Understanding and Mitigating the Risks of Open Access for Scholarly Societies

This is the sixth and final in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Marcel LaFlamme.

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Scholarly societies have a vested interest in making the knowledge that their members produce accessible to a broad range of publics. Yet many societies depend on subscription revenue from the publications they sponsor, along with membership dues and conference fees, to support organizational activities. In recent years, rank-and-file scholars have begun to champion open-access publication models, in concert with librarians whose budgets have been stretched thin by unsustainable increases in journal pricing. But societies have been more reluctant to embrace open access, viewing it as a risky departure from a working business model in the midst of uncertainty on other fronts.

Our team aims to take an inventory of those perceived risks with respect to two peer societies, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société Canadienne d’Anthropologie (CASCA), and to explore possible strategies for mitigating them. Since 2008, the AAA has contracted with the commercial publisher Wiley to publish its portfolio of twenty-two journals on a subscription basis, while experimenting with open access on a limited scale. The University of Toronto Press has published CASCA’s flagship journal, Anthropologica, on a subscription basis since 2013. But the shifting landscape of scholarly publishing—and, in CASCA’s case, new funding priorities at Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council—has compelled society leadership to consider open futures.

In 2015, the open-access publishing cooperative Libraria was formed out of a desire to develop alternatives to the existing ecology of scholarly communication. Over the past three years, Libraria has worked to develop a financial and organizational model for flipping journals in anthropology, archaeology, and adjacent fields to open access without relying on article processing charges (APCs). Under this model, libraries would redirect subscription payments for participating journals to a transparently governed cooperative comprised of societies and other key stakeholders, which would publish the journals on a not-for-profit, open-access basis. Both the AAA and CASCA have expressed interest in this model, but thus far neither society has committed itself to taking part.

Over the course of the 2018 Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute, our team aims to address the following questions:

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  • What financial, operational, and cultural risks would moving toward open access pose for scholarly societies like the AAA and CASCA? How can open-access advocates more fully apprehend these risks?
  • Are there risks for societies like the AAA and CASCA in not moving toward open access? In other words, are the existing publishing models for these two societies likely to remain viable into the future? In the context of broader shifts toward open data and open infrastructure, how might decisions made today about access to content result in path dependencies in other areas?
  • What other actors have a stake in mitigating the risks of open access for scholarly societies? How might they be enlisted in doing so? What forms of support would be useful, and how could they be structured such that societies could rely on them?
  • Does the Libraria model, as it is currently formulated, mitigate the risks of open access for the AAA and CASCA? If not, then how could the model be refined or further specified? What other social and technical infrastructures might be required?
  • How do the answers to these questions map onto the actually existing governance structures of these societies? What role would sections, committees, boards, and society staff need to play in moving toward open access?

Our team sees the Institute as a rare opportunity for open-access advocates and society leadership to spend time together in an unhurried, low-pressure setting, building trust and working through differences. We also see the inclusion of a representative from a leading research library as essential to understanding how libraries see their own role in the scholarly communication landscape changing. By structuring our team in this way, we hope to elaborate a process for discovery and deliberation that can help other societies and the communities they serve to push past a shared sense of impasse.

Team Members

Anna Agbe-Davies is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She chairs the Anthropological Communication Committee of the American Anthropological Association and serves on the association’s Executive Board.

Alberto Corsín Jiménez is Reader in Social Anthropology at the Spanish National Research Council and a member of the Executive Committee (as well as co-founder) of Libraria. He researches and writes on free culture and open-source activism, with a focus on architecture and participatory urbanism.

Ellen Dubinsky is the incoming Scholarly Communication Librarian at the University of Arizona Libraries. For over a decade, she has been involved in promoting open-access publishing, managing institutional repositories, and facilitating the publication of titles including the Journal of International Women’s StudiesJournal of Cape Verdean Studies, and International Journal of Cybersecurity Intelligence and Cybercrime.

Marcel LaFlamme is Visiting Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington and Managing Editor of Cultural Anthropology, the only journal currently published on an open-access basis by the American Anthropological Association. He is a member of the Executive Committee of Libraria, and previously served as a community college library director.

Caura Wood is an energy anthropologist working in Calgary, Alberta. She is a former treasurer of the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société Canadienne d’Anthropologie and now co-chairs the society’s Open Access Working Group.

