cOAlition S: The Future of Research

On September 4th of this year, Open Access advocates and scientists around the world woke up to some big news: eleven European national research agencies, the European Commission, and the European Research Council (which represents all the national scientific organizations of European Union member states) announced that they were launching cOAlition S which will require all research funded by these organizations to be fully Open Access by January 1st 2020.

This is a major coup for Open Access activists and a step in the right direction for worldwide scientific research. Not only will cutting-edge and high quality research papers be easy and free for anyone to access, but this will also help to kick-start innovation among open access publications  and encourage more institutions, funders and scientists to be deliberate in choosing an Open Access journals and platforms for their research.

Along with this requirement, the cOAlition S announced ten guiding principles in their Plan S, which I will break down below:

Copyright:

•  Authors retain copyright of their publications without restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfill the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;

Perhaps  one of the most important guiding principles of Open Access, Plan S recognizes that authors should a) retain copyright to their work, b) get credit for the work they do, and c) enable anyone to share, adapt, remix, and build upon their work. You can also read more about CC-BY in this fantastic post by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

Funding and Organization

•  The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide
•  In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
•  The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;

These three points are absolutely crucial to understanding–the Funders are clearly spelling out their support for establishing platforms, services, journals, and incentives for the publication of scientific research. They are also saying that even if these routes of publication do not yet exist that they will support them. What this means is that we may begin to see increasing academic, financial and intellectual support behind OA platforms, journals and monographs. Finally, they are taking the stance that hybrid models are not compliant with their principals, and that they will support increasing openness. A hybrid model is, for example, when a journal will allow authors to make their article open access–but only for a fee. cOAlition S is taking steps to do away with this hybrid model.

Institutional Support

•  Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work •  Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
•  The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
•  The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;

These four bullet points show that the Funders are bringing real heavyweight institutional support to the forefront of the agenda. The first point especially, that the Funders or author universities will cover the cost of publication fees is momentous for researchers. As covered in great detail by Nature and Paywall: The Movie, the fees charged to authors who want to make their articles Open Access can be burdensome. Additionally, the policy of standardizing Open Access fees will help to bring down costs across disciplines in Europe.

It is notable that cOAlition S gives high praise to archives, libraries and repositories. As demonstrated by our own experience at IU, institutional repositories like IU ScholarWorks and IU Scholarworks Open are great ways to distribute Open Access research as they allow access by an international community of learners to research and information.

The Plan S goal is that all journal and other non-book scholarly work should be Open Access by 1 January 2020–and they that they will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance. You can read more about cOAlition S, the member organizations, and their plans here.

Plan S is an exciting Open Access breakthrough that promises a more accessible and transparent future for research.

Scholarly Communications, Equity and Inclusion: Part 2

This blog post is part of a two-part series addressing the 2018 theme of Open Access Week: “Designing equitable foundations for open knowledge.”

In my last post I framed the issue of diversity in scholarly communications within the context of the profession of librarianship.  I asked

If, as I argue, diversity has intrinsic value, why then should the qualification for professional librarianship not reflect diverse approaches?

Restructuring entry to the profession with diversity in mind can take many different pathways.  A diverse approach could consider whether an undergraduate degree in librarianship can be a path to professional librarianship.   It could consider means of evaluating on-the-job training, as well as other means of providing certifications, perhaps by structured professional development courses, immersive summer schools, or other avenues for cumulative certifications that can eventually provide a professional qualification. It could consider whether access to those certifications can be provided to wide constituencies such as persons holding undergraduate degrees, persons with professional experience, persons with associate degrees, and persons who can competently pass an entrance examination. It could also consider developing and promulgating standards for library technicians and other classes of library professionals.

In terms of access to opportunities within academic programs, individuals with power within academic institutions must make conscious decisions to critically analyze conceptions of ‘best fit’ candidates and ask themselves whether this is simply privileging a particular cultural experience.  Such individuals must recognize the value that persons from different backgrounds can contribute to their institutions and make decisions to create space for such persons.  At the institutional level academic programs must be reformed to ensure that work experience is built into the programs for every entrant and that there is flexibility for entrants to change positions as their interests develop.

Most, if not all of these steps carry risks.  There is the risk in creating ‘diversity hire’ positions, that the scholarly community will suspect that the selected candidate was not necessarily the most qualified person for the job.  My own position, the Open Scholarship Resident Librarian, is a diversity residency created by the IU Libraries, and I have wondered whether others may think I was offered this position based on my race rather than my qualifications.

