I am delighted to have joined the Office for Scholarly Communication here at Cambridge and wanted to post a brief introduction about my previous work in scholarly communication and the vision I have for my role as Scholarly Communication Specialist.
I have been involved in open research and scholarly communication for the past fifteen years, having both worked for a number of open access publishers and completed a PhD on the transition to open access in humanities disciplines. I am an information studies researcher by training and a strong advocate for openness in scholarly research. I therefore hope to help Cambridge continue to steer towards an open future for scholarly communication, but importantly one that does not leave any discipline or researcher behind. Open research needs to be sensitively embedded in our disciplinary cultures so that it is a natural and easy thing to practice.
My doctoral research in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London explored the contrasting approaches to open access publishing of policy-based and grassroots initiatives. From studying the UK funder policies, I identified a tendency to frame open access in terms of compliance rather than something good for its own sake. This meant that many researchers found open access an institutional burden or something not relevant to their own discipline or working practices, while others assumed that OA is just another way for commercial publishers to make increasing amounts of money. Though I think this reputation has improved, my position at Cambridge will be based on helping to show the exciting potential of open research, particularly its ability to contribute to a healthier publishing culture across all scholarly disciplines. For example, a focus of my initial work will be around monographs and the various ways of supporting researchers to explore the diverse ecosystem of long-form open publishers that exists in the humanities, especially those presses that do not charge a fee to publish.
Yet in order to move away from the culture of compliance across all disciplines, we not only have to show the full range of open access publishing opportunities available to researchers, we also have to build upon the work of educating our colleagues about publishing not just as a practice but an industry that shapes this practice. Fairly or unfairly, the publishing industry receives a great deal of bad press within higher education and this has led to a continual reappraisal of academia’s relationship with publishing, specifically with respect to open access. Using this blog and other channels, I hope to inform the university of the debates around the future of scholarly publishing so that researchers can better understand how their publishing decisions are situated in this changing environment. This will involve showcasing a range of views on publishing and the changing ways in researchers communicate and distribute their work.
One way of increasing academic engagement in scholarly publishing is through community consultation on forthcoming developments. The libraries have recently announced a renegotiation of Cambridge’s contract with Elsevier, which is due to expire at the end of this year, in order to seek an affordable Read & Publish deal with the publisher if possible. We are hoping to hear from as many voices at Cambridge about what the university’s future relationship with Elsevier should look like. Alongside showcasing views on this blog, we encourage academics to get in touch via this form to let us know your views and to stay informed about future activities in this area. Please do also contact me if you are interested in writing a blogpost on the topic or interested in learning more.
Related to the future of open access, I am also interested in providing support for academic governance of scholarly communication. I am a scholar of digital commons and community governance and I hope to impart of some of this knowledge to ensure greater accountability of publishing by research communities themselves. Currently, academics have a great deal of editorial oversight over the publications they edit, but less surrounding issues of price, ownership and other policy-related matters, despite the free labour and content we give to publishing houses. I will be discussing with academics and publishers about how we can work together to return accountability of publishing to research communities from the market at large.
Finally, I hope to support and showcase all the excellent work going in scholarly communication at Cambridge. There are pockets of activity across the university that would benefit from wider recognition and greater support, and I have already been contacted by colleagues looking to start or reinvigorate their small-scale publishing project. I will be exploring the ways that libraries can help here, ideally through resources and software, but also through sharing expertise with one another. Again, do get in touch if you have a publishing project that I should know about or can help with.
Scholarly communication is changing rapidly, not least due to the pandemic’s demand for openness, collaboration and immediacy of dissemination, but also through policies like Plan S and the soon-to-be-announced revised UKRI Open Access Policy. As we move in the direction of openness, it is important that all voices in the academic community are heard and that researchers feel confident that open research works for them. I look forward to working with colleagues to help shape Cambridge’s strategy for the future of scholarly communication.