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A quick guide through Open Science

February 17, 2015 in Events, Featured, Openbelgium15, OpenBelgium2015

“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.” Bertrand Russell

Note for all you TL;DR people: Check out this clip about Open Access by PhD comics.

Open Science

Open Science can be described as the movement aiming at integration of ‘open’ workflows in the whole research cycle: from the actual research, to publishing research results and data.
During this session, we will mainly focus on the publication of research results (publications and data) – and to try to make these as broadly accessible as possible for as many people as possible (Open Access to research).

Based on processes and workflows already firmly established in other areas (such as software development), researchers have become increasingly aware that they are not operating in a vacuum – and that their research can reach a much wider audience than only their direct peers. Especially for the born digital generation, the possibilities for disseminating their work are no longer aligned with what the traditional research publication system (based on digital versions of paper journals, their ranking, high subscription prices and strict copyright restrictions) has to offer. On top of this, there is also an access problem – perhaps not that obvious when you’re affiliated to a research institution that can afford expensive journal subscriptions (even then it’s sometimes problematic!), but very clear when this is not the case (think about journalists, health professionals, teachers, independent consultants, SME’s, but also many researchers in the developing world …). The Open Access movement has tried to fix these issues following two, complementary, routes: encouraging researchers to deposit digital versions of their work in Open Access archives (‘repositories’) and reforming the scientific publishing system – encouraging existing and new journals to ‘go Open Access’ and don’t charge readers anymore to read the articles. This has been a relatively successful process: 5 years ago, at best 8% of all research was available in some sort of Open Access. Anno 2014, this number is up to 50%.

There were (and still are) some bumps on the way though: in some fields, Open Access awareness is still very low – and Open Access research is still often perceived as low-quality research (the fact that most Open Access journals are still very young has consequences for their ranking in traditional journal qualification systems). Copyright restrictions and strict licensing are still a big obstacle with a lot of publishers (a problem even more stringent when talking about research data and text and data mining).

Additional problems are caused by the so-called ‘article processing charges’ (APC) levied by Open Access publishers to compensate for the loss of revenue due to the abandonment of subscription charges. Ideally intended to cover publishing costs and to ensure economic viability of the publisher, some publishers charge unreasonably high APC’s – making ‘author pays’ Open Access a very interesting and profitable business model for scientific publishers.

The large scientific journals have found an at least questionable way to exploit Open Access commercially (‘hybrid Open Access’: charging APC’s for individual articles while not making the whole journal Open Access). Also, there has been a rise in low quality (sometimes even fraudulent) Open Access journals – charging high APC’s while not delivering on the quality standards expected by the submitting researcher.

Luckily, there are plenty of initiatives tackling these issues. Trying to do Open Access ‘the right way’ has become a subject of interest for plenty of publishers, researchers, library and research administration staff and policy makers. During this Open Science session, we’ll be hearing from 4 of them:

Bernard Rentier (Université de Liège and Enabling Open Scolarship) and Inge Van Nieuwerburgh (Universiteit Gent) will talk about the successful Open Access policy they have put in place at their respective universities: requiring researchers to deposit all their research immediately upon acceptance into the institution,s repository and providing Open Access to it as soon as possible. This policy model has been an inspiration for the very influential Open Access policies now in place at national and international level (for instance in the 80 billion Horizon 2020 programme by the European Commission). Inge will also address several of these national and international policies as well, figuring out if and how they affect Open Access adoption amongst researchers worldwide.

We’re also happy to have Brian Hole from Ubiquity Press on board: he will explain how his publishing company combines a fair business model with state-of-the-art publishing workflows.
And, last but not least, there’s Joseph McArthur. As a student he was one of the developers of the Open Access Button. Now graduated, he’s one of the most active and prolific Open Access advocates around, working for the Right to Research Coalition.

Of course, we are also counting on you. What are your experiences with Open Science? Do you have any questions for the panel? Don’t hesitate to contact me this week! Tweet, mail or send me a postcard.

(oh, and I am Gwen Franck. I work for Creative Commons as Regional Coordinator Europe, and for EIFL as partner in the European Open Access projects FOSTER, OpenAIRE and PASTEUR4OA ). Occasionally I also tweet for Open Access Belgium, a collaboration between UGent and ULg).

If you want to read more, check this:

From raw data to finely crafted mosaics: the importance of standards

February 3, 2015 in Events, Featured, Openbelgium15, OpenBelgium2015

Now that large amounts of open data are becoming available, along with efficient visualization tools for their respective types, one of the next challenges is to make sense of these data in the scope of particular domains and use cases. Be it enriching a breaking news video with relevant graphs, contextualizing a budget report with related public policy excerpts, or bringing city statistics to life with localized pictures, it’s all about finding the right datasets that bring sense to each others. A fair part of making that sense lies in the ability to discover the right data, deconstruct it and tie the fragments together in mosaics that carry more information than the sum of these elements.

