PKP Managing Director Brian Owen Retires
All of us who have been involved with the Public Knowledge Project at any point over the last thirteen years – whether as a colleague in PKP or as a beneficiary of the software that PKP has developed – owe a great debt of gratitude to the contribution made by Brian Owen, Associate Dean of Libraries at Simon Fraser University, and Managing Director of the Public Knowledge Project. Brian will be retiring (although this is not a term I’d ever use to describe the man) from SFU at the end of this calendar year, if only to be able to serve both the public safety and recreational needs of his local community that much better.
I can recall first meeting Brian in PKP’s earliest days, at the turn of the century, when he and I were both working at the University of British Columbia. Although I had little sense then that we’d later become compatriots and friends, from that first meeting he readily offered me sound advice about the challenges of software development, as Open Journal Systems was just coming into being, and about where university libraries might fit into the picture for a project like this. A few years later, after he had joined SFU LIbraries, he and Lynn Copeland, then Dean of Libraries, approached me about forming a partnership with the Public Knowledge Project that would end up making all the difference. The vaguely sketched-out terms of that initial agreement, however, did not begin to encompass all that Brian would end up doing with and for PKP. He instinctively knew what was needed at every turn, even though, as he’d point out, PKP was neither fish nor fowl (institute nor centre) in terms of SFU’s traditional bestiary. It was not long before his deep commitment to the project’s goals of open access on a global scale led him into overseeing PKP’s finances and grant compliance, personnel management and human resources, software cycles and licensing agreements, talent development and event management, and the list goes on.
The remarkable difference that Brian has made over the last dozen or so years as Managing Director has much to do with his unfaltering organizational and management skills needed, not only to herd a skilled team dispersed over continents in their tireless pursuit of great results, but to also navigate the wine-dark seas of bureaucratic arcania so as to ensure that we always seemed to land on the fair side of SFU and any number of federal and philanthropic agencies. His has been the voice of reason and reflection at so many critical junctures, while his experience and wisdom have always been leavened by a quick wit and a wry smile (often accompanying observations that began, “Let’s just say…”). And he has always shown a warmth of interest in and concern for those involved in this work.
All told, Brian has been essential to turning what was initially a modest demonstration project into a global initiative that continues to make a major contribution to the drive for greater access to research and scholarship. At the same time, he has created a congenial, collegial, and enabling work environment, with perhaps the greatest proof of that to be found in the sheer continuity of sterling talent that makes up the PKP team. In all of this, Brian has taught us how, through counsel and example, to make and manage a project such as this in ways that continue to work on a day-to-day, year-to-year, and decade-to-decade basis, and as it continues to operate within the university, between libraries and academic departments, among an international array of funders; with a variety of organizations from around world, and most importantly in the service of a global community of researchers and scholars keen to share their work. His contribution to PKP will surely sustain and guide us in the years ahead.
To you, Brian, much is owed by many. Long may you run.