Following on from the recent webinar entitled What is Scholarly Communication and Publishing in the 21st Century, we asked our speakers to summarise their talks by offering a few key takeaways, which you can find below. This may be useful for those who missed it or wish to share with colleagues. You can also access the full audio recording and slides.
We also asked speakers to respond to the many questions that were posed by attendees via the webinar chat. You can find those questions and answers directly under the takeaways.
OASPA is very grateful to the speakers for all of the work and time they have given to this webinar – in preparation, on the day, and after.
Heather Joseph (@hjoseph)
Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
- There are moments in time when fundamental, foundational change is inevitable – and for scholarly communication, this is one of those moments
- Scientists/scholars are already demonstrating better ways to communicate
- Policymakers are under enormous public pressure to support faster/more open communication for more than just COVID
- Academic/Research Institutions that support science and scholarship are being forced to fundamentally change
- The sources of funding – (including libraries) that have supported our current system of scholarly communications are being fundamentally altered
- The power of community values-based action to steer positive directions forward
Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@kfitz)
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University
- We need to rethink “open access” as being less about opening up individual publications and more about opening up the infrastructure that supports scholarly communication
- We need to do so in a way that facilitates connection and community
- Doing so is going to require institutions themselves to think collaboratively rather than competitively
- Humanities Commons may provide an example of a path forward#
John Wilbanks (@wilbanks)
John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks
- The COVID experience is massively accelerating a set of changes that were already in play
- This is true across society and it’s true inside scholcomm
- It’s an existence proof that open publishing works and can be a faster ecosystem in a crisis
- Get used to the cloud and preprints and data sharing and on top of that, entirely new forms of scholarly communication that entirely elide the journal form
- We’ll get exactly out of the new new new normal (we probably have a few new normals to go) what we put into it
- No system is perfect and thus one oriented around open isn’t perfect either
- We have to do the work and set the standards now, because when the music stops, those who are prepared are the ones who can make convincing arguments
Questions received via the webinar chat channel
Answers from Kathleen Fitzpatrick (KF); John Wilbanks (JW); Heather Joseph (HJ)
Q. What could be the use of open access papers in solving COVID 19.
JW: One of the biggest uses will be text and data mining to extract “facts” claimed and see if they form patterns across papers and time. You can already see this happening with the open CORD-19 semantic scholar dataset which you can visualize at https://coviz.apps.allenai.org/
Q. CORONA demonstrates that optimal science is open and managed as a commons (the key resource is FAIR data). However, how to translate what is accepted now into lasting structures and practices?
JW: I’m not entirely sure this is a true claim, as much as I want it to be so. I think it shows that science *can* be open and shared as a commons, although I’m leery of submarine patent claims in the GISAID database (which is a long way from open, because of its IP provisions). We certainly see a lot of open activity but we don’t see coherence in that activity other than in the genetics of the virus itself, in terms of data. I think what it does show is that when the risk-benefit ratio is shifted to where the risk of knowledge restrictions is higher, that preprint servers and post-preprint-review are very effective mechanisms for vetting knowledge that is unrestricted. But I’m careful of making sweeping normative claims about this all right now, or saying FAIR is the key resource. Right now it looks like access to small data sets in situ is leading to rapid preprints more than anything.
I am hopeful that larger efforts like the UCSF data release yesterday and the emerging US national harmonized limited clinical data set will prove out your claim though!
Q. Do we have the necessary mechanisms for sharing research, resources and expertise to create the intended impact outside our ‘closed network’?
KF: This is a great question, not least because we really have to find ways of ensuring that our networks are not just open to anyone but also visible to all, and that they create both spaces for exchange amongst experts and for sharing that expertise more publicly. This combination of requirements is one of the reasons for the Commons’s flexibility: we have spaces for group exchange and discussion that can have a range of privacy controls applied to them, but also spaces for completely open sharing of the work those groups do. We also want to find ways to support the overlapping domains in which scholars and researchers do their work: within their institutions, within their fields, and across multiple disciplines.
Q. Economic ideology is certainly an obstacle to building open, cross-disciplinary infrastructure. What about epistemology? …in academia? …in publishing? … in the public at large? The value of such infrastructure may be more obvious to those who see scientific knowledge as socially constructed, inter-subjective truth; less obvious to those who see it as revealed, objective truth
JW: I don’t have an answer other than to endorse the questions here!
