Javiera Atenas and Juan Belbis (Associate researchers- ILDA)

Open Data is a topic worth exploring considering that the phenomena of data (open, closed, big, small, classified, confidential, etc.) is here to stay and its disrupting the way we understand politics, policies, phenomena, social problems, the media and the sciences, yet, at Higher Education Level, we still perceive that there is a lack – detachment – disinterest from Universities to embrace the potential transformational power of Open Data not only for its value as educational resource, and as tool to further developing Open Science, but as a tool to engage the University community in participating democratically towards improving the HE current system leading to innovation and accountability.

We can see three main strands regarding Open Data in higher education:

1.Its inner educational value: Open Data, allow students can learn to solve problems, to create knowledge, to engage in participatory research, to improve their media literacies, and to learn to connect with the key element of what Van Es & Schäfer (2017) call a datafied society.

2.Its scientific value: Open Data is at the heart of Open Science, as it facilitates not only scientific research but also, promotes scientific transparency, facilitating others to reproduce studies and also, allowing other to mix and reuse data towards further developing knowledge in different fields as mentioned in this publication by  Bartling & Friesike (2014).

3.Its transparency and accountability value: Public Universities must be accountable as any other public body, towards ensuring that the community understand how money is spent, how people is employed, which are the ratios of enrollment or contracting amongst different groups.

In relation with point 1, During the last few years, I have been going around researching about Open Data and its use as Open Educational Resources and I have wrote some stuff about it. This paper written with Leo Havemann focuses on the development of transversal skills using Open Data, while this other one written with Annalisa MancaChiara Ciociola and Fabio Nascimbeni aims at pointing the role of Critical Pedagogies when designing Open Data led strategies for education. Also, with Leo we edited a book of case studies portraying the use of Open Data as OER.

But, the landscape of Data is growing and growing, so this year, at OER17, we focused our studies in the impact that Open Data can have to understand how media and democracy as we see these elements as key to enhance social participation, therefore, universities need to start considering Open Data to engage students and academics towards fostering activities that can have an impact in the society by embedding research-led activities in the curricula towards developing social and scientific transversal skills.

Regarding point 2, Open Data in Open Science means that scientific dissemination is not confined only to the impact of their publications, but also, to the publication of data that can complement them and that can be used both by academics teaching in the field or by other scholars willing to replicate the study or to further research on the case presented by the data by mixing it and reusing it towards developing new knowledge.

In relation with the 3rd point, we need to consider that data is produced by Universities in various shapes and forms, researchers produce scientific data, students produce data since they apply for a course at the University, from their school results, their personal background, their achievements and failures, their studies, their satisfaction and their assignments, academics produce data about their teaching, management produces data about all sorts of issues, including financial data and states produces data in regards of the use and cost of managing the campuses, but most if this data is A)not available B)very well hidden C)not publishable D)confidential, therefore, not even the members of their own academic community can access this information to study it and to participate in instances that may allow them to improve the university, from its governance to the skills developed amongst the different actors.

Data produced within the universities walls, once opened, can improve transparency leading towards building trust in their communities. Last week an interesting report was published on Open data on universities – New fuel for transformation, this report, summarises quite well the opportunities and challenges of opening up data at HE institutions, and to do so, Universities UK published last year a guide called Open Data in Higher Education: An introductory guide, which provides guidance  for Universities willing to improve their quality and services using data oriented strategies.

When the community has access to the data, and their data analysis capabilities are developed, trust in senior governance can be improved, but also, people can act towards improving situations that they consider may need to be addressed. If universities open up their data, and the community is welcomed to analyse it and report upon it, it could help to formally address issues regarding race and gender by showcasing the lack of people for different backgrounds and of females in senior management and the gaps in earning amongst different groups, can also improve cost-efficiency management of the institutions (energy costs, purchase of technology, campus management) but also, can help fighting nepotism and corruption in the alma mater, and ensuring that the university is run to the best interest of the community (local and global).

For us, embracing open data at Universities, can lead to certain benefits, such as innovating at pedagogical level by developing transversal skills to students, broadening the impact of the research as data can be considered citable materials and to improve university governance, therefore improving the universities in each on their core strands.

We will be meeting next week in Costa Rica at ConDatos, to discuss this and other issues regarding Open Data, also, we will be at the University of Costa Rica running an Open Data workshop for academics, following up on the workshop we did with ILDA and Núcleo REA last year the the Universidad de la República in Uruguay. If you want to know more about our work on capacity building for academics in Open Data, just let us know (@jatenas @juanibelbis @idatosabiertos on twitter), as we are keen to keep exploring this area.

Post originally published by Javiera Atenas in https://oerqualityproject.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/why-open-data-matters-in-higher-education/