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Introducing the Open Communication Theme Program at ICA20

Posted By Eike Mark Rinke (U of Leeds), Monday, May 4, 2020

Without any doubt, the year 2020 will go down in history as “extraordinary” for most any country, institution and individual person living through it. ICA is no exception, and the move from the familiar physical to the new virtual conference format is only the most obvious aspect of the extraordinary 2020 ICA experience. This year, our annual conference will also be extraordinary in another way: This will be the year in which Open Science or, more broadly, Open Scholarship comes to ICA!

The conference theme this year is Open Communication. In our Theme Call for Papers, Conference Program Chair Claes de Vreese and I invited the communication community to join us this year in facilitating and deepening the conversation about Open Science and Open Scholarship in the field of communication. 

In our call, we wrote that this conversation should push us to reflect on how we could and should advance our field through greater openness in at least three senses. Through

  • openness as transparency,

  • openness as collaboration, and

  • openness as focus on the creation of public goods.

With the conference only a few weeks away, I am glad to share with you that the response from the ICA community to our call was overwhelming. We had some hard decisions to make in the review process, as we were working with an acceptance rate similar to that of some divisions and interest groups. In the end, the theme program we have arrived is expressive of this response and exceeds my most optimistic expectations.

Here are the basic Open Communication theme program facts: It includes

  • 10 full-length sessions,

  • 22 papers, and

  • 103 ICA scholars who are involved as paper (co-)author, presenter, session chair, and/or discussant.

More important than these bare numbers, the theme program will be very much aligned with the key premise of our Call for Papers: That Open Scholarship in communication is not a one-size-fits-all

The theme sessions will cover many different aspects of open scholarship, from its philosophical and epistemological assumptions to its social and practical implications for us as the communication community.

In addition to the Opening Plenary, which will also be dedicated to the theme and feature a stellar lineup, we will kick-off the theme program with the #OpenComm Roundtable”. This roundtable will discuss the Agenda for Open Science in Communication and feature several of its authors as well as R. Lance Holbert, Editor of ICA’s Journal of Communication, which recently published it. The Agenda is a bold proposal to move our entire field towards greater openness (around which a fully JoC special issue on “Open Communication Research” will follow, see the CfP here) and should be of interest to anyone working in it.

But this will only be the first of three roundtables in the theme program. In another, a panel of “publication veterans” from our field will discuss the issues facing the struggle for open access in communication (“Open Access and the Field of Communication”) and yet another one will discuss what open scholarship and transparency could mean for work with marginalized groups or entities that wish to harm researchers (“Open Science and Additional Concerns when Working with Marginalized Populations”).

If the theme roundtables will further the conversation on three very different dimensions of Open Communication, the five paper sessions will include an even more diverse set of original research and discussion papers. These sessions will

  1. critically interrogate the assumptions, limitations and undiscovered potentials of open science from different epistemological points of view,

  2. showcase method innovations that open communication research in very different ways, and

  3. explore how we can become more open towards the societies we study and are part of as communication scholars.

Together, the 22 papers that will be presented in these sessions will move forward our collective conversation about what “being open” could and should mean for us from an epistemological, methodological, and societal point of view.

The paper session on Critical Perspectives on Open Science will critically explore open science from critical and interpretive perspectives, drawing on qualitative, feminist, design, historical, and community-based work.

A session on Innovations in Open Research Methods will show how innovative methods can open up communication research in very different ways: by opening up the process through which we form our most foundational concepts; by reconciling open sharing of data from modern data collection methods with privacy concerns; and by offering easy-to-use tools for making the entire process of computational research projects transparent and fully reproducible.

The Open Science meets Digital Methods session will deepen the discussion about the particular trade-offs, and even dilemmas, in balancing openness and privacy concerns in “big data” research projects: What are the unique challenges in making computational communication research more open?

The societal dimension of Open Communication will be the subject of two sessions. The papers in Open Data Meets Open Scholarship will reflect on how “open data” in communication may help us collaborate more and more deeply with various communities to contribute towards positive social change. The paper session on Open Scholarship as Collaborative Scholarship will engage with the social aspects of open scholarship: how socially open is communication to different disciplines and ethnicities and how could we become more open by engaging in more collaborative forms of research?

Last but not least, it was important to me that the Open Communication theme program would have a pedagogical component. Clearly, a productive change towards a more open academic field of communication will be possible only if we challenge how we do our research ourselves and – perhaps more importantly – how we educate the next generations of communication scholars. I am therefore particularly pleased that the theme program will include two Learning Labs, kindly supported by Oxford University Press, which will offer conference attendees workshop-style training in doing and teaching open scholarship.

The first Learning Lab, onRevolutionizing (Open) Methods Pedagogy in Communication”, will introduce the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT), a  community-driven platform that supports methods instructors with integrating open and reproducible research practices into their research methods classes. In the second Learning Lab, How to Do Open Science, attendees will have a chance to learn how they themselves can begin to engage in one of the most important open research practices for anyone seeking to test a hypothesis: registering your study before actually conducting it! After the Lab session, you will know how to preregister your next study online, on the Open Science Framework (OSF).

This theme program is an open invitation. An invitation to all members of our ICA community and communication scholars, regardless of their ontological, epistemological, and methodological commitments, to come together this year to think about how we all can become “more open” as scholars and as an academic field, and what that could and should mean for each of us.

Please feel very invited to join us in the Open Communication conversation at ICA20. I look forward to meeting you there.

Conference Theme Chair
Eike Mark Rinke
U of Leeds

Theme program hashtag: #OpenComm

Tags:  May 2020 

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