Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving a brief talk at Parliament House on implementing open education

I get the grave yard shift for 10 minutes at auPSI's event tomorrow at Parliament House. I'm to talk about implementing Creative Commons licensing and open academic practices at Otago Polytechnic and University of Canberra, and how that can be used to better manage IP in the organisation.

The main point I want to make tomorrow is:

Setting an organisation's copyright position to Creative Commons Attribution, promoting open academic practices, and retaining individual ownership, drives better management of Intellectual Property in that organisation. 
A CC By and open access default requires those who wish to restrict their copyright and access to make it known to their IP Office, resulting in an early intervention and best possible management of IP at the outset. This intervention would lead to better targeted services such as education, commercialisation, or a variety of restriction management and protection help. 
Setting CC By and open access as a default position ensures that the majority of academic work makes it into an open access and free-for-reuse domain, while the minority of work requiring restriction gets the best possible IP management early in a project. 
IP managers in the educational organisations I have spoken to (Melbourne Uni, Sydney Uni, Uni of Wollongong, Bond Uni), all express their frustrations at being brought into a project too late, leading to complex and time consuming work unravelling years of messy IP management before they can get the project into a position to capitalise on the reason for restricting in the first place. Rather than set up conditions for an early intervention such as I propose, those organisations make a general claim of ownership over all IP being generated in the organisation, believing that will somehow result in better IP management and make the organisation more attractive to private investment. 
Setting policy such as this glosses over the messy realities of education and research. New and visiting academics will bring prior work and new professional networks. Most will likely ignore IP complications day to day, preferring to get on with the primary work instead. Most importantly, draconian policy risks driving bad will through the organisation, often resulting in disputes when academics leaving believe it their right to take their work with them, often claiming they did it at home, outside the jurisdiction of their organisations. An organisation claiming over all ownership fixes none of these realities. Retaining individual ownership promotes good will and a farer relationship between academics and their host university, and can improve motivation and a sense of ownership and responsibility on projects. 
Setting CC By and open access as the default position helps the university to capitalise on the majority of work being generated. Relying on individuals to opt out of the CC By/open access default initiates early interventions with the IP Office, and help that Office to efficiently focus on that minority of work, and offer services for IP education and management.

We're having difficulty clearly articulating this argument in the Proposed IP Policy at UC, but if and when given the time to carefully lay out the points, all critics I've spoken to see the logic and virtues of the approach. Any assistance in getting the argument as concise and accurate as possible would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why KCA need to change their name

Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia need to change their name to Knowledge Commons Australia. Here's why:

At their annual conference in Canberra this year, a speaker program made up of entirely men talked primarily on the use of patents to derive profitable income from public innovations. The strangely unabashed statement on the KCA website explains the agenda quite succinctly:
Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia is the peak body representing organisations and individuals associated with knowledge transfer from the public sector.
I reckon there is a sense of lingering doubt, the seeds of a questioning in KCA, on how they go about their mission, and with what perspective. For a start, you may notice in their conference program, several lectures with the word "open" in their title, as though its a new approach to something. Then there was a regular checking by the conference facilitators with anyone international in the audience, asking whether or not they thought the issues being discussed where unique to Australia and KCA. And best of all was Malcolm Skingle, Manager of GSK Pharmaceuticals Academic Liaison, describing the conference as being "hard nosed" in a wonderfully cockney accent!

Openness at KCA

Malcolm Skingle, representing a very large pharmaceutical company called GlaxoSmithKline, talked about its project to host research and develop patents on innovations that target tropical disease in poor economies/large population areas, and to make those patents available to approved businesses in those areas via a project known as the Patent Pool. This presentation was called Open Innovation in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and came off the back of Ashley Stevens from Boston University, talking about his statistical research uncovering that well over 15% of successfully commercialised innovation in the pharmaceutical sector comes from public research institutes. While I think more than a few of us in the audience struggled to reconcile notions of public good with profit driven pharmaceutical companies, it was none-the-less interesting to see them try.

Then there was James and I, wildly out of place, talking about open education and research, where we argued that protectionism in the intellectual property market, causes the vast majority of public education and research (that which will never be commercialised), never to see the light of day, restricted in access, for the benefit of the minority of work that may, some day, if lucky, realise some profitable return. We proposed that the inverse ought to be the norm, that open defaults will stimulate more innovation appropriate to our time, and help KCA agents to do a better, more targeted job in their attempts to commercialise something some day, somewhere. Recordings of our talk here:

And finally, furthering the topic of openness, was a talk by Vera Lipton IP Australia, (the only woman speaker due to the withdrawal of the scheduled speaker, Ian Goss), delivering a strong message on how innovation and commercial gain can both be served through open practices.

What a shame the conference, or its other speakers, did not think it necessary to record their talks.

Why KCA should change its name

It just so happens that C stands for Commons just as well as it does Commercialisation.

Its clear that the notion of commercialisation of public sector information is on its last legs. Not only is there some healthy questioning taking hold in the peak body itself, commercialisation has obviously proven itself a prohibitively expensive and drawn out process, profitable only to IP lawyers, "knowledge transfer" or "commercialisation" employees, and the lucky few. It evidently yields so few returns we must question the investment.

