Tag Archives: Shuttleworth Foundation

Those IPR Act Regulations – are they unconstitional?

Today Legal Brief has posted a brief referring to Andrew Rens’s blogpost arguing that the Draft Regulations for the implementation of the IPR Act of 2008 are unconstitutional. Legal Brief quotes a telling passage from Andrew’s post:

Andrew Rens, Intellectual Property Fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation in Cape Town, says in a blog on the Creative Commons blog site that the regulations ‘are simply unworkable, intending to funnel the entire research output of SA through a convoluted series of bureaucratic filters’. Rens points out that almost all advanced scientific research in SA takes place through multinational consortia. These consortia enable scientists to share data and to contribute their skills to complex research. ‘Taking part in international consortia is a minimum necessity for SA scientists,’ he says. However, the regulations ‘represent an attempt to squash multinational, multi-institutional research consortia into the form of agreements between a corporation and a research institution’. Rens says this is, in effect, a ban on participation in multinational research consortia, ‘since research consortia have their own rules on how research may be used’. Says Rens: ‘In other words, researchers may not choose to join the only, or best research consortium in the world, but must instead cede their academic freedom to bureaucrats, and not only to bureaucrats but bureaucrats impelled by the single objective of patenting whatever they can.’ He says for this reason, the regulations are unconstitutional.

What Andrew’s comments highlight is that the Act and the Regulations designed to enforce them- and ‘force’ is an appropriate word here – are some 30 years out of date and completely out of tune with the way research is being conducted in the world’s leading universities in the 21st century, with high levels of collaboration. What is worse, they are out of line with the realities of how research can best contribute to the national good, through flexible strategies, effective and open dissemination and vehicles that are aligned with the needs of the poorest in our society, something that patents don’t always do well. I cannot help recalling Yochai Benkler’s striking indictment of the patent system, in his seminal book, The Wealth of Networks: ‘The above-marginal-cost prices paid in …. poorer countries [as a result of patents] are purely regressive redistribution. The morality of this redistribution from the world’s poor to the world’s rich has never been confronted or defended in the European or American public spheres. It simply goes unnoticed.’ It is certainly unnoticed in these Draft Regulations, which seem intent on forcing the maximum commericialisation of South African research, at whatever cost.

Open the gates of learning! Open! The Cape Town Declaration is launched

The UCT campus is slowly coming to life as the summer season winds to a close and children head reluctantly back to school. To wake us up properly, the Cape Town Declaration on Open Education was officially launched today, appropriately at the start of the new school year.

The Cape Town Declaration was drafted by a meeting convened in Cape Town in September, bringing together a group of committed people from across the world at the offices of the Shuttleworth Foundation which convened the gathering along with the Open Society Institute. (For more on the process of drafting the Declaration, see my September blog).

To read and sign the Declaration, go to http://www.capetowndeclaration.org

Of particular relevance to us in the developing world is the fact that the Declaration articulates the development of open education resources as a matter of participation and not just of access, describing open education as a democratic collaborative environment with global participation. The opening passage reads:

We are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning. Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.

The Declaration also stresses that Open Education is not a matter of content alone, but that this openness needs to encompass the collaborative potential offered by technology and should also include and understand the processes of education:

However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. Understanding and embracing innovations like these is critical to the long term vision of this movement.

This is explicitly acknoweldged in the Press Release:

“Open sourcing education doesn’t just make learning more accessible, it makes it more collaborative, flexible and locally relevant,” said Linux Entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who also recorded a video press briefing (http://capetowndeclaration.blip.tv/ ). “Linux is succeeding exactly because of this sort of adaptability. The same kind of success is possible for open education.”

Open education is of particular relevance in developing and emerging economies, creating the potential for affordable textbooks and learning materials. It opens the door to small scale, local content producers likely to create more diverse offerings than large multinational publishing houses.

“Cultural diversity and local knowledge are a critical part of open education,” said Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. “Countries like South Africa need to start producing and sharing educational materials built on their own diverse cultural heritage. Open education promises to make this kind of diverse publishing possible.”

The Declaration has already been translated into over a dozen languages and the growing list of signatories includes: Jimmy Wales; Mark Shuttleworth; Peter Gabriel, musician and founder of Real World Studios; Sir John Daniel, President of Commonwealth of Learning; Thomas Alexander, former Director for Education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Paul N. Courant, University Librarian and former Provost, University of Michigan; Lawrence Lessig, founder and CEO of Creative Commons; Andrey Kortunov, President of the New Eurasia Foundation; and Yehuda Elkana, Rector of the Central European University. Organizations endorsing the Declaration include: Wikimedia Foundation; Public Library of Science; Commonwealth of Learning; Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition; Canonical Ltd.; Centre for Open and Sustainable Learning; Open Society Institute; and Shuttleworth Foundation.

Our new project – OpeningScholarship – launches at UCT

We have just posted the first blog for our new project. Funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation it will run for the next year in the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. The OpeningScholarship
project, with myself as the Strategic Project Director and Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams as Research Manager, will explore the transformative potential of information and communication technologies in the context of the University of Cape Town, selected for this project as one of South Africa’s leading research universities.

Through a series of case studies at UCT, the project will explore the ways in which new and interactive information and communication technologies are impacting on communication patterns between researchers, lecturers and students and between the university and the community. The project aims to identify ways in which
these new technologies can expand research and learning in the institution beyond the narrow walls of the curriculum to engage the university community with important cross-cutting issues and the convergence of traditional disciplines.

Some of the research questions that we will be asking are:

  • How can an institution such as UCT best build collaboration for scholarly communications across the institution?
  • What could an ICT system such as that at UCT offer in terms of new and opened up communications in teaching, learning and research?
  • How can the ICT systems that are in place help deliver much greater intellectual capacity, allowing the university (and by extension, the country) to rely on its own intellectual capital rather than on imported content?
  • What lessons can be learned from those departments making effective use of ICTs and new approaches to research dissemination?
  • How can existing projects – both departmental initiatives and donor-funded projects – be coordinated to achieve an effective and collaborative institution-wide scholarly communication system?
  • What policies and practices would need to be encouraged if the university is to achieve the maximum impact for its scholarly communications for research, teaching and learning, and outreach?

The intervention will aim to explore the potential of the full range of formal and informal communication strategies available to UCT in the 21st century, from formal scholarly publications to repositories, blogs, wikis, mobile technology, podcasts and video streaming.

We look forward to lively discussion in this blog, in wikis, meetings, workshops and seminars, about the changing dynamics being brought about at UCT through the use of ICTs for communications between researchers, between lecturers and students, and between the university and the communities it serves. It is going to be a lively year!