Social Integration for the Distributed Commons

This is the fifth and final in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2016, and their projects. This one was submitted by Eileen Joy.


Photo of a node of wires - Used under CC-BY-SA license from TriangleSCI 2016, our plan is to undertake brainstorming and pre-planning for the development of an economically viable and sustainable alternative to for-profit research-sharing social platforms such as, ResearchGate, and Mendeley. This feels urgent and pressing to us, especially when we consider Elsevier’s purchase of Mendeley in 2013, its more recent purchase of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) just this past May, and’s recent moves into monetising “premium” metrics content and also allowing advertisements on their site (visible, for now, only to non-registered users). While academic social networking platforms do offer new and powerfully flexible ways for researchers to connect and discover research, the for-profit corporations that have developed and maintain these sites also have a pressing need to ultimately monetize the data behind their users’ content and interactions, and many within the public university feel that the potential options for them to do so will end up being particularly pernicious. For example, as Kathleen Fitzpatrick has written in a blog post, ‘Academia, Not Edu,’

(…) if the network is to turn a profit, that profit has a limited number of means through which it can be generated: either academics who are currently contributing their work to this space will have to pay to continue to access it, or the work that they have contributed will somehow be mined for sale, whether to advertisers or other interested parties.

Although (and their ilk) rely heavily on narratives of openness and peer-to-peer sharing networks, asking users to upload their papers in the name of scientific progress and the public good, it must be stressed that, for example, is neither a repository for long-term preservation nor does it offer open access without gates — users must still register to download papers and there is no specific license for further sharing, re-use, etc. Moreover, these research-sharing platforms are gathering and consolidating publicly-funded research in a manner that will give them a broad and unchecked ability to leverage this research for a variety of for-profit initiatives, such as mining research data for a variety of potential corporate “research and development” clients.

Therefore, we would like to explore as part of TriangleSCI 2016 whether we can develop and support a digital platform for research-sharing that would help to support and sustain the scholarly commons, rather than merely serve as a proprietary social network with mere lip-service to openness. Is it possible to theorise a more economically progressive research-sharing network that does not rely on venture capitalist-funded, Silicon Valley-style platform capitalism? Might a distributed network that both participates in and nurtures the scholarly commons be a more viable option — one that supports the needs of the scholarly community instead of monetizing their communications to serve the interests of investors? Finally, to what extent can we complicate the understanding of social media as something that necessarily entails neoliberal subjectification via analytics, metrics and slick personal profiles? It is clear that many use simply because people are there — i.e., they need to maintain a presence in well-populated digital locations. This need to obtain a competitive advantage over one’s peers and manage one’s ‘personal brand’ is highly indicative of the current state of higher education in which employment is precariously insecure and fiercely competitive, and researchers are increasingly forced to submit their work to a range of metrical analyses, leading many researchers to operate as ‘micro-entrepreneurs of themselves,’ as Gary Hall (following Michel Foucault) has argued in his essay ‘The Uberfication of the University.’  And we feel that is an apt illustration of this culture. As social media is so closely tied with personal branding, we want to to theorise and develop a social research-sharing network that avoids the overtly neoliberal trappings of for-profit research-sharing platforms.

Overlapping photos of people in a social network - Used under CC-BY license from

Objectives & Aims

In our limited time at TriangleSCI 2016, we want to focus especially on the more socially and economically progressive aspects of social media (common ownership, open-source tools and platforms, open access to data, information, and texts, etc.) in order to develop an open and interactive (iterative, annotatable, mobile, etc.) scholarly research commons that will be hopefully useful to and well-utilised by scholarly researchers. One natural starting point is that many of the problems described above result from the for-profit nature of such platforms (centralised control, readily monetisable data, monopoly-seeking, etc.), when perhaps a more distributed technology would yield better interactions and governance. For example, could we build a social layer on top of the already existing and distributed commons, which stretches from library repositories to scholars’ personal websites to open access publications to pirate libraries to institutional profile pages and beyond? How can we harvest the discussions already taking place in highly localised and often obscured contexts (from mailing lists to comment sections on blogs) and make them more visible and more clearly connected to research outputs (whatever and wherever these might be)?, an open platform for the discussion, annotation and organisation of research on the web, forms an important inspiration behind our thinking in this direction. wants to create an open, inter-operable annotation layer over scholarly content, wherever that might appear online. As such, seems to provide the perfect starting point for a discussion on the positive potential for developing a de-centralised architecture for collaborative research. More specifically, would it be possible to integrate some of the interesting social features of sites such as and ResearchGate into the plugin; and if so, how would that work? Starting with this annotation layer, could we create a social layer to overlay distributed scholarly content? Or could we build “from the ground up” an entirely new platform for research sharing that might serve as a central node for plugging into the many layers of the already-established and always-evolving distributed scholarly commons, and which would also serve researchers in terms of maintaining and mediating their social media presence and communications with other researchers?

