I happened to hear an episode of the TED Radio Hour yesterday called “Citizen Science.” As I listened to the segment with Sharon Terry who, with her husband, tackled the rare genetic disease with which both their children had been diagnosed, it struck me how incredibly lucky they were to have been in the Boston area with easy access to incredible research Library collections and top-notch academic bookstores. Without this access, it would have been extremely difficult for them to access, read, and interpret the hundreds of articles they located on the rare disease PXE. With this access, they were able to learn, research, and force promotion and tenure-seeking scientists to collaborate.
This story represents why open access is so important. How many more citizen science advances could affect real lives if more “average people” had access to scientific and medical research? How much research and how many cures could be found if academic institutions reimagined the promotion and tenure system to embrace openness and collaboration above grant dollars and patents? I can only imagine.
Research should be open in order to support citizen scientists.
Open access benefits scholars everywhere by connecting them to research they may not otherwise be able to access, but I’d like to take a moment to look at open access in reverse. By making my research open access, I benefit myself as well as the community at large. My work gets much wider exposure through my deposits in IUPUI ScholarWorks than it would ever receive confined to a single journal or conference. My 2012 article, “Opening Interlibrary Loan to Open Access,” has 415 file views from countries as diverse as the US, China, Italy, Ukraine, and Australia. The 2011 conference presentation on which it was based has 177 file views from an equally diverse set of countries. Another 2012 article, “Going Global: An International Survey of Lending and Borrowing across Borders,” has 156 file views.
The impact is even more apparent when you look at conference presentations.
My most recent conference presentation,* which only had 18 attendees, already has 12 file views after only 10 days in ScholarWorks!
These altmetrics demonstrate the increased impact of my work outside of the original presentation vehicle whether it be a conference or journal. By participating in the IUPUI Open Access Policy, I enjoy the benefits of broader readership and community impact while promoting knowledge sharing and information equity. For me, depositing in IUPUI ScholarWorks is a win-win proposition.
* at time of original publication
In the spirit of my last post, I’d like to share an exercise I did in preparation for a recent mentoring meeting. The topic of the meeting was how to generate topics or identify areas of interest and whether I thought a librarian’s publications should have a thematic direction or consistency.
That is a conversation demanding preparation or at least a little self-reflection. I started by printing out the publications portion of my CV and categorizing them. There is a little variation, but two distinct categories did emerge: (1) open access and interlibrary loan and (2) international interlibrary loan. Then I tried to think back, back, back to the days when I was just starting as a professional librarian. How did the beginning shape where I am now?
When I became a librarian, the thought of doing research with a capital R wasn’t appealing and was, in fact, a little intimidating. With the help of my then boss, I started out doing presentations of practical advice for interlibrary loan (ILL) practitioners instead. That evolved into an interest in web-based ILL finding aids and teaching others the tools I found to locate difficult requests. Then I got involved in the ALA RUSA STARS International Interlibrary Loan Committee, which accounts for one of my publication categories, but also expanded my previous finding aid work to include international publications.
All of this interest in finding aids logically evolved into an interest in open access. What could be better than helping people locate where a thing is? Well, helping people locate the actual thing, of course. Eventually, I started integrating my library’s request data into my open access and interlibrary loan presentations, which in turn led to a body of writing on the topic that might even be consider Research.
Through this thought exercise, I learned about myself and was able to help a mentee. The prospect of generating topics that will interest both you and your potential audience can be intimidating, but the ideas will come. Take time to reflect on your daily work and find the things that matter to you. Start presenting. Have conversations. Let your interests evolve. Start writing. You never know when you may even see a thematic direction emerge that you never would have anticipated.