Open Practices

This is the second year in which we have offered an ‘open practices’ category in order to capture all of the exciting initiatives that are going on around the University under the umbrella of openness in teaching, research and outreach. The common thread is that the initiatives should be directly discoverable through a general-purposes search engine (such as Google), that they should be available free of charge and that they should carry an open licence (usually Creative Commons) which permits others to reuse them.

Winners: Stuart Basten and Francesco Billari for ‘openpop.org’

stuart basten hires logoOpen practices in education are underpinned by the powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good. The problem is that much of this knowledge is not only locked away in subscription-only journals, but is also presented in a way that is comprehensible to trained academics.

Stuart and Francesco’s blog tackles head-on the challenge of making complex academic research accessible to a global audience in the critically important area of population change. In less than two years the blog has had nearly 40,o00 views, with an average of 150-200 views per day. To place these figures in context and to demonstrate the extraordinary impact that open access can have, Stuart writes: ‘if one looks at the analytics for one of the world’s leading population journals, the most viewed article online was viewed online 3,610 times. As such, to say that we have had ten times as many views of the site as the most read article in one of the most read journals is something of an achievement.’

In the judges’ view, openpop.org is a deserving winner in the open practices category.

Runner-up: Bodleian Libraries for ‘EEBO Hackfest’

Bodleian HackfestIn January 2015, over 25,000 texts from the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP) were made freely available as open data. However, it was difficult for anyone – researcher or member of the public – to access these texts without technical experience. The Bodleian’s Hackfest in March introduced researchers to the enormous potential of data mining and computing tools to give them new opportunities for research and analysis. It demonstrated what can happen when you bring together academics from a range of disciplines and technical experts, and showed the range of uses to which a digital resource can potentially be put, both academic and non-academic. But the day wasn’t only about outputs; it was also about the way in which it stimulated participants to start thinking about what they want to do and how they can achieve it.

The Hackfest team:

  • Bodleian Libraries:
    • Liz McCarthy, Communications & Social Media Officer
    • David Tomkins, Project Manager and Digital Editor
    • Michael Popham, Head of Digital Memory and Collection Services
    • Judith Siefring, Project Manager
    • Pip Willcox, Curator of Digital Special Collections
  • Kathryn Eccles, Oxford Digital Humanities Champion

Special mention: Jenni Nuttall for ‘Stylisticienne’

Nuttall image 3Dr Jenni Nuttall was motivated to start up her Middle English Poetry Research and Teaching blog by a desire to communicate her research interests and findings more widely and in a more publicly-accessible fashion. She also wanted to share her strategies for teaching and writing Middle English commentary with the wider academic community, and so additionally provides an open access ‘Poetics Primer’ through her blog. The primer is designed to show students how to close-read Middle English poetry and how to adapt the close-reading skills which they have been taught during their time at school.

The judging panel gives Jenni a special mention for the impact that she has achieved both in academia and among the public at large. Since January 2014 the blog has received 15,000 page views from 5,662 users worldwide.  Her Twitter feed earns on average around 50,000 impressions per month, and in April over 107,000 impressions, thanks to a retweet by Margaret Atwood. A recent post on a medieval poem describing a migraine prompted lots of interest, especially from migraine sufferers themselves!

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