The paradoxes of open scholarship

(Photo by Andrew Branch – CC0)

I was asked to do a webinar presentation on open scholarship for the ExplOERer project. I started pulling together some slides from previous presentations but when I looked at them they just seemed from a different era. Over the years I have talked about blogging, digital scholarship, open practice, etc. My take on it has become gradually more nuanced – back in the mid-2000s it was all “OMG this stuff is awesome!” But I’ve balanced that with negatives and caveats as its gone on. But it has largely remained a pro-piece.

However, in a post-truth context, in which aspects of openness have played a part, and also in which education itself is seen as part of the conspiracy, this no longer seemed appropriate. And yet, I still see all those positive aspects of open practice around me. So, instead of being pro or anti I think the way to view it is as a set of contradictions, or paradoxes. We have to get used to holding conflicting views simultaneously in our head. We have to be both a dog person AND a cat person. The presentation is below, but I think the final paradox is the key one: It has never been more risky to operate in the open and yet it has never been more vital to operate in the open.

A recording of the webinar is available if you’re of a masochistic bent.

[slideshare id=70100330&doc=openscholarshipparadoxes-161213153149]


  • Maha Bali

    I am going to blog about what I am about to say now, but you deserve to know this first.

    I had made a decision to try to quote exclusively non-white-males in my keynote, but nearly every time u (or Paul Prinsloo) blog, I decide I really can’t possibly not quote you and it was a silly aspiration to begin with.

    Thanks for sharing this. I agree

    • admin

      Thanks Maha – I totally get why you’d want to do that in your keynote, so I wouldn’t mind at all if you didn’t mention me. BTW – thanks for comment on previous post, I lost my reply (it was just to say that by writes I guess I mean ‘writes the accepted version’, and so we have to challenge what that will be)

  • William Ian O'Byrne (@wiobyrne)

    Thank you for writing this Martin. I’ve been weighing several of these elements in my head and your post let me know that I’m on the right path.

    I’m trying to get these ideas into a blog post but the writing/revision is hard going at this point. I will share with you before I post.

    Once again…thank you. This was invaluable.

  • digisim


    It’s almost like having an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder (I suspect @BryanMMathers might draw that). My experience is that personally I am drawn much more to pragmatism these days, where the ideology of open has been tempered with the realism of my working environment.

    Whilst I personally continue to espouse open as a broad influence on my practice I also recognise that for others it’s a step too far from where they are.

    Pragmatically I sometimes tone down the ideology of Open when working with academic colleagues on curriculum development for example. The process of designing curriculum is challenging enough and so I merely try and influence small incremental changes now rather than deploy the big “open is the future of everything”. With this approach I think i’m actually getting more traction these days, rather than being seen as that guy who talks about open all the time.

    I agree that the early days of open felt very revolutionary, but if we look back now they were perhaps very insular and cliquey. All I really want is more people to be aware of “open” as a philosophy of learning & teaching.

    We have often talked about “mainstreaming” open, but that would probably mean it being commercialised (see Amazon Inspire:, so I have decided that whilst evangelising might get me so far I need to be pragmatic and make small gains, but often.

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