What do we value?

The tension between publishing strategically to enhance standing in current academic culture and increasing the openness of scholarly communications is one I see regularly. Lizzie Gadd’s My double life blog post articulating this tension resonated for many Bibliomagician readers.

Moving beyond our anecdotal experience, the Knowledge Exchange Approach to Open Scholarship white paper highlights this tension as one of the many complexities in the open scholarship landscape. Knowledge Exchange is a partnership of six European national research infrastructure and services organisation. The white paper offers us a three-dimensional framework for conceptualising scholarship:

  1. Research phase: discovery, planning, project, dissemination
  2. Arena: political, economic, social, technological
  3. Granularity: micro (individual), meso (community), macro (system)

We can use this framework as a tool to examine where the issues we experience are situated in this complicated landscape, and to see whether strategies adopted are targeting the most appropriate area.

What do we value post_photo

For example, the case for open scholarship tends to be made at the macro level: it would be good for science and humankind as a whole. But the pressures on individuals (micro) to publish (dissemination) in prestigious journals to gain recognition in their field (social) and build their academic career (economic) don’t necessarily motivate or reward open practices.

Seeking to bridge this divide, Knowledge Exchange has identified improving understanding of researchers’ experience of output evaluation as a priority. I recently took part in a workshop exploring this.  My key take-home question from the workshop is: what do we value?

Jon Tennant of ScienceOpen says “open science is science done right”. Rather than discussing open scholarship as if it were an alternative, if we focus on shared values of good scholarship, we can then show how open practices serve the goals of good scholarship.

We did discuss indicators and metrics: the joys and pitfalls of data citation, scope for semantics in citations (thumbs up, thumbs down, weighting by expertise of the citing author), R-factors etc.  But there was a clear sense that our starting point needs to be valuing good research in all its diversity.

Focusing on the researchers’ experience, we asked whether what we value is reflected in academic recognition and reward systems. We were cautious of adding to the accumulation of new demands, e.g. to specifically evidence open access, research data management plans, public engagement etc. These can be experienced as additional burden by researchers.  Nevertheless, if these practices are part of doing good research, they should be valued by research evaluation processes. I hope this means moving beyond “publish or perish” towards greater diversity in academic career paths, allowing individuals the option to specialise e.g. in communications or data management.

We did discuss indicators and metrics: the joys and pitfalls of data citation, scope for semantics in citations (thumbs up, thumbs down, weighting by expertise of the citing author), R-factors etc. But there was a clear sense that our starting point needs to be valuing good research in all its diversity. Indicators of both research quality and of openness may follow in service of this purpose. As the Leiden Manifesto says, we should evaluate research based on its mission, rather than on whatever numbers happen to be available.

There’s lots of interesting work going on in this area already. To give just a couple of examples mentioned in the workshop:

  • The Netherlands’ National Plan Open Science which includes the ambition for open science to be recognised and rewarded in assessment systems.
  • The ScholCommLab project investigating how openness features in review, promotion & tenure documents in the US and Canada.

We’re working on shaping our workshop discussions into a plan of action.  Meanwhile, please do share any research in this area and case studies of research evaluation done well.


Katie Evans Library Staff Portrait

Katie is the Research Analytics Librarian at the University of Bath, responsible for supporting the use of research publishing, citation and collaboration data across the University.  Previously, Katie worked on open access at the University of Bath.

 

 

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