ODHK.meet.31: Tracking & Transparency

ODHK - meet.31 logoUPDATED 18th September: now including pictures and slides.
ODHK was back on the 16th September after its summer break for our 31st meetup, this month quantifying and throwing light on Open Data and transparency in Hong Kong. Our Mid-Autumn Open Data festival was an interactive affair, as we needed feedback, scrutiny and future participation in two on-going projects: Open Knowledge’s Open Data Index and accessinfo.hk.With the deadline for submissions to the 2015 Global Open Data Index ending on the 20th September, Rob Davidson gave us a quick overview of the index, the various categories we are assessed on, and what is likely to have changed this year (slides here). Anybody currently working on, or would like to contribute to our submission, this is your last chance to provide feedback for the next census. With more categories and datasets under consideration, in the year that it’s data.gov.hk portal finally launched will Hong Kong improve on it’s global ranking of 59th? Helping provide useful scrutiny and pressure on the government to keep improving in their access to “public sector information”, watch this space to see the results. Many other groups around the world will be having events around the census, so check out the handy event guide Open Knowledge have put together on the topic. Check out the portal for more, and with two days to go this is your last chance to start check and contribute to the 2015 census: http://global.census.okfn.org/
The second part of the session was taken over by Guy Freeman who presented on his now up-and-running accessinfo.hk portal. While we had a sneak preview in meet.29 on politics (see the write up), there has been some ironing out of bugs in a soft(ish) launch, and accessinfo.hk is now up to about 30 access-to-information requests. This made it a perfect time to assess how the process is working, how responsive Hong Kong government departments are to these requests (they promise a ten day turnaround), and look to what happens next. With some ideas and goals for longitudinal hacks (watch this space…), Guy gave us insight what can be done in the area of freedom of information and transparency, and how in the absence of Open Data there are things we can to do gather our own. Check out his slides here or embedded below.
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Wednesday, September 16th, 7:30pm
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Location: Good Lab Cheung Sha Wan. L1, The Sparkle, 500 Tung Chau Street
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ODHK.meet.29: Open data & transparency for political advocacy

meet29.finalOpen data has many different societal benefits, and in Asia some may be a little nervous pushing it as a tool for transparency and political change, but for meet.29 we threw caution to the wind and tackled that very topic. We had some great visiting and local speakers, helping contrast how activist groups in some parts the world are using open data to strive for political change, with the nascent (and maybe more conservative?) situation here in Hong Kong and China.
IMG_8820We were pleased to have Amanda Meng from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs as our visiting guest speaker. Amanda is a PhD candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she studies technology and democracy. Her dissertation focuses on the social impact of open government data. Throughout her career as a practitioner and academic she has spent time in the Dominican Republic, India, Ghana, and Nigeria studying or implementing projects in ICT for development or democracy.

Amanda is in Hong Kong conducting a case study on the reuse of open government data. Her investigation includes a qualitative process trace of datasets from government agencies, through civic spaces, and back to public officials as social groups attempt to achieve social or political change. This case study is the first of three to be compared to Chile and the Dominican Republic, and we look forward to hearing her accounts of open data activism. You can get a taster on her research on her recent paper in JeDEM on “Investigating the Roots of Open Data’s Social Impact”. You can see her slides here.

Bringing It All Back Home: FOI and AccessInfo.Hk
After the international perspective, we brought things back to Hong Kong with the second part of the meet focusing on tools we can use here to bring light on the political process, specifically access to information requests and the newly live accessinfo.hk portal. Guy Freeman gave us a quick overview of his handiwork setting up the new platform. With Guy we also had Dr Clement Chen from HKU, a researcher on information rights in China (check out his FOI in China page and see his thesis here), who was on hand for discussion and helped answer questions on the topic of the FOI situation in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

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Check out the portal and feed it with questions:

Tuesday 12th May 2015
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Delaney’s Wan Chai, One Capital Place, 18 Luard Road Wan Chai.
灣仔盧押道18號海德中心地下及1字樓, Wan Chai.
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Oped in SCMP: Open Data to Fix Academic Fraud

