Why am I going “open” for my tenure case?

Why do I care about being open?

As I begin to prepare my dossier materials in earnest, I have been struggling to articulate why I chose this path. This is one of many attempts to describe the connections I see between the things that inform my work: practitioner-scholar model of librarianship, open access/data/science, and research integrity.

Open is a path to visibility: The point, in my mind, of publishing in high profile journals is to reach a broad audience, or particular audiences, and have your work be taken seriously. Setting aside the debate over how we define “high profile” or “top”, sometimes the “best” journals simply aren’t a good fit for the article that needs to be written. Sometimes, new conversations or research areas struggle to find an appropriate, high quality venue that will reach the intended audience. This is one of the most important problems that open access solves for me. Regardless of where I publish an article, I know that I will make some version of it publicly available to my colleagues.

For me, open IS the point: Against advice from many, my first criteria for a journal is whether it is open. Open is an important outcome of my practice and research. The fact that making my work openly available on the web increases my visibility is also useful for demonstrating impact in my promotion and tenure dossier. But that isn’t the main reason I choose open. Important work needs to be done to solve major issues in how academic research data is managed, curated, shared (or not), and reused. Data librarians/specialists have much to contribute. As a data librarian/specialist, my community of practice are highly distributed, mostly outside my library and campus. It is really important to me to contribute back to this emerging field and share my work with the people who have inspired and shaped it. We will be more effective if we share our work openly to advance our understanding of the issues as a community. Open speeds progress and helps us do better work. That’s why I share as much as I can, warts and all.

For other perspectives on being open on the tenure-track, check out Titus Brown’s post and Erin McKiernan’s presentation at OpenCon2014. In terms of motivation and commitment, I tend to align with Erin’s view of the benefits, particularly for those outside of US & EU academic institutions, and goal of making as much of the research process as open as possible. Titus’ view of the benefits of open seem to be scholar-centric and in-line with traditional academic incentives. Regardless of the motivations, open is open and everyone is welcome to the open movement.

Titus makes a comment at the end of his presentation which raises larger issues for women on the tenure track. His wife sacrificed her academic career (along with other things) so that he could be successful. While I am lucky in that my husband is in industry and mostly doesn’t bring work home, I had a child just before starting my first tenure-track position. I have struggled with the physical and emotional demands of caring for a small child while doing what I needed to do to (hopefully) gain tenure. It has not been easy, but asking my husband to make significant sacrifices related to his career or personal life so that I could be successful was not an option for us. Instead, I had to learn to say no to opportunities that would have cost more time or energy or resources than the value gained. If this is hard for you too, check out Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s excellent advice on saying no.

More soon on how I will be defining the standards of excellence for my dossier. Hint: It certainly will not include the journal impact factor.

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