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Open Access Week starts October 21! Find out how Concordia supports equitable knowledge dissemination

Campus events focus on translating Wikipedia, free educational resources and playing with open data
October 15, 2019
By Kelsey Rolfe

Joshua Chalifour: “Open access makes knowledge sharing much more equitable.” Joshua Chalifour: “Open access makes knowledge sharing much more equitable.”

How can Concordia faculty and staff promote equity in knowledge through their own work?

Each year in October the Concordia Library celebrates Open Access Week, a global event where academics and researchers learn about the potential benefits of open access to research.

A series of workshops and discussions is taking place October 21 to 27. This year’s theme addresses equity in open knowledge.

“You have all this research coming out of universities that gets published in scholarly journals that a lot of people don’t have access to,” says Joshua Chalifour, a digital scholarship librarian at Concordia and the organizer of the week’s events.

“Open access started with the idea that all this is publicly funded research and it’s much more beneficial for everybody to have access to that knowledge.”

Chalifour says open access makes it possible for communities that may not be able to subscribe to high-priced scholarly journals — such as Indigenous communities or universities and students in Global South countries — to access knowledge.

“It makes it much more equitable. And it has this nice feedback loop because those communities can take that information and use it to do more research,” he explains.

“It can also have real effects outside of research. For example, maybe there’s some research about a disease and for people in roles outside of academia, if you were aware of this information you could act on it.”

From open data to affordable course materials

Among this year’s events is an introduction to Concordia’s Open Data Program, which makes the university’s machine-readable data accessible from a single website.

One of the uses of the data is visible on the website itself, where stats on Concordia Library visits have been turned into an animation of birds flying across the screen.

“Lots of data is being made available through that site,” Chalifour says. “Francisco Berrizbeitia and Paul Fournier will be explaining how to get real data out of Concordia servers, which anybody can use.”

The event will give attendees hands-on experience using the program’s artificial intelligence, but coding experience isn’t necessary.

OA Week will also have events on open educational resources for students, open data in the province of Quebec and copyright and theses.

Wikipedia, translation and open access

In addition, Concordia’s first-ever Wikipedian-in-residence, Amber Berson, has organized a round table discussion on Wikipedia, translation and open access. It features Anna Luisa Daigneault of Living Tongues, Frederico Andrade of Wikitongues and Thérese Ottawa and Benoit Rochon from the Atikamekw Wikipetcia project and Wikimedia Canada.

“We’re thinking specifically around Indigenous languages on the platform and what can be gained from using Wikipedia and what can be lost,” says Berson.

While Wikipedia now allows for information to be translated into many languages, including some Indigenous ones, that may have complications.

“There’s information that’s not meant to be shared in specific ways, because of cultural specificity or the way things are supposed to be shared, and some of that nuance can be lost. What does it mean to include information in a space that is for really public access and one that can be readily edited?”

Berson says Wikipedia, as the fifth most widely consulted site in the world, plays an important role in the open access movement.

“Open access increases participation, it expands worldviews and it generally increases information safety. If knowledge is available to lots of folks it can be shared more widely,” she says.

Beyond OA Week, Concordia supports open access year-round through Spectrum, its open-access research repository. It currently holds more than 16,400 items and all graduate students are required to deposit their completed theses in Spectrum.

Other initiatives include the Concordia University Press, Quebec’s only open-access and non-profit scholarly publisher, and the OA Author Fund, which supports researchers who choose to publish open-access work.

Find out more about the
Open Access Week events at the Concordia Library.


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