Possible Outputs

While the primary aim of our discussions at TriangleSCI 2016 will be to theorise the potential of social media for the distributed commons, we will also be brainstorming potential funding sources for the more practical development and implementation of a social research-sharing overlay (or unique platform) in partnership with, or a similarly distributed not-for-profit network (to be identified during our time at TriangleSCI). This could also potentially involve a web hub for discussing, sharing and prototyping our ideas (see Climate Feedback  for an example of such a hub). We will also follow up on and communicate our findings via blog posts and social media, as well as via opinion pieces and more formal scholarly outputs. We will further seek to set up alliances with ideological partners who are either already experimenting with alternative social media for academic researchers (for example, MLA Commons ) or are otherwise involved with radically rethinking the politics and economics of not-for-profit academic publishing (for example, the Radical Open Access Collective and the Radical Librarians Collective). We are excited to see that one of the other teams invited to TriangleSCI is working on developing a “humane” system for citation metrics within the humanities as one of the outcomes of a better integrated / layered (and not-for-profit) distributed scholarly commons would hopefully be better and more equitable tools for the measurement of “impact” within the humanities and social sciences.

Our Team

For our team we have actively sought to bring together people from the UK and the US who have been working on alternative models for research dissemination and scholarly communication, both in theory and in practice. Our team therefore includes scholars (from different fields within the humanities), publishers, librarians, and technologists, and in most cases includes members whose expertise moves across these various fields. All of our team members have also been actively involved in ongoing discussions about social media for academics and the scholarly commons, and as such have a clear overview of the debates, the various issues involved, the existing research, and important experiments with potential alternatives.

  • Stuart Lawson is a doctoral researcher at Birkbeck, University of London. His thesis is on the politics of open access and includes analysis of the ideological underpinnings of current open access policy and the search for commons-based alternatives. Stuart is an information professional and radical librarian who until recently worked as a Research Analyst at Jisc providing evidence to support national journal subscription negotiations. Stuart is also an editor of the Journal of Radical Librarianship and has published journal articles on the economic and political aspects of Open Access publishing.
  • Samuel Moore is a PhD candidate in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London who is researching the future of Open Access publishing in the humanities. He is also the Managing Editor at the open-access publisher Ubiquity Press.
  • Janneke Adema is a Research Fellow in Digital Media at Coventry University’s Centre for Disruptive Media. Janneke has done extensive research on Open Access for books in the humanities and social sciences, focusing on specific on business models and user needs, experimental publishing, academic-led presses and the future of the monograph. She has conducted research for both the OAPEN Foundation and for the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) and is the author of, among many other publications on scholarly pubishing, the OAPEN report ‘Overview of Open Access Models for eBooks in the HSS’  (2010) and the DOAB ‘User Needs Analysis’ (2012). At Coventry University she has been involved in research on academic social networking sites, culminating in the Why Are We Not Boycotting event at Coventry University in December 2015 (with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, David Parry, Gary Hall and Pascal Aventurier). Janneke has also co-edited a living book on Symbiosis together with Pete Woodbridge (Open Humanities Press, 2011), and she blogs at Open Reflections.
  • Donna Lanclos is an anthropologist working with ethnographic methods and analysis to inform and change policy in higher education, in particular in and around libraries, learning spaces, and teaching and learning practices. She is Associate Professor for anthropological research at the J. Murrey Atkins Library at University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She collaborates with colleagues in the US and the UK, and has conducted workshops on digital practices for institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, Parsons School of Design, the Wellcome Trust, the Jisc digital leadership programme, University of South Carolina Upstate, and Imperial College London. She can be found on Twitter @DonnaLanclos, and also blogs at Donna Lanclos – The Anthropologist in the Stacks.
  • Eileen Joy is a specialist in Old English literary studies, cultural studies, and scholarly communications, who worked as a Professor of English for ten years at Southern Illinois University before departing academia proper to develop an alternative career as a para-academic rogue. She has published widely in medieval literary studies, poetry and poetics, historiography, queer studies, speculative realism, object oriented ontology, the ecological, the post/human, and open-access publishing. She is the Lead Ingenitor of the BABEL Working Group, Co-Editor of the award-winning postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, and Founding Director of the independent Open Access academic press punctum books.
  • Sherri L. Barnes joined the University of California, Santa Barbra Library in 1999, where she has multiple responsibilities, including Scholarly Communication Program Coordinator, Humanities Collection Group Coordinator, and subject specialist for U.S. history and Feminist-LGBTQ studies.  She serves on the Library’s Intellectual Property Rights and Scholarship Committee, the Data Curation Advisory Committee, and UC’s Scholarly Transformation Advice and Review (STAR) Team.  Her interests include, scholar-driven open access publishing, transformative scholarly publishing models, and educating the academic community about the changes that are occurring in the scholarly communication system. Sherri also composes indexes for scholarly monographs and compiles the award-winning multidisciplinary bibliography Black American Feminisms.