Next Steps

Our team envisions sharing the results of our participation in the Institute both within the discipline of anthropology and beyond. We will present detailed reports on our work to the executive boards of the two societies and identify point persons to coordinate next steps. This may include a working session at the joint annual meeting of the two societies, which is scheduled for November 2019. We will also report out to key members and staff at the Association of Research Libraries, which is considering what role it can play in catalyzing an open-access transition in targeted disciplines.

In a more public-facing vein, we will develop a freely available toolkit on understanding and mitigating the risks of open access for scholarly societies, drawing on our experiences leading up to and at the Institute. Not every society can send a team to Triangle SCI, so we want to distill the process that we develop and some of our lessons learned into a portable format that can be used to guide discussions in other settings. We plan to promote the toolkit with blog posts in publications such as The Scholarly Kitchen or Associations Now.

[ Photos by Chris Barbalis, Yeshi Kangrang, and Leyre Labarga used under Unsplash free license. ]

Scholarly Communication in a Consumer-Licensed World: Understanding and Reducing the Legal Risk of Commercial Platforms for Popular Media

This is the fifth in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Will Cross.

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A Consumer-Licensed World

“Can I teach the film Black Panther in my American History course?” “We’re looking to archive tweets from the #MeToo movement.” “How do violent images in video games correlate to global rates of gun violence?” Questions like these animate instruction, librarianship, and scholarship every day, but each requires use of third party materials that creates legal risk that can be hard to understand and even more challenging to quantify. Traditionally scholars, librarians, and others in the academy have relied on a suite of legal exceptions that explicitly permit performance, analysis, and archiving of cultural materials. Grounded in the Copyright Act and in two centuries of common law, these exceptions have historically made the socially-valuable practice of scholarly communication safe and often quite simple. In recent years, however, changing technology and legal uncertainty have made navigating these questions seem to be one of the most risky things a scholar can do.

Scholarly communication relies on a stable set of legal rules and practices grounded in clarity about ownership and lawful use for close reading, library collecting, and scholarly analysis. With the rise of digital media, scholars and librarians have worked to navigate acquisition and use of licensed digital materials where there is no physical artifact to own. In particular, librarians have developed sophisticated practices for negotiating licenses that aim to recreate the open space needed for scholarly communication to thrive. Many well-resourced institutions have also brought legal experts into the library with a mandate to translate legal rules and practices for scholars working with digital and open materials.

In the recent years, however, access to music, film, television, and games has become mediated not just by database licenses, but by consumer-facing companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Steam that simply will not offer libraries a license at any price. Without reliance on the traditional body of copyright exceptions or any opportunity to negotiate, academics are forced to puzzle through licensing language that is silent or misaligned with scholarly communication, and to risk violating the terms of the agreement if they want to teach, analyze, or archive. Many scholars may have heard that penalties for copyright violation can be up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines even where there is no monetary profit. Separate penalties for breach of contract and even fear of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provision raise the stakes further. In light of these perceived dangers, text mining, archiving, and culturally-sustaining pedagogy can seem like they just aren’t worth the risk.

The current legal quagmire has left scholarly communication in a market stalemate. With no clear avenue to license this content, many libraries and scholars are unwilling to engage with these services, and those that do often feel compelled to do so sub rosa. In turn, this lack of visible engagement sustains the sense that the academic market is small enough to ignore, so no institutional license option is created. Because no one is at the table, no one will come to the table. Even if these companies did offer a license, reliance on a purely market-based solution carries its own set of risks. As we have seen with academic publishing, a scholarly communication system built on licenses from for-profit providers quickly becomes unsustainable when deprived of the necessary legal safety valves. A solution that reduced risk by creating a new “big deal” for consumer-licensed content would be no solution at all.

These issues are expected to come to a head in 2018. Congress is currently considering the Music Modernization Act, a bill that would rewrite many of the core assumptions about licensing in this area. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the ongoing Capitol v. ReDigi case, examining the question of how the first sale doctrine should be applied to digital materials. The law is about to change once again, and the academic community needs to take an active role in shaping that change as well as helping our peers understand and navigate it. As music, film, games, and even public communication are increasingly shared on commercial platforms governed by non-negotiable terms of use, the greatest risk would be to resign ourselves to this situation based on fear and misunderstanding, or to abdicate our role as advocates for a more sustainable legal and scholarly communication system. Public scholarship, open pedagogy, and archiving the culture of our lived experiences all require that we engage with these issues, and that engagement must not be limited to exclusively wealthy institutions that can afford to keep a full-time legal expert on staff.

