A Few Reflections on the TOME Initiative

By | Digital Scholarship | One Comment

WASHINGTON, DC – Today a group of colleagues from the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses met to advance the Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) initiative. It was heartening to see the progress the initiative has made since our first gathering in the summer of 2016. At the time, I was enthusiastic about the effort to leverage University funding to support the open access publication of monographs by scholars in the humanities and social sciences. What I wrote then about the importance of this initiative, I feel more urgently today:

Publishing is one important way the humanities are put into practice. Ideas only enter the public realm when they are made public — that is, when they are published. But publishing is not simply a matter of making ideas public; it is also an opportunity to create publics, to establish relationships around shared values and ideas, and by extension, to transform existing realities in light of new possibilities opened by novel ways of thinking.

This commitment to make ideas public so as to enrich public life remains at the heart of the TOME endeavor. Today, a committed group of publishers, librarians, scholars, and administrators gathered to discuss how to strategically advance the initiative in months and years to come.

The most exciting development over the past year has been the publication of Open Access monographs, which we are curating through our referetory 1 using Figshare. The TOME Referetory will grow considerably over the next year as more monographs are added, while Figshare will enable us to track usage of the texts across the web.

Over the course of the day I tried to capture some of the wide ranging conversation on my microblog (cplong.net) using the TOME tag, but the texture of the conversation was too rich to convey adequately. Here, however, before the day is out, I’d like to capture two ideas that might shape the way forward.

Undertake the Messy Work

Much of our attention as we’ve developed this initiative as been focused on questions concerning infrastructure, standards, and the logistics associated with cultivating an ecosystem of open access long-form digital scholarship. And rightly so, for focusing on these issues of long-term sustainability, growth, and broad adoption will enable us to create the conditions under which such substantive contributions to the scholarly record can thrive and last.

However, the initiative has benefited greatly from a tendency to try things, by a willingness to do something based on the support of fourteen committed universities and a substantive and growing number of Association of University Presses. Without having it all quite figured out, we pressed forward to publish the work.

This tendency to act has served us well; for by publishing books, we are learning what works and what does not. That this can be a successful strategy was reinforced today by a story Frank Smith, Director, Books at JSTOR, told about JSTOR’s experiment with publishing OA monographs. Frank said, as Greg Britton tweeted:

@JSTOR has nearly 3,000 #OpenAccess books that have gotten over 6.5 million views. 18x the usage of other books on their site.

This is striking evidence for the value of open access monographs. Simply put, open access monographs are more widely read. If scholars want to be read as opposed to simply being published, we need to advocate for Open Access; we need to find ways to make our work broadly available online and to support initiative that make that accessibility sustainable. Real traction for initiatives like TOME will remain elusive until scholars across the globe insist that their work be openly accessible.

Even if, as Dean Smith, Director of Cornell University Press, put it: “Everything about ebooks is messy,” we can’t afford to wait until it is less messy to act.

Scholarly Practice

If, however, our attempts to create an ecosystem for OA monographs is to have a deeper impact on the practices of scholarship, scholars will need to more proactively consider the affordances digital modes of publishing offer us to make our ideas public in innovative ways. This is a question, I have argued, of performative consistency; and it returns us to the deeply reciprocal relationship between form and content. My own failed attempt to create a living, interactive digital book notwithstanding, scholars in the humanities and social sciences ought to focus intellectual attention and effort on considering how the manner in which our ideas make their way into the public domain might amplify, reinforce, and deepen a reader’s engagement with the arguments we make.

If it is successful, the TOME initiative will create an ecosystem in which richly developed ideas can be made openly accessible. How those ideas are engaged by other scholars, how they are taken up, responded to, criticized and built upon in order to transform the world in which we live will depend upon the creative imagination and generosity of our colleagues. We inhabit now a new, more dynamic, world of public ideas–whether they enrich or impoverish our lives together will depend largely upon our ability to cultivate new habits of public scholarship rooted a commitment to the humanistic sensibilities capable of creating a more just and beautiful world.

Creating and Sustaining Digital Scholarly Communities

By | Presentation: Interactive, Presentations | No Comments

The Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor University invited me to give two talks on the value of creating and nurturing online digital scholarly communities on April 19, 2018. The two presentations afforded me an opportunity to consider the role online scholarly communities might play in helping us address broader cultural challenges we are facing in higher education.

The Meaning and Value of Digital Scholarly Communities

April 19 | 10:30-11:30am | Jones Library 200

My visit to Baylor occurred during a very difficult period of trauma at Michigan State University in the wake of institutional and cultural failures associated with sexual abuse on campus. Being at Baylor and having lived through the abuse scandal at Penn State, the broader cultural issues to which we in higher education need to come to terms was very much on my mind. As a result, you will hear in this presentation the struggle associated with aligning values with practices. As I discuss ways to embody and cultivate digital communities of scholarship, I emphasize the importance of candor, vulnerability, and accountability as core principles of academic culture that need to be advocated for and embodied.

