TRANSPOSE – TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution

This is the second in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Tony Ross-Hellauer.

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Context

Journal policies shape Open Scholarship practices and safeguard against legal and ethical risks in publishing. Journal policies are an under-investigated element of Open Scholarship, however. This is unfortunate, since Open Scholarship requires publication policies that are aligned with its aims in order to reduce the transaction costs – and thereby career risks – for researchers that want to practice transparent, inclusive, and collaborative research. Such transaction costs are exacerbated by obscure or only implicitly stated journal policies; a lack of central resources to monitors such policies; and a lack of data-sharing from publishers regarding their publication processes. In the move towards Open Scholarship, researchers are expected to open up their research to transparency and scrutiny; the same should be expected of academic publishing.

TRANSPOSE (TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution) is a new, grassroots initiative to address SCI 2018’s theme of overcoming risk:

  1. Risk to researchers: For researchers, and especially early career researchers, Open Scholarship means experimenting with new practices for the benefit of scholarship. Such experimentation may put researchers at risk of falling foul of review etiquette, or licensing agreements. This is especially true of those disciplines (such as some humanities disciplines) where such practices are less prevalent. Therefore publishers have a duty of care to inform and educate authors and reviewers about the terms under which they engage with those journals and the consequences of their choices. Obscure policies will often mean that researchers are unsure of their rights and may be dissuaded from innovation out of unfounded fears, thus putting the future of Open Scholarship at further risk.
  2. Risk to the scientific system: Healthy systems innovate, and scholarly publishing should innovate based on evidence. Yet since publisher internal processes are often a “black box” of proprietary information, it can be difficult for meta-research to take an evidence-based approach. Moreover, with current claims of a reproducibility crisis in many scientific disciplines and sky-rocketing publication rates, efficient movement towards Open Scholarship is required. Lack of clarity about Open Scholarship practices in journal policies, and authoritative evidence about the extent of their adoption, impedes such progress.

Such risks manifest themselves in a host of uncertainties. How do policies shape the adoption of Open Scholarship? Who can contribute, and who gets credit? What rights do authors have to post preprints, and when? Are peer review processes functioning as optimally as possible?

Photo of bridge and open skyTRANSPOSE will research these issues to: 1) make clearer to researchers the conditions of engaging in the academic publishing system through greater transparency on policies; 2) quantify the degree to which practices are currently supported to provide an evidential basis for future changes at the policy-level, and; 3) work to increase sharing of data about publisher-internal processes which bear on the quality and process of publication procedures. We’ll examine the following concrete issues:

  • Preprints: Researchers are often afraid of taking steps (such as posting a preprint) because the reaction from journals is unknown. Based upon our surveys (for example, re licensing) they tend to assume the worst: that journal policies regarding the acceptability of preprints, both as submissions and citations, are as conservative as possible. Therefore, the act of making policies and practices crystal clear helps authors to accurately predict outcomes and reduce risk. Furthermore, fears regarding social norms and practices (such as scooping) could be addressed with evidence of their true prevalence, especially as they relate to behaviours that are likely to be protective (ie, preprinting).
  • Unacknowledged reviewing: Early career researchers (namely graduate students and postdocs) may feel hesitant to contribute to peer review done in the name of their supervisor; and supervisors may not disclose names of others involved in review where journal policies suggest such common practices may have punitive consequences. Providing appropriate and ethical credit for their involvement would reduce their risk.
  • Extent of open peer review procedures: A recent meeting demonstrated widespread support for journals in the life sciences posting the contents of peer review. However, currently only 2% of them are doing so. Tracking these practices in one place over time will allow editors and publishers to reconsider practices to match those of their peers.
  • Data-sharing on journal processes: As ECR Libby Pier said in a recent blog post “Until there’s more data on [Open Peer Review] … I think scientists ought to be wary of donating their time and resources to an uncertain process. On the other hand, we can’t obtain more data on the effects of open peer review if we don’t have willing participants. And therein lies the paradox of OPR: We won’t know if it works until more of us try. So for the good of the future of scholarship, perhaps we need to be willing to participate in an experiment of our own collective making.” But ECRs shouldn’t need to expose themselves to risk like this – we need to foster more studies and hence enable an evidence-based approach to changes in processes.

To bring clarity to these issues, we will crowdsource a list of journal policies for (1) open peer review policies, (2) co-reviewer policies, and (3) pre-printing policies. We’ll then look at a representative subset of journals in more detail to systematically taxonomize and analyse their stated peer review and preprinting policies. These initiatives will then be complemented by a strategic discussion on how journals could be persuaded to improve their policies. As a final step, we will work to foster data-sharing in order to more systematically test how these innovations affect the quality and efficiency of scholarly communications, as well as their effects on researchers. These actions will mitigate the risks that adopters of innovative practices run, clarifying options and providing more evidence.

TRANSPOSE has already started and all are welcome to participate! https://transpose-publishing.github.io/

Photo of open sky seen through barn doorsGroup participants

Jessica Polka is Director of ASAPbio, a researcher-driven non-profit working to promote transparency and innovation in life sciences communication. With a background in biochemistry, cell biology and synthetic biology, Jessica has been advocating for the productive use of preprints in these disciplines and is heavily invested in tracking and encouraging policy changes. She recently co-organized a meeting on increasing transparency in peer review in the life sciences (asapbio.org/peer-review/summary). She brings to this project a desire to translate knowledge into community-driven actions that result in policy and cultural change. Jessica will bring her rich experience in community-organisation to bear in driving the crowdsourcing elements of the project, also contributing expert knowledge of the current landscape for preprints and open peer review.

