Monthly Archives: September 2018

Let’s talk about #OpenScience (with a medieval touch)

Workshop Report: How To Make Your Medieval Research More Visible With Open Scholarship Methods and Tools

As a medievalist it was an extreme honour and pleasure for me to be invited to the Annual Meeting of CARMEN (The Worldwide Medieval Network) at Tampere University, organised by Trivium, the Tampere Centre for Classical, Medieval and Early Modern Studies to give an Open Science Workshop.

The Open Science workshop suited very well in the Carmen Annual Meeting’s general theme “Passages: Beyond the Boundaries of Medieval Studies” as Open Science is all about opening up research beyond boundaries.

The Carmen workshop offered to me an excellent possibility to talk directly with researchers of all stages about Open Scholarship and to show how it can be implemented fruitfully in medieval research practices. This is in my opinion extremely important because the Open Science movement will thrive only if it is embraced bottom up by the researchers.

The focus of the workshop was on academic publishing and changes in scholarly communication. First, we talked about Open Access to scientific publications (Open Access Journals and Open Access Monographs) and Open Data & Research Data Management, topics that are gaining fast momentum for all researchers because they are increasingly supported by institutions and becoming a default requirement of research funders. Then we switched to another open science method, the communication of scientific results via social networks, blogs, videos, podcasts etc. While there are some who think that these channels are a waste of time, used strategically, they can positively impact research dissemination, and enhance the number of citations. Last but not least, they are vital channels to prove the relevance of medieval studies against the backdrop of dwindling research budgets.

Medievalists have great stories to tell and public interest is almost assured if the research is “translated” to various channels. While there is still need and space for the monograph, the edited volume, and articles, the potential of other channels to engage a broader audience for societal research impact is high and out there to be explored. During the Carmen meeting there were many exciting examples of medieval research projects engagement with the broader public, for example those presented by the Trivium researcher Jenni Kuuliala about Dis/ability History. EU citizens demand more understanding of the society they live in and the Humanities & Social Sciences can proactively contribute to fulfill this demand when they stop telling the Cinderella Story and change the story as Gabi Lombardo from the EASSH had reminded us earlier during the CARMEN meeting, they only need to seize the day. In my opinion, practicing Open Science is one facet of exactly doing this.

After having explored Open Science in theory, it was time for action. First, the participants discussed in groups which Open Scholarship method they would like to try out next. I “overheard” some discussing start using Twitter, publishing a bibliography on a specific aspect of saints, musing about making a video about their projects, or engage in Open Peer Review. Naturally, I am very curious to hear about any follow up developments!

The last part of the workshop was dedicated to a plenary discussion about doubts and needs and how to overcome them. For this discussion, James L. Smith from Trinity College Dublin and advocacy coordinator for @openlibhums had joined me.

I could almost not keep up taking notes from the vivid discussion. The main points came down for me into these categories:

  • Awareness Raising:
    – Authors need to be aware that there are alternatives to Closed Access (Gold Open Access as in immediate Open Access, Green Open Access as in publication of preprints, postprints, authorized version, maybe after embargo period) for articles and monographs
  • Education:
    – Authors need to know their rights when engaging with publishers (Green Open Access, Sparc addendum, etc.)
    – OA seems to add an extra challenge to teaching students which sources are reliable (Peer Reviewed = good quality), if the digitally published material is more diverse (and not always peer reviewed), one has to teach digital literacy skills & (digital) source criticism, which one may in fact consider as one major skill of a good historian anyway
  • Need for a Paradigm Change within the Scholarly Community:
    – We need to be more aware and critically discuss where the prestige comes from. The name of the journal or the name of the publisher? Maybe open peer review could offer a solution here? Should researchers still support closed journals, series?
    – Often OA publications have by default a low reputation and are perceived as less valuable scholarship although they are often also prone to strict peer review (which is often not recognised); also digital publishing in general has less prestige
    -many prestigious publishers do not do OA (or at very high cost)
    – It would be unfair to put ECR at risk for their career to oblige them to do so, even though there is a “Kamikaze Open Access School”, but…the established researchers should promote OA wherever they can (“Senior scholars should pave the way”)
  • Policy Making
    – Choosing Open Access or Open Scholarly Methods does often not count for tenure
  • Practical Solutions
    – OA for books is important for the humanities, we need good hybrid publication models (e.g. OA published by the library/publisher, book printed on demand)
    – at the moment journals often bring in the revenue for scholarly societies, to make them Open Access poses a problem for the sustainability of the society
    -Article Processing Charges are often very high (besides this being a problem of the commercialised system) even low APCs can cause a problem (support scholars to pay APCs)
    -Open Peer Review could change the way we do research and evaluate research, but how to organize it practically

What I learned from this workshop (and from the excellent FOSTER Open Science Trainer Bootcamp), setting the goals and the scene for the workshop participants is very important, creating a space for discussion and leaving enough time for it really gets the participants going!

What I also learned from this workshop: Let’s talk about Open Science more with the researchers and let’s talk about practical steps more, because also Rome was not build in one day!


  • In the spirit of Open Educational Resources (OER), the slides of my presentation including the practical parts are published online as PPTX on Zenodo, feel free to reuse and share. I have gratefully reused brilliant material from the Open Science/ OER Community, and would like to encourage everyone to do the same.
  • While you are here: Get started now and check out the PARTHENOS Training Module Manage, Improve and Open Up Your Research and Data!

What do you think? What is Open Science for the Humanities and how can we foster it? Leave a comment below or discuss with me on Twitter or Facebook!