Rebecca Kennison (Principal of K|N Consultants and the co-founder of the Open Access Network), Dr Jennifer Edmond (Research Fellow and Director of Strategic Projects for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and co-director of the Trinity Center for Digital Humanities) and Ron Dekker (Director of CESSDA) recently joined OASPA for a webinar to discuss the future of open scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Caroline Sutton (Head of Open Scholarship Development at Taylor & Francis and member of the OASPA Board) chaired the discussion. The Copyright Clearance Center hosted the webinar. Leyla Williams, Events and Communications Coordinator at OASPA, reflects on the discussion.
Caroline opened the webinar by highlighting the focus of the discussion: the broad topic of open scholarship within the humanities and social sciences (HSS), noting that discourse around ‘open scholarship’ in these disciplines is distinct from that of open science and the frameworks it works within. Panelists, she added, had been asked to consider not just the future of open scholarship within the HSS, but what they’d like the future to look like in this realm.
Rebecca kicked off the panelist presentations with her talk on open access models for communities in HSS. ‘Fair’ open access models, she explained, have historically worked to ensure the producer pays for the cost of article processing charges. But thinking beyond this, other open access models such as the Open Access Network, the Open Library of Humanities, and DOAJ are working instead with collective funding models. HSS finds itself in a position quite distinct from the sciences in that many of its authors publish books rather than in journals, and organisations such as Knowledge Unlatched are experimenting with crowdfunding to enable open access to both books and journals. Those working in HSS face many of the same academic and tenure-and-promotion pressures as their colleagues in working in STEM subjects, and HSS publishing practices can often be more expensive than those in STEM thanks to the costly nature of book publishing and smaller grants being available. HSS outputs, Rebecca continued, are increasingly diverse; many now feature digital humanities projects, for example. Cost-per-unit pricing, therefore, won’t continue to work for long. Open access solutions for HSS will also work for STEM, she concluded, but not the other way around.
Ron began by stressing that he would be talking with a focus on data, and specifically with regards to the reuse of data rather than open data. Opening up data, Ron argued, is good for society and the economy. Making data transparent, moreover, improves the quality of data. A multidisciplinary approach – as well as reaching outside the academy – in order to open up data, he continued, is vital for societal progress. The ability for all academics to reproduce data, he noted, is of paramount importance. Reproduction of data requires careful handling, for which data management plans and rolling out of training across universities and organisations needs to be required. A culture of data sharing must be embraced, he added.
At CESSDA, a consortium for promoting the results of social science research, Ron and his colleagues enable the research community to conduct high quality research using social data. They strive to make data more interoperable for easier shared reuse. In the future, Ron hopes to see an interactive platform for social data working with the ‘FAIR’ Data Principles: to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable. Barriers to interaction with data should be reduced, and data should be made safe and secure for all users.
Introducing herself as a ‘policy wonk in the making’, Jennifer began her presentation by describing the EU Open Science Policy Platform: a multidisciplinary stakeholder platform made up of about 25 people across Europe, including Jennifer and Ron, to talk about the issues around open science. She pointed to the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, as being a key figure in gaining widespread support for open science and the ways it can be defined and reimagined. The challenges that remain for the platform, she argues, lie in publishing models. Various new open science models have arisen, such as the European Open Science Cloud, and the platform has embraced ‘altmetrics’ to consider alternative ways of measuring research impact.
Within HSS, Jennifer continued, the pervasive idea that open access is simply an act of ‘good citizenship’ means that it is often viewed as being ‘nice to have’ rather than vital for scholarly progress. A lesser concern with publishing speed and more of a focus on books than articles means that many HSS scholars are faced with less of a variety of open access publishing platforms, and are in any case afraid to publish with ‘less prestigious’ publishers. HSS scholars work with different conceptions of ‘data’ than do those working in STEM, and often aren’t sure if what they’re working with could be conceived of as ‘data’ in the first place. Not only is HSS data often not digital, but it is frequently not sharable for data protection issues.
But with this all in mind, Jennifer argued that humanists are already far more naturally ‘open’ than those outside the community might presume. Projects she has coordinated, such as CENDARI – a toolkit for digital historical research – include a variety of outputs not normally recognised as being in line with strict conceptions of peer-reviewed journal content, and there are many working within the digital humanities that produce highly creative examples of open access projects. Looking to the future, Jennifer wished ‘open science’ could simply become ‘science’, and for the barriers between research excellence and ‘openness’ to be broken down. Open science isn’t just a set of technical tools, but a set of values.