Libraries, scholars, and instructors need clear guidance on the real risks and opportunities for their work in this new environment. To provide this guidance, this proposal brings together a team that can design resources to help individuals and institutions accurately calibrate the true level of risk and identify a path forward. This team has substantial experience in legal advocacy and is also prepared to develop a strategy for legislative and judicial action in support of scholarly communication. All members have deep legal expertise and roles that are focused on offering practical, actionable solutions. Members also have a strong track record of designing information and advocacy materials, from amicus briefs and Copyright Office RTC documents to local and national user-focused guides and best practices.

Individuals on the team have written and spoken on the issue in a variety of contexts. What is needed is the concentrated time to bring this cohort together to develop a plan and set of materials for offering guidance that helps users understand the real risk of engaging with consumer-licensed materials and platforms, as well as a strategy to advocate for a clearer, more open copyright system that supports, rather than undermines, academic values and practices.

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Team Members

  • Kyle K. Courtney is the Copyright Advisor for Harvard University, working out of the Office for Scholarly Communication. He works closely with Harvard Library to establish a culture of shared understanding of copyright issues among Harvard staff, faculty, and students. His work at Harvard also includes a role as the copyright and information policy advisor for HarvardX/edX. His “Copyright First Responders” initiative was profiled in Library Journal in 2013, and he was named a National Academic Library Mover & Shaker in 2015. In 2014, he founded Fair Use Week, now an international celebration sponsored annually by over 80 universities, libraries, and other institutions.
  • Will Cross is the the Director of the Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center in the NCSU Libraries and an instructor in the UNC School of Information and Library Science. Trained as a lawyer and librarian, he guides policy, speaks, and writes on open culture and navigating legal uncertainty. As presenter coordinator for the ACRL Scholarly Communication Roadshow, he has developed training materials and led workshops for international audiences from Ontario to Abu Dhabi. His research focuses on legal frameworks that support open culture and he currently serves as PI on two IMLS-funded projects on support for OER and open pedagogy. He currently serves as a SPARC Open Education Leadership Fellow and an OER Research Fellow for the Open Research Group.
  • Eric Harbeson is Music Special Collections Librarian in the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, and curates the American Music Research Center’s collections. He holds master’s degrees from Cleveland State University (music history) and the University of Illinois (library and information science).  His research interests include copyright and information policy (especially with respect to libraries), the use of emerging technologies in archives applications, and early music notation.  His edition of the Motecta (1590) by Orazio Vecchi (with co-editor William R. Martin) was published in 2013.  He has performed as a percussionist with several local organizations, including the Ars Nova Singers, the Denver Early Music Consort, and the Seicento Baroque Ensemble.
  • Carrie Russell is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Washington Office of the American Library Association. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books, and other public policy issues. She has an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She authored two books on copyright including Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians and Educators, winner of the 2013 ABC-CLIO award for best book in library literature.
  • Tucker Taylor – is Head of Circulation at Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina; she has over 25 years of experience in library access services and regularly works with copyright issues. Tucker is a founder and co-editor in chief of Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship. She is also a founder and co-chair of South Carolina Library Association’s Scholarly Communications Interest Group. As a member of the University of South Carolina Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Team and the South Carolina Affordable Learning Task Force,  Tucker has provided copyright education for librarians and faculty throughout South Carolina. Tucker regularly presents on copyright, predatory publishing, and open access issues.

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The primary outcome of this project will be guidance for individuals and institutions for sustainable engagement with consumer-licensed content, as well as a plan of action for advocacy around related political and legal issues. This will be grounded in rigorous legal analysis to be published in scholarly articles, white papers, and best practice documents in the vein of the ARL’s Best Practices for Fair Use statements. The Journal of Copyright in Education & Librarianship is prepared to offer a special issue on the topic, featuring scholarship from leaders on copyright, licensing, and academic practice.

While these formal documents are critical for informing institutional practice, individuals in the field will need a different type of resource. This team will also create materials to support hands-on training, informal learning, and popular engagement. Members of this team have a strong track record of creating engaging, whimsical resources like ALA’s Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) Section 108 Spinner, Fair Use Coasters, and Fair Use Evaluator. Other members have done similar work making complex issues approachable and fun through “Copyright First Responders” teams, ACRL Scholarly Communication Roadshow workshops, and multimedia resources.

