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- Open assessor is a person who works in a mass collaboration project about an open assessment in aim to improve societal decision-making about the topic of the assessment. Generally, open assessors think that a major hindrance to good decision-making is the lack of truthful information, specifically designed to the particular needs of that decision process, in an easily accessible form. In addition, they realise that decision-making processes are distracted by strong forces that are irrelevant or harmful to the achievement of the actual societal objectives. These forces are those that create the difference between policy-making and politics. Open assessors see the deleterious impact of these forces on the actual decisions made, and they fight the forces by promoting explicit expression of values, combined with truthful descriptions of reality. Open assessors think that this work benefits any honest political movement, and therefore the Open Assessors' Network is independent of and open to all political movements that accept the rules of open assessment.
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An ideal day for an open assessor
- Identify a problem. (Read newspapers!)
- Explore different features and properties of the problem. (Discuss! Keep the problem in mind while doing other things!)
- Identify the actual essence of the problem. (Draw a graph!)
- Check for consistence. (Re-draw and re-identify!)
- When you get stuck, stop drawing but keep the major inconsistency in mind. (Go for a walk!)
- Describe the essence using exact terms (objects) and their relationships using mathematics. (Ask for help!)
- Put preliminary values into your equations and find an order-of-magnitude solution. (Often, even two or three orders of magnitude is good enough.)
- Try and understand what your results actually mean.
- Make a preliminary conclusion.
- Write your work to Opasnet, if you haven't done it already.
- Make links to related work in Opasnet and elsewhere.
- Tell about your work to those who might be interested.
- Don't be discouraged if this process takes longer than a day.
- You may need to do several iterations before you reach step 9.
- Remember that good questions with poor answers are much more important than satisfactory questions with precise answers.
- Be bold in writing things to Opasnet already at step 2.
- If you think your problem is important enough, try to get other assessors involved in your problem-solving. The sooner you put your thinking available and the sooner other people get involved, the better for your work.
Making a PhD by utilising open assessment
Making a PhD by utilising open assessment discusses the possibilities and problems of making a university degree of Doctor of Philosophy, when the Open assessment is utilised as a major method in the research. A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is also performed. Some initial guidance is given.
Open assessment is a comprehensive methodology for improving the making of environmental health risk assessments. The purpose of the work is to improve societal decision-making. The ultimate purpose of the method is often a major motivator for students to choose the field of research in the first place. They are aware of environmental and environmental health problems in the world, and they believe that research and risk assessments may be a way to improve the situation. This applies to many more advanced researchers in the field as well.
A SWOT analysis from the PhD student's perspective
- The topic of the PhD is from environmental health.
- Open assessment can be used in a variety of different situations.
- There is a large group of European researches in the project to collaborate with and get guidance from.
- Cross-fertilisation of ideas and expertise improve the research.
- The experience in implementing of the method is limited.
- There is a lot of non-scientific practical work that is poured onto the PhD student.
- It is difficult to find a topic that would at the same time be 1) interesting to the student, 2) interesting to the supervisor, 3) have funding in the project, and 4) ultimately improve the environment.
- The method is very promising and may prove to develop into the standard of its field.
- There are good possibilities to go for an exchange period abroad to a participant institute.
- A good research topic may really change the decision-making and improve the environment.
- Mass collaboration, if properly applied, may bring new perspectives and information and thus improve the scientific merit of the work.
- There is too little time to do own good research, and you end up being academic labour to your supervisor.
- When you have finally published your results, the political situation has already changed and the decisions have been made (either good or bad).
Recommendations (personal view)
- Develop a causal diagram of your topic you have chosen (or have been given by the supervisor). Think also the upstream issues such as driving forces and pressures.
- Concentrate on the most relevant issues. Ask following questions. What is the biggest environmental health problem? What is the biggest reason that the problem has not been fixed? What could be the most effective measures to remove these hindrances?
- THINK BIG. After having answers to the previous questions, try to find the biggest possible way to apply the measures you identified. If you can apply the same measure repeatedly in a large number of similar situations, it's even better. Revisit the your previous thinking and revise it if it is not big enough. When you have identified the biggest thing you can imagine, take a break for a day or two. After that, you should be able to think something even bigger.
- Think how the new opportunities of open assessment could be applied in your case. This area is promising, because it is an untouched area. Could mass collaboration be used, or argumentation theory to resolve disputes? Are there complex value judgements that should be clarified?
- Think about methodological work as a possibility. "Is the lifetime risk of chemical X more than one in a million" is a clear assessment question, but it is unlikely to produce completely new understanding. Instead, questions like "how argumentation theory can be applied in the stakeholder involvement of risk assessments?" is a topic that might change the whole culture of making risk assessments and, arguably, to a better direction.
- When you have developed a causal diagram, identified the major problems and measures, and have an idea about how to apply the new methodologies, you are pretty close of knowing what you want to study. Discuss your ideas with your supervisor, colleagues, and other collaborators. (Of course, you can discuss already before.)
- If the topic you have found interesting, important, and relevant is too complex or laborious for one PhD, think about possibilities to divide the topic into smaller pieces. Could the other pieces be given to other students, or other collaborators, or published on a website to use mass collaboration?