There is the risk in moving the discourse beyond representation and inclusion to think about the intrinsic value of diversity. The risk is that shifting the focus from representation can be used to perpetuate exclusion of underrepresented populations, on the basis that any individual necessarily brings a diversity of experience to the community.  There is also a risk that diversifying paths of entry to the LIS field would lead to devaluation of the worth and work of professional librarians as well as salary degradation.

We have to investigate these risks. These risks can be departure points for further scholarly inquiry.  We must ask what kinds of data must be collected, what practices must be put in place, and what decision making behaviors must be interrogated to address these concerns.  However, this should not inhibit work toward the deconstruction of established exclusionary systems.

These proposals can be applied in other areas of academia beyond librarianship.  The broad need for restructuring of credentialing is pointed to by Jonathan Finklestein of digital credentialing service Credly, in this article on alternative credentials.  Using alternative paths to credentialing is one step, the next step is to figure out how to get a wider array of voices into the scholarly and cultural record.

The institutional repository of Indiana University – IU Scholarworks – is a good example of a how to provide an access point for diverse voices.   Access to the repository is not limited to faculty and scholars. Anyone with a connection to IU can deposit work into the repositories, and once deposited the works are freely available for anyone to access.  The same applies to our Open Journals platform, which provides a low or no-cost digital journal publishing service.

The Indiana University Libraries Diversity Strategic Plan and the work of the Diversity Committee reflects an appreciation of the risks and nuances, while doing actual work to transform the library into a space that people from traditionally excluded groups can access and thrive.  The collections are being revamped, alternative qualifications are specifically referred to in job postings whenever possible, a member of the Diversity Committee takes part in the search and screen committees, and job applicants are specifically questioned on their commitment to diversity. The Diversity Committee plans outreach to cultural centers, the office of disability services, veteran support services and many other campus bodies that serve staff as well as faculty, in its work. IU Libraries joined the ACRL Diversity Alliance and created its first Diversity Residency – my position, the Open Scholarship Resident Visiting Assistant Librarian.

In my work I investigate the publishing output of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries through Open Journals and the university repositories.  The goal is to identify gaps, and reach out to underrepresented communities and provide them with access to publishing.  Indiana University maintains several repositories for articles, thematic series, theses and dissertations, and images and video.  Our librarians can help you assess your rights to place your work into the repositories.  The goal is to create a scholarly environment without cost, geographical, or systemic barriers.  You can reach out to me at wtavern@iu.edu.

Scholarly Communications, Equity and Inclusion: Part 1

This blog post is part of a two-part series addressing the 2018 theme of Open Access Week: “Designing equitable foundations for open knowledge.”

The landscape of scholarly communication has become more diverse, moving beyond traditional book and journal publishing.  We now have an entire spectrum of methods of open scholarship available, with varying levels of formality, recognition and acceptance, such as –

  • open access publishing;
  • self-archiving by depositing scholarly data, pre-prints and post-prints in open repositories;
  • digital platforms for sharing data, articles and source code;
  • social networks;
  • blogs; and
  • podcasts. 

This diverse spectrum of scholarly communications challenges us to think about diversity within our profession, as well as equity and inclusion in terms of who and what is reflected in the scholarly record.

I believe diversity is an imperative, not only because we serve diverse communities, but because diversity is a service in itself.  I refer to this as the intrinsic value of diversity.  Our differences allow us to bring a variety of perspectives that enrich each other’s lives and the lives of the communities we serve, even if that community is completely homogenous.   We want all the best minds to contribute to scholarship, regardless of race, ability, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status,  or geographic limitations.  Therefore, discussion of diversity must include, but move beyond, representation of the diverse communities we serve, and we must take a critical look at the structures of power that perpetuate exclusion.

As Alice Meadows points out in her recent article – Eight Ways to Tackle Diversity and Inclusion in Peer Review – it has become apparent that there is a serious lack of diversity and inclusion in publishing, scholarly communications and academia.  Her thoughtful piece shows how academia has constructed an exclusionary system that permeates through all facets of the scholarly communications landscape.

Librarianship reaches into all areas of academia, and over the last 2 decades has taken the lead in promoting a more open equitable environment for scholarly communications.  However, it is also a discipline that exemplifies that exclusionary system, despite the proliferation of diversity initiatives  over the last decade. The LIS profession generally regards itself as committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, as a safe space for persons of all abilities, sexual and gender orientations, and as anti-racist.   These narratives are welcome, and when they are translated into practices that actively recruit and foster the development of persons from underrepresented groups, they contribute to a more equitable scholarly environment.  However, a 2017 Ithaka S&R study of academic research libraries (Schonfield, R and Low, J “Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity:Members of the Association of Research Libraries Employee Demographics and Director Perspectives” (2017)) revealed the critical lack of diversity in the profession despite 20 years of diversity initiatives, beginning with the ALA Spectrum Scholarship in 1997.

