[Summary: From September 2013 - June 2014 I'll be based in Cambridge, MA as a Fellow at the Berkman Centre]
When I signed on to undertake PhD work on the continued development of open data two years ago I thought I was opting for three years of mostly study time, whilst Rachel worked on her Music Therapy Masters at Nordoff Robbins. Of course, it didn’t work out that way: as open data as a field has developed larger and faster than most people (and certainly I) imagined, and, of course, down to my, now confirmed, inability to leave aside lots of other interesting (related) projects for a narrow PhD focus. Fortunately, the Web Science DTC at Southampton has provided a very supportive environment for students working in applied projects alongside study, positively encouraging engagement beyond the library or lecture theatre.
So, over the last year I’ve had the fun of working with the Web Foundation to develop a global research programme on the emerging impacts of open data (we’ve belatedly published the conceptual framework for the project today), and working on a number of hands-on open data projects, with AidInfo, Open Contracting and London voluntary sector organisations amongst others. I’ve also ended up getting very involved in the UK civil society network on the Open Government Partnership, inputting into the development of the National Action Plan, which is now out for consultation and input till September. All of this has drawn upon, and fed into, my ongoing PhD work, part-time for the next year or two, but still moving forward to try and develop a framework for thinking about how technical and social choices around open data affect the realisation of progressive and inclusive democratic benefits.
And now, as Rachel approaches graduation as a Music Therapist, we’re preparing for a next adventure, heading out to live in the USA for nine months from September where I’ll be joining the Berkman Centre community as a 2013-2014 Berkman Fellow. I’m excited to be joining such a diverse and engaged community of scholars and activists. From there I’ll be continuing my focus on democratic impacts of open data, both with the Web Foundation Open Data in Developing Countries project, and PhD studies, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to engage in other projects at the centre too.
Of course, adventures new mean also leaving a few projects, so from the end of July I’ll be handing over my remaining roles at AidInfo where I’ve worked on the International Aid Transparency Initiative, and will be stepping back from a few other UK based commitments I won’t be able to undertake remotely. It’s been a particular pleasure to work with the AidInfo and IATI teams over the last few years on ambitious and exciting work to get open data on aid flowing – and I’ve learnt more than I can catalogue about open data in practice from the experience.
Although this blog has become a bit of a project-reporting space over the last year, it does remain my personal blogging space, so perhaps there might be a bit more personal blogging over the next year as I reflect on living abroad and engaging with lots of new ideas in the Berkman community…