I/A 2.0 Session Summary - Open Access

Michael Eisen (Public Library of Science), David Hansen (Berkeley Law), Margaret Phillips (UC Berkeley Library), Nick Shockey (Right to Research Coalition/SPARC), Ali Sternburg (Washington College of Law PIJIP)

The Research Works Act was just the most recent in a line of bills that seek to legislate on the issue of open access (OA) to research. But private initiatives have operated quietly––or not so quietly––for many years with great success. The goal of the session was to bring create a discussion of all relevant parties to map common paths forward toward greater OA adoption.

Open Access refers to unrestricted access and unrestricted use. Who cares about Open Access? The session leaders believe that libraries, students, scientists and the general public all have an interest in OA. University libraries spend around $1B a year on subscriptions to journals. This money is backed through faculty salaries, buyback subscriptions, students who are paying for it in their tuition, and alumni who pay membership fees.

There is no tension between the consumers and the producers of scientific publishing. Institutions overspend on these scientific journals and if anything, the resources at hand do not actually limit us. Rather, we are limited by the legacy of the systems––mainly the infrastructure––that our predecessors have created for publishing research articles. We are further limited by the fact that the people who work in the scientific field have unfortunately build their careers upon the current system, and they are limited by the inertia of those who run our universities. Scientists are programmed to believe that their careers are based upon their publications, and the more publications in the most prestigious journals, the more renowned you are. The public, however, can only access those journals at a high cost. As David Hansen noted, universities should use be using their influence to push scientists toward open publication of their work, perhaps even as a prerequisite to receiving funding.

What’s being done to remedy this archaic system? Session leaders discussed their efforts in highlighting the feasibility of an open access scientific journal, particularly their work over the last several years to try to undermine the structure of the traditional journal. PLoS ONE, for example, publishes based on whether the research is scientifically valid; there’s no judgment as to how important the particular finding may be. It is now the single biggest scientific journal in the world.

Session leaders urged session participants to join in the brainstorming on how we move in the direction of a system where receipt of public money is conditioned on publication of the research openly.

They also noted the need to raise student awareness. Students should be made aware that their libraries pay thousands of dollars per-subscription, which in turn means higher tuition. Students can contribute in this space by promoting OA at their universities and law schools, and by making it widely known that students at smaller institutions are greatly disadvantaged in their access because their schools cannot afford the exorbitant subscription fees. We need to recognize that the majority of college students in the US are at institutions like community colleges that have very limited access to journal subscriptions.

We also need to recognize that the general public should be interested in OA as tax dollars go to fund research, yet much of the research remains inaccesible. Not only is the the vast majority of research funded by public tax dollars, it is also backed by volunteer labor of student researchers.

In the near future we need to create a system that stores information on who the readers of these journal articles are, what their background is, and why they read the particular articles they do. Such a system could replace the current infrastructure and further the goal of increasing meaningful communication between scientists, thereby furthering scientific innovation.

I/A 2.0 Session Summary - Changing the Conversation about Software Patents in a Post-SOPA World

Julie Samuels (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Timothy Lee (Ars Technica), Christina Mulligan (Yale Law School Information Society Project)

Before SOPA, we began to see increased attention on technology and policy in Washington D.C. The America Invents Act was the long awaited reform to patent law, but did it actually do anything? Many say no. With recent features in the mainstream media, like This American Life, and high profile cases such as Google v Oracle, Facebook v Yahoo, people have begun paying more attention to and discovering the impact that patents have on their lives. This open discussion, led by Julie Samuels, Tim Lee and Christina Mulligan, looked at strategies for overcoming problems surrounding software patents. In a post-SOPA world, how do we address increased threats to innovation from patent trolls and thickets?

A “one size fits all” patent system doesn’t work but changing the patent system will be a long process. The session leaders identified three main avenues for action: courts, Congress and DIY efforts from the community. These avenues for action, however, have various pros and cons. For example, the courts are obviously highly influential on IP policy but they don’t have a good understanding of software technology and software patents. In Bilski, Justice Kennedy stated that the community has accepted software patents as patentable subject matter; which is a notion that many in the community would likely disagree with. It’s important that we find some way to remedy this discrepancy, as antagonists are likely to take advantage of this misunderstanding.

In creating change, Congress has to be a key player. Congress creates the law but at the same time is highly influenced by lobbyists and industry. Much of the influence is not due to corruption, but rather a lack of information. In the everyday lives of politicians, there is an expectation that they are able to speak fluently on each issue as it arises. Understandably, members of Congress seek out “experts” to brief them, but more often than not, who they end up listening to often leads to an biased assessment of technology. When big companies act, Congress listens. We need to find ways to get more big companies to embrace a new set of norms with respect to software patents.

The above efforts are bringing change, but slowly. The people paying attention are innovators, consumers and activists. We’ve seen some movement on the DIY side, from places like Y Combinator and Engine Advocacy, demonstrating that people are coalescing around the promotion of innovation and the exchange of ideas. The question remains as to how these DIY efforts can use the lessons learned from SOPA to push forward improvements in the software patent world. Striking a chord within the community is critical, and we need to create positive stories and deliver concrete numbers to illustrate the real effects of poor software patent policy.

