Home 9 Uncategorized 9 Library Leader Perspectives on Global Changes in the Knowledge Landscape

Library Leader Perspectives on Global Changes in the Knowledge Landscape

by | Jun 30, 2023 | 0 comments

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By Kimberley Simpson  (Head of Brand Marketing, Technology from Sage) 

Contributing Authors: 
Elaine L Westbrooks  (Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, Cornell University); 
Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata  (University of Lesotho); 
Elizabeth Speer, MLS, M.Ed  (Copyright & OER Strategist, Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library, University of North Texas Health Science Centre); 
Dr. Sarah Pittaway SFHEA (she/her) (formally Head of Libraries, University of Gloucestershire, currently Director of Library & Learning Resources, Birmingham City University); 
Bethany Logan  (Research & Open Scholarship Senior Manager, Library Professional Services, University of Sussex)

Against the Grain V35#3

Since the pandemic, there have been so many global changes in the research and knowledge landscape that is has often been a challenge for academic and research libraries to keep up.  In this article, I’ve interviewed five library leaders from across the globe to get their insights on what changes have been most significant over the past few years, what their priorities are for this year, and their thoughts on open access, OER initiatives and AI and the role these have to play in the future of their libraries. — Kimberley Simpson

Q1:  In your opinion, what has been the most significant change in the global research landscape over the past few years?  What do you see on the horizon for research?

Elizabeth Speer:  In my opinion there have been two.  Firstly, the push for equity, diversity, and inclusion within the research landscape.  We are seeing more diversity in the subjects of research and in researchers.  Secondly, is the shift towards open access, especially in medical research.  With more grants requiring results and data sets to be published open access, we have seen a real shift in thinking about the quality of OA materials.  I believe these areas are going to continue to grow and be a priority, so much that it will necessitate a shift in thinking about library purchasing, staffing, and services.

Dr. Sarah Pittaway:  I asked Twitter this very question [i.e., about recent change], and Bethany Logan at Sussex said, “it’s the move from open access as a process to Open as a mindset.”  I think this beautifully encapsulates changes in the landscape.  We’re no longer thinking about processes but principles, for example, with smaller universities like the University of Gloucestershire (UoG) supporting publisher negotiations on the principle of open scholarship.  In terms of what’s next, I’m not sure this on the horizon — perhaps just over the next hill! — but the hot topic in libraries at the moment is rights retention strategies and gaining institutional buy-in to support our academics in retaining their rights when publishing. 

Bethany Logan:  I think I’ll stick with what I said to Sarah on Twitter, it’s the move from open access as a process (with compliance as a big driving force) to “Open” as a mindset, something embedded in everything we do.  So, there’s been this expansion of what is included, it’s not just research articles, but we are also talking about data, scholarship, textbooks, lab notes, code, and creative practice.  I am sure this will continue to grow, research is always evolving and that means that the infrastructure, policies, and processes that support research have to evolve too — it’s one of the things that makes working in this sector so rewarding. 

I am not sure what the future holds.  I hope that we’ll see more and more decision making driven not by traditional metrics but by considerations around ethics and integrity.  Current big deal negotiations, and initiatives such as rights retention, show a willingness from the sector to go down this route.  However, we are also seeing a squeeze on funding and institutional budgets which is going to make things harder and could push us back towards a compliance-led approach. 

Elaine L. Westbrooks:  The adoption and evolution of Open Access publishing.  Plan S, U.S. Federal mandates, federal and philanthropic funder requirements, and the proliferation of transformative agreements in the U.S. have collectively catapulted OA to the forefront in deeply impactful ways.  Yet, we are far away from realizing a transparent and fair pricing model for Open Access academic publishing.  As for the horizon, despite their flaws, I expect that data science, AI, language processing, and machine learning will continue to transform how data and information are created, consumed, analysed, and interpreted.

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata:  The notions of sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion significantly impacted the global knowledge arena.  Research processes had to be inclusive of other ways of knowing.  Research had to be equitable and sustainable.  A convergence of ideas around equitable production of knowledge and access to information and knowledge led to strategies and pathways that center inclusion. 

The following processes are major components of the research landscape going forward:

a) Open Science (which include open access publishing, OERs, open citizenship, open scholarship and Research data management), 

b) A redefinition of the meaning of research impact, and research assessment,  

c) De-colonization of knowledge and the mainstream of other knowledge forms.  Particularly notable in this category in alternative publishing as avenues for publishing research.

Q2:  What is your biggest priority for your library community in 2023?