However, these initiatives have not dismantled the exclusionary construct of the scholarly field or the profession.   One important issue that has been lacking from the diversity narrative is an interrogation of the structure of LIS as a profession.

Two structural issues that impact diversity in present-day librarianship are barriers to entry, and access to opportunities during LIS studies.  Prior to 1950 librarianship qualifications varied, including apprenticeship within a local library, summer training schools, and even and undergraduate degrees (see also Reports of the Iowa Library Commission 1901-1916 available at hathitrust.org).

This is no longer the case.  As a general rule, to become a librarian, an advanced degree is required, usually an MLS or its equivalent, or in more recent years, institutions have been increasingly willing to accept a subject-matter Masters degree. Within graduate programs, access to opportunities for meaningful experience are structured around concepts and expectations that align with North American, white, middle class cultural experiences.  While increasing numbers of entrants come to librarianship as a second career, the educational trajectory of most entrants is strikingly similar and coalesce around this same cultural experience.

People of color, people in lower socio-economic brackets which are disproportionately comprised of people of color, and people who are from the global south, again generally comprised of people of color, do not necessarily have this cultural experience.  Many of these persons may also have faced societal opportunity gaps and unequal access to resources from the earliest stages of formal education.  Moreover, persons within these groups are not one dimensional –  they may have other characteristics which inhibit access, such as disabilities, age, being a parent, and gender and sexual orientation.  When we consider the layering of all these facets, entry to the field of librarianship and space to thrive within it, becomes increasingly difficult to navigate for persons within these groups.

As a result, while narratives of diversity proliferate within LIS, access to the field is largely limited to a homogenous cultural and socio-economic trajectory.  If, as I argue, diversity has intrinsic value, why then should the qualification for professional librarianship not reflect diverse approaches?

I explore this question further in a following post.

Open Access Week 2018!

During the last week of October, Indiana University joins institutions around the world from countries as diverse as Senegal, Ghana, Austria, Lithuania, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and dozens of US states to host a great variety of events for International Open Access Week. The groups include institutions as varied as university libraries, academic publishers, governmental groups, scientific organizations and even Wikimedia. As previously covered in this blog and elsewhere, Open Access is vitally-important goal that is supported by Indiana University Bloomington. Indeed, as shown by the recent announcement by Science Europe, IUB and its faculty was ahead of the curve in embracing and supporting an Open Access policy for all faculty members.

To review, most Open Access is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder. OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review. (source)

Open Access means that knowledge is regarded as a public good and shared resource, and  authors use open access publishing to make the fruits of their research such as scholarly articles, datasets and source code, accessible  to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Adopting such a policy reduces barriers to research and learning by making research available on the public internet to be downloaded and shared freely, making it possible for scholarship to be more widely read and cited than literature that appears in closed-access, licensed journal databases.

Open Access Week supports all of these goals–through a vast panoply of events and initiatives, OA Week seeks to raise awareness around Open Access and to encourage even more participation. No stranger to participation in OA Week, the Scholarly Communications Department, in collaboration with Indiana University Libraries, IU MoneySmarts, the Teaching and Learning Department and others in the Learning Commons are hosting a series of events for students and the public to learn all about Open Access, why you should care about it, and what you can do!

IUB’s Open Access Week events will include learning how to improve your Instagram and presentation game with CC0 images, reflecting on Wikipedia and its data, obtaining Open Access research, discussing course material costs, and learning more about open government information resources. Join us on the following dates –

  • October 22nd from 11am-1pm in Wells Library Learning Commons
  • October 23nd from 11am-1pm in Wells Library Learning Commons and
  • October 25th from 11am-12pm in Wells Library W138

The final highlight of the week from the Scholarly Communications department will be Sarah Hare’s presentation on how to start your own Open Access Journal. From the event page:

Anyone affiliated with Indiana University–students, staff, and faculty–can create an open access journal at no cost! This session will give an overview of the publishing platform, services, and support IU Libraries provides to those interested in starting a journal. The session will also provide information on flipping a closed journal to open access to those interested. Participants should bring any questions they have about journal publishing, open access, or their specific publication to the session.

Please RVSP here.