President's Dream Colloquium on Making Knowledge Public

Colloquium Course

The President’s Dream Colloquium on Making Knowledge Public is both a public speaker series with leading thinkers and a graduate seminar course open to students from the across the university. The course offers a unique opportunity to gain exposure to a cross-disciplinary network of academics, citizen scholars and government officials through the invited public lectures and in-class guest instructors.

But what is the course about? Making Knowledge Public will offer a broad overview of the ways in which research makes its way into society. Through the public lectures, readings, and discussions, the course will push emerging researchers (i.e., you, graduate student!) to not take for granted the public value of your work. The course is premised on the belief that, in today’s climate, it is more important than ever for universities and researchers to assert themselves in the public sphere in more purposeful ways.

Course Logistics

The course will alternate between in-classroom weeks with attendance at the public talks. Meetings will take place at both the Burnaby and Vancouver campuses, and will generally take place on either Tuesdays or Thursdays at 5:30pm. Below is a tentative schedule, subject to change until June 15th.

Instructor: Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin, Assistant Professor, Publishing; Associate Director, Public Knowledge Project; Director, Scholarly Communications Lab (BC)

Colloquium Course Outline

Week 1 Class (September 6, 5:30–6:30 pm):

This class will introduce the major themes to be covered in the Colloquium. What is the role of research in the public sphere? To what extent should (and do) parliamentarians use (or misuse) research in designing legislation? What is the role of open access research in building the public capacity for engaged discussion? By answering these and related questions, students will gain an understanding and appreciation of how many different uses there are for research, as well as a basic understanding of how research is communicated.

Class Lecture: Introduction: Defining the public's right to know

Week 2 Public Lecture (September 13, 5:30–6:30 pm):

The 2016 election in the United States brought to the fore the concept of “Fake News”—the use of online articles that look like news to further individual and political agendas. These articles—generally filled with misinformation and suspect facts designed to stimulate online readership and advertising revenue—also drove much of the political dialogue in the U.S. election. This public dialogue looks at the issue of fake news and the role research can play in combating fake news, as well as the ways in which research is used by think tanks and special interest groups in ways that may contribute to the epidemic of “fake news.” This public lecture will explore how the public’s understanding of facts is being influenced by special interest groups, the role of think tanks in (mis)informing the public, and some ideas of how academia and ordinary citizens respond.

Featured Speaker: Dr. Jevin West: Calling Bullshit on Fake News
Fletcher Challenge Theatre, Harbour Centre

Part I: Research and Government

Week 3 Class (September 20, 5:30–6:30 pm):

The United States is currently struggling with an administration hostile to the place of science, while Canada is still recovering from the anti-science agenda of the Harper government. With research used to speak truth to power, it is little wonder that power frequently balks. How is research used by government and as a tool to influence government? What roles do researchers, scientists, and government officials play at the nexus of science and government? These questions will allow students to critically evaluate the ways in which evidence-based policy making is under attack, while considering strategies for researchers remain independent. Underpinning these considerations will be the question: Is practicing open science and giving the public access enough to legitimize research outputs?

Class Lecture: Tension between government and science
Harbour Centre

Week 4 Public Lecture (September 25, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Despite the attacks on evidenced-based policy making, research, we hope, continues to play a vital role in shaping public policy. But how exactly is research used? how are researchers engaged? where are there gaps in the process? and where can we find opportunities to strengthen the place of research in public policy? Invited speaker will engage the audience on how public policy is informed by research, and on how government and the academic community work to in tandem to bring about social change and community development?

Featured Speaker: B. Mario PintoKnowledge Sharing and Social Responsibility
KEY - Presentation Studio, Burnaby

Part II: Engaging the public in the research process

Week 5 Class (October 4, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Universities are increasingly looking to engage with the communities they are embedded in. Nowhere is this more explicit than at SFU, where the mission is explicitly to become Canada’s most engaged research university. Engagements can take many different forms, but in the idealized model of community-engaged research, researchers and community partners form mutually beneficial partnerships that both produces and applies knowledge. What can these partnerships look like? Despite being sought after by universities, are there appropriate incentives for faculty to do them? What is the evidence that community engagement benefits both academia and society?

Class Lecture: University-Community Connections

Week 6 Public Lecture (October 10, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Indigenous communities have long been central to the creation of academic research, but often this involvement has been limited to acting as a source of data with little agency over how community data is collected, represented, circulated, and used. Calls to decolonize and indigenize research practices have prompted initiatives to foster community-led collaborative research, incorporating indigenous ways of knowing into research design and cultural protocols into the curation and circulation of research results, cultural heritage materials, and traditional knowledge. This public talk with invite the audience to consider: What best practices exist for engaging in reciprocal and collaborative research between Indigenous communities and researchers? What are the benefits to communities, faculty, and the public of participatory research? What affordances do online technologies provide to support digital repatriation of indigenous communities’ cultural heritage materials? How is access to traditional knowledge managed within and beyond a community?

