Fiona Murphy's blog

Talking Open Scholarship and Online Training with Serah Rono and Martin Brennan

On 26 May, Serah Rono, Director of Community Development and Engagement at The Carpentries, had a Fireside Chat with Martin J. Brennan, Scholarly Communication Education Librarian at UCLA. 

Held via Zoom, this event was part of the ongoing Reimagining Educational Practices for Open (REPO) Community Event Series. 

The Force11 REPO project was instigated in response to the COVID-19-driven sudden shift required of open scholarship trainers from delivering their courses in-person to going wholly online within the space of a few weeks or months. As leaders in their fields – Serah with The Carpentries and Marty spearheading the annual FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI), this was a fascinating discussion. 

Serah kickstarted the conversation by asking Marty (and assembled live session viewers) to share something about a book he’d recently read. Marty chose How to be your Dog’s Best Friend Serah had chosen a book about kindness (but she didn’t tell us the title – perhaps someone can watch the video and work it out for me?). 

Link to the recording here

So, on to the discussion itself. The fireside chat format is simple but beguiling, as the divide between the presenter and interviewee is quite blurred. My suspicion – this was my first FC! – is that this one was typical, in that while Serah started by asking Marty some fairly standard questions, such as ‘What is FSCI’, it quickly became more of a double act, with Marty asking Serah for hers and The Carpentries’ experiences. Both agreed – with additional input from the audience – that building communities is critical. 

And this social aspect of FSCI, The Carpentries, and the REPO project emerged as something that needs to be nurtured, especially during these times, when people aren’t able to meet in person. So where previously many in-person events concentrated mainly on the formal parts of their programs, increasingly online-only planners spend much of their resources (time and money) on building the informal opportunities. Networking, quizzes, and small-scale specialist gatherings within bigger events are emerging as ways to increase engagement and innovation, and to strengthen the bond among community members. 

During their chat, Serah and Marty touched on a range of other challenges for small, dispersed organizations like FSCI and The Carpentries. These included how to scale, working across different languages and disciplines, setting the standard for what constitutes a FSCI or Carpentries course, keeping materials up to date, managing to achieve sustainability when dependent upon a large helping of volunteer effort, and planning for the future. With this last in mind, Marty explained that the upcoming 5th FSCI2021 will be themed along the lines of – are we where we expected to be 5 years ago, and what do we commit to over the next 5 years?

If this has whetted your appetite, you’ve got several options – register for FSCI, watch the recording of this event, and you can even register for our next (free) session. Join us live on 30 June for the chance to contribute actively to the discussion on Community Open Principles: Before, During and After the Global Pandemic.


Fiona Murphy

FORCE11 Member since January 25, 2012


Fiona is one of the Co-founders of MoreBrains Cooperative Consulting, a scholarly communications and research consultancy that aims to model the values of openness and transparency while supporting other organizations to build capacity in Open Research. 

After completing a DPhil in English Literature, Fiona held a range of scholarly publishing roles with Oxford University Press, Bloomsbury Academic and Wiley.

As Publisher for Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wiley, she began to specialise in emerging scholarly communications with particular emphasis on Open Science and Open Data.

She is a past and current member of several research projects including PREPARDE (Peer Review of Research Data in the Earth Sciences), Data2Paper (a cloud-based app for automating the data article submission process) and the Belmont Forum (a multi-national, multi-agency global environmental change project – in association with the University of Reading).

Amongst other activities, she is also co-chair of the WDS-RDA Publishing Data Workflows Working Group, and on the organising committee for the Force11 Scholarly Commons Working Group. An independent publishing consultant advising institutions, learned societies and commercial publishing companies and Associate Fellow at the University of Reading, Fiona has written and presented widely on data publishing, open data and open science. She also loves organising events, building project teams and raising awareness and capabilities among knowledge workers.