Global Voices in Developing a Sustainable, Equitable Open Access Future

This is the fourth in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2016, and their projects. This one was submitted by Ada Emmett.


The current system of scholarly communication is rife with inequities, imbalances, and barriers, which exclude or impede many scholars and readers in their pursuit of and contributions to knowledge. Although this system has been the subject of much recent discussion and innovation, many current “open access” (OA) solutions perpetuate the inequities or result in new barriers. Assessing these issues from a global viewpoint reveals the inequities. For example, “Gold” OA plans that require article processing charges (APC) (ca. 50% of OA articles) merely shift the access barrier from reader to author. Consequently, although everyone is free to read papers, many authors are excluded. This particular vision of an OA future undermines equitable global participation in scholarly communication.

Photo of a wooden fence

Our proposal:

Assumptions: Any ambitious proposal attempting to shape the future of (open-access) publishing must (a) proceed from principles of equitability with regard to cultural, economic, and functional spheres, and (b) emerge from consultations with a diverse and inclusive group of experts varying by region, gender, ethnicity, culture, economic privilege, and disciplinary background. Our team will use the time at the Institute to formalize guiding principles for an open, global, inclusive, equitable publishing system that is free for authors and readers alike (“platinum” OA), as well as practical elements to be considered during a transition to and implementation of such a system. Mapping the typology of equity issues across different spectrums (disciplinary, economic, regional/cultural, transition requirements, for example), we will then develop a “quality indicators” test to examine existing and proposed models (see Possible Projects). The team will survey, analyze, and discuss the many extant open access sustainability initiatives, identify positive elements, as well as gaps and problems. The aim will be to offer methods of assessing large-scale long-term initiatives (i.e., 5–20 year plans) to shift the publishing model to remove barriers to either participation or benefits based on global geography, economy, field, or culture. In particular, the team will identify inequalities and imbalances in the economics of open-access publishing and its downstream effects between the global north and south, east and west.

Typology: Globally inclusive design—vetting, testing, creating by different disciplines, cultures/traditions, economics; Economics—who pays for what, who gains what; Access—to inputs (authors), outputs (readers); Discovery—metadata, aggregation, technical issues facilitating or hindering institutions’ or individuals’ access; Transition—considering viable methods for payers and players (e.g., academic libraries, scholarly societies, publishers, public) transitioning from closed-access to open; Sustainability—global sustainability of publishing models given mixed markets and local/global economies.

Image of a map of the world in puzzle pieces

Challenges. Developing a multi-disciplinary, global framework for scholarly communication, in its economic, social, legal, technological and cultural facets, presents numerous challenges, including finding agreement and supporting cooperation across key groups, and designing a transition path for all actors and stages in the process (e.g., collection development and acquisitions, commitments from high-level campus administrators, publisher expectations, etc.). To understand and address these issues, we will bring together participant scholars representing diverse origins, situations, expertise, and stakeholder communities. The project team itself includes voices from the humanities, natural sciences, and libraries, among others.

Prior to the October SCI meeting, we will gather information and resources to study current proposals attempting to address these challenges so that these resources can be easily surveyed by the team.

Team. Our initiative has three stages: (1) pre-Institute email exchanges and reading among a larger research group, (2) the Institute itself, which will be attended by a subset of the larger research group, and will result in a set of recommendations and a typology and framework for scholarly communication initiatives and (3) post-Institute activities, presentation and publication of the recommendations, pursuit of funding for further research, and coordination with other scholarly communication efforts including the co-hosting at KU, with partner organizations including K|N, a symposium at the University of Kansas in November 2016 (described below).

Our hope is that the pre-Institute reading and study, the Institute intensive time together, and the planning and holding of the symposium will contribute to the co-development of a roadmap for transitioning to OA publishing that is free for reader and free for authors to participate.

