“Openness needs to be included in our core activities, in everything we do”Name: Mikko Tolonen
Position: Professor of research on digital resources
Institution: University of Helsinki, Department of Modern Languages
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ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2892-8911
An interview with Mikko Tolonen on 6 June 2017
How are you involved with Open Data?
In addition to research work, I am involved in the Open Science working group for Open Knowledge Finland (OKF). OKF is successfully promoting Open Science in Finland. I have also had an active role at the University of Helsinki where I am involved in several teams related to Open Science policy-making. I feel that I am part of a common movement for Open Science. In autumn 2016, when the FinELib (The Finnish National Electronic Library) consortium was negotiating with Elsevier, we organised together with OKF a petition called Tiedonhinta.fi, where some 2,000 researchers showed their support for the FinELib negotiators. There is a lot of Open Science discussion, but activating researchers is the most important thing.
What frustrates you most about the current systems? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
Thus, availability of data has often been the bottleneck in our work. For example, it took us a lot of effort to get access to the Gale company’s ECCO data (Eighteenth Century Collections Online). They repeatedly answered that our research plan sounds good but they cannot give us the data dump needed. Yet, they have not really developed data analysis tools in the last 15 years. Their revenue model is to sell exclusively licenses to researchers through libraries. Historians may not even have realised that there could be other uses for literature collections. Finally we managed to get ECCO data, but many other researchers still have no access to it. And there is no Open Science without access to the raw data. From the point of view of text and data mining, publishers’ practices are time-consuming. At the same time, I believe that our work with ECCO will also benefit Gale in terms of new tools and applications generated for the use of their sources.
Who or what (project / service) inspires you and makes you optimistic about the future of Open Science?
Another example is our COMHIS Collective research project, which can also be seen as an Open Science project: https://comhis.github.io/. There are researchers in the group that receive COMHIS project funding, but there are also researchers who are not formally tied to the project. However, we all work together; we are discussing project-related matters on Slack every day and taking steps forward on many fronts. This, in my view, represents an Open Science ethos.
And finally, what would a world with far more Open Data look like?
Everything considered, the world will become a more democratic place with Open Data. The openness will allow anyone to form a weighted opinion on matters of importance. If there is factual information available, there is, for example, no need to fight populism just by shouting.
Copyright: Creative Commons CC-BY Licence University of Helsinki
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