BILETA day 2, parallel session 3

by Paul Maharg on 21/04/2017

No summary because I was presenting two papers in this three-paper session.  The first was co-authored with Abhilash Nair, my co-editor of the European Journal of Law and Technologyand Catherine Easton, editor of the European Journal of Current Legal Issuesentitled ‘Legal scholarship and OA publishing: developing radical pathways to free, open models’.  Slides at the slides tab above.  Abstract:

Developments in technology have had a fundamentally transformative effect on academic publishing.  Research can now be disseminated directly to academic networks and the wider public, in theory bypassing the need for traditional publishing structures, publishers and their associated costs.  In the last few decades the strategies adopted by journal publishers have led to increasingly steep and unsustainable costs for our academic libraries, the centralisation of publishing power in the hands of a few conglomerates, and the corporatisation of metricised data that in many respects has been developed using public money.  By contrast, prominent funding bodies such as the Wellcome Trust have positioned themselves strongly in support of unrestricted access to research outputs and this has translated to open access (OA) playing a key role in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.

Under pressure the commercial players in the publishing world have reluctantly been drawn into the debate.  The Finch Report’s Green and Gold systems have been developed in a way that maintains the traditional publishers’ relationship with academic work and, in the case of Gold access, develops a system reliant on payment.  The debate on OA has been developing rapidly in science-based disciplines with, for example, Nature dedicating in March 2013 an entire issue to the topic.

The journal PLOS 1 is a typical response to OA in scientific disciplines but it still largely requires a publication fee or Article Processing Charge.  These and other such compromises bring complexities and constraints and barriers to the publication of information that true open access, online publications with no payment and no fees or charges, completely avoids.

We argue that the engagement with OA within law legal scholarship has been less sophisticated than in science scholarship; and that there is a need to evaluate how the discipline could develop to create and sustain truly OA systems.  This paper will draw upon the experiences of editors of two fully open access legal journals: the European Journal of Law and Technology and the European Journal of Current Legal Issues  It will evaluate the current position of academic publishing in the law and the literature upon legal academic publishing and OA generally.  It will argue that the best way forward is the development of truly open and radical access models. Some of these will be outlined in the session.

The second paper, in the same session, was another co-authored event, with Dirk Rodenburg and Robert Clapperton, and presented by me, entitled ‘The cognitive computing revolution in simulation for academic and professional education: an implementation and its implications’.  Slides at the slides tab above.  Abstract below:

One of the most difficult challenges confronting academic and professional schools, including law, medicine, engineering and business is, broadly stated, ensuring knowledge integration across academic and professional domains of knowledge, and the integration of knowledge, affect, skills and values.  Heuristics often used to address this integration include problem- and case-based learning (PBL and CBL), standardized patients and clients, and role play, as well as experiential learning such as clerkships, internships and clinic.  More recently, simulation, even in ‘low fidelity’ formats, has been shown to be a powerful instructional tool when appropriately constructed and applied.  However, there remain significant challenges to these approaches in terms of access, reach, cost and efficiency.

Recently, the availability of artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning has given rise to ‘cognitive computing’ platforms which may offer potential for enhancing teaching, learning and student engagement.  The Queen’s University Faculty of Law and Ametros Learning, in consultation with the PEARL research consortium at ANU, are currently developing a cognitive computing platform, utilizing IBM’s Watson technology, which will enable an instructional team to develop interactive, intelligent simulations for use in law, medicine, business and engineering.  Based on an existing cognitive computing simulation platform developed by Ametros, the platform will combine:

  1. A simulation engine that immerses the student in a decision driven case-based narrative. Characters driven by IBM Watson cognitive computing APIs interact and engage with the student and instructor in ways that mirror real-world interactions.  The simulation provides an open environment: students have to determine and carry out, non-prescriptively, appropriate courses of actions to which embedded characters respond.
  2. A guided authoring system which enables subject matter experts (SMEs) and instructional developers with limited technical knowledge to build simulation scenarios.

In our paper we shall draw upon the recent history of simulation in legal education, explore the detail of the technology platform, and outline its potential for legal and other disciplinary and professional education.

Good questions after both.  Our session Chair observed that our host for the BILETA conference this year, the Universidade do Minho, had a strong commitment to OA.

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