Gary McDowell is Executive Director of Future of Research, a non-profit organization which wants to champion, engage and empower early career scientists with evidence-based resources to improve the scientific research endeavor. Gary currently studies aspects of the academic enterprise as they relate to early career researchers and how they carry out their scholarly work, with a particular focus on systemic workforce issues. Gary’s contribution to this project will be the particular focus on the recognition of scholarship of early career researchers through increased transparency in the peer review process, including efforts to make sure that all who participate in the peer review process and authorship of peer review reports are named as doing so.

Jennifer Lin is Director of Product Management at Crossref, a scholarly infrastructure provider, developing metadata services that make scholarly content easy to find, cite, link, and assess. Jennifer received her PhD in political philosophy and has served as an instructor at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked for PLOS where she oversaw product strategy and development for research data sharing, article-level metrics, and open assessment initiatives. Jennifer’s role in the project is to provide technical resources for data collection and dissemination in the project as well as more broadly provide background context on the diversity of publishing practices (editorial and production) across publishers.

Benedikt Fecher heads the “Knowledge Dimension” research programme and the “Internet-Enabled Innovation” research unit at Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin. In his research he focuses on open science and open access infrastructures. In 2016, Benedikt was also a scientific advisor to the Leibniz Association on the subjects of open access and research data. He has been a mentor in the “Free Knowledge” fellowship for Open Science programme since 2017, supported by Wikimedia, the Stifterverband and the Volkswagen Foundation. Benedikt is also co-editor of the blog journal Elephant in the Lab, which critically engages with the science system and a member of the editorial board of the Open Access journal Publications. Benedikt will bring a social sciences perspective to the team, using theories from Science and Technology Studies to contextualise findings and produce policy recommendations.

Samantha Hindle is Content Lead at bioRxiv, a non-profit preprint server for the life sciences, and co-founder of PREreview.org, a preprint journal club review platform geared towards promoting the training (and acknowledgement) of early career researchers in peer review. Samantha has a background in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and, until recently, was an early career researcher herself. Samantha has seen the benefits of working openly through her involvement in the Mozilla Science Lab and OpenCon communities, and is passionate about enabling policy change that will align the current academic culture with Open Science practices. Samantha’s role in this project will be the focus on visibility of journal preprint and peer review (co-reviewer) policies to overcome the risks associated with pre-printing and engaging in open peer review.

Tony Ross-Hellauer is Senior Researcher in the department of Social Computing at Know-Center GmbH, Austria’s leading research centre for big data analytics and cognitive computing. Tony is Editor-in-Chief of the Open Access journal Publications, and his research on open peer review has received international recognition. He is actively involved in Open Science advocacy and community-building. His research interests include Open Science, new models and infrastructures for scholarly communications, science policy and ethics, alternative models for peer review, and philosophy of technology (in which field he completed his doctoral work). Tony’s contribution to this project will be the particular focus on the evidential basis of the benefits and risks of open peer review (especially for early career researchers) and the need for greater data-sharing to stimulate further research, as well as the broad ethical dimensions of the project more generally.

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[ Photos by Pahala Basuki on Unsplash used under Unsplash free license. ]

Creating Global Cognitive Justice

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

A project to explore the language, access and epistemological barriers that put the equity, diversity and inclusiveness of OA scholarly communication at risk in Africa and other areas in the Global South

Photo of training session at the Université Catholique d'Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé. Cameroun

Image credit: Prof. Florence Piron, training session at the Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé. Cameroun

Defining the problem

Scientific research is not just about advancing knowledge. In today’s world, it is attempting to fulfill two other roles assigned to it by science policy: on the one hand, to contribute to the economic development of a country by generating marketable innovations (knowledge economy) and, on the other hand, to contribute to the common good of a society defined according to its priorities and needs (societal impact).

Word cloud of text about open access and knowledge in AfricaIn the Global South, which are plagued by many economic, political, environmental, social or energy problems, scientific research should and could offer a major contribution to the search for solutions. However, as several surveys (Alperin 2013; Gibs 1995) and statistics from commercial databases or from the DOAJ show, research is struggling to emerge in these countries: publications from universities in for example French-speaking Africa are very few, not very visible, not widely read, and so most African universities are more familiar with publications from the North than from their neighbors.

Among the explanations of this phenomenon that we want to explore together during the seminar, the hegemony of the English language on the scientific publishing system comes first (Panko 2017). Indeed, few graduate students, lecturers and professors from French-speaking Africa (where university education is taught in French) are proficient in English. That situation prevents them from fully understanding publications in this language or from publishing articles in English-language journals, the most visible on the web right now.

For researchers, choosing to produce knowledge in their own languages would allow them not only to integrate within it the local world vision and knowledge, but also to maximize the use of this knowledge by their fellow citizens, whether in Economics, Public Service or Civil Society.

The domination of the English language in the publication system entails  a serious risk for researchers from the Francophone Global South (Hountondji 1994, 2001). They want or are expected by their university to publish away from their language and therefore from their first public, their fellow citizens. In so doing, they target an Anglophone public that is not  necessarily interested in their research topics or their way to approach it. The same situation exists in other language areas.

Language, knowledge sharing and Open Access

The two major problems encountered in global scholarly communication are:

1) Cognitive injustice linked to language hegemony
The concept of cognitive justice, stemming from the reflections of the Indian anthropologist Shiv Visvanathan designates an epistemological, ethical and political ideal aimed at the emergence and the free circulation of knowledge that is socially relevant all over the planet, not just in the North. The current system favors the circulation of knowledge present in English language publications.Graphic of which countries academic knowledge comes from2) Bias in scholarly knowledge production,  (open) access and preservation

Because of the emphasis on publishing in English language journals from the Global North, knowledge in other languages and indigenous knowledge from Global South countries is much underrepresented in the total Global Knowledge output. Open Access is often seen as a way to promote equity in knowledge, but it also bears the hidden risk of serving continued global dominance of the Northern science system maintaining the invisibility of African science, seldom digitized or in open access (Piron 2017).

