Open Access and Community Engaged Research

If you follow me on Twitter you know I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of paywalls on community engaged research.  My recent article, “Archival photographs in perspective: Indian residential school images of health” that is now out in the British Journal of Canadian Studies (volume 30, issue 2) is currently behind a paywall.  So is every other article in this journal issue.  At least one other author has spoken out about the problematic nature of pay-walling this content

During the publication process I did manage to negotiate a shorter OA embargo period for this article – I’m extremely happy about this and very glad I took the time (and built up the internal courage) to ask about the possibilities.  However, the more I think about my work and the community focused nature of it the more I’m questioning the need for it to be available to community based folks.

It was completely my decision to publish in this special issue and not having asking about the OA conditions prior to writing the article is totally on my shoulders.  I agreed to write this article 3-4 years ago, which speaks volumes to the lengthy nature of the academic publishing cycle but also on how my opinions around community research have developed in that time.  This experience has been a good reminder to me about the importance of knowing all the details of a journal before submitting. It has also made me take a serious look at my publishing goals and reconsider where I’m looking to publish in the future.

If I am engaged in community based work – especially work that is with a marginalized community – that work should be immediately accessible to the community I’m writing about.  In a time where archives, public history professionals, and post-secondary institutions are talking more and more about decolonization we need to take a serious look at making our work accessible to the Indigenous communities we are working with.  People working outside of the academy should not be placed on a second tier and should have the same access to information as everyone else.

In terms of learning more I would point folks toward to the First Nation principals of OCAP when thinking about information relating to Indigenous communities. OCAP speaks to the Ownership, Control, Access and Possession of information and data relating to Indigenous communities.  I would also encourage people to reread the TRC Calls to Action around research and heritage and familiarize themselves with UNDRIP principles which relate to their work.

There are also a ton of fantastic folks doing work on OA publishing and promoting OA within the library, archives, and public history fields.  If you’re looking for additional reading or information I’d suggest:

  • Follow Ali Versluis on Twitter.  Seriously. Go follow her now. She is awesome and frequently writes about OA, publishing, and access.
  • Need a primer on the basics of open access? Check out the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) page on open access.
  • Tri-Agency Open Access Policy.  As of May 2015 any work funded under SSHRC, NSERC, or CIHR grants must be made open access.  For example, any grant recipients that write a peer-reviewed journal article based on their grant work are required to ensure that the research is freely available within 12 months of publication.
  • Check with your university library – there is a good chance they have resources on open access publishing.
  • Check to see if your institution has an open access institutional repository.
  • Open access week is October 23 – 29, 2017.  Check out the website for resources, local events and more information.