Q. Are there any primary research projects into the kind of platform/ networks discussed by John?
JW: I don’t know of primary research projects investigating the kinds of networks I’m talking about, but it’s our day job to run such a platform and develop small community networks on it. See https://sagebionetworks.org/scientific-coordination/ and https://sagebionetworks.org/challengess-benchmarking/
Q. Aren’t commercial organizations, by their very definition, beholding to their owners/shareholders?
KF: It’s certainly true that corporations are beholden to their shareholders, and as John noted during the webinar, they’re bound not just to turn a profit but to continually increase the rate at which they turn that profit. Of necessity, such organizations will have motivations that are at odds with those of their clients. But there are other commercial entities — often smaller and privately held — that are mission-driven and values-based. And finding those companies and exploring potential collaborations with them is important. But it’s worth being cautious here: several mission-driven small commercial entities have recently gotten acquired by enormous corporations whose goals for returning shareholder value will inevitably outstrip their goals for serving the academy. This, I think, is why governance matters: ensuring that the academy has a voice in its platforms’ futures.
Q. How can or should the scholcomm community respond to initiatives like Plan S that prioritize commercial-based publishing, APCs, etc., rather than “diamond” (no APCs) that are more often scholar-led?
HJ: It’s so important for all participants in the scholcomm community to make sure that they thoroughly understand the global impacts that a local decision to support a business model-specific approach to Open Access will have. Science and scholarship are global endeavors, and their success ultimately depends on our willingness to deliberately acknowledge that in all of our decisions. Even if our institution feels that it has money to support our scholars in a pay-to-play model like APCs, it’s our responsibility to understand what our decision to go ahead and do so means for scholars in those institutions who do not have the funds. It means that while they might now be able to freely access articles that authors from my institution produce, they will not have the ability to contribute their own scholarship to the global conversation. This trade-off simply replaces one form of inequity for another.
Q. How can faculty help with universities doing something different?
HJ: Faculty often move from one institution to another. The whole university employment recruitment process is one big opportunity to exert pressure on institutions. If you are a faculty member on a search committee, you can ask that language be included into the job advertisement that indicates that the institution values the open sharing of knowledge, has an open access policy, etc. Or if not the institution, even just that the department values it. This sends a strong signal that this is something that is of central importance in the university culture. And on the opposite side, if you are responding to a job listing, you can explicitly ask about institutional policies/values on openness. The earlier and more often institutions learn to signal that they care about openness, the easier it will be to change incentives and rewards to support it.
Q. Institutional science libraries/librarians seem to be seeking new opportunities in citizen science. Interested in what John was saying about ‘outside of institutional boundaries/degree programs” and as a science librarian, would like to explore more ways that science research libraries/librarians could collaborate in new spaces/cloud/communities. Does John have ideas for libraries, particularly science libraries/librarians can contribute to widening participation?
JW: My instinct is to seek alignment with networks, like the larger DIY Bio leadership, to be matched to local institutions (like a local DIY bio chapter or a GEM competition high school team).
Q. What can early-stage researchers do towards creating ‘impact’ from their research/publishing ? Especially those who don’t have ‘good’ guides/guidance?
HJ: Early Career Researchers are in a really unique position here. On the one hand, we definitely acknowledge that there’s a real power imbalance for most, and that it’s wildly impractical to suggest that they just ignore what their advisors/Deans/Universities say, and go ahead and just practice Open Science and Open Access, consequences be damned, when the consequence might well be that they injure their career prospects. On the plus side, ERC’s can have influence here in educating their mentors on the benefits that adopting open practices can have to science in both a local and global sense. Increasing transparency in research practices can have positive effects on reproducibility, enhancing trust in science. It also enhances our ability to validate research results, improving research integrity. Encouraging your department or lab to adopt open practices because they can help achieve these outcomes is one productive strategy.
Q. How do we as scholars convince our academic journals to which we submit papers for publication lift their article embargoes so that everyone has access to articles immediately after they are published and online/in print?
HJ: Individuals have lots of influence as members of scholarly societies; they are set up to represent and advance *your* interests, so organizing your peers to use the structures in those organizations to change publications practices and policies is important. Of course, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, voting with your manuscript submissions is another way to influence publisher policy…but you have to be willing to let them know that you are actively opting not to submit because of paywall restrictions.
Q. How can libraries use budget pressures resulting from COVID 19 to influence values-based scholarly communication?
HJ: There is no question that library budgets (which were already stressed) are going to be deeply impacted by the current pandemic. Using increasingly scarce library dollars to support whose content is no longer openly available after the current crises finally abates will be a tough sell – not only to librarians, but to the researchers on their campuses whose work depends on access to those articles. COVID-19 is shining a spotlight on the clear differences in publisher operations, and illustrating which operate to serve shareholders requirements for profits, and those who operate to serve stakeholders needs for knowledge. Librarians who can communicate this difference clearly to their communities will be well-positioned to make more values-based decisions.
Q. How would a SComm librarian start to make these changes on the campus level?
HJ: First and foremost, equip yourself with supporting examples and data. A great place to start is by participating in SPARC’s Community of Practice on journal subscription negotiations; all SPARC member library folks are welcome!
Q. Can we use humanities commons for journal hosting?
KF: Yes, absolutely! Several journals are hosted on the network now, and more are on their way. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.