Elizabeth Speer:  The biggest priority for us is to educate and facilitate conversations around open access, open data, and open educational resources.  The graduate medical community has been slower to embrace OER and we are working to educate our immediate community around OER and how they can be used to support students and continuing education learners on our campus.  Open data has become immediately important with new NIH grant requirements, so that has taken a huge leap to the front of the line as a priority.

Dr. Sarah Pittaway:  I’m about to change roles, so this is a challenging one to answer.  However, one of my big priorities at UoG has been the new city campus development, specifically the partnership with the public library who will also be in the building.  I’m a great believer in the value of these kinds of partnerships.  Having moved institutions recently and being about to move again, what’s apparent to me is that although we are all grappling with the same issues, institutional context means they impact on us differently.  For example, as I noted above, UoG has supported the Springer Nature negotiations despite the fact that some aspects of the negotiation like APCs will have less impact on us as a teaching-led institution. 

Bethany Logan:  Research culture and student belonging are huge priorities for universities right now, and how these issues are handled will have a huge impact on the future of higher education.  We can’t afford to get this wrong.  The library has a big role to play, and it is work that will touch on every strand of the profession.  This is about welcoming and functional physical spaces, diverse and accessible collections, the right support and training, fostering an inclusive environment for staff to develop and grow, as well as empowering researchers to change the world around them with open and impactful scholarship.  I heard Dr. Lizzie Gadd say recently that “research culture is defined by the worst behaviour you’re prepared to tolerate” and her words have really struck a chord with me.  There are plenty of research behaviours outside of the library’s purview, but we absolutely have a role to play in demanding fair access to research and the development of sustainable infrastructure for scholarly communication.  Open research and scholarship contribute to positive research culture, and a positive research culture impacts student belonging — it is all connected. 

Elaine L. Westbrooks:  I have been in my role since July 2022, so this is the time to bring clarity and alignment to the organization that is poised to continue doing great work for the campus and beyond.  This means embarking on strategic planning and building my leadership team to foster collaboration, well-being, equity, and trust.  Other priorities include learning what the campus wants and expects from the Cornell library community.  The curriculum continues to evolve and the ways in which researchers engage scholarship for teaching and learning is a moving target that we must be prepared for as a key partner and facilitator. 

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata:  Getting other voices into knowledge spaces is a priority.  Alternative publishing of locally published research is essential.  Strengthening channels for disseminating locally published research will be crucial, while also ensuring the existing knowledge is preserved.  This is important for the African institutions.

Q3: How is open access to research going to change things for your library in 2023?

Elizabeth Speer:  Firstly, we have entered into several transformative or read and publish agreements where we will either pay the APC entirely or provide a discount for our researchers to publish their work open access.  Secondly, the library created my position of Copyright & OER Strategist that specifically educates about and supports open on campus.  Thirdly, the library has become involved more in the support of researcher’s data management since a large majority of the university’s grant funding comes from the NIH and open is now a requirement of those grants. 

Dr. Sarah Pittaway:  Open access to research doesn’t make things easier from an administrative perspective! As UoG’s research community grows, the ongoing move to open scholarship will, I hope, help make a case for more staff to work alongside our researchers supporting them to understand it all.  As “the university for Birmingham,” Birmingham City University (BCU) is actively engaged with the local community.  I hope open access to research will help facilitate more public engagement and really making plain the value of open scholarship to a wide community of users.

Bethany Logan:  While the evolution is exciting, it can sometimes feel slow.  We’re awaiting the outcome of some big deal negotiations and further clarity on funder policy exceptions before we can move forward in terms of decision making and, to some extent, service design.  So, we know that things are going to change, but we don’t necessarily know how; being agile and able to adapt in a fluid situation is more important than ever.  Something that has become increasingly clear is that “open” is not just the remit of the research support and repository teams.  Everyone working in an academic library acquisition, inter-lending, teaching and customer service colleagues should have some knowledge of what open research and scholarship means.  Investing in staff development around open needs to be a priority. 

Elaine L. Westbrooks:  OA is a complex and complicated topic that we think about daily as one facet of open science.  As for 2023, The OSTP Whitehouse Memo which was designed to make federally funded research freely available without delay and the NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing have led research libraries to double down on providing important services to researchers.  We are beginning to define our values so that we have a framework for deciding how we invest in OA.  We are interested in starting a campus discussion about OA, transformative agreements, and infrastructure.

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata:  Open Access is an avenue for opening up channels for communication of research findings.  However, the issue of Author Page Charges (APC) needs attention.  The current costs of APCs delays the success that Open Access promises.