Alternatively, they could take a different, more lateral route, looking for a wider range of opportunities based on a wider range of economic returns. This we might call the Knowledge Commons, in the age of triple bottom line accounting. Through the Commons, both commercial interests and everyone else, has equal access and opportunity to innovate. Its the ultimate in free trade, if you'll allow me reappropriating such words.

We have watched this seed of thought grow in the software, media and Internet services sector, the arts and entertainment sector, the education sector, and now the research sector, despite the relevant industry's best efforts to prevent it thus far. Even the Federal Governments in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and several European Nations are endorsing the perspective of openness. The desire to try a Knowledge Commons economy is gaining strength.

As for the word Australasia.. its a word I attribute to 1950s Australia, in their early attempts to think more internationally, and I've only ever heard it used by anglophones - usually Australians or Americans. If the intent is to describe a collaborative effort between Australia and New Zealand, and somehow the USA - we might as well call it KC-ANZ (with an overdose of USA every time). If it is supposed to encompass Papua New Guinea and some parts of the South Pacific and South East Asia, then it might be a good idea to invite delegates from those regions, and address issues relevant to them as well, but then I'm certain they would also suggest a name change to something like Asia Pacific.

And so it seems more appropriate, and more informative of a wider scoped direction, entirely in keeping with the mission statement, to change the name to Knowledge Commons Australia (KCA), and the kiwis will just have to lump it.

Feeling more confident about the UC IP Policy

Of course, I took the opportunity to test the key features of the proposed UC IP Policy with veteran IP lawyers and policy makers at the conference, and I feel more confident we are onto a solid thing.

Regarding assigning individual ownership on IP - the primary argument from proponents of the opposite (institutional ownership) was that its too messy and unattractive to potential commercial investors, if individuals have to be negotiated with every time a contract is drawn up. On the surface, this appears a reasonable point. However, in all the places I have worked, where institutional ownership is assumed, people turn out their best work elsewhere, outside work time, avoiding or unaware of the work of a "knowledge transfer" or intellectual property agent. Additionally, people come and go from the projects, they share ideas inside and out, they bring old IP with them, they go about their work in ignorance of "due diligence" and they make approaches to the IP professionals often too-late. It could only be in situations where an institution owned and controlled all IP by everyone, all of the time, that it would be able to think they could somehow manage IP. Institutional ownership and control is just not realistic, and so the best thing to do is make use of good-will and individual motivation, and make no claim over people's ideas.

But there is a way to manage IP being generated in an organisation, and capitalise on it without taking control away from creators and inventors. Set Creative Commons Attribution as a default copyright, and provide an opt out process. Its simply the inverse of the present situation where restrictions and protections are default, and making something open has a process. If the institution worked towards building a Commons culture, then not only would it be in a better position to capitalise on the increased contributions being made to the Commons, but where the opt out is used, it triggers a relationship with the IP Support Office sooner, helping to better manage resticted IP. The Creative Commons Attribution default drives better management of IP and copyright.

And finally, to create an IP Policy that recognises Indigenous Autonomy on the matter, and respects their views and assists their processes, would be a first in Australian Universities from what I can tell. Our consultation with Ngunnawal representatives needs to progress further on this, accepting that our first attempt will over look many issues.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

OpenUC presentation to KCA

Here I am, dressed in a suite I normally wear only to weddings and funerals, waiting for James so we can go up in front of a bunch of intellectual property lawyers, very large pharmaceutical companies, knowledge commercialisation agents and IP policy writers, and espouse the virtues of open academia, free copyright licensing, and a knowledge commons.

Here's our slides, hand drawn by James:

Here are our notes to go with them. We hope to get a recording at the end of the day.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A proposal to UC Marketing

About a month ago, Stuart and a colleague who's name I forget (and not Lili in the video below), popped in from UC Marketing to talk about ideas for marketing the University of Canberra online. I think they wanted to talk more about a proposal I wrote to them quite a few months ago. As usual, I rambled across all sorts of areas and issues, poor Stuart and his colleague were no doubt overwhelmed. One thing they did take away though, was the suggestion to ask the Internet - via Youtube, for ideas.

Now, that's a pretty disingenuous suggestion for me to make to someone who has not yet developed an online network, meaning they will ask, but answers will not come. But they have to start somewhere, and we're hoping there will be at least a handful of people in UC, with suggestions and readiness to use the Internet to demonstrate their ideas, and start building some presence and engagement on the social media channels...

Almost 2 weeks later, and only 35 views of their video, hopefully they're asking themselves some important questions. I myself am asking where the hell are those 2 or three others in UC with ideas? Sigh...

Anyway, here's the original question on Youtube:

And here's my response:

If you have ideas about online marketing of an Australian university, please record something to Youtube and comment it in to them. Perhaps even point out other videos already on Youtube...

Friday, November 05, 2010

How and why I'll do a PhD

After an intense few days of very valuable deliberation with people in my online network, and others in my place of work, I think I've concluded on the reasons for doing, and how I will do a PhD. Thanks to everyone who contributed over these past few days, and to anyone who does so subsequently. 