Expected Outcome

Our project aims at finding ways to promote the accessibility of local and indigenous knowledges starting with  the Francophone Global South in order to bring more equity, diversity and inclusiveness in scholarly communication.

A reference point for the project  is the project SOHA (Open science in Haiti and Africa as a tool of cognitive justice and collective empowerment) (Piron 2016) and the book published on the outcomes of SOHA ( Piron et al, 2016).

We want to seek collaboration with other communities like the Creative Commons Global Network (https://network.creativecommons.org/) and the OCSD Network (https://ocsdnet.org/)  in order to work with the people concerned in this project as much as possible from the beginning onward. In particular, we are very interested in the potential of multilingualism as a means of countering the hegemony of one language over others.

The other problem that we want to explore together from our varied positions in the academic world is the fascination exerted on scholars from the Global South  by the center of the science world-system, especially the whole system of promotion based on journals with impact factor that is increasingly also imposed in French-speaking countries. Is it possible to propose an alternative system of promotion based on other quality criteria? We want to write an advocacy paper in French asking to give up the impact factor  as evaluation criteria, in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Scientific Assessment(DORA: https://sfdora.org/).

Our proposed deliverables at the end of the seminar are:

  • A global paper called provisionally “Institutionalized diglossia in Francophone African science : risks and solutions”, in French and in English to be submitted to the journals Science, Technology and Human Values et Anthropologie des connaissances.
  • An advocacy paper critical of the impact factor cult, for The Conversation (Africa, the English and French editions)
  • 2 blog posts on the DOAJ website (in English and French)
  • 2 blog posts in French on the Scienceafrique.org future platform (one of the projects that we want to present to each other and discuss during the seminar)
  • A guide to article publications in Open Access intended for African francophone scholars
  • Promotion of non-English journals and developing / adopting new ways for the assessment of scientific quality *
  • Contribute to establishing scholarly knowledge as a commons by default through the promotion of Open Access publishing

* This would entail the creation and support of French-speaking African journals and archiving of Francophone African Science in a multilateral  open repository. We would also like to promote the Directory of Open Access Journals as the global  list of quality open access journals (Olijhoek et al. 2015), currently accepted in many parts of the world.

Our Team

Our team will bring together multiple disciplines and perspectives:

Florence Piron

Florence Piron is an anthropologist and ethicist, a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Laval University where she teaches critical thinking through courses on ethics and democracy. She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house, Éditions science et bien commun. She has been responsible for the SOHA project (open science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) from 2015 to 2017 and is now leading a research-creation project in theatrical writing and an action-research project on science shops in French-speaking Africa and Haiti. She publishes numerous books with her students, particularly the series Portraits de femmes and Québec as open city.

Kamel Belhamel

Kamel Belhamel holds a PhD in the Process Engineering and Electrochemistry from the University of Setif since 2005.  He is currently  a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Bejaia in Algeria (ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9099-8040) He has taken part in several international projects such as: German – DAAD project, French- Algerian framework programme CMEP and co-ordinator of several Algerian national research projects. From January 2018,  He is  DOAJ Managing Editor for North Africa and Middle East countries ( https://doaj.org/about).

Zakari Lire

Zakari LIRE (Burkina Faso), MA in information sciences, is a PhD student in public communication at Université Laval. He has been working for two decades for CAMES (African and Malagasy Council for Higher education) as Chief Librarian and manager of the quality insurance in higher education program. Since 2017, in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communication of Université Laval, he has been actively involved in the implementation of a project entitled “DICAMES” which promotes open access to publications within Francophone Africa through a digital gateway. He is co-author a several papers, including “Le libre accès vu d’Afrique francophone subsaharienne”, Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication(2017).

Aurélie Fichot

Aurélie Fichot is a research engineer in scientific and technical information, documentation and heritage collections, responsible for resources and documentation engineering. She is Head of the Documentation Centre of Sciences Po Grenoble (France) and is in charge of Mir@bel for Sciences Po Grenoble, co-founder (2009) and member of the steering committee of this free and open network which facilitates access to electronic journals, mainly for French-language ones on social sciences and humanities. She also actively participates in the Sign@l network, a free and open database reporting the content of French-language journals in the humanities and social sciences.

Tom Olijhoek

Tom Olijhoek has been living and working  in Africa for more than 7 years  doing research into tropical and exotic diseases during much of his career. He has spent several years in Africa (Kenya, Algeria) doing research on malaria, sleeping sickness and meningococcal epidemics. Since 2012 he is advocating open access and open science as Open Access working group coordinator for Open Knowledge International (https://okfn.org/).  Since 2014 he is Editor in Chief at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ: https://doaj.org/). From January 2018 his main task has become managing of the global DOAJ ambassador programme and global outreach activities including connecting to other open communities like the Creative Commons Global Network and OCSD Net.

Zoé Aubierge Ouangré

Zoé Aubierge Ouangré is a lecturer in information science at the University of Koudougou (Burkina Faso). She is about to defend her doctoral thesis in information science at the University of Montreal where she is also participating in the teaching programme. Her research project focuses on the informational behavior of medical students in Burkina Faso. She is particularly interested in the access to scientific information and the difficulties encountered in this respect by students and lecturers of French-speaking universities in Africa. She is a member of the APSOHA (Association for the Promotion of Open Science in Haiti and Africa).

References

[ Post edited on 26 September to reflect a change in one of the team members. ]

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SCI 2018 project teams

We’re pleased to be able to announce the teams that will be participating in this year’s Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute!

The selection process was difficult, as we received a very strong set of proposals and diverse team participants – from 22 different countries and 89 different organizations.

