The second edition of OpenCon happened last November in Brussels. But for me, OpenCon was much more than just those 3 days. In many ways, 2015 was my OpenCon year. It was also my first year as a phd student, and the year I finally got back to taking Spanish lessons. Between all that, this blog was left behind. It’s good to be back!
My OpenCon year started at the end of January 2015, when I got an invitation to join the conference’s Organising Committee. I did not go to the first OpenCon, but I followed people talking about it on Twitter, and read the blog posts after. The positivity around the conference really impressed me – by all accounts, this was the best conference EVER. I could not believe I was getting a chance to be a part of it. For a second I could hear my old friend impostor syndrome saying that this had to be a mistake, but not accepting was not an option. This was an one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I took it.
To say I don’t regret my choice would be an understatement. OpenCon was a great learning experience. I had helped organize events before, but nothing near this scale. The SPARC and Right to Research Coalition teams deserve all my respect and admiration for running this conference, making sure everything goes as smooth as possible before, during and after those 3 days. Besides working on the OC, I talked about altmetrics at the Research Evaluation panel, and lead the “Taking on the Impact Factor” workshop (with the awesome Joe McArthur) and the “How to challenge the Impact Factor and change research evaluation” unconference session. These were a lot of firsts for me: first time helping organize an international event, first time presenting at an international event, first time facilitating an unconference session, first time doing advocacy… I have learned so much that it made me want to learn and do even more.
But OpenCon is much more than a place to learn: it is a community. I love conferences in general because they are a great excuse for taking a break from your day-to-day activities to meet a bunch of people who care about the same things you do. OpenCon is even better at that because of the efforts to provide scholarships to most attendants, so that money won’t be an object. The selection process was the hardest part of being at the Organising Committee, but I think it is also the secret to OpenCon’s success. You end up gathering this group of people from all the corners of the world, where everyone is an awesome person with a great idea/project. It almost felt like a spiritual retreat: 3 days filled with joy, meaning, and hope. Joy from meeting and falling in love with all these awesome people (also, trust me, the OpenCon community knows how to party), meaning from understanding how being open can change the world, and hope from believing we can actually make a difference.
There’s also a strong political aspect of OpenCon. Advancing open practices is about fighting inequality, as Jon Tennant pointed out on his blog post. Advocacy day is not an accessory to OpenCon, it is crucial: it is not enough to talk or do research about openness, we have to take action, personally and as a group. There’s obviously lots to be done, and some disagreement on what is the best way to do it. It may be frustrating to see how slowly things change, but we must keep pushing. The advocay training panel was the one I was most looking forward too, and probably my favorite in the conference. The focus was on EU politics, but there’s lots of useful advice for everyone. I highly reccomend it, specially Wikimedian Dimitar Dimitrov’s talk.
The greatest thing about OpenCon is that you can be a part of it right now. I’m not talking about watching the conference videos on YouTube (though you totally can – and should – do that!), I’m saying you can actually join the OpenCon community, through the discussion list, monthly calls (next one is this Wednesday!), webcasts, even sattelite events. This way, every year can be an OpenCon year!