I/A 2.0 Session Summary - Mapping the IP Activism Space

Lila Bailey (Berkeley Law), Andrew McDiarmid (CDT), Peter Maybarduk (Public Citizen), Taylor Gilliland (UAEM)

Participants in this session discussed how the individuals, organizations, and constituencies involved in IP activism can collaborate and build on each other’s work. The discussion began by identifying all of the different organizations represented at I/A 2.0, as well as those not present. Participants then split up into three groups focusing on a different aspect of the IP activism space: geographic, expertise, and working mode. The groups pinpointed a variety of US and international groups and individuals taking action as well as classifications for categorizing the work being done in the space:

Geographic Focus:
Latin America/south America
Middle East and Africa
Global Groups

Working Mode Group:
Networking and Convening
Data Collection

open access
open knowledge/data
free and open source
Internet intermediaries

The goal of the session was to produce an understanding of the different players’ competencies and contributions to the IP activism space. In addition to highlighting the key players, it was discussed that we need to focus on events where IP activists can unite––forums where we can continue this discussion beyond I/A 2.0. The group formulated the idea that this emergent and growing community can work together to pull in grassroots groups whose missions may not be traditionally aligned with IP activism, but within the post-SOPA environment, they are ready to activate. It is critical that we figure out the reach of all of these groups, bring together organizations not traditionally focused on policy and also tie in traditional human rights organizations. The landscape is vast and growing; it’s time to make connections and help the public visualize the environment so near and dear to so many of us. The map created in the session will be digitized soon and available online.

I/A 2.0 Session Summary - Emerging Technologies / Platforms for Activism: What We Have & What We Need

Ben Moskowitz (Mozilla), Tony Lai (LawGives), Jim Pugh (Rebuild the Dream)

Activism isn’t new, but the landscape of activism has surely changed. Ben Moskowitz, Tony Lai and Jim Pugh led a three-part brainstorming session to answer two major questions: 1) What are the technology success stories? and 2) What are the biggest unfulfilled needs? The session leaders attempted to answer each question in terms of “what we have” and “what we need.” The answers to these questions will be used to craft a campaign for Right to Research Coalition in the Using Emerging Technologies / Platforms to Run a Campaign session (room 630 12:00 - 1:00 pm Saturday, April 21).
After quick introductions, the session leaders began by identifying themselves and their roles as activist. Ben Moskowitz develops technologies, which are both low friction and distributive. Tony Lai facilitates the connection between innovators and the mainstream. Jim Pugh works on new technologies and online tools to get people involved in activism.

The room then broke out into smaller groups discussing topics such as research, funding, transparency, tools and platforms. Ideas were scribbled down onto sticky notes and used to create a mind map (to be digitized as soon as possible!). The breakout groups then came back together to identify patterns and correlations between “what we have” and “what we need.” The session ended with a board covered with sticky notes, representing connections, issues, and creative chaos.

I/A 2.0 Session Summary - Beyond the Charity Concert: Artists as Activists

Jess Hemerly (Google), Larisa Mann (DJ Ripley), Erin McKeown (Musician/Berkman Center), Deyden Tethong (Air Traffic Control)

Music creates a social experience where people can engage with each other; it crosses cultural boundaries. Music is an invitation to engagement and is often used as a safe space. This session discussed the experiences and concerns with utilizing artists as activists.
Deyden Tethong and Erin McKeown discussed the significance of artist activist retreats, such as those hosted by Air Traffic Control. These spaces provide artists with the opportunity to find the space/peers to discuss obstacles to activism; experiment with the activism process; find activist-mentors, and provide artists with the time and space “to stop the hustle of running my career” to engage in activist activities. Additionally, Tethong discussed New Orleans as a “place that is what it is now because of artists taking the time to care about what’s going on and taking it to their fans.” However, she also discussed how the “time, money and resources used to promote benefit concerts may not be the best use of artist time or creativity.”

Session leaders also shared their experiences with using music and activism and the difficulty in balancing “making great music that’s also ‘activist.’” In particular, Larisa Mann (DJ Ripley) shared an anecdotal story that raised the issue of the difficulty in bringing together a wide range of audiences to support the cause. Among the factors that she considers in participating in music activism are: the music she plays, marketing, how much to charge, and the audience.

Other issues raised during this session include how to keep the movement going after the music has stopped; how to find the “right” artist to raise the profile and promote the cause, while providing a connection between the cause, the message, and the right audience; moving artist engagement beyond the retweet, to benefit shows and rallys, for example; and the consequences to being an activist with respect to success.

Important takeaways from this session include: the importance of artists knowing and using their fans and network to discuss the activist agenda; the nuances between the DJ and the artist in this conversation (fostering movements that exist; feeling out and processing the environment; and giving the voice to the movement / being spokesperson for the cause); the responsibility of organizers and activists to report back to the artists who support their causes on the progress of the initiative; and defining the success of an artist’s activist movement (do you give up the opportunity to play in front of 20 fans dedicated to the cause? Or do you play to the 20K who may not care?)