SCMPheaderLast week the Open Science Working Group of ODHK had an Oped in South China Morning Post (SCMP) discussing issue of fighting academic fraud through use of Open Data. This is a particularly topical issue at the moment with recent scandals implicating many academics in Mainland China with large-scale peer-review fraud covered in the Washington Post. With kind permission of SCMP we are posting an updated and extended version of the piece here, and being good Open Data purists include links to much of the source material discussed.
The scandal of scientific impact
The idealized view of science as the curiosity driven pursuit of knowledge to understand and improve the world around us, has been tarnished by recent news of systematic fraud and mass retraction of research papers from the Chinese academic system, and allegations of attempts to game the peer-review system on an industrial scale. With much of our R&D funded through government, we all hope our tax dollars are spent as wisely as possible, and around the world research funders have developed methods of assessing the quality of their funded researchers work.  One of the most widely used metrics to assess researchers is the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), a (proprietary, closed access) service run by Thomson-Reuters, that ranks the academic journals that scientists publish to get credit in. While many countries have tried to broaden their assessment system to take account a more balanced view of a researchers impact, in China the numbers of publications in JIF ranked journals is currently the only activity that researchers are judged by, and huge amounts of money are changing hands (often hundreds of thousands of RMB payment for a single publication in the top ranked journals) through this system.
This biased focus on one metric above all others has directly lead to large scale gaming of the system and a black market of plagiarism, invented research and fake journals. Following from previous exposé’s of an “academic bazaar” system where authorship on highly ranked papers can be bought, Scientific American in December uncovered a wider and more systematic network of Chinese “paper mills” producing ghostwritten papers and grant applications to order, linked to hacking the peer review system that is supposed to protect the quality and integrity of research. The first major fall-out from this has occurred last month, with the publisher BioMed Central (BMC) retracting 43 papers for peer review fraud, the biggest mass-retraction carried out for this reason to date, and increasing the number of papers retracted for this reason by over a quarter. Many other major publishers have been implicated, with the publisher of the worlds largest journal PLOS also issuing a statement that they are investigating linked submissions. It takes a great amount of time and effort employing Chinese speaking editorial teams to investigate and contact all of the researchers and institutions implicated, and BMC should be applauded for doing this and fixing the scientific record so quickly [COI declaration: Scott Edmunds is an ex-employee of BMC, and he and Rob Davidson are collaborating with them through GigaScience Journal].
To get an idea of the types of research uncovered and implicated, it is possible to see the papers retracted last month, and Retraction Watch has covered the story in detail. The Committee on Publication Ethics has also issued a statement. Guillaume Filion in his blog has done some sterling detective work providing insight on the types of papers written by these “paper mills” and “guaranteed publication in JIF journal” offering companies still advertising their services. The likely production-line explosion of medical meta-analysis publications coming from China has been well known for a number of years, but looking at the list of publications retracted by BMC in March shows a worrying introduction of many other research types such as network analysis.
Like in J. B.Priestley’s famous morality tale, An Inspector Calls, any evil comes from the actions or inactions of everyone. On top of the need for better policing by publishers, funders and research institutions, there needs to be fundamental changes to how we carry out research. Without a robust response and fundamental changes to their academic incentive systems there could be long term consequences for Chinese science, with danger that this loss of trust will lead to fewer opportunities to collaborate with institutions abroad, and potentially building such skepticism that people will stop using research from China.
While we are rightly proud of Hong Kong’s highly regarded and ranked universities system (with three Universities ranked in the world top 50), we are not immune to the same pressures. While funders in Europe have moved away from using citation based metrics such as JIF in their research assessments, the Hong Kong University Grants Committee states in their Research Assessment Exercise guidelines that they may informally use it. In practice some of the Universities do follow the practice of paying bonuses related to the impact factor of journals their researcher publish in, leading to the same temptations and skewed incentive systems that have led to these corrupt practices in China. From looking at the list of retracted papers fortunately on this occasion no Hong Kong based researchers were implicated. With our local institutions increasing their ties across the Pearl River through new joint research institutes and hospitals, and these scandals likely to run and run, how much longer our universities can remain unblemished will be a challenge.
Can We Fix it? Yes We Can!
If the impact factor system is so problematic, what are the alternatives? Different fields have different types of outputs, but there are factors that should obviously be taken into account like quality of teaching, and the numbers of students passing on to do bigger and better things. Impact can be about changing policy, producing open software or data that other research can build upon, or stimulating public interest and engagement through coverage in the media. Many of these measures can also be subject to gaming, but having a broader range of “alternative metrics” should be harder to manipulate.  China is overtaking the US to become the biggest producer of published research, but ranks only ninth in citations, so there obviously needs to be a better focus on quality rather than quantity.
The present lack of research data sharing has led to what is being called a ‘reproducibility crisis’, partly fuelled by fraudulent activity but very often just from simple error. This has led to some people estimating that as much as 85% of research resources (funding, man­hours etc) are wasted. Science is often lauded as being a worthy investment for any government because the return to the economy is more than that put in. What benefits could be gained if there was an 85% improvement on that return? How many more startups and innovative technologies could be produced if research was actually re­usable?
There is growing movement from funders across the world to encourage and enforce data management and access, and we at Open Data Hong Kong are cataloguing the policies and experiences of Hong Kong’s research institutions. Sadly, at this stage we seem to be far behind other countries, currently ranking 58th in the global Open Data Index (just falling from 54th earlier in the year). One of the main benefits of open data is transparency, which would have made the current peer review scandal much harder to carry out. It is encouraging that the Hong Kong Government is already promoting release of public sector data through the newly launched Data.Gov.HK portal, but it is clear that our research data needs to be treated the same way. ODHK is the first organization in Hong Kong (and 555th overall) to sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment that is trying to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics. To help change the skewed incentive systems we would encourage others to join us by signing at: http://am.ascb.org/dora/
Scott Edmunds, Rob Davidson and Waltraut Ritter; Open Data Hong Kong.
Naubahar Sharif; HKUST.
See SCMP for the published version of the Oped here: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1758662/china-must-restructure-its-academic-incentives-curb-research


