Open Update

Interview transcript - Monica Granados (Open Update)

In: Open Update

This is a transcript of the interview with Monica Granados (Season 2, Episode 7). Listen to the podcast on Anchor. The transcript is slightly edited for readability and available under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication.


Chris Hartgerink: Welcome to another episode in the second season of the Open Update. For Liberate Science. I'm your host, Chris Hartgerink.

As you probably know by now, in this season we interviewed 10 guests over the course of nine weeks about the UNESCO recommendation on open science. If you agree or disagree with something on the podcast you're always invited and encouraged to leave a voice message with your thoughts for us.

Today, we talked to Monica Granados for best practices on organizing for open and what we can do to build capacity to make meaningful change. She is one-third of the PREReview initiative, got her PhD from McGill university, and at one point worked on an ice breaker boat where she got to cuddle with baby seals.

Currently she serves on the board of directors for the Canadian Open data society and is the Open Climate Campaign manager for Creative Commons.

Monica, welcome to the Open Update.

Monica Granados: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me here.

Chris Hartgerink: Today we're talking about best practices regarding organizing for open research, especially because the whole series is in light of the UNESCO recommendation on Open Science. We're talking about this to create a nice open science climate into, in, into the future.

And to kick us off, we ask all our interviewees what a low hanging fruit of the UNESCO recommendation on open science is. And also what you think is going to be a particularly difficult thing to realize.

Monica Granados: Thanks for that question.

In general to start, I'm so happy that we have this piece of policy or this document that's I think going to make it a lot easier particularly working with governments. To have a document that you can point to and say "Look, you signed onto this. What are you going to do about it? What are the next steps?"

We didn't have that before in open science, in the open space. It covers a lot of really important ground and to answer your question about what I think the low-hanging fruit is, actually the first recommendation in the document, which is to promote a common understanding of open science, associated benefits and challenges, as well as diverse paths to open science.

When I first started talking to people about open science, I always was really clear to talk about open as a spectrum. It wasn't binary.

It wasn't "it's either closed or your science open." You can take and choose what you think you can enable, what you think is appropriate for the context of the work that you are doing.

I think that really speaks to that open science can really exist on a spectrum. And that there's so many different pathways to open. Even though there's a general definition in the recommendation about what open science is, that you can interpret it for your specific context. And I think that's the low-hanging fruit, because I think in many ways, because this community is very rich in resources and knowledge, motivation, energy, we have a lot of the tools already at our disposal to be able to enable open science.

It's just that a lot of the times we don't know about it as in the scientific community, and that's science that includes humanities, social science, natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, et cetera.

I know this because part of my job when I was working for the Canadian government was to go and talk to the scientists that worked for the Canadian government and say, "Hey, what are the barriers that you're experiencing?" And a lot of the times they didn't really have a good understanding of what open science is.

So they didn't know that the solutions for the type of openness that they wanted to participate in. Let's take for example open access. They really equated that with a thing that I'm going to have to pay thousands of dollars for. That is one path. And that's one path that, has been successful in at some institutions, with people that are signing on to, to PlanS. But it's not going to work for everybody. And that includes sometimes scientists that have a constraint on their budget.

So they may believe in the concept of open science, but think open science is gold open access; it's going to cost me $10,000 to do. So when I told them "but look, there's another way that you can participate in this movement that you believe in."

That it's not going to cost you because the community has built this really great infrastructure that is still supported through investments. Because nothing is free even in the open science space. It really changed people to believe even more in open science and not think that it's only for the sort of exclusionary group or a group that can pay.

And I think that's, to me, the low hanging fruit: Talking about open science as a spectrum and that there are many tools in existence right now that are low cost options for you to participate in something that you believe in.

Chris Hartgerink: It reminds me of what Dr. Bergmann, Christina Bergmann, shared on Twitter a few times: That open science is like a buffet. You get to go and see and pick what you like. And you don't put everything on your plate because then it gets too much, very quickly.

I want to dig in a bit more about this information barrier that you mentioned, because during this series, we also raised the potential of information overload.

On the one hand, you say barriers to getting the information. On the other hand, there's also people who say there's so much information, we don't even know what to do with it anymore.

Do you think that by opening up more, we're actually gonna have more difficulty also to make that information available?

Monica Granados: I think it can be. And I think it can be, if we being the open movement, aren't explicit about coordinating our initiatives. So you can take, for example, there's a great uptake in pre-print. In the absence of the pandemic, there was already an uptick in the adoption of preprints across different scientific disciplines.