What we will do after the Institute

The main product of the work completed by the Institute participants of this proposal will be a set of pragmatic, scholar-driven recommendations or requirements mapping out steps to address and ameliorate inequality in the economics of open-access publishing on a global scale. This work will be shared openly and we will seek to publish and present this work in a prominent publication, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education. We envision the work also strengthening current and emerging initiatives by providing feedback, perspective, and guidance to those projects in order to better inform their efforts and ensure equitable frameworks along a variety of vectors.

The team’s work at the Institute will inform our November 2016 symposium Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs, co-funded and hosted by the University of Kansas and K|N Consultants. The moderated roundtable symposium will be broadcast live. This larger series of meetings in November will allow in-depth analysis, provocative exchanges, and frank discussions about current plans, visions, aspirations, and challenges, bringing our post-Institute experience to the meetings.  International experts in a variety of disciplines and from diverse stakeholder groups will focus on assessing, evaluating and describing the landscape of scholarly publishing relating to the design principles mentioned earlier, with a particular emphasis on the humanities. Look for more details on the November meeting and the outcomes of our Institute participation here.

Among the goals of the larger project is to create a research framework and infrastructure for the scholarly communication community to pursue grants to fund and coordinate with multiple, aligned, open-access research projects, develop research capacity, and create opportunities, networks, and connections for the broadest inclusion. We envision the University of Kansas as a leading nexus for research and discussion on these topics within academia. This might involve the establishment, or recommendation of the establishment, of an international ‘congress’ or advisory or oversight group with representatives from the projects and models underway, to ensure efficient and coordinated efforts to work toward the same goal: public access to the scholarly publishing system, whether by reader or author, and other parts of the scholarly ecosystem. The work undertaken here will facilitate success in subsequent efforts to design initiatives and secure funding by identifying emerging research questions and opportunities related to scholarly communication, strengthening interdisciplinary and geographical connections among researchers engaged in scholarly communication initiatives, and assembling focused proposals for extramural funding.

Photo of plant growing through metal grid

Who is on your Institute team?

Our Institute team members are scientists, social scientists, and librarians committed to achieving equity in scholarly communication, and have extensive international experience in issues of scholarly communication, open access, digital publishing, and global engagement. Three are international scholars: Kamal Bawa is a long-time innovator in open scholarship in India, Rosario Rogel-Salazar is a sociologist in Mexico, and Tetiana Yaroshenko advances digital scholarly communication in Ukraine and the post-Soviet space. US economist David Shulenburger is a pioneer in open scholarly communication.

This SCI proposal is part of an ongoing effort by a team of KU librarians and scholars concerned with inequities in the scholarly communication system from a global perspective, and developing a framework for future research initiatives. The impetus for the current project comes from this team’s 2014 paper (Bonaccorso et al. 2014) and the 2015 KU Digital Humanities Forum “Peripheries, barriers, hierarchies: rethinking access, inclusivity, and infrastructure in global DH practice”.

Institute participants:

  1. Dr. Kamaljit Singh Bawa, FRS, is an evolutionary ecologist, conservation biologist, and a distinguished professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  2. Dr. Rosario Rogel-Salazar is a professor of political and social sciences at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, specializing in social systems theory. She is a member of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (Conacyt, Mexico) and has collaborated in the development of current methods of evaluation of academic publications, such as the current law for open access in Mexico, approved by the Mexican federal government in May of 2014.
  3. Dr. Town Peterson (University Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas, USA). Peterson is faculty in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Kansas since 1993, and University Distinguished Professor since 2007.
  4. Dr. Dave Shulenburger (Senior Fellow, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, former Provost of University of Kansas, economist): Senior Fellow, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
  5. Dr. Tetiana Yaroshenko (PhD in LIS, Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine) is Vice President for Research and Information Science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (Ukraine) and Assoc. Prof. of Librarianship at the Kyiv National University of Culture & Art.
  6. Ada Emmett, Librarian at the University of Kansas (KU) since 2002, is the director of the David Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright and Librarian at the University of Kansas Libraries.

Does One Size Fit All? Small Societies, Humanities Journals, and the Risk and Promise of Open Access Conversion

This is the third in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2016, and their projects. This one was submitted by Meredith Goldsmith.

Photo of stacking small stones in the desertWhat are the goals of your working group and how do they fit the theme of this year’s Institute?