On the path to data valorization, the first step is discoverability of data. While cataloguing tools and open formats are now becoming mainstream (cf. CKAN and its numerous public deployments), usage of open metadata standards is still lagging behind. Sometimes because of proprietary metadata structures that prevent cross-domain discoverability, more often because datasets lack proper metadata altogether. If the former is being solved by the emerging use of standardized vocabularies (DCAT, INSPIRE, to name a few), the latter is mostly a matter of raising awareness, in all data publishing bodies, that metadata is just as important as data.

The next step in data reuse is the ability to transform data to match the tools and frameworks where data is to be used. Having data in a open format is good, but there often exists multiple potential open formats for the same dataset, and each context of use comes with a set of tools that may support only some of them. CSV’s may need to be turned into KML, or XML into JSON. This is where on-the-fly data transformation tools such as The Data Tank come into play, and ease up data processing by removing format friction.

Lastly, real added value can be created by going below the surface of the datasets, i.e. by no longer consuming datasets as unsplittable entities, but rather chunking them, taking the relevant parts for the subject at stake, and stitching the fragments into meaningful data mosaics. Some standards exist or are emerging to tackle that problem, like URI Fragments, Open Annotations, and the whole Linked Data toolbox, but a complete stack for the authoring and publication of such mosaics is still to be produced. Once achieved, such an environment would allow anyone to easily deconstruct datasets, build contextualized data mashups and exchange them as documents on their own, while relying directly on the original, remote data sources.

Curious to find out more? Come to the Open Data Tools and Standards session at 13.30 in the Auditorium Félicien Rops, where we will discuss this further.

Overcoming the hurdles of Open culture in Belgium

January 25, 2015 in Featured, Openbelgium15, OpenBelgium2015

In January 2015, Paul Otlet’s heritage has fallen into the public domain. Some 80 years ago Otlet designed plans for a global network of computers that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described a networked world where “anyone in his armchair would be able to contemplate the whole of creation.

One of the online spaces where the whole of cultural creation can currently be discovered, is Europeana. A portal website guiding you to millions of old historical maps, pretty painted ladies, broadcasted art documentaries and much more. Should Otlet have lived to see this … but wouldn’t he then also want to go and do things with all the beauty he could discover there? Well probably, but then we would require all these pictures, these AV snippets and texts to be Open instead of (many) Rights Reserved.

He could then go on and do marvellous things with it, twisting the uses we’ve known so far, hell – perhaps even squeezing some money out of it. Open does not only pave the way for creative re-use, it also helps us know what really is the (digital) original. Not ringing a bell? Dive into the issue of the Yellow Milkmaid then.


Wikimedia would also benefit greatly of a bit more cultural content that’s CC-BY-SA licensed. And awareness on how to do it is increasing with the creation of GLAM-networks – Galleries, Archives, Libraries & Museums such as OKF’s offspring OpenGlam. Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands each ran an Open Culture Data programme so you might think that we’ve more or less arrived. Alas; there are still some hurdles to overcome. I will have to invest so much time and fees into rights clearing! Maybe someone else has a brilliant money-making idea with the content I freed up and I will see no revenue! How am I going to keep (any) control?

Should Paul Otlet still be here, he might go WHAT ?! – and not see any problems in why culture still has difficulties to be(come) open. During the Open Belgium conference, the Mons’ Mundaneum will talk about opening up Otlets’ own legacy through his museum archive. We’ll talk copyright, other hurdles and barriers, business opportunities and new possibilities on the horizon. Join us during the Open Belgium session!

Open Belgium Conference 2015 is live!

December 3, 2014 in Events, Featured, OpenBelgium2015

The second edition of Open Belgium is upon us. On the 23rd of February 2015 the conference will take place in Palais des Congrès Namur in Wallonia. We hope to see 200 open data pioneers, practitioners, thinkers, researchers and entrepreneurs from all across Belgium to learn and discuss the next steps during this conference.

And to celebrate our online launch we are offering 50 early bird ticket prices in December. You have to admit these would be awesome gifts beneath the christmas tree for open data enthusiasts. You pay 80 euros for early bird tickets instead of the normal price of 130 euros. Want to provide us with a form of sponsoring while buying a ticket? You can buy a supporter ticket of 160 euros to support the organisation of this event and to affirm that we can continue this in the future.


The conference itself is a community driven effort of Open Knowledge, the Open Belgium Community and our partner organisations such as AWT, Packed vzw and others who will join our cause. Together we all want to put Open Data on the Belgian agenda. Through workshops we can learn from each other and be inspired by the different national efforts. We’ll have keynote sessions and a panel with Alexander De Croo and people from the Walloon government about the National and Regional Open Data governments Efforts.

And in the afternoon there are 8 break out sessions divided over 2 timeslots from which you can choose. The format remains the same but the topics and approach will be very different from last year ranging over numerous topics such as Open Culture, Open Transport, Open Tourism, Open Street Map, Local Open Data, Open Science and Open Tools.


When: 23rd of February 2015
Where: Place D’Armes 1, 5000 Namur
Tickets: Tickets and info:

Flyerfront Open Belgium

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