“We Are the People We Are Waiting For”: Reflections on OpenCon 2018

Jacqueline Phillips and other attendees at OpenCon. Photograph courtesy of Erin McKiernan.

OpenCon is a unique conference that brings together leading early career academic professionals and students from across the world to catalyze action toward a more open system of research and education. This year, Temple University Libraries was proud to sponsor Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Kinesiology (College of Public Health) Jacqueline Phillips to attend OpenCon. The following is a guest post from Dr. Phillips about her experience.

This past weekend I participated in the 2018 OpenCon conference. Since this was my first OpenCon conference I wasn’t very sure of what to expect, but knew it was a gathering of early career professionals with a passion for open access (OA), so I was eager to take part. As a newcomer to the OA world this was my first exposure to an open community beyond my university. Overall, I was completely blown away by the programming and the passion of everyone there to collaborate and better their communities.

Open scholarly work was a new topic I was introduced to at this conference. Although I’ve known about open access journals and the concept of open data, I learned about other ways to make your work open such as posting preprints. Preprints are drafts of manuscripts that are posted online prior to being peer reviewed and formally published. Since a paper can sit in a purgatory-like state for a lengthy amount of time during the standard journal submission process, “pre-printing” enables the author(s) to share their work right away with those in their field. Readers can leave comments or questions, and the paper can be updated with revisions or with a final manuscript after it’s been published. By getting a DOI for a preprint, someone’s work is protected, and others are able to cite the paper. This format enables an early conversation to occur while also helping to connect individuals and advance their work.

As an instructor, my ears always perked up when the topic of open education resources (OER) arose. Strategies on finding already made resources were discussed along with troubleshooting areas of creating resources, like finding or making images (an issue commonly faced in the sciences). Some of the most useful bits of information that I’ll be taking home in this area came through networking and talking to others who have been through this process and were able to provide me with practical tips and wonderful sources. Beyond the making of or incorporation of OER, the discussion that most resonated with me in this area was the importance of student advocacy on campus for OER. A few students were in attendance at OpenCon who spoke about the clubs they were a part of whose mission it is to educate other students about what OER are and how they are impactful. Beyond educating their fellow peers on the subject, they also push for their administration to recognize the importance of the incorporation of OER on campus. This is the type of movement that can help to incentivize faculty to incorporate open materials into their classes, and encourage administration to change the metrics of success that faculty are graded upon for merit or promotion. Student advocacy was a different approach to fostering a cultural change on a campus that seemed to be very successful within these communities.

One particular aspect of the conference I was impressed by was the diversity. Not only the diversity of the attendees, but also presenters and organizers. By having people of different backgrounds and perspectives from around the world involved with all aspects of this event, it contributed to the depth and range of discussions that were held. A topic was presented about how sometimes our mainstream movement to advance OA can inadvertently perpetuate the marginalization of communities this movement aims to help. A lack of diversity at events such as this would only reinforce this oppression; however, I feel the organizers were sensitive to this concept and handled the conference in a way that will help to break down some of these barriers. There was even transparency about the demographics of the conference. The organizers informed us all about the numbers and breakdown of gender, ethnicity, profession etc. of everyone at and involved with the conference. This holds the conference to a higher standard and only helps to make the event even more productive. I hope that we’ll see other conferences begin to incorporate this presentation of the statistics into their events to show commitment to diversity and equity.

The last day of the conference featured a do-a-thon (similar to the concept of a hackathon) where attendees worked in groups to create solutions to particular issues that were brought to the table. All of our work and action plans are available online to the public so that anyone can help and contribute. Overall, I felt very productive at OpenCon. I learned how to use design thinking to solve issues, walked away with actionable items to promote the incorporation of OER, and most importantly, I made connections and became a member of a community that is inspired to collaborate to progress this movement. The conference was closed by Nicole Allen, from SPARC, who left us with the quote: “We are the people we are waiting for.” This perfectly sums of the message I hope to spread to others. We have the ability to break down barriers in education, and now after having attended OpenCon I feel I have more tools to help not only myself, but others accomplish this.

Your Preprint Questions, Answered

“Early bird” by Katy Warner is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last year, we noted that preprints were “having a moment.” Since that time, a number of new discipline-specific preprint servers have launched (PsyArXiv, LawArXiv, and engrXiv), and more are on the way (Chemrxiv, PaleorXiv, and SportRxiv, to name a few). In addition, funding organizations, such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, have begun to provide financial support for preprint servers. Still doubt the rising popularity of preprints? There’s even a new app for rating preprints in the life sciences called Papr, which calls itself “Tinder for preprints.”

Are you thinking of posting a preprint? Here are some things you might be wondering about:

What exactly is a preprint?

