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Open Access Week Interview with Kevin Sanders

The Copim team talks with Kevin Sanders about his experience joining the Open Book Collective an Open Access Engagement Lead

Published onOct 24, 2023
Open Access Week Interview with Kevin Sanders
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The Copim team talks with Kevin Sanders about his experience joining the Open Book Collective as an Open Access Engagement Lead.

Kevin Sanders, Open Book Collective, OA Engagement Lead

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

Hello! My name is Kevin Sanders, and I’ve worked in academic librarianship over 15 years. Very early in my career, I found the exorbitant cost of subscriptions to academic resources to be eye opening, and it immediately led me to learn about open access publishing and other experiments with attempts to openly disseminate scholarly knowledge. After working in scholarly communications at three universities in the UK, the opportunity to join the Open Book Collective (OBC) emerged a few months ago, and I was fortunate to be successful in my application, so I have been part of the community for five whole days at the time of writing.

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?

Community is an important theme in my personal and professional life. I have spent a lot of time in various DIY communities, often culturally and always politically, and this has taught me a lot about the importance of solidarity and collectivism. Such things can bring bottomless opportunities to challenge orthodoxies along with a healthy dollop of fun! These were all important aspects of the Radical Librarians Collective that I was part of a few years back. There were many successes of that collective, but the founding of the APC-free Journal of Radical Librarianship is something that I think was, at the time, quite an earth shaking moment for us as a relatively diverse group of library workers that routinely received push-back for such ideas in professional contexts.  

In your opinion, what are the key challenges and drawbacks when commercial interests take precedence in knowledge production, as opposed to prioritizing researchers and the public?

This is a great question, and one that probably needs a years-long research project to answer as wholly as I would like to! Commercial interests are a part of the research environment, and I don’t think that is likely to ever not be the case in the current political structure of our society. Most of my issues surround how commercial interests shape and structure the operations of almost all aspects of knowledge production. Yet there are still so many opportunities to challenge this in meaningful ways. I don’t think I have met anyone inside of any knowledge institution that thinks the commercial environment optimises knowledge production, but it also seems to interpellate the majority. Leading by example and demonstrating that other viable possibilities exist is something that I think Copim and the OBC are vital for in this regard, particularly with regards to collaboration rather than competition between publishers and publishing services (and also competition between disparate library and information services).

When does the collection and use of personal data begin to undermine academic freedom, especially in the context of open scholarship and open access publishing?

This is an area of particular importance to me. Historically, I have been fortunate enough to work closely with the Library Freedom Project, and thus to work on helping library users to protect their personal data in a raft ways. Simon Bowie recently published a piece on how Copim implemented various technologies to help protect users’ privacy, including implementing a far more neat and robust onion service than I had proposed a few years ago. I really think that these are core parts of creating a true, open scholarly system for readers, publishing, and libraries, particularly for marginalised communities and communities working at the margins.

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?

Picking up on a thread above, I think commercialisation is an inherent part of open scholarship. I think that trying to disambiguate open scholarship from its broader operation within political actuality forgoes the reality that it is part of the same political and social structure(s), and the pressures of encumbered by related facets. However, I think some of the epistemic politics of open can lend themselves to a potential challenge of the orthodoxies of commercialisation of scholarship, and I think this can be in pursuit of a greater public interest. For instance, this enables library workers and libraries to support these endeavours and to try to build and support better infrastructures and social relations in collaboration. This was part of the remit of implementing the Janeway software when I migrated an institutional publication to a full open access publication with open licensing, DOIs, and operating on from on open source platform. There were tangible benefits in this for the institution, for the writers whose work was being published, for the library workers operating the platform, and for information users.   

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?

Getting involved! That’s the biggest and easiest hurdle. There are so many ways to get involved in projects that can yield mutual benefits. The journey from advocating for change to any implementation can be a long one, so there are lots of opportunities to get involved in communities for change. There’s also the chance to experiment with how you do things, the tools you use to do things, the services you take advantage of… proprietary is usually the default of commercialised operations, but open can offer greater autonomy.

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?

Thankfully, there are so many ways that I don’t have to worry about getting it wrong! Following events, engaging in the discussions, learning from others’ experiences, sharing knowledge with colleagues, experimenting with or implementing aspects that appeal to local needs, inviting open source and open access services to speak with your colleagues, curating more of the openly accessible resources into your collections, learning from what did not go well when trying things… the list is endless! 

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