v24 #3 The Chicago Collaborative: Working Together to Address the Grand Challenges of Scholarly Communication

by | Jul 16, 2012 | 0 comments

by Gail A. Yokote,* MLS, AHIP, FMLA  (Associate University Librarian for the Sciences & Technical Services,
University of California, Davis)

and J. Michael Homan,* MA, AHIP, FMLA  (Director of Libraries, Mayo Clinic)

and Jean P. Shipman, MSLS, AHIP, FMLA  (Director, Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library and MidContinental
Region & NLM Training Center, NN/LM, University of Utah)

In 2007, as heated debates about the high costs of electronic journal packages and various open access initiatives were taking place, many publishers created advisory boards of librarians and faculty to serve as informed consultants for product development, while librarians held conference panels of publishers and librarians to address the latest scholarly communications issues.  Librarians, publishers, and editors conversed and debated at meetings, but there was not a venue in which librarians, editors, and publishers could discuss the challenges of scholarly communication in an open and trusting environment that was removed from the pervasive seller/buyer environment, and one that focused on the problems and challenges of scholarly communication in the broadest sense.   Against this backdrop and in the spirit of working together, the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) Board of Directors appointed a task force to spearhead an effort to identify the common interests and threads that bound all groups together to collaboratively address the challenges of scholarly communications.

To advance the AAHSL desires,  the Task Force proposed that publishing, editorial, and librarian association representatives would provide the best group for shared dialogues and that an emphasis for all representatives would be representation of their professional association and not their employer viewpoint, which might be a specific publisher or journal.  Including representatives from the professional organizations for publishers (for example, the Society for Scholarly Publishing), editors (for example, the Council of Science Editors), and librarians (AAHSL) meant that discussion of common interests and challenges emphasized commonalities shared by all stakeholders and avoided specific agendas. To test these assumptions, leadership of professional associations were invited to identify representatives to attend an inaugural meeting in 2008.

By May 2008, each invited association had identified one or two representatives to attend the inaugural meeting which was held in Chicago. The main purpose of the inaugural meeting was to determine whether there was enough in common and enough goodwill to establish an ongoing working group of association representatives.  Enthusiasm for continuing the initial dialog through an ongoing meeting venue was palpable.  The common element for all represented groups turned out to be their strategic interest in the same target audience — health sciences faculty, employees, and students — and this underlying emphasis on a common audience was underscored repeatedly throughout the meeting.  Another important outcome of the inaugural meeting was the emphasis on collaboration rather than confrontation as a critical element when addressing the broad challenges of scholarly communication in the future. Identifying the common target audience means that publishers, editors, and librarians will be most successful when collaborations around issues affecting the common audience provide solutions in which all parties contribute based on their recognized expertise. What also emerged from this initial meeting was the importance of learning more about each other’s expertise, interests, and challenges if improvements to scholarly communications were to occur.  Thus, the Chicago Collaborative (CC) was born with the goals of:  1) develop a shared understanding of scholarly communications issues, 2) create effective strategies to address common understandings, and 3) enhance trust and dialog among CC members with an emphasis on broad views that transcend individual library, publisher, editor, or author perspectives.  The name reflected the initial meeting location and emphasized the overarching collaborative spirit of the group. (Refer to www.chicago-collaborative.org for more background information.)

During the past four years, the CC has focused on learning more about each other through broadly-defined themed meetings.  Being able to share perspectives on scientific integrity, preservation and archiving, peer review, branding content, funding models for academic health centers, etc., provided opportunities for joint educational activities to CC member organizations.

Examples of the CC’s past educational focus include presenting at NASIG, Charleston Conference, Medical Library Association (MLA), International Association of STM Publishers, and Society for Scholarly Publishing.  In addition, webinars on Biomedical Publishing 101 (one of the first education offerings of the CC) were offered across the country with over 280 attendees.  Workshops are now being offered at MLA and its regional chapter meetings.  For example, a continuing education course will be taught at the 2012 Seattle MLA meeting entitled “Positioning the Professions: Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) Publishing.”  Publisher and librarian members of the CC will teach the curriculum, which includes a basic component on Biomedical Publishing and then two additional modules relating to peer review, ethical issues, online publishing, and editorial aspects.  Group discussion sessions will encourage conversations between attending librarians and publishers.

The CC is also hosting exhibit booths at the upcoming Council of Science Editors (CSE) meeting in Seattle, WA, in May 2012, and at the 2012 Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) conference in Crystal City, VA, in late May.  A panel, “Libraries and Librarians:  A Changing Landscape,” will be sponsored by the CC as part of the CSE program.  A “Chat with Librarians Roundtable Session” will be offered at the SSP meeting where publishers and editors can informally ask questions of eight academic librarians.  This is a session that is being repeated due to its success at the 2011 SSP meeting.  A complete list of sponsored events may be found on the CC Website.

To address the needs of its represented association members, the CC surveyed its constituents to request feedback on what topics should be discussed by the CC and to learn more about their key scholarly communications concerns.  This information will help to guide future CC goals and actions, as well as meeting agendas.  Soon, a new Drupal-based CC Website will enable virtual interactions between CC representatives and the public to engage even more individuals in timely conversations about the future of scholarly communications.

To date, CC’s success is based on the dedicated participation and contributions of the member organizations, especially the efforts of their representatives. Member organizations may be found on the CC Website.   In addition, AAHSL plays a major administrative role in sustaining the infrastructure needed by CC operations.

As the CC enters itsfifth year, it is 1) reviewing its governance structure and affiliations, 2) discussing expanded outreach, 3) establishing future goals and actions, 4) implementing effective communications and engagement channels,  5) conducting an assessment of contributions made to date.  Through its discussions, the group will continue to shape the future of the journal and other scholarly communication opportunities that might exist in 2025.

The CC has matured and evolved over time and will continue to do so as it addresses the future of scholarly communications.   It has already achieved with great success its prime goal of encouraging and enabling open, honest, informed, and trusted conversations between publishers, librarians, and editors. Its collective actions will continue to assist its shared constituent, the author, with shaping and understanding the myriad of opportunities that exist for disseminating scholarly and research results now and in the future.

For additional information about the CC, contact either the co-conveners Irving Rockwood <[email protected]> or Jean Shipman <[email protected]>, or the CC operations manager Margaret Reich <[email protected]>.


*Gail Yokote and Michael Homan were the original AAHSL co-conveners for the Chicago Collaborative.



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