Here are the projects and teams that will be coming together at SCI 2018 in October:

Congratulations to all of these teams, and we look forward to seeing you in Chapel Hill in October!

[ Minor edits made to this post on July 26 and August 28 and September 26 to complete links to info about all of the teams, and make minor modifications to the composition of some teams and one team’s project title. ]

[ Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash used under Unsplash free license. ]

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Submit your proposal to join SCI 2018 in October – this year’s theme is Overcoming Risk

[ Note: the due date for proposals for SCI 2018 has passed. Submitted proposals are currently being reviewed, and information about the teams that are being invited to attend SCI in October will be posted here in June. Keep an eye on this web site in January 2019 for announcement of the theme and request for proposals for 2019. ]

The Scholarly Communication Institute invites you to participate in SCI 2018, its fifth year in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region. This year’s theme will be Overcoming Risk and the program will take place October 7 through 11, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Triangle SCI is not your typical academic conference – it’s four days of concentrated but relaxed time with a diverse cohort of individuals who have come to start new projects they have proposed, in teams they have built and with advice and contributions from participants on other teams and a set of interlocutors and experts who work across teams.

You set the agenda, and you define the deliverables – TriangleSCI provides the scaffolding for your team to develop its project. If your team’s proposal is selected, SCI will cover all the costs for team members to participate, including travel, meals, and accommodations, including for international participants. For more information about how TriangleSCI works, see the FAQ and links from previous years of SCI.

Probably the best way to get a sense of what it’s like is through the words of participants from past years: they have described TriangleSCI as “One of the best scholarly experiences I’ve had.” and “an amazing incubator of ideas, innovation and collaboration. Grateful to be a part of this incredible experience!” Learn more about TriangleSCI from the perspective of participants via this podcast (with transcript), this summary blog post, and other links, notes, and photos from SCI 2017 and previous years.

Scrabble tiles reading "RISK" This year’s theme is Overcoming Risk, described this way in the page about the theme:

All change involves some risk. One of the reasons why we develop and stick to patterns over time, in scholarly communication as well as almost any human endeavor, is to mitigate risk. Once you know how it’s done, and you know that everyone is doing it that way, it reduces the risk for you, makes the process more efficient, and allows you to get to the core goals with less worry about the process.

Or does it?

When examined more closely, it becomes clear that existing patterns may protect some participants from risk, but not everyone. Some people may be inhibited from participating at all because the barriers to entry are too high, or the costs and risks to them, personally or professionally, seem insurmountable. Sometimes potentially desirable changes are blocked by precedent that there’s no longer a good reason for. Sometimes vested interests are just too strong, and the costs and risks of getting past them are just too high.

What strategies can scholars, universities, funding agencies, libraries, publishers and others use to promote positive change in scholarly communications, and overcome these risks and disincentives? How do we help all participants to accurately calibrate the true level of risk, so they are not inhibited from action by undue fear? What support structures can we put in place to reduce the real risks to those whose voices are underrepresented or suppressed, or whose status may be precarious – to help them feel welcome and be safe, and promote a greater diversity of perspectives and equitable access and treatment for all who are willing to engage?

What funding models and infrastructures might help new scholarly communication techniques emerge, thrive, and be sustained over time? What strategies can be employed to protect against the risk of vendor lock-in, or corporate capture of essential infrastructure and content? How can scholarly communications practices encourage speed and openness, while avoiding the risk of ephemerality? What models or practices could be developed to incentivize and reward innovation and broader public engagement, and reduce the risk to those who are seen to be breaking from traditional modes of professional advancement?

Please see the theme page for more information, including some ideas of who you might bring together to form a team, and questions you might address – we’re looking for a broad and diverse set of perspectives, and teams that will address both specific and general problems and opportunities. This is a great opportunity to launch a new project, have some concentrated time to develop an existing project with a broader set of collaborators, or just to begin to explore and experiment with ideas that are difficult to pursue in your usual work context.

Typewriter photoTo participate, form a team of 4 to 6 people, and submit a proposal along the lines of what’s described in the RFP (submission deadline is April 23, 2018).

If you have questions about any of this that aren’t already answered in the FAQ, please contact scholcomm-institute@duke.edu and we’d be glad to help.

 

 

Thanks as always to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for continuing to provide funding for the Triangle SCI and making all of this possible!

[ Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash used under Unsplash free license. ]

SCI 2017 has concluded – join us in 2018!

The 2017 Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute concluded a few weeks ago, but it’s really more of a beginning than an ending. In addition to having four days together to work on projects imagined in the proposal process many months ago, participants in SCI concluded our time together feeling like we had forged a community. As Jeana Jorgensen wrote in her #TriangleSCI 2017 Wrap-Up blog post:

One unexpected benefit is that I now feel like I’m part of a cohort, not just with my team (who are AMAZING) but also with all the scholars in attendance. I follow a lot of them on Twitter now, and I’m invested in their work. Just now I saw that one of my colleagues liked a tweet of mine from the conference hashtag, and it filled my heart to know that someone’s cheering for my progress.

I might wager that scholarly community is just as important as scholarly communication; not only do we need to communicate with one another (and the public) for our work to have any real meaning, but we also need to have that sense of belonging, of camaraderie, to help situate us in the world. We need to know that there are others who care passionately about the same materials and methods we do, who are committed to researching and teaching them. It makes the grind of institutional (or altac) life feel a little less lonely.

It’s difficult to convey what TriangleSCI is like, since it’s so different from traditional academic conferences, and so focused on fostering collaboration and community. So the best way to get a sense of the SCI experience is to see it from the perspective of the participants. Many of us were active on Twitter throughout the program, and highlights of that activity have been collected in this Storify thread. If you scroll through here you’ll be able to get a sense of the people in the room, the conversations we were having, the engagement with people out on the net, and the food, drink, and fun that were part of the whole experience. The Storify has photos, and a sampler slide show is also included below.

