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Open Access Week Interview with Claire McGann

The Copim team talks with Claire McGann about her experience joining Open Book Futures (OBF) as a Project Manager.

Published onOct 24, 2023
Open Access Week Interview with Claire McGann
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The Copim team talks with Claire McGann about her experience joining Open Book Futures (OBF) as a Project Manager.

Claire McGann, Open Book Futures (OBF) Project Manager

Tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you join the Copim community? How’s your experience been at your position?

Hi there! I am one of the newest members of the Copim community. As I write to you, this marks only my sixth day working as Project Manager on Open Book Futures (OBF). I’ve already been struck, though, by the warm and collaborative community I have joined. My endless ‘rookie’ questions have been answered with generosity and a smile. Meanwhile, my attempts to master some of the community’s favoured collaboration platforms, such as MatterMost, Jitsi and NextCloud, (new-to-me after a lifetime of Microsoft) have been patiently encouraged and supported.

In any new job, there are fresh systems to learn, names to remember and filing systems to navigate. In this job, that feels particularly true. I have joined an international community of colleagues, who have adapted to collaborating across time-zones, projects and organisations over the three-plus years of the COPIM Project. It’s going to take time for me to learn the ropes and to get a handle on all of the exciting things happening in this network. What I do know is that I’m delighted to be here, and to be working with such interested and interesting people. There is a sense of excitement and passion for the work here that is infectious.

How do you interpret the theme "Community over Commercialisation" in the context of Open Access Week 2023 and your work, and why is it important for the field of open scholarship?

I have a PhD in English Literature and as a researcher in the field I have held various short-term and precarious contracts at universities. So, for me personally, this year’s theme speaks to my own experience of navigating the research and publication landscape as an early career scholar. For those starting out, I think it can be particularly challenging to balance community and commercialisation. The competitive job market in the UK often seems to favour individualism and demand that certain forms of publication appear on your CV. The stubborn hold commercial models still hold over the field regularly drives new scholars to pursue (and therefore to prop up) these publication routes. I think this derives not from an unwillingness to imagine different ways of disseminating research, or from a lack of desire for community and collaboration amongst new scholars, but more from the necessity of self-preservation in an increasingly unstable area of employment. I’m mindful that we need to be sympathetic to these systemic issues when we make a case for Open Access. A true community-led effort means advocating for open scholarship that ‘works’ for scholars at all career levels.

Is there a scenario where commercialization can be aligned with the public interest in the field of open scholarship? If so, what might that look like?

Over the past ten years, I have combined my academic work with several jobs in commercial publishing: gaining first-hand experience of commissioning and producing scholarly books, journals and digitised archive collections. I have been privileged to work in editorial teams filled with bright and passionate supporters of research and scholarship. These communities are committed to serving the public interest through their work, and collaborate carefully with authors to produce high-quality publications together. Whilst many might be sceptical about the role such commercial publishing companies can play in the move to open scholarship, I would point to the talented and enthusiastic staff working within these organisations as a source of great hope. If we can encourage publishing companies to pivot (even partially) to OA revenue structures that do not rely on processing fees, then I know that their staff will be eager, and very able, to get to work. Scholars, and the general public, can only benefit when research is published in collaboration with great editorial teams.

How can we encourage a shift toward using community-minded options in knowledge sharing systems as the default choice, and what are the practical steps that can be taken to achieve this shift?

Let’s practice what we preach wherever we can! I have been so impressed by the commitment within the Copim team to finding community-minded options to use in our daily work. The team tries wherever possible to use open-source platforms for file-sharing, online meetings and instant messaging. It feels really refreshing, and a way of making a practical shift towards the online future we want to see. At the moment, we’re also exploring options for open-source project management tools: recommendations very welcome!

How can individuals, institutions, and organizations actively participate in Open Access Week 2023 and contribute to the theme of "Community over Commercialisation" in their local contexts?

If we do one thing this Open Access Week, let’s try to read an Open Access book and recommend it to someone in our community! Perhaps this seems like a trite or obvious point, but I do also think it’s an important one not to forget. Community over commercialisation can be pursued at a hyper-local level: putting an OA book on your course reading list, or sharing a link with a friend you know will be interested. Participating in this space is about celebrating the scholarship that has been made open, and then sharing that with others. With that in mind, I’d also recommend contacting the authors of the scholarship you read. If you admire a piece of OA research and it’s been helpful to you, never be afraid to reach out and tell the writers. In that way, I think we can build an academic and research community that’s built on human connections, and small articulations of gratitude and kindness.

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