 

Creating and Sustaining Digital Scholarly Communities

April 19 | 3:30-4:30pm | Marrs McLean Science 101

This presentation was given in the form of a Tweet storm in order to perform the open scholarship for which the presentation argues. In it I address some the broader questions of how we might cultivate more supportive cultures of scholarship in higher education. This was my first experiment with a Tweet storm presentation. The format is designed to invite a broader conversation on the questions raised in the presentation. By posting the material here, I hope to open another space for discussion about the issues raised in the presentation.

https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072930214498304
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072943812501506
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072958748348416
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072962615566337
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072982098038784
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987072998854324224
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987073013765025797
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987073025559416835
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987073040822489088
https://twitter.com/cplong/status/987073062930698241

Investing in Humanities Publishing

By | Dean, Digital Humanities, Digital Scholarship, The Administrative Life, The Long Road | 2 Comments

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the headquarters of the Association of American Universities in Washington, D.C. early last week to take part in a discussion about a new model for open access digital monograph publishing in the humanities.

The meeting, organized by a Task Force convened by the AAU, American Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries, included an impressive group of directors of university presses, deans of libraries, and academic administrators.

I was there to represent Michigan State University. In February, Provost June Youatt asked me for feedback on the Task Force’s proposal to establish a sustainable model by which long-form humanities scholarship could be published in a digital open access format. The proposal called for up-front institutional funding for the open access publication of manuscripts accepted through standing AAUP best practices for peer review.

I was enthusiastic.

Given my work on the Public Philosophy Journal, my service on the Board of Directors of K|N Consultants with its Open Access Network initiative, and my own efforts to publish my book on Socratic and Platonic politics as an open access enhanced digital book, I arrived in Washington prepared to put my commitment to open access into sustainable structural practice.

Still, I was not sure what to expect because we have heard so much — too much — about the “crisis” of the humanities in general, and of scholarly communication in particular. Further, the ecosystem of scholarly publishing is complicated — faculty depend on acquisition editors, presses depend on libraries, tenure and promotion processes depend on the integrity of peer review …. With so many moving parts and with so much at stake, developing a supportive and sustainable funding model for open access is daunting.

From the beginning, however, it was clear that the Task Force, under the leadership of John Vaughn, Elliott Shore, and Peter Bekery, had gathered a group of creative, thoughtful, and generous colleagues who were willing to imagine what might be possible if universities committed to fully funding the cost of open access monograph publication up front.

Questions of cost, addressed by the Ithaka Report on the Costs of Publishing Monographs and qualified in interesting ways by John Sherer of the UNC Press, did not derail the conversation, which took a decisive and, in my view, positive turn when we agreed not to frame the initiative as a response to a crisis in either the humanities or in publishing.

Far the better strategy is to seed an initiative that will establish a sustainable publishing workflow designed to expand access to and engagement with humanities scholarship.

Publishing is one important way the humanities are put into practice. Ideas only enter the public realm when they are made public — that is, when they are published. But publishing is not simply a matter of making ideas public; it is also an opportunity to create publics, to establish relationships around shared values and ideas, and by extension, to transform existing realities in light of new possibilities opened by novel ways of thinking.

Attempts to establish a sustainable financial model for open access publishing in the humanities should ultimately be motivated by a commitment to advancing the capacity of humanities scholarship to transform, enrich, and shape publics.

As a dean, I understand any up-front contributions the College of Arts & Letters would make to facilitate the open access publications of our faculty as an investment in the transformative power of the humanities.

Beyond the important academic benefits of having the work of our faculty more widely read and cited lies the land-grant mission of Michigan State University to “advance knowledge and transform lives,” to educate “globally engaged citizen leaders” and to facilitate research and scholarship that will lead “to a better quality of life for individuals and communities, at home and around the world.”

Broadly accessible humanities scholarship, work that is not merely published, but widely read, enriches public life by enabling us to imagine and create more just and responsive publics.

This ideal of the humanities deeply woven into the fabric of public life motivates my own humanities scholarship and administrative work; and it animates my interest in the work of the Task Force to seed and support a sustainable financial model for open access long-form humanities publishing.

I was heartened by the conversation we had in Washington, D.C. last week and by the emerging plans to establish a process, funding model, and workflow that will enable us to begin publishing open access long-form humanities scholarship in the near future.

More heartening still, however, is the palpable sense of what is possible when universities, presses, and libraries collaborate across institutions to expand public access to humanities scholarship capable of enriching public life.

* * *

This have been cross published on Medium:

View story at Medium.com

The @PubPhilJ Paradigm

By | The Long Road, The Public Philosophy Journal | No Comments

At Bucknell’s Digital Scholarship Conference last fall, Zeynep Tufekci made a compelling case for public academic writing. Her keynote address, Researching Out Loud: Public Scholarship as a Process of Publishing Before and After Publishing, argued that public academic writing can have enriching effects on both public discourse and the research and pedagogy of individual scholars.

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Accountability and Public Scholarship

By | Blogging and Social Media, Digital Research, The Long Road | No Comments

With the announcement that Mellon has funded the first year of the Public Philosophy Journal, I have been thinking more reflectively on what it means to do public scholarship. Receiving the grant is, however, only one of a confluence of recent experiences that have forced me to consider how best to cultivate habits of excellent public scholarship in digital contexts.

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