Some participants have already set up web sites for their projects, blogged about their experience, and written an article for Inside Higher Ed. Here are some links where you can read more from their perspective:

Part of the TriangleSCI experience is excursions in the evenings to the neighboring universities and cities for walking tours and dinners in local restaurants, and on one night, a visit to the National Humanities Center, tucked into the woods in Research Triangle Park. On that evening, we eat and drink and talk with colleagues from the Humanities Center, local universities, and the broader community. The remarks given that evening by Josh Sosin, a member of the TriangleSCI advisory board, convey what the National Humanities Center and the Scholarly Communication Institute are about. Here’s a transcript provided by Josh:

At this year’s SCI dinner at the NHC I had the honor of addressing SCI participants, NHC staff and fellows, SCI Advisory Board members, local worthies, and the crew of deer and squirrels who must wonder what takes place in the strange glass temple in their woods. Paolo thought it might be nice to put my comments down ‘on paper’ for the blog. Here goes.

<story>Thanks, it’s always a joy to have dinner here at the NHC. I like dinner. When I was a kid dinner at our house was usually a three-hour affair, and raucous. My friend James used to love to come eat with us. “I love coming to dinner at your house,” he’d say; “your family is always fighting.” “James, James,” I’d say; “that’s not fighting. That’s spirited debate.”

It was true. Dinner was where ideas happened, where we shared with each other our daily triumphs and failures, tested out ways to be in the world, discovered listening and empathy. Dinner was where we fashioned community by talking like one.

This year’s SCI is about storytelling in scholarly communication. The subject is powerfully interesting by itself, but especially so in an intellectual community that often privileges doing and making and building, over talking and deciding. So, this year’s SCI is like being back at the dinner table.

My job tonight is to say something relevant to the SCI. I am terrible at following instructions. So, I prepared a few words about the NHC, where I was fortunate to have been a fellow a few years ago. I’ll mention a few qualities of the place that I really valued.

First, the freedom from deliverables. But we have to come back to this, because this isn’t quite the truth.

Next, the freedom from distraction. But, you know, that’s not quite right either. Really, it’s the freedom to choose your distractions.

And there is a rich menu of choice here because another quality of the NHC is diversity. Each year the NHC brings together around 35 Fellows from a wide range of places, levels of seniority, institutions, disciplines, and scholarly dispositions, and puts them here, in this beautiful spot in the woods.

Not just a menu of distractions, but a venue too. Here. The room where we sit. Where during the day, every day, the Fellows gather for lunch, seek respite from their own minds, road test ideas with others, sit with peers and learn some of the ways in which the world is quite a lot bigger than the corners that they inhabit.

It is great. I loved it. Look around. The space is great; but, you know, I have space now. The freedom from distractions is awesome, but I do shut my office door sometimes. The room to have ideas is fantastic, but even now I still manage to have ideas at work. But what I realize I don’t have now, and haven’t probably since college, is the regular, ready-made opportunity to sit round the table with a rotating group of colleagues, a kind of professional ‘family’ whom I did not choose but in whose company a person can grow and thrive, sharing a meal, day after day. That is magical.

And there’s a tempo to the day here. Colleagues trickle in, share a morning coffee, maybe read the paper, retreat to their offices, pop out occasionally to see what lunch smells like, chat a bit, return to their offices, emerge to share lunch with new people, return again to their offices, pop out to the kitchen for afternoon chat over leftover desert, get back to work; then drinks and discussion in the evening. It’s like being at home, in the kitchen, at the dining table.

And if you know anything about the Triangle SCI you know that it breathes the same air, shares the same life-force as the NHC. Diverse teams of people come together in the woods, with no required deliverable (again, this is not true…we’ll return to it); there’s a shifting terrain of venues—now we’re all in one room, now in groups, cross-pollinators jumping from one team to another—a rich menu of distractions, smart people to chat with, beautiful spaces to walk in. And above all: a steady, relentless, crashing  torrent of food. Opportunities to sit and eat, stand and eat, walk and eat, talk and eat. And then eat some more.

At first I thought all that food was just the kind of extravagance one expects from a professional conference center. But whatever the cause, I am convinced that it is central to the SCI mission. It fills the dinner table around which we talk and think, build ideas, and become a community.

Let me explain the two small lies I told a minute ago, that there are no required deliverables at the NHC and SCI. For, these two programs share another crucial quality: the key deliverable is the process itself, the process of talking and doing, of nurturing collaboration and conviviality (and returning to your home community ready to do the same). And that too is an essential kind of scholarly communication, one rooted in process, community, shared commitments and habits of mind.

And this kind of communication is also a kind of doing, maybe even the most important kind of doing. My friend James and I aren’t really in touch. His profession is fighting and teaching others to do the same; he is a mixed martial arts trainer. He’s a nice guy, a great guy, but I can’t help thinking that he didn’t have enough of the right kind of dinner. The right kind of meals. The right kind of environment in which people understand that talking together is how we decide what we value, how to be in the world, how we fashion community. And surely that is the wider goal of both the NHC and Triangle SCI.</story>

Planning is already underway for SCI 2018. If you’d like to propose a project, build a team, and join this community next year, look for the new Request for Proposals to be announced in January here at trianglesci.org, on Twitter @TriangleSCI and #TriangleSCI, and in lots of other places. SCI 2018 will take place October 7-11, 2018. If your proposal is selected, the Institute will cover all expenses for your team to attend, with funding generously provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To learn more about TriangleSCI, see our About TriangleSCI and FAQ pages.

