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Open researching, publishing, and access on the table at McGill Library’s Open Access Week 2021

The McGill Library is bringing International Open Access (OA) Week 2021 to the university’s scholarly community from Oct. 25 to Oct. 31. This year’s theme is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.” The planning committee members, such as librarians Jessica Lange, Michael David Miller, Lucy Kiester, and Robin Desmeules, organized several virtual events running throughout the week. Events to note include “The Future is Open: Becoming an Open Researcher” on Oct. 25, “Publishing Data with the McGill Dataverse” Oct. 26, the “ORCID-a-thon” on Oct. 28, and “Open Access Scholarly Books: Demystifying the Publishing Process,” also on Oct. 28. 

The McGill Library defines open access as the practice of making access to research free. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Jessica Lange, McGill Library coordinator for Scholarly Communications, noted that McGill is able to make scholarly articles and research materials free to students and staff because of the university’s status as a large scholarly institution.

“There has been a lot of discussion now in the Open Access field about […] equity in terms of some institutions like McGill,” Lange said. “We can basically pay large publishers a certain amount of money, [and] negotiate [that] money, so that McGill researchers can publish open access for free in certain journals [….] We have done that with SAGE and a couple other publishers.”

Lange emphasized the importance of this year’s theme, “Building Structural Equity,” pointing out the existing inequities in publishing. For instance, racialized authors are less frequently published within existing OA journals. Lange also noted that smaller institutions are often excluded from the OA framework because they lack access to resources that larger institutions like McGill have. 

“Of course, smaller institutions may not have […] resources to negotiate such agreements, so […] this leads to another structural inequity where researchers at larger institutions might have access to either funds or waivers that people at other institutions do not,” Lange said.

The week features a virtual “ORCID-a-thon,” a workshop that helps students create accounts on ORCID—a platform that displays academics’ profiles. During the workshop, McGill librarians will help members of the McGill community build a comprehensive, self-updating, public Curriculum Vitae (CV) on the ORCID platform. Michael David Miller, associate librarian and liaison librarian for French Literature, Economics, and Gender Studies, spoke with the Tribune about the upcoming event, the first of its kind at McGill.

“[ORCID] is an open and free identifier for researchers,” David Miller said. “There will be three of us [at the ORCID-a-thon]. So, a researcher, grad student, or just anybody who is interested in ORCID [can] come in and we will help them set up their ORCID profile.” 

Robin Desmeules, a cataloguing librarian at McGill and past chair of the Library’s Scholarly Communications Committee, believes having the ability to navigate the research world can have profound impacts on structures beyond educational institutions, such as the economy. 

“It is really interesting to understand how knowledge is disseminated or not, and the economic impacts of that,” Desmeules said in an interview with the Tribune. “And how for-profit publishing, or capitalism in general, […] can interfere with the free circulation of knowledge, and how that impacts scholarship in all of its forms.”

On how McGill organizations can help promote OA in scholarship and research, Lange, Miller, and Desmeules all expressed the importance of issuing statements in support of OA, like in McGill Library’s own statement and the Douglas Research Centre’s new Open Access Policy.

“We are starting to get pockets where you can see that departments are saying ‘this is a priority for us, we’re going to make a statement,’” Lange said. “So hopefully […] we’ll see other [departments] pick up and recognize the relevance.”

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