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Open Access and Open Scholarship at DHSI

The Benefits of Open Access (adapted from Danny Kingsley and Sarah Brown)
Published by Rebecca Dowson

For a week in June, I joined seven other members of the Digital Humanities community from around the world for a week-long session called “Open Access and Open Scholarship” to learn more about how to responsibly make scholarly communication open and accessible to the public. I was at DHSI, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, which has become one of the most well-attended DH training programs in North America. Begun in 2001 with a handful of community members coming together to listen to guest speakers and learn about text encoding or DH pedagogy, DHSI has now expanded to host 52 sessions over the course of two weeks in 2018, along with shorter weekend workshops and many invited lecturers, speakers, and colloquium presentations.  The course I attended this year was a discussion-based session led by Alyssa Arbuckle, the Associate Director for the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) at UVic, a member of the DHSI organizing team, and a PhD candidate at UVic. While I had some knowledge about Open Access going into the week, I was eager to learn more details about the nuts and bolts of OA principles, procedures, and policies, and brainstorm with Alyssa and my classmates about the ethics and politics of being an open scholar.

Our week covered a lot of ground, but Alyssa made sure we had plenty of time to ask questions and discuss while we considered our own positions and experiences in relation to open access. We learned about the history of public scholarly communication, beginning with the first academic journal in the eighteenth century, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. We talked about the digital technologies that have changed the way scholarly communication can be distributed, and the ethical principles behind the idea that academic scholarship is a public good. I especially appreciated our first hands-on task: finding open access journals in our field. We didn’t, however, shy away from the dangers of open access, including issues around copyright, evaluation and review, dangerous data collection, and online harassment. Throughout the week, we returned to Twitter as an example of a digital platform for open scholarship that has great benefits but also real risks. Our session decided that, as Cathy N. Davidson has put it, “‘open’ doesn’t necessarily mean egalitarian” (115). As we moved on to the digital infrastructure enabling open access publishing, we were careful to consider complex questions of what access means for different people and organizations. Alyssa pointed out that SFU was one of the first Canadian universities to adopt an Open Access Policy, one that asks SFU researchers to ensure their recently published work is publicly available. To help researchers commit to this policy, SFU has an institutional repository for authors to deposit their work and the library administers an Open Access Fund to help allay the costs of article processing fees often associated with open access publishing (for questions or more information, contact oa-policy@sfu.ca or your librarian). Rounding out the week, we took a closer look at the platforms academics are using to make their traditional research forms (like the academic monograph) openly available, as well as the kinds of non-traditional forms they are using to publicly share research, such as podcasts or Wikipedia.

It seemed to me that our course modelled ethical openness as we learned together: Alyssa introduced us to other thinkers working in Open Access, we tweeted about our learning and called on Twitter for help (what, exactly, is blockchain again?), we set up Humanities Commons profiles, and shared our own experiences and research with each other. But sometimes we held off on tweeting, respecting the need to engage a more local community before putting our ideas out in a public forum. I was grateful to learn with such a thoughtful group of students, librarians, and faculty members.

You can read more about Alyssa’s work in the National Observer, and you can connect with her on Twitter: @arbuckle_alyssa or via email: alyssa@uvic.ca.

You can find me on Twitter: @kkodonnell or via email: kkgilber@sfu.ca.  


Davidson, Cathy N. The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. Basic Books, 2017.


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