In the final weeks of 2022, Velocity of Content is looking back at the past twelve months of programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought intense public interest to research and science and great expectations for answers and for certainty. Yet science advances ploddingly, through trial and error. The result is a conflict over confidence. In July, Elsevier launched a global collaboration to understand the impact of the pandemic on confidence in research and to learn how researchers may better maneuver in a rapidly changing scientific landscape. At Elsevier, Anne Kitson is senior vice president and managing director of The Lancet and Cell Press. She leads the Confidence in Research project.

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“The main opportunity here is that the pandemic and our experiences of the last two years are a chance to reinvigorate discussions, [and to learn] how the various players associated with the research environment can really drive confidence in research, and what, of course, those drivers are,” Kitson says. “I believe labeling it as a crisis is overstating this, but there are some growing strong challenges it’s incumbent on all of us to address together. We collaborate already, but we need to continue to do so and even more now in this very rapidly evolving landscape.”

Important, groundbreaking research frequently happens across Africa. Yet African scientists and institutions rarely see credit in the world’s most recognized scholarly journals. African researchers are not the only ones whose careers are affected by so-called parachute research. Such practices occur around the globe when researchers from high-income and privileged settings interact with groups who are historically marginalized. In May, an editorial from Nature, one of the world’s most highly regarded scientific publications, announced a new approach to improving inclusion and ethics in all Nature portfolio journals.

“Helicopter research, or as it’s called, parachute research or colonial research, is not only limited to authorship. It can extend to other types of unethical methods,” explains Sowmya Swaminathan, head of collaborations, Springer Nature. “For example, sample collection of fossils and archaeological material and their export from one jurisdiction or country or territory or community to another without the appropriate approvals and permissions for collection and analysis.”

In publishing, open access is transforming the scholarly journal. In the laboratory and at the university, open science is remaking research. For this new open environment, best practices with data are those that strive to be efficient, transparent, and FAIR – that is, findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. CCC has a longstanding interest in quality data for our rights licensing programs as well as for RightsLink, our open access solution. At Frankfurt Book Fair, I asked CCC colleague Laura Cox whether the CCC acquisition in May of Ringgold, a leading provider of persistent organization identifiers, signals that the issue of data quality is even more important than ever.

“Absolutely. We’re moving into a much more complex environment as we gradually transition to open access and open science. So the issues around data – the quality of the data, the accuracy of the data, the ability to link data – become more and more important,” Cox notes. “We’re tying all of that information together to produce the transformative deals that further this effort to move to open access, which everyone is behind.”

The university library holds a central role as a study space. With enrollment increasingly diverse, librarians and administrators see responsibility for making that study space into a welcoming place, too. Yet the values and assumptions many have about libraries and librarians can become obstacles. Cherished ideals of neutrality and impartiality have traditionally ignored systemic racism in libraries and the exclusion of people of color in those spaces.

“We know that libraries historically were exclusionary,” says Jill Hurst-Wahl, an antiracism auditor with Widerstand Consulting, and professor emerita at Syracuse University, where she most recently was director of the iSchool Public Libraries Institute. “There’s a lot of people who could not go into a public library. If you’re training people to go into that space as librarians, how do you help them understand what that space has been? Because [librarians] need to understand that history in order to understand what [a library] should be now and should be in the future.

In the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College London, Dr. Jessica Wade investigates polymer-based organic light-emitting diodes and has published her research in numerous prestigious journals. That’s her day job. Dr. Wade also moonlights as a Wikipedia editor writing hundreds of biographies of women scientists. When young girls go looking for role models in science, she says, they should find them easily.

“Our problem in science, as is in much of society, is that our metrics for deciding who’s a fantastic scientist are inherently biased,” Dr. Wade declares. “It’s who we give awards to. It’s who publishes papers that get a high number of citations. It’s who makes a patent that gets a high number of access uses. It’s who gets in big grant funding. And we know in science that those metrics are fundamentally broken. We know that we disproportionately fund and support and speak about scientists from certain institutions from certain parts of the world, and largely those scientists are men.”

From enumeration of animal species living in every corner of the globe to identification of fossil remains of ancient creatures, scientific inquiry looks from the present day into the very dimmest past. Science can’t see into the future – not yet anyway. The responsibility to make the future a place that is welcome, inclusive, and full of understanding lies with all of us.


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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