Recently, I’ve come across a lot of readings that have triggered thoughts on the ACRL Framework concepts, particularly Scholarship as Conversation. To get a less heady overview of what this concept means, check out this video:
As much as I’ve embraced the Framework in how I’ve let it inform my instruction and work with students, I’ve also questioned how these ideals play out in the real world, in the wild. I know that there are mixed feelings about resources that allow for participation and open dialog–Wikipedia comes to mind. The video makes it all sound so simple, and yes, it can be simple if you ignore the underlying issues involved with actually participating in scholarly dialog. One of the dispositions of this frame is that learners should “recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.” This brings us to the academic publishing model and why students aren’t making the immediate connection that they, too, can participate in scholarly conversations.
David Wiley recently published an article entitled Eminent Open Access: A Little Thought Experiment in which he discusses many issues (and possible solutions) with the academic publishing model, how this slows innovation and advancement, and how it excludes scholars from reading even their own peers’ work or having access to their work at a later date:
If she [the academic author] hoped to keep her job, she was forced to give away – literally give away – any and all rights to her own work so that journals could charge outrageous sums of money to prevent most people from reading it. Adding insult to injury, the journal then also charged the author to purchase back copies of her own words, which of course were no longer hers but now the sole ‘property’ of the publisher. (And did I mention she also has to serve as a volunteer reviewer for the journal in order to meet her service obligations to earn tenure?) Today, authors have the privilege of not only doing all the research, writing all the words, and being volunteer review labor for the journal, but if they want to retain control over their writing they can also pay the journal $1500 – $3000 per article they publish. Makes you want to write more, doesn’t it?
A novice might see an opportunity to publish (because “publish or perish”) without realizing these ramifications and without questioning who or what their work could help should it be made more widely available. While prestige may outweigh innovation in some folks’ eyes, I’d encourage you to open up and look at how this holds your field back. By sharing new discoveries and ideas we can evolve and if you’re not trying to evolve, then what are you doing?
As a librarian, I see the value of providing more access across the disciplines and I’ve noticed a trend towards open knowledge databases across campuses. I was excited most recently by the Wired article on MIT’s Media Lab open access Journal of Design and Science or JoDS.
JoDS is run very differently from a traditional academic publication. There’s no anonymized peer-review process, and there’s no fee to access its contents. ‘We wondered what does an academic paper look like when it’s more about the conversation, and less about tombstones,’ Ito says, referring to a quote from Stewart Brand that likens formal academic publishing to burying ideas like the dead.
This publishing model allows for anyone to critically evaluate contributions made by others in a participatory information environment, where several disciplines intersect, overlap, inform. The MIT Media Lab has pushed an “antidisciplinary” approach to the new journal, stating that it’s “about working in spaces that simply do not fit into any existing academic discipline—a specific field of study with its own particular words, frameworks, and methods.” This project is very much in line with the idea that scholarship is a conversation and meant for all. Unlike platforms like Wikipedia (which do wonders for building public knowledge and engaging in these conversations!), you still have experts writing the articles, but the robust community-sourced feedback options allow for everyone to share ideas and argue their points, so long as you understand the discourse and language.
So my question is how do we get (more*) students, particularly traditionally underrepresented folks, to participate more in the conversations around this topic and encourage them to listen to the conversations that interest them most so that one day they can contribute to online learning/publishing environments? Not only that, but as they become experts in their field, so they can champion these open access and innovative approaches? My guess is that this video will not suffice in encouraging that level of understanding or action.
*I added this example of an awesome student-created platform for sharing diverse ideas and perspectives after my initial post