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Photo by Joseph Barrientos

Everyone loves a good story

When the TriangleSCI Advisory Board met last year to plan the theme for SCI 2017, the idea of “scholarly storytelling” quickly emerged as a favorite. In academia we’ve developed practices over centuries for how scholarship should be communicated, mainly with peer scholars in mind, and full of signifiers that only knowing readers will understand. We even sometimes look disparagingly upon attempts to write for and engage with a more “popular” audience, forgetting that scholarly communication doesn’t mean only communicating with other scholars. Humans are “storytelling animals”, and narrative forms have the potential to engage broader and more diverse audiences, and to help activate scholarship in different ways.

So for this year’s Scholarly Communication Institute, we invited teams to think about the potential for using storytelling techniques in their scholarly practices, and to put together projects that attempt to answer questions like these:

  • When much of the public gets information (and misinformation) from sources that already use narrative forms, and base their understanding of the world on the stories they learn in this way, how can scholars break through to help facts and nuanced perspectives to take hold?
  • Can we expand our understanding of “scholarly communication” to include narrative methods that may be better able to reach more diverse audiences, and to engage them as stakeholders and not just recipients of information?
  • How might academics use storytelling to build bridges with constituencies that normally don’t feel connected to universities, and who may even feel antipathy to them?
  • How could new technologies be used to engage broader publics in deeper ways?
  • How can scholars use the storytelling techniques of fiction writers, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, visual artists, musicians, and game designers to effectively and accurately convey scholarly information?
  • What can be done to prevent this from being perceived as simply diluting the authoritativeness of complex research?
  • How do we know when we’ve crossed the boundary from information to persuasion? When is crossing that boundary a bad thing, and when is it a useful thing?
  • Can we diversify the ecosystem of scholarly communication without disrupting constructive symbiosis?

Many teams submitted proposals, and six were invited to attend the Institute in November, at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You can read about their projects here, and follow along and join the conversation using the #TriangleSCI hashtag. In November the SCI 2017 cohort will be creating their own stories, and we’ll share them here as they emerge.

[Photo by Joseph Barrientos used under Unsplash free license]

Where does the food on my plate come from? How we can understand and change the global food system through storytelling

This is the sixth and final in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2017, and their projects. This one was submitted by Anneli Sundin.

Oil palm worker

The context

For SCI2017, our team comes together to develop empowering narratives around the issue of sustainable food and the soulful, life-giving properties that food could represent. Food is essential for every human being and bound up with culture and relationships. Food engages people and can evoke strong emotions, memories and creativity, and is closely related to well-being and lifestyle. Yet in the Western world and in rapidly developing regions, food has become merely a habit, often an unhealthy one, and consciousness and caring has been lost. Many people rarely make a connection with our environment and the enabling conditions it provides for food production. People rarely think of where the food comes from, its quality, the resources involved and complex structures in place to produce different types of food. The awareness of the impact that food production can have on farmers and their livelihoods is generally low. Furthermore, people in parts of the world that are becoming more affluent are increasingly adopting a diet which entails a high intake of animal-based products and processed food while eating less plant-based food such as vegetables, pulses and grains, which are often more resource efficient and where production is associated with lower emissions. At the same time as we deforest new tracts of land for cash crop production, much of the food is wasted, with huge implications for soil loss, climate change, and household economies (Garnett, 2016).

In short, our global food system is riddled with paradoxes that directly relate to the challenges of the recently established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In some parts of the world and social groups, there are crises of obesity and non-communicable diseases related to overconsumption, and in others the crisis is one of famine and malnutrition (SDG #2). Whilst this is linked to lifestyle and distribution of wealth, there are huge inequalities related to food consumption (#10). We produce enough calories to feed everyone in a sustainable way, but our dietary choices are leading our planet to degrade alarmingly, undermining our ability to meet the food needs of the future (#6, #14, #15, #12). Moreover, there is a chronic shortage of research on the consequences of the chemicals used to grow and preserve our food (#2), even whilst people spend hours on social media hungry for information on the latest health food trends. Actors enter the global food system with vastly different positions of power, and the consequences of that imbalance for labour, livelihoods and the planet are difficult to make visible in the choices we make at the supermarket (#1, #10, #8). These paradoxes are caused by a complex system, in which actors are increasingly disconnected from the food all the way from the farm to the fork.

Sustainable Development Goals

We need to transform the way we communicate science

In this era of ever growing specialisation and information-overload, the role of the science communicator has never been more important. Not only is there a challenge in making sense of research for the general public, there is also increasingly a need to focus on translating the science between specialised disciplines to help interdisciplinary collaborations succeed. Furthermore, in the area of agriculture and food sustainability there is also a considerable challenge in the disconnect between actors, in terms of perspectives, motivations and even worldviews. Communicating complex science, portraying the different perspectives and finding the stories that can help build common ground is of critical importance if we are to move forward creating a more sustainable food future. It is difficult to bring these three elements together in one coherent, balanced and engaging narrative. We therefore need to try new tools that can create connections while breaking through the information-noise and the siloed thinking we easily turn to when we are confronted with complex issues. We believe storytelling could be an important tool in our toolbox when working to create a deeper understanding among the public.

In parallel, conspiracy theories and narrow-minded group thinking are prevalent in society today. We live in a time where disinformation and so called ‘alternative facts’ is a rising problem. The truth can easily be distorted using narratives describing cause and effect. We know that predisposed opinions can go viral if communicated powerfully and are told by master storytellers. Hence, on one hand, academia and science communicators need to construct engaging stories for their target audiences. On the other hand, they need to ensure that scrutinised evidence back up these stories and avoid crossing the boundary where the story becomes an act of persuasion. We know so much that people are more likely to listen to facts and statistics if these are embedded in a good story (Duarte 2010). For people to make sustainable and healthy choices based on science-informed knowledge, academia need to become better at telling the science through stories.

