layers. In the first one, the optimal dissemination of scientific knowledge can be allowed to take place freely. Call it the “net neutrality” of the Internet of the mind. In the second layers, the process of evaluation can proceed, as it should, i.e. on the values and objectives of the research communities themselves, not on the manipulated metrics favoured by publishers" (Guédon, 2017)
It think OER also need two independent layers, and we need to figure out how to get in control over these two layers in order to bring some change into the world of higher education. One layer could be the knowledge to produce and share open resources, and the other layer could be the value of teaching and learning in an open context.


Dora. (n.d.). Website. Retrieved 2017-04-09 from
Gudédon, J-C. (2017). Open Access: Toward the internet of the mind. Retrieved 2017-04-09 from:
Initiative for Open Citations. Website. Retrieved 2017-04-09 from:
Tennant JP, Waldner F, Jacques DC et al. The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review [version 3; referees: 3 approved, 2 approved with reservations]. F1000Research 2016, 5:632
(doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8460.3)


  1. Dear sofia, thanks for your share your reflection. The links that you share are very useful. I am totally agree with this quote: 2) The higher eduation sector could be seen as an exclusive club for those who have time and money to spend, could this be the reason why Open Educational Resources is not widely used already?. This make me think in the situation for many developing countries, that are lacking on the current trends in some sciences because money limitation. Anyhow hopefully in the future, this situation changes.

    1. Thanks Rosalina for bringing up the developing countries aspect of openness. I think that is exactly the point. If access to knowledge allows you to take part in society as a full citizen, then we should consider even more the value to open up for anyone to take part of this knowledge. Anything else could with this angle be considered as 'non-democratic'.

      If we make it really expensive to study or to gain access to knowledge, then we will continue to contribute to a society where there are big gaps between different groups of people, both from economical as well as epistemological aspects.

  2. A great reflection. I feel that the two aspects that you have highlighted has a greater role in the slowness in adopting of OER. For one to be open, they need to understand what the implications are , and you rightly said overcome the fear of insecurities. I really like the way you questioned about the "unspoken fear of access to knowledge to become less exclusive and sought for if it is free for everyone". Thank you for this great share

  3. Thanks for bringing up the implicit contradiction between the competitive and elitist academic environment and open learning. This is as un undertow of the unspoken fear of access to knowledge to become less exclusive and sought for if it is free for everyone. I do think both of the obstacles to shift to OER that you bring up are valid & important to adress!

  4. Resonating reflection. I agree that the exclusivity of education creates the perception that it is unaccessibkr to those who cannot afford it . Whilst Openness and sharing is beneficial in granting access to education, it is the educators themselves who need to be willingredients to share.

  5. The academic environment is competitive, yes, and this is the case for the individual teacher as well. There are no incentives for sharing teaching material. You compete by your research (and that can be published open access of course)

    1. Yes, and competition can be good to a certain extent. Some individuals thrive in competitive environments and find their inner drive by comparing themselves with others. While other individuals would rather wither and loose their motivation by the constant comparison with peers. Is it possible to get the best of both worlds, you think? Would openness help with this? I'm thinking it could contribute to further diversity, for example.


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