no’ bad for a cameraphone

From my flash new company phone:



The top image is from my commute to work in the morning, at Beaverton Transit Center where I missed my connection by (quite literally) seconds and had to wait half an hour for the next bus. The bottom image is from my commute home in the evening, at SW 9th and Yamhill where I had ten minutes to wait for my train. I took a neat little video too, soundtrack courtesy of a busker with a violin, but it’s too big for snapfish and my phone is locked-in to Microsoft-related email services so I haven’t figured out how to upload it yet.

“Guerrilla OA” done right.

I was reminded recently (when Graham Steel uploaded this photo) of something I’ve been meaning to write about for nearly two years.
For those who don’t know him (which must surely exclude nearly everyone involved with Open Access!), Graham (blog, FF) is a patient advocate, which work has made him a staunch supporter of OA and all things Open. (Those of us who promote OA from an academic or research perspective sometimes, I think, forget about the incalculable value that OA offers other professionals and the lay public.)
Graham’s first foray into “guerrilla OA” (most emphatically not to be confused with these well-meaning idiots) was in September 2007, when he attended a conference and ran a one-man unofficial promotional campaign. Do read his own description, but the basic strategy was to be a human signpost (wearing “Research Made Public” and “I’m Open” t-shirts) and distribute OA promotional materials in such a way as to give most of the delegates at least a brief exposure to the concept.
(Pause here to marvel at the dedication of the man whose belief in the possibilities of OA makes him willing, entirely at his own instigation, to arrange attendance, travel and accomodation, collect up the necessary materials and then physically go and do all this.)
Sadly, we can’t yet clone Graham; but perhaps we can duplicate some of his efforts. I wonder how much it would cost to make “guerrilla OA” kits like the one Graham made for himself, but aimed at conference delegates so that researchers could turn into “Steel lite” activists at every conference we attend. Here are a few ideas:

  • t-shirts to start conversations
  • a badge instead of a t-shirt (“free your research, ask me how”) for those who prefer more formal attire
  • “OA in a nutshell” cards the size and shape of regular business cards, for handing out in conversation and leaving on appropriate tables
  • slides for your talk: start with Cameron’s “Presentation Rights” and end with a “Basics of OA” slide
  • equivalent add-ons for your poster, such as a Copyright Notice and an OA Basics placard, about the size of a postcard so they should fit on most posters as an afterthought and would be easy to incorporate into the poster itself

Here’s another idea: it would only take half a dozen delegates to run an “OA stall”, similar to the vendor stalls with which we are all only too familiar. This would mean working with conference administration, so maybe they would even help with “recruiting”; alternatively, it should be simple to set up a website where one can advertise for help in running such a stall at a particular conference. OA publishers could contribute materials (perhaps in return for help with costs), but I think transparent independence from any particular commercial effort would help tremendously in establishing credibility and producing a positive response. A prominent “who are we and why are we doing this?” banner might be a good idea. Flyers could include “OA:what’s in it for you?”, “Why the Impact Factor should be retired”, and “Elsevier: just another greedy bottom-feeder, or SPAWN OF SATAN????”. (OK, maybe not that last one… though a single page with this graph on it, or a reprint of this if I ever get around to publishing it, might be a good idea.)

coming up for air

Whew. It’s been a trip so far. My new job is at a company that is starting up after a hiatus — it’s not what is usually meant by a start-up, but from what I can tell the atmosphere is pretty similar. I’ll link to it, and maybe talk about some of my work, when I have a better sense of where the boundaries are. I don’t want to be continually pestering the admin to vet my blog posts! For now all I’ll say is that we make HIV diagnostic tools, and it’s good to be back in that fight. I might post HIV-related content from time to time, but I’ll add a disclaimer about my corporate connection.
I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do want to keep talking and thinking about Open Science… now that I’m in biotech, it’s harder to see how to do things openly, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
For the moment, in lieu of any original content, here are two must-reads for anyone who reads me:
Walt Crawford has devoted an entire issue of Cites&Insights to library access to scholarship, and you should read it for a useful overview of the state of scholarly communication in general and not just because he says nice things about my efforts to put some numbers to the questions. (At the risk of being ungrateful, I will add that I could have done with fewer swipes at Stevan Harnad, but then I must in fairness further add that I am under-informed about the library community perspective on the original archivangelist. Ymmv.)
Cameron Neylon has been thinking about science and society again. Just do yourself a favour and read it, OK? Here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

We need at core a much more sophisticated conversation with the wider community about the benefits that research brings; to the economy, to health, to the environment, to education. And we need a much more rational conversation within the research community as to how those different forms of impact are and should be tensioned against each other. We need in short a complete overhaul if not a replacement of the post-war concensus on public funding of research. My fear is that without this the current funding squeeze will turn into a long term decline. And that without some serious self-examination the current self-indulgent bleating of the research community is unlikely to increase popular support for public research funding.