Institute on Scholarly Communication: A travel log
This travel log documents my experiences at the first Institute on Scholarly Communication (July 12-14, 2006) facilitated by both ARL and ACRL. In a sentence, the Institute was a workshop aimed at helping librarians advance scholarly communication in a networked environment. For the most part I believe the Institute was a success, but its benefits are difficult to measure.
The event began with a number of opening remarks, and Karla Hahn (ARL) noted "We are at the end of the beginning", and she asked, "How can we take scholarly communication to the next level?" I thought this was a nice way to frame the upcoming days' activities.
The first session, led by DeEtta Jones (ARL), outlined ways of developing a program plan -- "a series of coordinated and managed activities that lead to specific outcomes." She advocated a number of stages in a plan for increasing scholarly communication effectiveness: 1) awareness, 2) the ability to comprehend the issues, 3) ownership, 4) activism, and 5) transformation. The take-away quote from this presentation was, "Think about ways of communicating your ideas crisply, cleanly, and in a compelling manner, as if you were talking to a taxi cab driver."
In "Faculty roles in scholarly communications" Lee Van Orsdel (Grand Valley State University) compared and contrasted advocates and activists. Orsdel said, "Librarians can be advocates so the faculty can be activists." They went on to outline three rules for advocates: 1) know your audience, 2) focus on the change-makers such as people with authority, and 3) know the audience's turf and use their issues.
The second day was a continuation on the advocacy theme. "Advocacy messages need to be short, pithy, memorable, and tailored to particular audiences." John Ober (California Digital Library) in "Legislative and policy advocacy" described a number of ways scholarly communication advocacy can be implemented: 1) write letters like the Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2) lobby governments, 3) shift the focus of scholarly communication from dollars to taking advantage of technology, 4) shift the focus from print publishing to increasing knowledge and accelerating research, and 5) listen to other advocacy groups and following their instructions.
Lynne Withey (University of California Press) gave a keynote address called "New directions in scholarly publishing". As the Director of the Press she was sort of caught in the middle when it comes to scholarly communication and open access publication. She first compared and contrasted digital publishing and traditional print publishing: speed, searching, availability, printing, portability, readability, etc. She thought digital mediums were better for reference works and journal article, but not books. She noted the success of critical editions such as the Mark Twain Project and NINES. The characteristics making these things successes are: 1) faculty involvement, 2) collaboration with the library, and 3) financial (grant) support. Withey defined the publishing process as: 1) selection, 2) shaping, 3) dissemination, 4) marketing, and 5) cost recovery. The processes seem very similar the traditional processes of librarianship. She brought her remarks to a close by saying we are all in this together. "Maybe we have more things in common than differences, but institutional collaboration takes time to create and sustain."
Karla Hahn in "New publishing models and roles for librarian" enumerated ways scholarly communication can be implemented and enhanced considering the current environment. Some of these things included: 1) the distribution of content from author home pages, 2) e-print archives, 3) author-fee publishing, 4) author-fee but subsidized publishing, 5) delayed open access (a la NIH's policy), and 6) indexing of content by libraries. Like Withey, she advocated greater collaboration between faculty, librarians, and academic presses. Similarly, an additional model for collaboration is exemplified by Wikipedia and blogs in general. Finally Hahn listed a number of library activities for advancing scholarly communication: 1) explain and describe the situation to a greater degree -- communication, and 2) instituting partnerships with publishers or implementing advisory services.
The third day's topic centered around institutional repositories. Karen Williams (University of Minnesota) shared some interesting observations based on her experience. For example, she said of libraries surveyed about 40 percent have institutional repositories of some kind and and of the 60 percent that don't 80 percent plan on creating one. She described an institutional repository as an organization of content, an access & dissemination tool, and a stewardship activity. Much of the content in institutional repositories are theses & dissertations, working papers, and technical reports. (This is true of Notre Dame's institutional repository effort as well.) "If you build it, then they won't come" still seems to be true. Just because a library creates an institutional repository does not mean it will get filled with content. Repositories do not necessariily fit within the tenure process, it is not the way authors work, and there are no institutional mandates. Based on her experience, faculty would find institutional repositories more useful if they were to: 1) track versions, 2) be able to work with co-authors, 3) be available to others, and 4) not make authors any busier. She advocated changing the names of institutional repositories to "personal digital repositories" to better reflect what they can do for authors.