But with the pandemic we saw from Bianca Kramer's work, just like the number of pre-prints that were being uploaded to different archives, biorxiv, medrxiv servers  — your preprint servers. And as a consequence, there was a lot of growth in infrastructure or tools around preprints.

One of them is the work that I do at PREReview, which is doing reviews of pre-print. Doing community reviews open to anyone much earlier in the publication process. And what we saw when we had events around, what could we build around preprints, we saw that there are a lot of different communities that are doing this work, and it just feels sometimes that every couple of months, there's a new initiative around that.

I often wonder, how do we coordinate these efforts? Because we continually in this space try to reinvent. You know, tools, hardware, software to make it easier for a scientist to share their information. We don't spend a lot of time in doing the landscape analysis to look at "is this really a tool that I need to develop?"

Is this really a tool that I need funding for in order to solve a problem? Is there someone else who's already working on that?

And I think that can be, if you take a step back and you're the scientist, that can be overwhelming. If you're like "I want to engage in preprints. I want to engage in review of preprints. Where do I turn to?"

So I do think that could potentially be an issue and that's something that as a community, we really need to think hard about. What are our goals? What are our resources? And like, how can we put those things together to create a roadmap, to get to that outcome that we want.

When you go to the cheese store and there's just too many cheeses, which cheese should I try? Sometimes you just walk out of the cheese store, empty handed because it's too many things to pick from.

Chris Hartgerink: I really liked that you use the word coordination. What are things that are top of mind for the work you're doing now at a Creative Commons with regards to open climate? Because that's that's a really nice coordination issue right there. potentially.

Monica Granados: I think that the success of PREReview at its core has been community.

I say that every time I talk to somebody about a new initiative that they're thinking about community, because I think a lot of times in this space I have heard it from people building infrastructure, they say "build it and they will come."

That is simply not true. That is simply not true.

And you'll see there's a gravesite full of failed projects because at the core community wasn't there. We know that in order for the project to be successful, it's that we have to have people who interact with this project in a way that they feel ownership for it, that they feel that it's something that they want to be a part of that they've contributed to, but they also have other like-minded people there.

And that it's a safe place for them to interact. Another aspect of that is thinking about, what do the people who are interacting with your platform, with your tool what do they need? Going and talking to them, doing user experience, sprints and surveys and interviews, asking questions about "what different innovations and tools and features do you want to have this site so that you feel a part of this?" That you feel like you can find community in this space?

And so one of the innovations that we have for example, at PREreview, is we have the ability for you to provide a review with your name or with a pseudonym. That is because we've heard from our community. There's a large representation of early career researchers. Those that are often not included in the peer review process. And they have said, "I'm worried about putting my name here and reviewing a paper. And giving a constructive, but maybe, negative review of a paper and there being repercussions."

So when I'm thinking about what we're going to do for this open climate campaign at Creative Commons is, thinking about those communities and thinking about what is our, if our ultimate goal is to increase the openness of climate and biodiversity research, both in terms of publications and data and software and hardware, thinking about those specific communities. So not thinking about it as as a whole, but going and talking to those communities, asking questions about what are your barriers and what are the things that we can do to enable that, to enable you to participate in the open process and open science in your individual community.

Chris Hartgerink: That leads me to the question we have this sentence, "build it, and they will come." How do you feel about "putting people in the room and they will organize?"

Monica Granados: I was actually having a conversation with a colleague at Creative Commons about this, and we were lamenting the absence of this organizing and is it just that we need to put everybody in a room and then there'll be some organization?

And I actually think that might not be true based on the conversation that we had. That is because they brought up this really great point that the incentives are not necessarily there for us to collaborate. So you may put everybody in the room together. Great. We come up with a great road roadmap for how we're going to do that.

Then we have somebody come in and say "okay, now all of you are going to compete for the same amount of money to do the thing." I think that there is no incentive and, or potentially even no funding for, having that catalyst or that nucleators, that's going to bring people together.

And I think maybe I would say that would work if we also threw in a nucleator and that we funded that nucleator to be able to actually build a roadmap that people then coalesce around.

Chris Hartgerink: I'm not a native speaker. Could you expand a tiny bit more on nucleator?

Monica Granados: So I'm not a physicist, but it's my understanding that it's, throwing in a particle, almost like a magnet that it's going to allow other people to be attracted to that.

Thinking about it as particles in a room, they're just going to bounce around each other and you need something to bring them together. With the caveat that I am a trained ecologist and I could be explaining it rather incorrectly.