A preprint is usually defined as a piece of scholarship that has not been peer reviewed or formally published. Many preprints do go on to be published in academic journals. One 2013 study, for example, found that 64% of the work that is posted in arXiv has been published in academic journals. However, there is also small group of scholars who have begun posting what they call “final version preprints.”

Why should I post a preprint of my work?

Posting a preprint allows you to get your research out into the world quickly and easily. That’s good for the advancement of knowledge, but it’s also good because it enables you to position yourself as the originator of a certain claim or technique, even before your article is formally published. Posting a preprint is also a great way to get feedback on your work from others, and make your scholarship even better.

Can I still submit my manuscript to a journal if I previously posted it on a preprint server?

In most cases, yes. A growing number of journals welcome manuscript submissions that first appeared as preprints. BioRxiv, for example, has a manuscript transfer process which makes it easy for researchers to submit their preprint to over 120 scholarly journals. That having been said, there are still a few journals that consider the posting of preprints to be “prior publication.” Make sure to read the policies of the journal you are interested in submitting to. Wikipedia also has a list preprint policies by journal.

How will people find my preprint?

Many preprint servers assign DOIs (digital object identifiers) to preprints, which make them easier to discover (although the popular arXiv does not). In addition, a number of preprint servers are indexed by Google Scholar. Nevertheless, if you want people to read your preprint, you should be prepared to do your own promotion. Use social media to draw attention to your work.

How should I license my preprint?

As the author, you automatically own the copyright to your work. However, adding a Creative Commons (CC) license tells people how your preprint can be reused. Some preprint servers require a CC license for any work that is posted. Others, such as SSRN or Humanities Commons CORE, do not. We recommend adding a CC license to all preprints you post.

Can I cite a preprint?

Yes. If you have evaluated a preprint and find it to useful to your research, definitely go ahead and cite it. Just make sure to note in your citation that it is a preprint. Also make sure you are citing the version that you actually used. One caveat: there are a few journals that do not allow researchers to cite preprints, although this policy seems to be changing. If you are unsure, ask your editor. Writing a grant application? The NIH recently announced that investigators are free to cite their own preprints in research proposals or projects reports.

Have another question about preprints that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments.

Project to Watch: SocArXiv


In a recent post, we argued that preprints are having a moment. Here’s further proof: this week, the Center for Open Science and the University of Maryland launched a new repository for social science research, called SocArXiv (the name comes in part from the well-known preprint repository arXiv). Currently, there is a temporary home for the repository here, with a more robust platform coming in the near future. In addition to preprints, SocArXiv also accepts conference papers, working papers, datasets and code. The project is being led by Philip N. Cohen, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland. The steering committee includes scholars, librarians, and open access advocates.

Interested in submitting? Just e-mail socarxiv-Preprint@osf.io from your primary e-mail address. Put the title of your work in the subject line, and the abstract in the body of your e-mail. Then attach the work as a PDF or Word file. Finally, hit send. Your scholarship should appear on the site shortly and you should be automatically registered for an Open Science Framework account. Use this account to go into the page for your work on the site and add any relevant tags. Just make sure that you have the rights to anything you post. If you’re not sure, check your publication agreement or search SHERPA/RoMEO, a database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies. And remember: this method of submission is only temporary. Once the permanent SocArXiv platform is up and running we will update this post.

Some researchers may wonder why they should post their work to SocArXiv, when there are so many other options, including another open access repository, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). SSRN was founded in 1994 by Wayne Marr, a professor of finance, and Michael Jensen, and professor of business administration. It includes scholarship from a range of disciplines, from accounting to economics to political science. The business model of SSRN has always been different than most other open access repositories. Unlike arXiV, which is based at Cornell University and funded by grants and library support, SSRN is a privately-held corporation. While all deposited papers are free for users to read, SSRN also offers paid content to users through its partnerships with other publishers (such as Wiley-Blackwell). In May of this year, a major change came to SSRN when the platform was bought by Elsevier, a large Dutch company that publishes some of the world’s top journals. Elsevier also owns the reference manager Mendeley. SSRN’s management claims that all the scholarship on the site will remain free. They also argue that Elsevier’s ownership will only make SSRN better, providing them with the resources they need to make much needed improvements in the design and functionality of the site. Many scholars, librarians, and other experts, however, are worried. They wonder what Elsevier will do with all the scholarly data it now owns, and how the company will try to monetize that data. Similar concerns have been raised about other popular scholarly sharing platforms, including Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Kevin Smith, the Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas, has called this trend “the commodification of the professoriate.”  SocArXiv, then, offers a non-commercial alternative that puts scholars’ interests first.