Next, there was a panel discussion where each member was given ten minutes to share some of their observations regarding the implementation of institutional repositories. Steve Gass (MIT) described their experience with DSpace. He noted the hiring of two people to evangelize and do the work, how DSpace has been deployed about 150 times across the world, and how the main issued surrounded the creation of content policies. "DSpace is not only about faculty output." Deborah Helman (University of Wisconsin-Madison) described how she was creating a repository for engineering faculty and was trying to create bibliographies for them. She created a database for content and designed workflows around the database. "Figure out ways to make the repository work for the faculty." Holly Mercer (University of Kansas) described a process especially strong on building relationships with faculty. An advisory committee was formed. Memorandum's of agreement were signed. Sub-committees ("communities of interest") defined what was to be put into sections of the repository. She searched for content to put into the repository, and while they identified many a lot of content retrospectively, many of the authors no longer had the full-text of the items in question. She defined success as not the number of items in a repository but rather the amount of communication with the scholarly community. Eric Lease Morgan (University of Notre Dame) outlined how they: 1) have three repository applications running, 2) supplemented the metadata in the repositories, 3) harvested and cached the metadata centrally, and 4) provided value-added services against the content of the cache. "We hope to enhance and embellish the scholarly communications process, not replace it with something new and different."
Julia Blixrud (ARL) in "Evidence-based action: What facts are needed?" echoed much of what previous presenters shared. Know your audience: undergrads, graduate students, teachers, researchers, administrators, legislators, the public. Collect good data from your own campus as well as your community. Use the data to raise awareness, inform, and advocate. Use both qualitative as well as quantitative data. "People love stories." Present your information in a number of forms: memos, letters, charts & graphs, brochures. Make sure it is framed in terms of the audience.
Since a number of faculty (as opposed to librarians) attended the Institute, there was in impromptu "faculty panel" and a number of the more memorable quotes are listed below:
- "Think like an educator and figure out ways to make the information useful for the classroom."
- "The bosses -- people making decisions -- are paper-based. Junior faculty might want to participate to a greater degree but they have conflicting priorities."
- "Faculty value models of excellence. Peer-review is very valuable even if it is not perfect."
- "Consider the 'New Media' people as models for alternative communication methods."
- "Think like a marketer. What is the value of my product? How do I identify 'believers' in my product? Change your language. Do not use rhetoric. Create a brand."
- "Not everybody will participate. Faculty are not computer literate. People are time challenged. Consider tenured and untenured faculty and compare them to teachers and researchers. Tailor your message to each of the four groups (tenured teachers and tenured researchers, untenured teachers and untenured researchers)."
The Institute was attended by roughly 100 people from all over the country. This inaugural event was well-planned and well-executed. The presentations, outlined above, were punctuated with sets of group activities. While each of the activities were not necessarily designed to be completed in the alloted time, I believe many people felt a bit frustrated to start, get into, and then stop the activities before they were finished. All of us attendees were in the same boat; we all wanted to figure out ways to assist the scholarly communications process through the use of institutional repositories and open access publishing. This workshop was a lot about advocacy. Advocacy is a form of communication, and it is also a form of marketing. Marketing is something our profession does not do very well. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths. We're not very good salespeople. Through participation in this Institution, and through the use of the exercises in the workshop, I sincerely believe we can become better advocates and do our part to enhance the scholarly communications process.
Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: This document was never formally published.
Date created: 2006-08-22
Date updated: 2006-08-26
Subject(s): scholarly communication; travel log; UCLA;