In addition to formal legal and library-focused scholarship and popular resources, this team will begin to develop an advocacy plan for engaging with current legal challenges like the ReDigi case and Music Modernization Act. Library and academic advocacy has been effective in earlier cases such as the Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley decision and in the ongoing Copyright Office battle over orphan works and collective licensing, and this team will develop a plan to engage with content holders such as Netflix, Steam, and Hulu as a profession and to advocate for a clearer system that support scholarly communication at all levels of government. This will leverage the legal expertise of team members, as well as the political experience and connections of the team to the American Library Association and to international events such as Fair Use Week.

Individual members of this team have worked together in the past on events such as a preconference hosted by Courtney, Taylor, and Cross at the 2018 National Media Market and had informal conversations at a number of events over the past year, but the full team has never had the time or space to work together. All members are committed to beginning work over the summer, with in-person time available at the Kraemer Copyright Conference in June. The team will also gather digitally to begin developing resources for tracking legal developments, preparing overviews of relevant case law, and brainstorming engaging strategies for articulating and navigating the risks involved in this area. The team will arrive in October ready to clarify these complex issues and develop a plan that mitigates risk to make scholarly communication sustainable in a world dominated by commercial platforms.

[ Top photo by Dan Schiumarini used under Unsplash free license. Other photos from Pixabay used under CC0 license. ]

Findable, Citable, Usable, Sustainable: A Checklist for Rigorous Digital Publishing

This is the fourth in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Monica McCormick.

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What risk is your project trying to overcome?

The risks involved in digital scholarly publishing are manifold. Scholars fear their work that is inherently digital will not be assessed on the same level as the more traditional outputs of their colleagues, or that promotion and tenure committees will not know how to evaluate such work. Libraries and IT departments risk the long-term commitment of labor to create and maintain often bespoke digital publishing projects, which may be vulnerable to obsolescence or eventual disinterest by the original creators. Readers around the globe may be unable to find digital scholarship (because there is no reliable aggregator or index) or unable to access them (because they lack the technological infrastructure or bandwidth required). Taken together, these risks create significant barriers to scholars who wish to undertake novel digital work; to the organizations and institutions that seek to support this work; and to the full audience that may have interest in or benefit from the work. By identifying a broad set of criteria for digital scholarly projects, and articulating how those criteria may be implemented, we aim to support the creation of impactful, robust, and rigorous networked scholarship, readable by both humans and machines, that can be effectively sustained and reused, to enable more such scholarship in diverse settings that may answer questions not yet asked.

What is your project?

We believe that a rigorous, accessible, standards-based framework for digital scholarly publishing could mitigate these risks, yet no such framework exists. Working in our separate organizations with specific goals and constraints, we’ve each experienced the great difficulty in considering the many elements of a good digital publishing project or collection and the even greater challenge of implementing them. Drawing on our experiences and others’ in our communities, our Triangle SCI project is to identify the criteria for robust, impactful digital scholarly publishing and to transform that into a checklist, with standards, recommendations, best practices, and alternatives for each element. We will debate and document the criteria and standards that will constitute a flexible, robust framework, and to enable its widespread institutional adoption. We aim to lower the risks of digital publishing for libraries, presses, and scholars alike and to empower ourselves to create digital publishing (including digital humanities) projects that are more visible, more usable, universally accessible, and sustainable.

What are your goals for the project and your work at Triangle SCI 2018?

We want to create a useful tool for many kinds of projects, one that helps creators avoid common oversights and supports the development of impactful scholarship.

The outcome of our work together will be a detailed checklist that enables creators and collaborators to design and build their projects while bearing in mind all the elements they may want to consider. The checklist will also enable digital publishers to select platforms and identify tools that support or enable these criteria. Ideally, it will serve as a guide for platform developers, indicating desired elements and features that their tools should provide.

We anticipate that the checklist will address the following elements:

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  • Use of digital identifiers (URIs, handles, DOIs, ORCIDs, ARKs, etc.)
  • Rights (e.g., author’s rights, assets rights) and licenses (e.g., rightstatements.org, Creative Commons licenses)
  • Platforms (open source and proprietary; usability, migration, and preservation issues)
  • Genres/Project Types (typologies of digital publishing, ongoing vs. sunsetting)
  • Peer review (open, blind, other methods; indicators that peer review occurred)
  • Accessibility (availability, usability, disability)
  • Preservation (technical infrastructures, metadata guidelines, preservation strategy)
  • Discovery (in various discovery systems, for both humans and machines)
  • Metrics of use, engagement, and impact
  • Citation (identifying citable units, integration with citation tools)
  • Annotation (networked interaction with published projects)
  • Reuse (in terms of rights and of technical re-use via APIs, zipped files, etc.)

