Tasting our own medicine

Roz & Sarah’s experience of doing scholarly communication, rather than enabling it

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It was a wintery day in late 2017, when into my inbox drops another email… so far, so uninspiring – this happens as a fairly(!) regular occurrence. It was a call for papers for a Special Issue “Open Access and the Library” of Publications with a topic of interest highlighted as “New staff roles, skills and training”. Now, new staff roles related to open access is something that we at Kent know a little about, so with a brief spurt of enthusiasm I sent this to Roz with an accompanying suggestion that we might consider doing something about it. As it is now published (you can read it here), we thought we’d share some of our reflections on the experience.

Writing the article we set out to write

This sounds straightforward, write about new staff roles supporting open access. Easy, right? Except, while this is clearly what was asked for, and something we both know, one way or another, quite a lot about, we kept straying off topic – we went into research support (which is much more exciting), innovations in supporting scholarly communication (VERY much more exciting) and new forms of open scholarship (I’m running the risk of hyperbole). We both found staying on topic difficult as we were both keen to write about areas that excited us more.

Formatting

I’m just going to leave this as a heading by itself. And applaud Roz.

Peer Review

We knew theoretically about peer review, and we had some wonderful reviewers whose feedback helped turn the article into a much more coherent output, but nothing prepared us for how we felt when our work was not instantly accepted as the best thing ever to be written, even though we were well aware that this wasn’t the case.

Timing

We had planned and blocked out time for writing but hadn’t quite appreciated that we would have no control over the timing of subsequent requests from reviewers and editors. So we had to squeeze in hasty “can you do this and I’ll do that” email conversations with each other. We were given a tight deadline for reworking the article and with other commitments, it seemed unlikely that we would get the changes done. We considered not making them, not resubmitting the article and letting it die quietly then – but decided on a slightly less dramatic action. We contacted the publisher and asking to extend the deadline (which they did, by return email, by longer than we asked for and were generally very helpful). Similarly when the article was published Roz hadn’t thought about the fact that this might happen when she was busy with other things and hadn’t got time or brain space to dedicate to sharing.

Assumptions

One of the best feedback points from the external reviewers was in questioning the assumptions we had made about the base level of understanding of our readers – terms that we use daily had to be explained, the context of open access in the UK elaborated. Looking back this seems obvious – what were the external factors that influenced the need for change?

Final… doesn’t quite mean final.

We did it! We submitted our final version and it was accepted – we did a happy dance. Then we had a couple of clarification questions… no problem! New final version! Happy dance Mark II! Then we had to confirm the response to our clarification questions.. no problem… new final version… somewhat subdued happy dance Mark III while we waited to find out what happened next. What happened next was that it was published (phew!).

KAR

Head of the Office for Scholarly Communication, Faculty Liaison Librarian (Sciences & Research)… we love KAR. We use it a lot, and are very supportive of it and are among its biggest advocates (Except perhaps for Sue Duffy, who deserves an honourable mention here as the backbone of KAR support for a Very Long Time), so we deposited the Author Accepted Manuscript within 3 months (days!) of acceptance, then updated it when it was published – which definitely gave me a clearer understanding of why REF assisted deposit is so appreciated and how something I regarded in my previous role (KLS research support) as a fairly straightforward and easy request from researchers is so appreciated by people who have just been dealing with all the Final Versions of papers.

KUDOS & Sharing

Then came the time to share – we had published fully open access, so the paper was ready and available – but the assigned DOI wasn’t yet resolving…Dilemma! What to do? To share now (while we’re still enthusiastic) or to hang on and share through KUDOS? Safe to say I got over excited and shared first (there is a justification… we were interested in how the link click/stats changed, I can be geeky like that). And Roz had “this all feels a bit like showing off and I was brought up not to” feeling to reconcile with the desire to do things properly and make sure people knew about the article, as we would advise Kent academics to do. We then added it to KUDOS, which was truly fantastic and easy to work through – until it got to the section on why the research was important. This was a key challenge for me – it seems arrogant to say that other people might find this helpful and although we do our best, we’re not perfect… you can see how I resolved it here.

Ending thoughts

We’re very pleased with the article, and are glad that it is published – but the journey that we have been though in preparing it has perhaps been a much more useful insight than we ever imagined that it would be. I don’t think we realised quite what we were letting ourselves in for when we started out and so we are very grateful for everyone that cheered us on our way.

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