Chris Hartgerink: If we have a physicist listening please feel free to leave us a voice message. If Monica, has it right or has it wrong. It sounds perfectly logical to me. In that sense.

You talked about how we can get people in the room create a roadmap and then they have to compete. So it's this context in of competition that actually prevents us from being successful in that way. Those are limiting factors.

What are some of the encouraging factors that you've seen for within your space working on these things?

Funding is a specific thing where you say, okay, that's been limiting, but have there been other cases where you went "oh wow, this has really helped us leap forward instead of just making a step"?

Monica Granados: I'm thinking of a couple of different instances. One in where we've had  PREreview, where we've had duties to collaborate with people on a grant. So where we identify an issue and say PREreview has this skillset, but we don't have the developer skillset. So we're going to bring somebody into co-write that grant with us.

It's happened with the open research funders group. They also had this great idea to reevaluate the way that we are doing grant proposals with a much bigger emphasis on equity. And they approached PREReview and said "We know you have this set of skills and we're going to bring you in for that." I like seeing that, when that does happen in that space, what they did was went out and looked for who has that experience.

And so we're not the experts necessarily on on equity, but we do have experience in running a mentorship program in a training program on thinking about equity and bias diversity inclusion in the peer review process. So that was our set of skills that was brought into this grant.

That has helped our group a lot when we've been able to. And so joined forces. I know, like the Power Rangers or Captain Planet, we've got with our powers combined. We  can summon captain planet.

Monica Granados: I like when that happens, as opposed to just the reinvention of the evaluation of pre-prints in a new platform. What we've tried to do explicitly is that every time we we see an initiative like that, come up, going and reaching out and saying, "Hey, we're doing the same thing, could we work together?"

Chris Hartgerink: How do you see the potential for organizing and coordinating across these movements and the sustainable development goals? To not just have one captain planet, but have multiple captain planets all over the planet.

Monica Granados: Yeah. Yeah. Different captain planets that are, tackling each of the sustainable developments.

Chris Hartgerink: Does that fit within the lore of captain planet? I don't know whether that works.

Monica Granados: I think there's only one captain planet, but there could be sequels. There could be a multiverse also of captain planets that we don't know about. But I really like this question because it is actually something we've been thinking about at Creative Commons.

At the onset we were drawing parallels between the open climate campaign and what we saw with COVID-19. We said here is a huge problem that is really threatening humanity challenging humanity and things changed at a rate that we had never seen before when it comes to the dissemination of the data and information around COVID-19. There was collaborations that we had never seen before.

There was investments that we had never seen before, because we identified that we needed to do something about this threat. And when you turn your attention to, another great issue in the world, It is climate change. And so why couldn't we apply the actions that we saw with COVID-19 to climate change with which potentially could have even, larger, longer impacts on the human population?

At Creative Commons, we're thinking about what is that role of open in helping us tackle those challenges?We saw the role of open for COVID-19 and we're going to do that with climate change as well. Why can't we take that model and look at other sustainable development goals? We know that open has the power to find solutions to help us have the innovation and to help us, unlock some of the solutions that we already, that already exist

Chris Hartgerink: With that we come to the end of our interview. I want to give you the space to share some of your thoughts about the UNESCO recommendation, about organizing, coordinating – pretty much anything you want. The floor is yours.

Monica Granados: I just want to take the opportunity to thank you again for having me on here.

I'm very grateful that we have this document, the UNESCO recommendation on open science. I think that will is there. I think the passion is there, in this community. And I think the next thing we need to do is to coordinate a little bit more effectively.

The recommendation can be something that can help us in that respect and can help us, make connections in all the disciplines, institutions, non-governmental organizations, and different types of organizations that we need to connect with in order to make open science the default.

And so that's some of the work that I'll be the doing have the pleasure of doing it at Creative Commons on our open climate campaign. And you folks can keep up-to-date with what's going on with the campaign, by going to openclimatecampaign.org and we'll be doing events and talks throughout the campaign, in the service of opening up climate change and biodiversity research.


You just listened to our original interview with Monica Granados here on the second season of the Open Update.

You probably have a lot of thoughts swirling in your head right now. And what is it? What came to mind? What resonated? What did you disagree with? I would love to hear from you.

For now, have a good rest of your day. Take it easy. Don't stress yourself out too much. Don't let the world stress you out either. There's always something happening

Next week, we'll be back with our interview with Meng Liu and Shilaan Alzahawi from the FORRT project, where we'll talk about the future of research work and the changes already underway.

Written by
Chris Hartgerink
Researcher and director at Liberate Science.
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