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Envisioning the future of scholarly communication: A recap of the Force11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI) 2018

Published August 13, 2018 by Kate Shuttleworth

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the week-long Force11 Scholarly Communication Institute at University of California San Diego this summer, having received a tuition scholarship from the Institute. This was an intense week of learning, exchanging stories and ideas, and imagining the future of scholarly communication. Set at the lovely UCSD campus, we were treated to 5 days of thought-provoking classes, along with plenty of opportunities to meet librarians, researchers, publishers, students, and others from all over the world who are immersed in and engaged with scholarly communication in various forms. After some trips to the beach and a dinner in La Jolla, I felt I got the full FSCI experience, which was well worth the trip.

Here's a snapshot of some of what I did at FSCI from July 29 to August 3, 2018.

Collaboration, Communities and Collectives: Understanding Collaboration in the Scholarly Commons

This course challenged us to consider what scholarly communication might look like if it were designed from scratch in the current time, without the constraints of the existing model, and with the technology and systems available today. We started by examining in detail the types of collaboration that already exist in academia, and what limitations exist.  Dan O'Donnell and Maryann Martone took us through the ways in which effective collaboration can be applied in the context of the Scholarly Commons, which describes a shared set of draft principles amongst researchers and other stakeholders in scholarly communication to make research and knowledge open by default, and the production and use of knowledge open to all who wish to participate.

We explored the idea that the technology and infrastructure needed to implement the Commons already exist, but despite the capabilities afforded by the internet, and the fact that a great deal of academic research is publicly funded, the reality remains that most research is not freely available.

A highlight of this course was having the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss our own ideas for the vision of what our roles would look like within the Scholarly Commons. The group consisted of a mix of librarians and researchers, which provided an interesting mix of backgrounds. Ideas flowed around the concept of "research objects" replacing traditional journal articles, with shared responsibility for developing literature reviews and for reviewing and revising content; new funding and reward systems which prioritize the impact that research has on the wider community; and solutions to fair and equitable employment practices within the Commons. This was a challenging and inspiring course which generated plenty of questions around how the idea of the Commons might be put into practice, and how the principles can be developed with equity, inclusion and diversity at the forefront.

Opening the Research Enterprise: Partnering to Support Openness in Grant-Funded Faculty Research

While this course in essence focused on grant funding agencies in the US, there were plenty of parallels to Canadian funding agencies with open access mandates -- specifically the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. We explored strategies for libraries to collaborate with other groups on campus to support open access publishing early in the grant process, and we each identified the respective research offices at our universities. Brainstorming the research cycle from librarians' perspectives and comparing it to researchers' perspectives allowed us to identify challenging points in the research process where open access messages and incentives may get lost, as well as opportunities within the cycle where open access messaging has the strongest impact. We ended the course by designing a workshop which could be conducted in collaboration with the research office to guide researchers through dissemination planning at the grant proposal stage, which paves the way for open access publishing and knowledge mobilization as they progress through their research.

Mentoring the Next Generation of Open Scholars: Approaches, Tools & Tactics

This was an exciting foray into opportunities to use open pedagogy to educate students about scholarly publishing, open access, and open education through real-world activities and tangible projects. Robyn Hall  lead the discussion on strategies for engaging students with open pedagogy, including through student journals, student contribution to open textbooks, Wikipedia edit-a-thons, Open Access Week activities, and more. We discussed the ways that developing students' "scholarly publishing literacy" can help them to become more information literate and understand the value of making information and research widely available and discoverable to give it the greatest possible impact in the wider community.

SFU Library currently uses Open Journal Systems, a journal management and publishing system developed by the Public Knowledge Project to give instructors and their students the opportunity to publish student work in open access student journals. I enjoyed discussing the successes and challenges of student journals and other open pedagogy techniques by examining several case studies in which librarians and instructors had applied open pedagogy strategies to engage students in topics around scholarly communication. While the benefits are evident, some challenges exist around student privacy, instructor workloads, and sustainability of ongoing projects. Having the opportunity to design and discuss our own ideas for activities, events and assignments was also a highlight, and I took away several ideas for engaging with students through SFU Library on topics of scholarly publishing, open access, and copyright.

Do-a-thon: Creating visualizations for the Directory of Open Access Journals data using SuperSet

In the spirit of an "intensive" week, several FSCI attendees, myself included, dedicated our Wednesday evening to a do-a-thon with the intent of collaborating on some additional project work. I chose to work on creating a dashboard of data visualizations for the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), since I refer to the Directory almost daily in my work as a Digital Scholarship Librarian. I was surprised by the results which indicate that Indonesia and Brazil have the highest numbers of both publishers and journals in the DOAJ!

Lightning Talk: "The library helps with that?" A reality check on the integration of scholarly communication support

FSCI attendees had the opportunity to present a 5 minute lightning talk on the Tuesday afternoon, so I shared a project I have been working on for a while to update and reorganize the Scholarly Publishing and Open Access webpages at SFU Library. During user testing with graduate students we found that many of the scholarly communication services offered by the library -- including support for assessing publisher quality and building an online presence for academics -- were not recognized or utilized by students working in the library. It became evident that more work is needed to integrate library services into the research process. In order to do this, the library needs to approach researchers from where they currently are, rather than waiting for them to come to us. Ultimately we aim to partner with related campus organizations to act as an integral part of the research and publication process, from the grant proposal stage right through to publication and knowledge dissemination. 

It was great to have the opportunity to share and to hear what others are working on, the challenges they are facing, and the approaches they are taking towards the future of scholarly communication.

Overall this was a great, fun, and inspiring week. I made new contacts and forged new connections, and would recommend FSCI to anyone engaged in scholarly communication!