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For the next ODHK meet we are pleased to cover one of the hot topics in the Hong Kong Open Data scene, the newly launched Hong Kong public sector information portal: DATA.GOV.HK.
We have some of the senior team at the OGCIO (Office of the Government Chief Information Officer) on hand to give us a quick run through of the new platform, and then stick around and answer some of our questions. If there is anything you want to know about the new portal and access to public sector information in Hong Kong, now is your chance to ask. Please bring your questions, or just come along to see the demo, and have a beer and a catch up. Old timers at ODHK may remember some of these presenters from our previous meets, and we’d like to welcome and thank the following OGCIO team members for offering up some of their precious time to present directly to us:
Kimmey Ho
Senior Administrative Officer (Strategy Development)
Jessica Lo
Systems Manager (Strategy Development)
Russell Tang
Executive Officer (Strategy Development)
What public sector information datasets do you want, and do you think is missing? Come to the meet and let OGCIO know.
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For more on the new data.gov.hk platform see the recent piece in SCMP.


Tuesday 21st April 2015

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  • Location: Delaney’s Wan Chai, One Capital Place, 18 Luard Road Wan Chai.
  • 灣仔盧押道18號海德中心地下及1字樓, Wan Chai
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ODHK.meet.27: Birthday.2

11096705_10153268335379379_900183058_nThere ain’t no party like an open data party!

Come along to Delaney’s Wan Chai to help ODHK celebrate our second birthday. For our 27th ODHK meet we will celebrate our second anniversary, looking forward to the year ahead, and as well as looking back at the highlights of the last 12 months. We’ll have a have lots of topical things to showcase in our overview of the year (Budget! New Data.Gov.HK portal!), but come expecting cake, drinks, merriment and more. See the pics of last years event to get an idea of what to expect.


Tuesday 31st March 2015

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  • Location: Delaney’s Wan Chai, One Capital Place, 18 Luard Road Wan Chai.
  • 灣仔盧押道18號海德中心地下及1字樓, Wan Chai
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