Our team will be working in advance of Triangle SCI to research existing standards and practices for each element, so that during our time together we can build out the checklist with consciousness of how these elements work together. We aim to produce a detailed draft that can then be shared, tested, and refined by the community.

Who are you, and how will your perspectives support the goals of the project?

We are a team of digital humanists, library and university press publishers, and digital scholarship librarians. We built our team to with an eye toward bringing critical stakeholders into the conversation: digital scholars, technologists, librarians, publishers, and other scholarly communication practitioners. We want our project to benefit from and reflect diverse experiences–diverse technologies, languages, geography, and training–to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive set of tools.

Nicky Agate is Assistant Director, Scholarly Communication & Projects at Columbia University, where her team works on a library publishing platform, the institutional repository, and digital humanities programming—and wishes that the proposed framework already existed. She has previously worked with digital humanists and others on issues of risk in scholarly communication:  digital identity, recognition for digital projects, and expanding the remit of scholarly communication to include research expressed in experimental and digital formats. The research she has conducted through HuMetricsHSS, an initiative seeking to establish a framework for values-based assessment and evaluation in the humanities and social sciences, will inform this team’s approach to indicating the impact and success of digital publication projects.

Cheryl E. Ball is Director of the Digital Publishing Collaborative at Wayne State University Libraries, after 14 years as a professor of rhetoric, writing, and publishing. Ball is editor of the longest continuously running, scholarly multimedia journal, Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, from which much of her published research on editorial workflows and digital publishing infrastructures has come. She is the Project Director for Vega, an open-access multimedia academic publishing platform and serves as the executive director of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. Through work with CELJ, Kairos, and consulting with other journals and presses, she has helped create best practices for e-journals and for accessibility in digital publishing, topics which she also teaches through KairosCamp.

Allison Belan is Associate Director for Digital Strategy and Publishing Systems at Duke University Press. After many years of managing Duke’s journals production workflow, and seeing the transition from a print-centric workflow to a format-flexible one, Belan assumed a role tasked with setting and aligning digital content practices across the press’s book and journal operations. She now works to align all aspects of the press’s digital publishing strategy and operations to build a digital presence that connects scholars and thinkers to press publications in ways that speed Duke UP’s scholarship to the world.

Monica McCormick is Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Publishing and Research at the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press. After 16 years in university press publishing, primarily as an acquisitions editor at the University of California Press, she moved into libraries, spending the past ten years leading digital publishing projects and services at NYU Libraries and NYU Press, where she served as the managing editor of  MediaCommons, and project manager of a study into methods and tools for Open Peer Review and another to develop infrastructure for networked monograph publishing. Now at the University of Delaware, she leads a new division in the library that includes the University of Delaware Press and service teams for digitization, digital scholarship, repositories, research data, and copyright. She brings to the team deep knowledge of both traditional print and digital publishing, and a wide range of experience with scholars, technologists, and librarians.

Joshua Neds-Fox is Coordinator for Digital Publishing at Wayne State University Libraries. He helps guide the development and direction of the Libraries’ digital collections infrastructure and institutional repository, and collaborates with Wayne State UP to house their online journals. He serves on the Library Publishing Coalition Board of Directors, and is user-testing the LPC publishing curriculum modules created through an IMLS grant this past year.

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What are your plans for continuing the work of the project and spreading the word after Triangle SCI 2018?

To share this work after the institute, we plan on the following outreach efforts:

  • Publish our framework to an open-review platform, such as Humanities Commons, Comment Press, or simply Google Docs, and invite comments from practitioners around the world to see whether it addresses real needs effectively.
  • Present the framework for feedback at venues such as Library Publishing Forum, Association of University Presses, Society for Scholarly Publishing, Coalition for Networked Information, Modern Language Association, American Historical Association, Open Repositories, International Digital Curation Conference, KairosCamp.
  • Identify areas that need deeper development and make iterative improvements.
  • Develop a plan to test and pilot the framework at institutions of varying sizes and global locations to further refine it before making it more widely available.

[ Photos by Frederic Köberl, Ciprian Boiciuc, and Hitoshi Suzuki, used under Unsplash free license. ]
[Post edited on 28 August to adjust team composition, as one participant listed earlier is no longer able to attend.]