Q4: Is your library involved in any OER initiatives?  What can you share about your involvement?

Elizabeth Speer:  UNT Health Science Center is in the beginning stages of our OER journey.  Last year I was part of the SPARC Open Education Leadership program which provided me with a strong foundation around OER and gave the library a network of experts for support and brainstorming.  This year, I transitioned to the Copyright & OER Strategist role so that we can begin building what OER will look like for University of North Texas Health Science Centre (HSC).  We are also creating an OER interest group for other medical libraries who are in the same boat that we are when it comes to OER, which is building one.

Dr. Sarah Pittaway:  At UoG, no, we don’t really have capacity for this kind of work at the moment, though we do have examples of librarians working in partnership on research projects around e.g., decolonising the curriculum.  I’m yet to find out what BCU are doing in this space.

Bethany Logan:  At Sussex we have just come to the end of a pilot project to produce an open textbook.  This is part of our ongoing commitment to open and our belief that open isn’t just about research, it has just as much value for education and scholarship.  We worked collaboratively with authors from Sussex and other institutions, as well as a very talented science illustrator, to produce a textbook for use by our undergraduate Psychology cohorts.  We hope that the book will be adopted by teaching faculty at other institutions, too.  The cost of textbooks has become unsustainable for libraries, so our textbook represents quite an exciting new approach.  We’re investing in our scholarship and pushing for a more sustainable and equitable approach to textbook creation.  

Elaine L. Westbrooks:  There is an OER affinity group in the Ivy Plus Library Confederation in which we participate, and we have followed the work of the SUNY OER Initiative.  We are also working on a grant with a small OER component which we hope will get funded.  Fundamentally, I don’t foresee Cornell University Library making a big investment in this area right now.  We intend to invest our energy into building awareness around the unaffordability of other scholarly resources and how we build collections in a scholarly communication ecosystem that we know is unsustainable.

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata:  OERS are a teaching faculty competency.  OERs are thus managed by the Center for Teaching and Learning.  The convergence with the library is at Open Science Policy level where OERS and open access publishing are components of the Open Science Policy.

Q5: Do you see the library taking a leading role in helping your university navigate the challenges and opportunities that AI in education and research offers?

Elizabeth Speer:  AI is being discussed in my library.  We are looking at implementing a chatbot to answer simple library and research questions.  We have facilitated the setup of tele-health stations at public libraries in the area.  What the future holds for us is unknown.  However, the campus has recently opened a regional simulation center which uses AI in amazing ways to help educate our students, faculty, and surrounding medical community.  What they can do within their labs is truly amazing.

Dr. Sarah Pittaway:  We’re a converged IT & Library service at UoG and have already been approached by our exec to feed into conversations about what AI developments mean for our students.  There’s an immediate impact on information literacy, the references it pulls back — or makes up! — and issues of bias for example.  There’s also a conversation about how we frame teaching and assessment so that students can understand both the limitations of these tools and where they can help.

Bethany Logan:  At the moment, this is more of a priority in the learning and teaching space, which is not my area of expertise.  I understand that the university has been quick to respond to concerns around plagiarism and broadened their definition of misconduct around personation to include AI software.  There is also a newly formed working group looking at the institutional response to AI in a learning and teaching context, and the library certainly has a role to play here.  Libraries have significant expertise to offer, and are perceived as an authority, on digital literacies and we should certainly play a central role in the upskilling of academic and professional service staff as well as the delivery of training to students.  I would say this is a collaborative role, there are expertise in IT Services and Educational Enhancement to draw on, too. 

Thinking about challenges and opportunities in a research space, like open research, this is something that’s bigger than an individual institution.  AI is just another way that research is evolving, and we’ll see exciting things when librarians, publishers and researchers innovate collaboratively. 

Elaine L. Westbrooks:  Not quite yet.  I would like research libraries to take a leading role.  Several libraries have already begun investigating how AI might be applied to metadata creation such as automatic captioning of images.  We are already seeing that ChatGPT generates fake citations.  Students are looking for articles that do not exist.  We have an opportunity to teach AI literacy skills just like we have done with information, media, digital and data literacy.  It would make sense for libraries to use AI with all its flaws to educate our constituents who already trust the expertise that we provide for our campuses.

Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata:  AI requires a team effort in higher education.  The library subscribes to anti-plagiarism software.  With the advent of ChatGPT, the ability to detect originality becomes crucial.  The library and faculty will need to collaborate in harnessing AI for the good of research and teaching and managing challenges.  The library has a chance to lead the conversations.  

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