SCOOP: Open and Equitable Scholarly Communication/
July 02, 2019
Upon the recommendation of its Research and Scholarly Environment Committee (ReSEC), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) decided to revisit its 2007 scholarly communications research agenda, which culminated in the release of a new report last month. In the call for proposals to develop this new research agenda, ACRL directed an inquiry into what was needed to “accelerate the transition to more open, inclusive, and equitable scholarship.”
In the new report, entitled “Open and Equitable Scholarly Communications: Creating a More Inclusive Future,” the authors first tackle how to define the terms “open,” “inclusive” and “equitable.” Reflecting upon the feedback gathered during the interviews, focus groups and workshops conducted with over 1,000 participants, the authors posit that these terms be defined as such:
Open refers to removing barriers to access and encouraging use and reuse, especially of the tools of production of scholarly content and of the outputs of that work.
Inclusive refers to (1) creating opportunities for greater participation in systems, institutions, and processes involved in creating, sharing, and consuming research; (2) removing barriers that can hinder such participation; and (3) actively encouraging and welcoming people to participate, particularly those whose voices have often been marginalized.
Equitable refers to ensuring that systems, institutions, and processes function in a way that gives everyone what they need in order to successfully participate. (4-5).
The report then explores three identified themes, the issues within those themes, and a call to action to research and develop initiatives and solutions to address those issues. In the remainder of this column, I will summarize the three themes and issues identified in the report and reflect upon how our community of collectors and connectors in religion and theology can engage in ways that support the call to action made in the report.
Theme No. 1: People
This theme looks at encouraging and fostering greater involvement in the various stages of the scholarly communication lifecycle by a more diverse workforce. This includes not only greater diversity of voices who author and edit the scholarly content but also diversity among the population of librarians who collect and share that content. It also suggests that the system can move more toward open and equitable if we have a more informed (and proactive) population of authors, editors, and producers of scholarly content about intellectual property. This means we take steps to retain copyright in scholarly works or license it in a more flexible way.
What Can We Do?
Within Atla, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee work on programming and resources that promote diversity and inclusion within the theological librarian profession and brings awareness to voices that often go unheard. Further, the Atla Open Press welcomes and invites participation in author, reviewer, and editorial roles by persons from underrepresented populations and encourages submissions that investigate the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community of collectors and connectors in religion and theology. We have also provided resources on managing intellectual property rights through the “Rights of Authors” page of the new copyright LibGuide as well as webinars on this topic.
Theme No. 2: Content
The output of the scholarly communication system – the content – can also impact the openness, inclusion, and equity of the process itself. One of the primary ways this occurs is through the way that content is evaluated within the academic community, namely through promotion and retention/tenure. To foster development of a system that is more open and inclusive, the way that the value, merit, and impact of scholarship is measured, especially in codified promotion and retention policies, must be revisited so that different forms of scholarship are valued, including not only open access works but other intellectual outputs such as digital humanities projects, data sets, and curated exhibits.
Further, inherent in the current system are implicit and explicit biases that exclude and marginalize majority world contributions. Finally, this theme encourages libraries to look at their own collection building strategies and practices. Are the values of openness, inclusion and diversity part of those strategies and practices or are the voices and works of underrepresented groups being systematically excluded?
What Can We Do?
At Atla’s recent Annual Conference, plenary keynote Juan Pablo Alperin shared the research that the Scholarly Communications Lab is doing in the areas of promotion and tenure as well as journal metrics. He challenged our community to take a critical look at the promotion and tenure systems at our home institutions and be actors in changing those requirements to bring openness and inclusion to how scholarly outputs are evaluated and measured. Further, as a community, we can look at our collection policies and identify ways that diversity and inclusion can be incorporated into the ways we collect materials and promote their discovery and use. If we are unable to collect these materials at our own libraries, we can facilitate access to a larger and more diverse collective body of content by participating in Atla’s Reciprocal Borrowing Program.
He challenged our community to take a critical look at the promotion and tenure systems at our home institutions and be actors in changing those requirements to bring openness and inclusion to how scholarly outputs are evaluated and measured.
Theme No. 3: Systems
This theme specifically examines the digital infrastructure and financial systems that drive the creation, production, and distribution of scholarly content. The authors detail the advancements that have been made in digital infrastructure and financial systems since 2007, including development and growth of open source platforms, implementation of repositories, improvements in accessibility, and innovations in open access funding models. However, there is still work to be done.
A major concern among stakeholders is the sustainability of the technological infrastructure that has been developed. There is also still room for improvement in promoting greater access and discoverability among all persons, including those with disabilities and those persons in regions that experience sociotechnical barriers to access. Finally, while there has been experimentation in open access funding models, no model has emerged as equitable for all persons and institutions. As a result, there has been a growing rise in investing instead in community-owned infrastructure whereby the academy leads and owns the infrastructure rather than invests in paying others to manage it.
What Can We Do?
Atla Open Press supports open infrastructure by utilizing the Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems (Theological Librarianship and other serials) and Open Monograph Press for its publishing program. Books@Atla Open Press is also collaborating with Coko Foundation to beta test the open source platform Editoria for the production of its publications. All Atla Open Press publications are open access and do not charge any fees to authors.
Our community is encouraged to promote open access among faculty and students. Guidance to assist faculty and students on evaluating places of publication is available on the “Rights of Authors” page of the Copyright LibGuide as well as the “Copyright Concerns of Students” page. An open access LibGuide is in progress that will include more information and suggestions on the infrastructure and funding of open access.
- An interview with ReSEC members who were instrumental in facilitating the production of the report appears on the American Libraries web site. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/06/20/acrl-research-agenda-more-inclusive-future/
- In August 2018, the Journal of Scholarly Communication and Librarianship published a special issue on the role of scholarly communication in a democratic society. https://jlsc-pub.org/15/volume/6/issue/2/
- New York University’s Scholarly Communication Librarian April Hathcock takes a look at the intersection of democracy and scholarly communication in this thoughtful piece for “In the Library with the Leadpipe.” http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/racing-to-the-crossroads-of-scholarly-communication-and-democracy-but-who-are-we-leaving-behind/
- The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications was founded by trade and professional associations that represent organizations and individuals working in scholarly communications for the purpose of discussing and addressing issues of diversity and inclusion. More about this organization, including its joint statement of principles, can be found at its website. https://c4disc.org/
- ACRL maintains a LibGuide with resources and other materials on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. http://acrl.libguides.com/EDI/home.
The SCOOP, Scholarly COmmunication and Open Publishing, is a monthly column published to inform Atla members of recent developments, new resources, or interesting stories from the realm of scholarly communication and open access publishing.
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