Storytelling to promote sustainable change

Are the effects of the food system so massive and disconnected that they cannot be addressed by any one group of people? What power do actors, including the citizens, have to alter a system whose side-effects of contamination, pollution, undernourishment, and obesity appear as a price needed to be paid? Where do people, and their desire for healthy food and a liveable planet, find the space for change?

We want to be able to, easily and effectively, use storytelling to engage and (re)connect actors in the food system to the rural and natural environments supporting food production. Humans have been using narratives since ancient times. Today storytelling is used in many different contexts in society, and also more commonly used within the science and humanities as a qualified tool for communicating research (Dahlstrom 2014).

The team wishes to explore how storytelling can be a useful method to get consumers more aware of where and how food is being produced, at what environmental and social costs it is being produced, distributed and wasted and how best to convey the complexity, the way issues are interlinked, as well as the ways forward for in global food system sustainability. People’s understanding of scientific data and complex problems can be significantly enhanced if told through a narrative. Therefore, we think it is down to the storytellers and science communicators to digest the complexity in the food system in a way that enables the public to build an increased awareness and sense of connection. Engaging this group can help raise the issue of sustainable healthy diets and hopefully make other actors understand the leverage they have, as consumers, food industry or civil society representatives and as policy-makers, to make a change for a food system that better works for people and the planet.

The Team Members

For SCI2017, we aim to bring together a team with a diverse set of experiences and motivations to achieve positive change against the backdrop of the SDGs through our professions, interests and practices. The team comes from different cities in Europe, mainly Sweden (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö) and Spain (Barcelona), where most of us are active in the sustainable food movement and healthy living. This will provide an opportunity for sharing experiences and learning from using storytelling in science, digital media and social media tools.

 

Ragnhild Larsson – the storyteller who loves thinking outside the box

Ragnhild is an independent journalist and storyteller specialized in science communication.
After more than 25 years experience of writing articles for Swedish papers and magazines, about working life and environmental issues she is now focusing on how to communicate science using storytelling. Her aim is to help scientists to cut through the noise and create impact with their research using different types of storytelling.
So far she has produced several digital science stories and short films on behalf of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, The Hasselblad Foundation, Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg etc. Ragnhild also facilitates workshops where the participants produce their own digital stories using a method developed by Joe Lambert at Storycenter in Berkeley California. Among the customers are Wallenberg Academy Fellows and researchers at Royal Institute of Technology.
Recently she wrote a chapter about her experiences communicating science using digital storytelling in the book, Digital Storytelling in Higher Education, International Perspectives, that will be launched at Palgrave Macmillian in May 2017.
Becoming more and more concerned about climate change, she decided to launch a podcast about climate change in September 2015, “Klimatpodden”, where she interviews researchers, activists and entrepreneurs who engage to create a more sustainable world in different ways.
It is obvious that food production and what we eat affects the climate to a large extent. Therefore, it would be a great opportunity to explore how to use storytelling, together with this competent team from different disciplines at the Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute, with the aim to make people more aware of these issues and in the end to create more sustainable eating habits and food production.

Anneli Sundin – the science communicator and food lover who’s aiming to create sustainable change

Anneli joined the Stockholm Environment Institute in 2014, and is now working dynamically with science communication and stakeholder engagement. On the side, she is also coordinating activities by the newly established network of science communication in Sweden: Forskom (together with team member Ragnhild!). Anneli has a background in environmental science and sustainability, and have a broad understanding of concepts linked to resilience. In her studies and work, she has had opportunities to explore and understand climate change impacts on smallholder farmers in Eastern and Western parts of Africa.

Not only does she have a passion for reducing poverty and inequalities, and promote a sustainable food system, but also in how to effectively communicate research in fun, creative ways that results in long-lasting impacts. In terms of storytelling Anneli recently submitted a scientific paper on the benefits of including storytelling in research for increased stakeholder engagement, but she is eager to expand her skillset and learn as much as possible on the topic.

At the Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute, she hopes to gain a lot of hands-on tips and insights around how storytelling can be used as a communications tool. In return she anticipates that the team and herself will be able to contribute with nuanced perceptions of society’s often complex sustainability challenges.

Marie Persson – Knowledge broker working to create interdisciplinary dialogue and action on sustainable food systems

Marie is the Communications and network development officer at the Oxford University based Food Climate Research Network (FCRN). The FCRN focuses on science communications for interdisciplinary dialogue, knowledge exchange and collective action. She has five years of experience working with communications and knowledge exchange as well as research uptake on sustainable food, and she is becoming more and more eager to find new ways of creating engagement around and action on both Agenda 2030 and the Paris climate agreement. She works to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange between the very wide group of stakeholders involved in the food sustainability debate by, for example, connecting farmers with soil scientists, economists and aid workers in forum discussions to share experiences and create common ground. She is curious about exploring approaches used by other disciplines (e.g. arts, design, gastronomy) as well as new forms of communications (e.g. storytelling) to create understanding, engagement and a stronger connection to the food on our plate. She hopes that SCI2017 at Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute will provide discussions, tools and insights that can help her and the team create impactful communications that show the real value and importance of sustainable food to ensure human and planetary wellbeing.

Diego Galafassi – A PhD candidate and artist based in Stockholm.

Mobilising areas of film, performance, installation, participatory action research, anthropology, whole system approaches, Diego is looking at how transformative knowledge can be nurtured in the context of climate change and poverty alleviation.

In coastal Kenya and northern Mozambique, Diego has been researching the role of stories and narratives in processes of transformative learning. In the Iberian Peninsula, through EU-project Impressions Diego is exploring how artistic practices, like theatre, film, and immersive environments, may contribute to the development of shared visions and support the development of integrated solutions in the context of high-end climate change.

