OpenSpires Workshop Lessons

Back on the 17th July OpenSpires ran a focus group/workshop with Oxford academics who had contributed material to the current podcasting programme. Our aim was to tell them a little about our project, open educational resources and Oxford’s  IP policy. From them we wanted to hear about their attitudes to the current podcasting service, its extension into open content licensing and the range of options provided by Creative Commons licensing. In the run up to the event we had contacted many academics throughout the institution, partly to see if they were able to attend the event but also (because many were going to be away in sunnier climes) to get a feel for their reaction to the project’s aims and activities. Personally I was surprised by how many replies expressed enthusiasm for the idea of their content being licensed out under open content licences, and also by how many were happy to leave the choice of licensing terms to us.

On the day we hosted a group of academics from across the divisions of the Univeristy and split the afternoon between informal question and answer sessions and ten minute presentations from us about podcasting, University IP policy and Creative Commons licensing. Below I will summarise some of the opinions expressed at the event, anonymised.

One contributor noted that the research community within their department was anything but open. Open publication of academic papers was strongly resisted with much more emphasis going on getting published in journals with a high
“impact factor”.

One contributor joked that the University could easily sack them now that their entire teaching course had been digitised. They also stressed that – although they understood the principle of communal benefit underlying the promotion of open educational resources, they would like to hear a little more about the putatuve benefits to the individual academic. In response to this others raised the associated elevation of an individual academic’s public profile.

One contributor noted that their research funding was in part conditional upon wide dissemination of the outcomes and a final ‘public impact assessment’. They saw podcasting and its extension to encompass free redistribution as helpful ways to achieve this goal.

One contributor remarked: “I’m all for giving everyone everything, but what about the mortgage?”

One contributor raised the interesting question of what would happen to their Oxford-distributed content if they moved to another institution.

In response to the short talk about University IP policy, it emerged that the group were generally aware of the categories of IP and activity covered by the policy without being entirely certain where any particular piece of work they produced should be categorised. When we explained the layers of copyright and performer’s rights that existed within the average podcast, it seemed clear that the situation was more complex than they had initially assumed.

One contributor said that the ownership status of material’s produced within their department was a frequent source of confusion among its academics.

One contributor runs a web site which features images that many externals would like to reuse.  The contributor was keen to monetise the licensing of these images, and was aggrieved by the sheer number of emails they received asking for permission to reuse at no cost, or indeed frequently asking if they needed to ask for permission at all.

We then talked a little about Creative Commons licences.

One contributor said that they had already placed some of their written materials on the web under a Creative Commons licence, although they were not sure which licence it was. When asked what had motivated this release, they explained that other academics in their domain had previously published material in this way, and that it had seemed a good idea. In contrast to the contributor who bemoaned the amount of reuse requests they received, this contributor said they would be very happy to receive that amount of interest in their CC-licensed work.

One contributor said that they felt that, broadly, individual academics would be most interested in CC stipulations that limited derivative works, while their host institutions would be more interested in the CC mandate of only noncommercial reuse.

All contributors agreed that the agreement form which content creators must sign should be presented to them at the earliest possible opportunity, with support to help them parse its permissions and requirements. This was particularly important, one contributor noted, when external academics are invited to speak at the University. Other suggestions for the form included a tear-off portion incorporating the CC licensing permissions, and a web site that provided support on the purpose and meaning of the agreement form, presented in as friendly a way as possible. This site ought, one contributor noted, to provide links to material that had been released by other academics, internal and external, under each kind of CC licence.

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One Response to “OpenSpires Workshop Lessons”

  1. Lou McGill says:


    this makes for interesting reading – great stuff getting academic staff engaged in discussions around licencing, etc.

    Just wanted to point you to the Good Intentions business cases for sharing – the business cases that accompany the report include an identification of the benefits to individual academics as well as the more obvious benefits to the global community, institutions and learners. You may find this useful to support future workshops.


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