Let’s make our minds Open: An exclusive Interview with Dr Susmita Das
The Asia Open Access Conference was held in Dhaka on March 6-7. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) organized the conference titled ‘Asia Open Access Dhaka 2019’ in collaboration with Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR). The event was coordinated by Dr Susmita Das, Principal Documentation Officer, & Vice President, Centre for Open Knowledge.
This type of event planning is a high-pressure job that requires a level head and the ability to stay client-centric during stressful situations. She has managed all the logistics and planning involved in pulling off the event. Doing this job is not easy. It requires creativity and imagination, hard work, brainstorm ideas for unique celebrations, be able to identify, understand, and meet what you want?
The Librarian Times’s Editor-in-Chief, Prodip Roy conducted the interview with Dr Das to ask some questions on the conference to get insights about the challenges and related issues involved for a successful event.
The Librarian Times: As the Conference coordinator, we would like to know about the arrangement and related issues involved in a successful event.
Dr Susmita Das: Yes, as an information specialist & Open Access Activists, it was a long cherished, dreaming & demanding work to make this event successful. After the previous Asia OA summit in Nepal, it was decided to host this summit in Dhaka this year with the Government’s support and policy for Digital Bangladesh. However, it differed to later dates due to the national elections 2018 and after all, it’s my pleasure that we could host the event successfully. The people from my organisation BARC and other well-wishers, LIS professionals, Centre for Open Knowledge people, family and friends had made it a success. I express my sincere thanks to all of them especially to the Government of Bangladesh and BARC. I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Dr Md. Kabir Ikramul Haque, Executive Chairman, BARC for his continuous encouragement. Without his kind support, this gathering would not successfully be materialized.
The Librarian Times: When kicking off the event, what are the first steps you took?
Dr Susmita Das: I had discussed with my Director and the Executive Chairman and sought written permission from the Ministry (Ministry of Agriculture) they had readily agreed and supported. Then the COK (Centre for Open Knowledge) had also come forward to support this event to make this happens at BARC. Here, I need to mention the Centre for Open Knowledge is not for profit organization since 2013 and I am also involved with COK as the Vice President. I had to contact to other officials to identify the potentiality in organising the conference. Special thanks to Professor Dr Mostafa Azad Kamal President of Cok &, Dean, Open University & Nurunnaby Chowdhury, General Secretary, & our Centre for Open Knowledge team for their continuous support & encouragement.
The Librarian Times: What tools do you use to stay organised?
Dr Susmita Das: Well! We used several technologies for our communications. We had a number of discussions in face to face, have long calls over phones, Skype & other video and email communications with COAR people mainly with Kathlean Shaerer, COAR Executive Director and Professor Kazu Yamaji. They were very cooperative and supported me a lot with web logistics too.
The Librarian Times: What marketing techniques do you use to promote events?
Dr Susmita Das: We had extensively used the Social Media, COAR and BARC websites and its social media handles. And had also used the print and digital news media including BTV to promote the event.
The Librarian Times: Describe a time when you had to deal with an unexpected problem during an event — how did you resolve the issue?
I express my sincere gratitude to my mentor Dr Wais Kabir, Director, KGF & former Executive Chairman, BARC, a visionary agriculturist and international renowned personality for all his support in this programme.
Dr Susmita Das: Before the event, I felt sick for a couple of days, doing very hard labour as I had a lack of manpower for making all arrangement. Fortunately, my husband Paritosh (Asst. Professor in English) helped me a lot, particularly in making the certificates and crests. As he is also an Open-Access activist and advisor of the centre for Open Knowledge helped the event with all arrangements. I am happy to have my family supports for all way the event which I am involved in. Other difficulties, The same day our BARC Executive Chairman had another important meeting with the Hon’ble Prime Minister. But he advised rightly to keep Dr Wais Kabir sir as the event Chairperson. I express my sincere gratitude to my mentor Dr Wais Kabir, Director, KGF & former Executive Chairman, BARC, a visionary agriculturist and international renowned personality for all his support in this programme.
The Librarian Times: Tell us about a time when you had to accommodate a last-minute change. What did you do and who was involved?
Dr Susmita Das: The core committee had taken all the decisions and we could finalise the programme. After a number selections, eventually, Mr Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Hon’ble Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology Division, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, agreed to inaugurate the conference. He not only inaugurated the program as the chief guest but also encouraged & inspired us. He ensured us about creating a National Policy on Open Access.
The Librarian Times: Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation?
But I am optimistic in nature and was strict to my goal. Finally, I overcome all these difficult situations.
Dr Susmita Das: Yes, I faced multiple difficulties too, taking permission from both MoA & foreign Affairs was a long process and placed me to a difficult situation. Lack of manpower and financial arrangement were mentionable difficulties. I was afraid that the event was getting postponed. But I am optimistic in nature and was strict to my goal. Finally, I overcome these difficult situations.
The Librarian Times: Have you ever gone over budget? How did you deal with it?
Dr Susmita Das: The financial aids were provided by NATP project and COAR were scanty to support the conference. But we have managed our budget anyhow.
The Librarian Times: How do you measure the success of your events?
Dr Susmita Das: I think the program was ended with great success! The event creates awareness among the vast researcher community, as well as information specialists. The event attracted by the national media and covered in the many national dailies. Participation was very good. It’s time to assess the impact by collecting feedback from the participants.
The Librarian Times: What is the outcome of this event?
The public awareness has been increased about open data of science, education and agriculture.
Dr Susmita Das: Good question! I am sure the outcome of the conference is mainly public awareness! The public awareness has been increased about open data of science, education and agriculture. And finally, aiming towards the National Open Access Policy for Bangladesh. The State minister stressed in his inaugural speech about National Open Access policy, We hope OA policy will see the light soon.
The Librarian Times: Do you want to leave any key message for our audiences?
Let’s make our minds Open! Yes, if the mind is in fear, it is restricted, It can’t see the light. We all should be open and at the same time positiveness in our attitude towards accepting and delivering!
Dr Susmita Das: Let’s make our minds Open! Yes, if the mind is in fear, it is restricted, It can’t see the light. We all should be open and at the same time positiveness in our attitude towards accepting and delivering!
The Librarian Times: Thank you for your time to TLT.
Dr Susmita Das: Thank you The Librarian Times for giving me the opportunity to talk about the ‘Asia Open Access Dhaka 2019