If anyone has niggling doubts or vague questions in their mind about something, I can highly recommend this approach to formulating perspective and clarity.

Below is a summary copied across today.

The question again:
In this day and age, why would I do a PhD?
Where is the wisdom and philosophy in today's Doctorate of Philosophy? What defense might the status have against commodified certification, credential inflation, and otherwise collaborative and crowd sourced knowledge? How might an autodidact approach a PhD with integrity? Would they?
These are open questions looking for the heart and meaning of a PhD in today's context. Leigh will explain his approach to developing in-depth knowledge, and invite challenges, suggestions and responses to it...
I solicited responses on this blog post, and lead a Creative Research Discussion Group at the University of Canberra. These are my notes from those two events, and a description on how I will approach the workload of a Doctor of Philosophy, an approach generally referred to as OpenPhD.
For me, submitting to a PhD is not as straight forward as it may be for others. Aside from the extra workload, pressure and uncomfortable status that everyone in the process must face, I have published a lot of criticism generally at the mechanisms of Higher Education, not excluding the PhD. Critiquing such processes, the institutions that sustain them, and espousing alternative ways, such as online networks, where I believe stronger knowledge creation and dissemination takes place, leaves me with an ethical dilemma. The traditional PhD, a project that is so narrow in scope, so closed and inaccessible to most, and typically limited in dialog between time poor supervisors, within a discipline area, within a faculty, within a university - nothing could be more opposed to the way I and many others work to explore, create and disseminate knowledge! It would be hypocritical of me to submit to such a process without at least attempting to explain why and how I might do it with integrity, possibly exploding the myths, inequalities and injustices I see in it, and no doubt many of my own prejudices along the way..
2 people are in the foremost of my mind when I face this dilemma, and each represent arms of my online social network, which I carry a strong sense of commitment to, and responsibility for. Minhaaj Rheman, someone I have never met, but who I have had the pleasure of many a sustained - often exhausting exchange of ideas, many times leading to a clearer perspective in me, toward international issues (Such as this, in 2009), and Jim Groom, a wild man online and in person, carrying an honest and creative integrity that many see as the ideal for the new-age academic in a socially networked world (3rings 2010). Both these people, from opposite ends of a spectrum, carry in them a deep questioning of the academic establishment, and influence my concerns more than they probably know. It is Minhaaj and Jim, and the wider social network they represent, that give me this dilemma, and the motivation and assistance to see through it.

How I'll do it

After quite a bit of discussion (see below), I have resolved to approach a PhD in this way:
I will (and have already) publicly declared my commitment to understanding and attempting to apply the apparent rigor, depth and discipline required for recognition as a Doctor of Philosophy, but will do so informally. That is, without enrolling or submitting to an institution, faculty, discipline area or assigned supervisors. Instead, I will direct myself, using online social networks, professional contacts, all workshop and seminar opportunities that present themselves, and family and fiends to test my ideas, check the quality of my work, and help build its worthiness in line with the criteria I aim to discover. Through open documentation of our dialog, this network will play the role, and reflect an equivalence of traditional PhD supervisors. When I feel confident that I understand and have met the requirements of the PhD, I will submit a summative body of work to an assessing organisation, if there is one willing to play this role, and await their verdict.

Why do this?

I recognise the value of focused, sustained research and investigation, resulting in a well communicated, extensive summary of that, as a valuable process for me as an individual, and for a wider knowledge society. I reject however, this process as an institution, as pre defined course work, as an initiation to a class of knowledge worker, or mark of status or credibility. Especially if it is a title required for employment, and a process that has yet to have considered, or make allowances for, the more informal and self directed approaches I'm proposing. I expect the combination of the established criteria of a PhD, with my own unruly approach to it, will teach all involved a thing or two, even if it results in the credential not being awarded, and me accepting this failure. Finally, but by no means the least, if I am to remain an employed academic, it is expected that I have a PhD. This is not an insignificant reason, as I see no other place at this point in time, regardless of how minimalistic my family may attempt to live, where I can continue to investigate networked learning, and devise new models and critiques for its formal and common existence, than through employment as an academic in the university system.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Why would I do a PhD?

Source: Wikimedia Commons
I'm heading into what I perceive to be the belly of the beast today, and attempt to bring it.
In this day and age, why would I do a PhD?
Where is the wisdom and philosophy in today's Doctorate of Philosophy? What defense might the status have against commodified certification, credential inflation, and otherwise collaborative and crowd sourced knowledge? How might an autodidact approach a PhD with integrity? Would they?
These are open questions looking for the heart and meaning of a PhD in today's context. Leigh will explain his approach to developing in-depth knowledge, and invite challenges, suggestions and responses to it...

The Research Office at the University of Canberra is graciously hosting this dragon's den, allowing me to facilitate a discussion that I think questions the very core of a university:

This session will take place in 2 hours from now. I'll keep notes here, and on my openPhD wiki as usual. Any comments from the network would be most welcome. While I had hoped the question would be stimulus enough, a friend advises I may need to prepare slides! In some ways, my 10 minute presentation to the Research Office in March this year might suffice, but I'll see if I can work something up now...