Watch a short film from his work in Impressions: https://vimeo.com/219431632

What excites him the most in terms of food, is that it has a direct connection to Earth. Everyday more than once we sit and eat Earth, it makes us and we make it. He looks forward to interacting with his team members and the rest of the institute, and exploring storytelling as a means to reach change in food sustainability.

Jackie Turner – the former media producer who now researches food security

Jackie had her first food sustainability “eureka” moment while living on a corporate banana plantation near the Panamanian-Costa Rican border during her undergraduate thesis at the University of Michigan.  She realized that many people have no idea that bananas “do not grow on trees,” literally and metaphorically, nor that the process for producing them is destructive to both human health and the environment.

After completing a Bachelors of Art in each Environmental Studies and Film Studies, she moved to Los Angeles, hoping to tell stories about sustainability in documentary films and television.  After years of producing short films and editing for reality television, the harsh truth of that corporate banana-growing system still echoed. She began (and recently finished) a Masters of Science at Imperial College London, focusing her research on Ethiopia’s “false banana,” a reported climate-resilient crop, and its potential to provide nutrition to millions of Ethiopia’s low-income rural population.

Based on her experience in the media industry, Jackie remains convinced that narratives are the best way to connect people with ideas, and she believes that finding ways to tell stories about food security, food sustainability, and food sovereignty are crucial to the ongoing larger narrative of how we will continue to feed the world in the years to come.  She will be returning to Costa Rica in 2018 to film a full-length feature documentary about alternative and sustainable forms of banana production.  She is excited to be part of the team and learn from the Triangle Scholary Communication Institute about the role storytelling can take in science communication.

Josefin Vargö – Experience Designer who uses food as a tool for interaction

As a Curator, Experience and Food Designer Josefin designs time, the connection and experience between people. By framing and constructing forms of interaction with our different senses, she design new ways of experiencing a situation and matter.

She develops interdisciplinary sociocultural projects and her work plays with the interaction of our different senses. Food is often used as a material and meals as the designed experience, because it has the ability to reflect and express our attitudes about society in terms of time, money, social movements and resources and has the ability to naturally initiate social behaviour. Regardless of what is served, the act and importance of eating is something we all share and have common, triggering conversation and connections between people.

In her project The Living Archive’ she has collected peoples sourdough starters, the story behind them and asked people to describe its value. ”What she is designing is precisely the nature in which knowledge and emotions are exchanged between people. Contained in the sourdough culture are the essential knowledge and ideas for our desire to live; our relationship to food, the global food crisis, the environment, our health. She leads us to consider diverse ways of being.” — Curator Noriko Kawakami & Ikko Yokoyama

Underverk is a Stockholm based experience design platform she co-founded in 2013 together with journalist Jonna Dagliden. They felt it was important to show design beyond the object, to present projects in which design facilitates new interactions. They noticed the shift from a more industrial and product based design to the more critical, social oriented and experience based design was underrepresented in Sweden and decided to fill that gap.

Together with meal ecologist Ayhan Aydin, Josefin runs Aydin & Vargö. A Stockholm-based gastronomic design studio. We creates sensorial meal experiences and installations based on a holistic food system.

In November 2017 she is attending a collaborative artist residency at Flux Factory, New York together with artists and curators Louise Hobson, Sam Perry and Will Owen. Together they will examine artistic strategies within food politics, societal culture and commute.

Their focus will be the diverse culinary culture of the 7‐train, which is known for being one of the most international train rides in the world. The 7‐train runs between Flushing Main Street (Queens) and 34th street (Manhattan), travelling through neighbourhoods of communities from Spain, Italy, Mexico, India, Ireland, Romania, Thailand, Nigeria, China, Turkey. It’s a World tour. By investigating the diverse culinary cultures, they will use ‘food’ as a tool for debate and reflection on politics, economy, history, and ethics related to migration, multiculturalism and interculturalism.

Outreach and follow-up

We have many exciting plans for how we can reach out about the conference.

First of all, be sure to follow us on social media! There, we will share key messages, great tips, photos and videos emerging from the forum.

We will write blog articles that will be posted on our organizations’ websites, such as weADAPT.org, fcrn.org.uk, sei-international.org, SIANI.se and Forskom.org. Our aim is to reach out in public media too and narratively summarise our key messages in an op-ed for both Swedish and UK press, such as in one of Sweden’s largest daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter and The Guardian in the UK. We will also write for the Swedish web magazine Curie devoted to the world of research (established by the Swedish Research Council) and aim to publish a post in The Conversation which is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. We will gather inspiration and reflections for producing one or more episodes of the Swedish podcast Klimatpodden, linked to the topic of global food systems sustainability.

Due to our expertise and interest in digital visual stories, we plan to use the Exposure tool or similar with which you can tell beautiful and engaging stories with your photos. We will bring our cameras to SCI2017 and make sure to bring back lots of interesting photos and videos from the event! These we will use and blend with a variety of food systems related photos to connect to our topic.

After the forum, as an important capacity building activity, we are also planning to facilitate a workshop in digital storytelling where the participants, from our networks back at home, create their own stories on the topic of food system sustainability. The stories could be produced by both researchers, food producers and food consumers. The workshop will work as a platform for us to be able to share what we have learnt at SCI2017 and for the participants to better understand how storytelling can help them in their daily work aiming for sustainability in our common food system.

References

Dahlstrom MJ. (2014). Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with non-expert audiences. PNAS, 111 Suppl 4:13614-20. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/Supplement_4/13614.abstract

Duarte N. 2010. Resonate – Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Garnett T. 2016. Plating up solutions, Science, 353 (6305), pp. 1202-1204.

[ Edited on 6 September to reflect a change in two of the team members. ]

[ Oil palm image by CIFOR used under CC BY-NC-ND license. Sustainable Development Goals image from the United Nations, used under terms defined in the UN web site.]