If our team has a theme, it would be “Size matters.” Our team proposes to explore existing models of open access transitions to consider how they might be scaled to meet the needs of small societies in humanities disciplines.  We recognize that smaller scholarly organizations, especially in the humanities, face particular practical and theoretical challenges around the transition to open-access publishing. The challenges are rooted in the culture of small organizations and their publications. First, small humanities societies are often fully dependent on membership fees to publish their journals. Editors and society staff support their journals as a labor of love, struggling to produce a quality product in the face of rising costs and little or no institutional support.

Our group includes two editors of small society journals, one of whom is a former society president. Although small scholarly societies recognize the cost of adhering to an increasingly expensive print‐only business model, they are often resistant to assume the risk of changing their production model, leaving such organizations and their publications “frozen in place,” as Rebecca Kennison and Kristen Ratan have argued. Finally, the incentives of the promotion and tenure system, especially in small institutions where the open access movement is just beginning to gain traction, have kept scholars in small humanities societies stuck in different ways. Despite or because of the rapid proliferation of new media and new publications, humanist scholars must debate where and how to disseminate their work in new ways.

Small organizations rooted in print publication will need to draw upon a range of different examples and to reconcile competing imperatives. By bringing stakeholders together from a broad range of perspectives — scholarly editors, publishers, and digital scholarship professionals — our working group aims to develop a more nuanced perspective on OA transitions than has been advanced in recent scholarship. Editors of small journals and their boards must take into account cost and prestige and scholarly values and product quality and peer review, among other considerations. When faced with what seem like untenable choices, it is no wonder that those working for small scholarly organizations have felt as if our options are, to put it generously, limited. It is our hope that this working group, drawing upon published scholarship, existing models, and our own creative explorations, can develop a model that draws upon our multiple perspectives, even if it does not entirely reconcile them. And we are particularly optimistic about the opportunity to bring the expertise we bring from different sides of the field—that of teachers, scholars, publishers, and editors, and professionals working to bridge print and digital media.

Who is on your team, and what are you hoping they will contribute to the project?

We are particularly excited about the opportunity to bring together editors, publishers, open access platform developers, and digital scholarship specialists. We believe that Triangle SCI will offers an unparalleled opportunity to unite around our common goals–the dissemination and advancement of new scholarly knowledge. If small scholarly societies—and their journals—are going to survive, we will need not only to develop creative solutions, but to listen carefully to all those with stakes in the political economies of academic publishing.

  • Meredith Goldsmith is a professor of English at Ursinus College, the editor of the Edith Wharton Review, and the past President of the Edith Wharton Society. She is also the founder of the Library of the Future Group at Ursinus.
  • Patrick Alexander is the director of Pennsylvania State University Press, which publishes approximately 50 books in the arts and humanities annually, as well as 41 scholarly journals. Since his arrival at the Press in 2007, its publication of scholarly journals has quadrupled.
  • Rebecca Kennison is a principal at the non-profit organization K|N Consultants and co-founder of the Open Access Network (OAN).
  • Kristen Ratan is the co-founder of the non-profit Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (CKF), whose mission is to build open-source solutions for scholarly knowledge production that foster collaboration, integrity, and speed. Before co-founding the CKF, Kristen was most recently the publisher at the Public Library of Science (PLOS), where she leveraged new technologies, policies, and best practices to transform scholarly communication.
  • Eric Bain-Selbo is the editor of Sunshine law, a Penn State UP journal, and the executive director of the Society for Values in Higher Education. is the Department Head of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University and Co-Founder of the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.
  • Cheryl Ball is associate professor of digital publishing studies at West Virginia University and the editor of the on-line journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. She recently received a million-dollar Mellon grant to develop Vega, a new platform for on-line, open access publishing (
  • John McLeod is Director of the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services (OSPS) at the University of North Carolina Press which provides the UNC system with access to a range of sustainable, mission-driven publishing models and solutions. McLeod has twenty years of publishing experience in areas such as sales and marketing, digital publishing, and intellectual property and copyright.

Photo of wood block type

What do you look forward to most from SCI, and what do you hope to accomplish through the Institute? What are your plans for next steps after the Institute this fall?

We are particularly excited about the opportunity to get out of our silos—print v digital, academics v publishing professionals, and so on–and to draw upon and further cultivate our interdependencies. We are eager to explore non-traditional means of disseminating our findings, especially as we seek to reach a range of audiences: faculty and administrators, scholars in small societies, and publishers. We are considering creating a webinar in which deans share their perspective on open-access publishing; and a white paper for the Oberlin Group and/or Lever Press, among others.