Open Science-ing in Chiang Mai

Open Science-ing in Chiang Mai

As some of you know, Jon and I are travelling through Southeast Asia at the moment. We always try to find things to do that lead away from the typical ‘tourist trail’, and let us connect with the local people and environment to experience Thailand (for now) on a deeper level. It is also very important for us to live our passions wherever we go, because only then can we fully be our authentic selves. Instead of doing the usual and just touring the temples of Chiang Mai, we wanted to make an impact here, and share our love for all things Open Science. Jon and I were lucky enough to get invited to Chiang Mai University to give a talk on the topic. This morning we met with Computer Science grad students and faculty members to give them an introduction to how being ‘Open’ can help their careers. However, the path to the presentation was not exactly smooth.

Science Fuel. Obviously.
Science Fuel. Obviously.

In Thailand, organizing such talks is a bit different than compared to back home, where you can simply send an e-mail to a professor and ask if they’d be interested. Here, everything goes according to the hierarchical order, so we needed to get in touch with a student from CMU first. Luckily, my first Google search lead me to Gennie Gebhart, an OpenCon alumni who had spent a year in Chiang Mai. I had never personally met Gennie, but I have some OpenCon friends, and for me that was reason enough to message her. Gennie was super helpful and supportive, and introduced me to one of her friends at CMU, Pusadee (I am sure I spelt that wrong),  a Library and Information Science PhD student. Pusadee loved the idea of giving an Open Science talk, and gave us a really fun tour of CMU, reaffirming Jon’s love of macaroons on the way. She also set up a meeting with Ass. Prof. Dr. Rattasit, who we needed to convince that our talk would be interesting and of value for his students. Apparently, we did a good job when we met him, as he scheduled a talk for us two weeks later.

CMU Campus Crew
CMU Campus Crew

Since Jon spent the last four months touring the world and giving talks about Open things ( not to mention that he has been involved in the ‘scene’ for many many years), this was pretty familiar territory for him. For me, not so much, which was fine until we found out our talk was a day earlier than we thought (oopsie), and that we had one night to teach me, well not everything, but A LOT.

To make things a little bit more fun and exciting, an uninvited guest showed up – anxiety. So, while I went into full panic mode, Jon did his best to be supportive, and explained everything to me. I tried to remember and repeat what he told me, but let’s just say it is not that easy when your mind is racing and your thoughts are dominated by fear. Not to mention that Open Science is a vastly complicated topic, and has its whole own language to learn. In these situations, it is always best to get some distance and distract yourself for a bit. I watched some YouTube videos and then went over the presentation one more time before going to bed on the final night.

Tag Team Open.
Tag Team Open.

The morning of the talk I felt relatively calm, but that was due to the fact that my mind had convinced me that I wasn’t going to give a talk, and as a result my mind felt blank. Now, I am at a point in my life where I am able to realize what was actually going on, and I was very well aware that there was no way I was not giving that talk. Besides,it was something I really wanted, and knew I  would be great at. To be on the safe side however, I took one of my anxiety pills (full disclosure). And I just want to point out that taking your meds is not a sign of weakness or failure. Rather, the meds are a tool. You would use a microphone if your voice was too quiet, so why would it be seen differently when it is your mind that needs support?

Wear Pants They Said. Be Professional They Said.
Wear Pants They Said. Be Professional They Said.

Long story short, I survived my first public talk and it went great! I think Open Science is still kind of a new topic in Thailand, but it is a growing movement and the people seemed at least aware of many of the issues that we raised. It is important to realize that Open Science is a global issue and we need to start conversations outside of our own comfort zone, and also outside the Western world (as many science and publishing issues seem to focus the Western world). We need to invite other people, and their perspectives and experiences, to join the conversation, so we gain a greater and much more diverse understanding for the issues we are facing. Inclusivity should be one of the key principles of Openness, and we should adopt it into our advocacy activities as well.

Talking to the students and faculty members of Chiang Mai University was an amazing experience. The important thing is to not just talk, but to listen to what other people have to say too. Only then can we have a truly informed understanding of the issues people face and use this as the basis to make long-lasting connections and bring about true change.

Credit Featured Image: Armin Mortazavi.

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