In the panel discussion and Q&A, Caroline, Rebecca, and Jennifer discussed the biggest milestones in open scholarship in HSS. For Jennifer, new reports on the importance of open access books and manuscripts have been vital. For Rebecca, projects like Ling OA, hosted by the Open Library of the Humanities, and Humanities Commons, a network for people working in the humanities, are interesting approaches to openness in that they strive to make all kinds of work open. Jennifer answered concerns on metrics; there is no one-size-fits-all answer to metrics, since they differ widely between disciplines. Rebecca added that ‘Humane Metrics’, a values-based framework that will enable humanities and social science scholars to tell more textured stories about the impact of their research and teaching, has just been funded by the Mellon Foundation. In general, publishers need to be clearer about their open access policies and work out how to ensure different kinds of work is validated, noted the panelists.
In terms of organisations ‘leading the way’ in HSS open scholarship, Rebecca highlighted UC Press and MIT Press, and noted that as more collective funding opportunities are developed, new groups and organisations might take off. Jennifer pointed to those such as F1000 and Ubiquity Press as offering new possibilities, and to the European Commission’s HIRMEOS for integrating open access monographs into the open science ecosystem. Both panelists hoped for new and better ways of reviewing. Rebecca noted that as the publishing industry moves away from ‘cost per unit’ publishing, different initiatives such as the Open Access Network are looking at collective funding options, as well as to expand the idea of what is traditionally ‘appropriate’ to fund. Jennifer added that there are a huge number of new organisations, models, and experiments in how to publish, bringing with them a number of challenges in how to manage quality and expectations. Rebecca stressed the importance of credentialing, and having the mechanisms in place that allow for the recognition of ‘valid’ scholarship.
The discussion closed with the subject of academic societies, who, Rebecca noted, tend to be risk-averse. There are exceptions, however; MLA’s Humanities Commons is a good example of how academic societies can innovate, she argued. Jennifer wished to see academic societies as ‘thought leaders’ rather than simply gatekeepers of knowledge.
The recording of this webinar, along with the accompanying slides from the discussion, is freely available for the public and can be found here.
Rebecca Kennison is the Principal of K|N Consultants and the co-founder of the Open Access Network (OAN), a project designed to develop a collective funding approach for open access in the humanities and social sciences that fully sustains the infrastructure needed to support the full life-cycle for communication of the scholarly record, including new and evolving forms of research output. Prior to working full time at K|N, Rebecca was the founding director of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, a division of the Columbia University Libraries, where she was responsible for developing programs to facilitate scholarly research and the communication of that research through technology solutions. Rebecca has worked primarily in the scholarly publishing industry, including production leadership roles at Cell Press (now Elsevier), Blackwell Publishing (now Wiley), and the Public Library of Science (PLOS), where she was the very first employee.
Dr Jennifer Edmond is Research Fellow and Director of Strategic Projects for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in Trinity College Dublin and the co-director of the Trinity Center for Digital Humanities. She holds a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Yale University, and applies her training as a scholar of language, narrative and culture to the study and promotion of advanced methods in and infrastructures for the arts and humanities.
Ron Dekker has been recently appointed as new CESSDA director. His career path led him from leading positions in the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to SURF, the Dutch IT-innovation organisation for Higher Education & Research, where he served as acting director. In 2014, he was seconded to the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Culture as Project Leader for Open Science in preparation for the Dutch EU Presidency in the first half of 2016. He then moved to Brussels to work as a Seconded National Expert on Open Science at the European Commission, Directorate-General Research & Innovation. On 1 March 2017, he started as Director of CESSDA (www.cessda.net), the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives, with its main office in Bergen, Norway.
Caroline Sutton is a member of the OASPA board and served as President from founding to 2013. She recently joined the Taylor & Francis Group as Head of Open Scholarship Development, after the publishing house she co-founded – Co-Action Publishing – joined the former. She has been working within the open access space since 2006 and is currently Director with IS4OA, as well as serving on the Advisory Boards of OpenAIRE+ and the Munin Conference. Since 2006 Caroline has been learning from and contributing to the open access space via various initiatives, meetings, working groups and other forums.