Featured Speaker: John Borrows: Collaborating with indigenous communities in research
KEY - Presentation Studio, Burnaby

Week 7 Class (October 16, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Academics have been increasingly integrating online platforms and social media tools into their everyday practices. As the process of dissemination begins to take place on these public platforms, there is enormous potential to capture and analyze their digital traces. Within academia, these traces are making their way into the evaluation of researchers, as social media metrics (also known as altmetrics) are made available for scholarly publications. But beyond evaluation, what can we learn about the circulation of research among the public by observing social media platforms?

Class Lecture: Understanding the public’s use of research through social media
Harbour Centre

Week 8 Public Lecture (October 25, 5:30–6:30 pm):

From identifying galaxies to fighting bacteria, and everything in between, crowdsourcing has proven to be an incredibly effective way to getting citizens involved in research. As the internet and commons-based peer-production enable the public to participate to research, it is imperative that citizens and researchers alike critically the relationship between the professionals and the amateurs to ensure that the public’s is empowered to make meaningful contributions in the work and in setting the research agenda. Tackling such questions will allow the audience to explore the benefits and challenges of citizen science (and social science), and encourage us all to do more

Featured Speaker: Shannon Dosemagen: Citizen Science
KEY - Presentation Studio, Burnaby

Part III: Research in the public sphere

Week 9 Class (November 1, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Almost half of the research that is published today is freely available to the public. Now that a substantial proportion of the research literature has been made freely and publicly available, we are in a position to assess the extent of public uptake of this body of work. Assumptions about the public utilization and benefit of such access have always been a part of the open access model. But does the public actually use the research? Where? And how? This look at the uses of public access to research will help students understand the importance of open access to community-engaged research and to citizen-informed public policy.

Class Lecture: Why access matters
Harbour Centre

Week 10 Public Lecture (November 8, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Giving free access to research does not just provide access to the general public, it is also enables new opportunities for participation in the global knowledge exchange. Researchers from the Global South are able to have their research available next to research for the Global North, and everyone has the opportunity to read everyone else’s work, without the financial and logistic constraints of subscriptions. As research circulates freely and without borders, who sets the global research agenda? Who is able to participate? And on whose terms? How does open access amplify unheard perspectives?

Featured Speaker: Dr. Hebe Vessuri: Global participation in knowledge production
KEY - Presentation Studio, Burnaby

Week 11 Class (November 15, 5:30–6:30 pm):

The benefits of openness have been made clear throughout the course. However, we must also question whether openness on its own is enough to achieve the goals of a publicly engaged university. What about issues of ownership and control of scholarly publishing and academic technical infrastructure? Is open access threatened by cooptation from major commercial publishers who are adapting to open models but developing business models to preserve their oligopolic control and high profit margins? Is open always open, or is it sometimes merely “openwashing”, where only minimal levels of openness are being achieved? Are predatory publishers threatening the long-term viability of open access? And finally, are there circumstances when some information should not be openly available, such as to protect artifacts of vulnerable cultural groups?

Class Lecture: Critical Approaches to Open Access
Harbour Centre

Week 12 Public Lecture (November 22, 5:30–6:30 pm):

Public universities are under constant pressures to operate more like corporations. Moreover, their role is being reduced to being the training ground for industry. Under such conditions, what is to happen to the central mission of public universities to serve the public to which they belong? Can open practices, including open access to research, open educational resources, and open pedagogy contribute to our efforts to articulate the public mission of the university?

Featured Speaker: Dr. Robin DeRosa: The Future of the Public Mission of Universities
KEY - Presentation Studio, Burnaby

Week 13 Class (November 29, 5:30–6:30 pm):

This final session will discuss the value of making knowledge public. Are there any down sides? If not, why is it not a priority? What is holding us back, and what can be done about it?

Class Lecture: Bringing it all together
Harbour Centre

Evaluation of Student Performance


An Essay: The essay topic to be chosen by student, but must be closely tied to the themes of the course.

Two Peer Reviews: Peer reviews are an essential part of the research process. You must do two peer reviews of colleagues’ essays.

Public Scholarship: Posting a blog post or other public contribution to knowledge through comments or Wikipedia edits will give students a first-hand experience at making their views of the world public. Topics are of the student’s own choosing, as is the style and form (as long as they are publicly available).

Participation: Participation in this course comes in two forms: in-class and online, through online annotations of course readings. In both cases, the goal is to make meaningful contributions to the class discussions. Participation online will be done using the Chrome Extension or bookmarklet.

All assignments will be graded on a “complete/incomplete” basis.

Final Grading:

Undergraduate students: Pass/Fail

Graduate students: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory

How To Apply

Initial applications accepted now until June 22, 2018.

Space in this course is limited.

We will continue to accept applications until the first week of class or when seats are filled.

* Making Knowlege Public-Undergrad_fillable.pdf
Undergraduate Application Form
* Making Knowlege Public-Grad_fillable.pdf
Graduate Student Application Form