CISP to evaluate Mellon Foundation’s scholarly communications initiative

The Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing (CISP) is excited to announce a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which will fund an evaluation of the Foundation’s scholarly communications initiative. The project will be led by John Maxwell, director of the CISP and head of the Publishing program at Simon Fraser University.

In 2014, the Mellon Foundation announced that it would award funding to support digital publishing in the humanities. The awards would encourage the widest possible dissemination of scholarship by making publications interactive, high quality, and financially sustainable. The Mellon Foundation asked grantees to envision how they could better connect to students and support the humanities. “These are not questions about a publishing ‘crisis’ or about ‘open access,’” Mellon Sr program officer Don Waters said in a 2014 talk. “They are about the opportunities to shape knowledge formation and interpretation and dissemination to emerging needs and media.”

Mellon has awarded close to ten million dollars in funding to fifteen institutions since 2014. The grants tackle different aspects of publishing, including editing, clearing rights, embedding datasets and multimedia, peer reviewing, and preserving. The proposals involve all three branches of institutions: presses, libraries, and faculty. They range from creating new workflows, to building new platforms for online publishing, to researching and implementing new business models. “The resulting proposals vary widely–in keeping with the broad aims of this initiative,” Maxwell said. “Given the scope of the challenge and opportunity at hand – nothing short of realigning scholarly communication in the humanities – this breadth is indeed appropriate and welcome.”

The Mellon initiative asks presses to partner with another organization, such as a library or another press, encouraging a culture of collaboration. “The Foundation has with this initiative effectively constituted a community of practice, and a network, around the advancement and realignment of scholarly communications,” Maxwell said. “The opportunity at hand, then, is to catalyze this community into something greater than the sum of its individual agendas.” Maxwell aims to help inform the grantees about each others’ initiatives and to better connect them with each other.

The CISP is part of the Publishing program at Simon Fraser University, the only graduate publishing program in Canada. The Institute, founded in the late 1980s, has been an interdisciplinary centre for research on the publishing industry and its practices. In recent years, the Institute has evolved scholarly communications through a series of initiatives aimed at establishing a social-science & humanities journal publishing infrastructure in Canada, through its involvement with the Public Knowledge Project (PKP; also based at SFU), and in its recent involvement in the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) research partnership in Canada.