Juan Pablo Alperin is an Associate Professor in the Publishing Program, the co-Scientific Director of the Public Knowledge Project, and the co-Director of the Scholarly Communications Lab. As a leading voice on issues of developing regions to the scholarly community through a combination of published research, presentations, and membership in the board of major international initiatives, Dr. Alperin was recently awarded a SSHRC Connection grant of $21,695 for research on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” Juan Pablo spoke with SFU Publishing about his plans.
Tell us a bit about your work on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” What will the research surrounding this topic entail?
The goal is to host a series of events, both in-person and online, that serve to feature Latin American experiences with Open Science, especially those that extend beyond the academic community
How do you plan to conduct the research for this?
The plan is to host 3 in-person events this year, if the public health situation in each country allows: one in Argentina, one in Brazil, and one in Colombia. These events will be targeted at the local populations. We will also host a series of online events with an international audience. The goal is to advance the conversation about OS within the region and to use them to shape the global OS agenda.
How will the SSHRC connection grant help with the research for this subject?
SSHRC funds will be used to hire a program coordinator and to subsidize travel so we can bring speakers to the national events, and so that we can help more locals attend from beyond the capital cities where the events will be held. We also intend to put in place simultaneous translation at the online events.
In what way does this research relate to the courses you teach in the SFU Publishing program?
In the last few years, I have taught a course on Public Knowledge that has been small, but very well received. The course built on the work we did in the President’s Dream Colloquium in 2018. This series will help grow the global dimensions of that course, with the focus on Latin America.
How would students benefit from taking your courses?
The undergraduate courses that I teach help students understand the potentially powerful role that universities play in society. I like to think they finish my courses feeling more proud of attending university, and with a strong sense of the responsibility to society that comes with the privilege of gaining and creating knowledge.
“Sometimes people need to be told that your work is for them, or invited in some way,” says Hannah McGregor, an assistant professor in Simon Fraser University’s Publishing Department and the host and producer of the podcast Secret Feminist Agenda. “There are lots of ways to invite people into your work, but I think one of the best is to think about the kind of language and media that you use.”
The podcast, which she describes as “a weekly discussion of the insidious, nefarious, insurgent, and mundane ways we enact our feminism in our daily lives,” is just one of the many ways McGregor invites the public to engage with her work. She’s also active on social media, a co-editor of a new book exploring the state of Canadian Literature, and the organizer of Publishing Unbound, a workshop that brought together authors, activists, scholars, and publishing professionals to discuss inclusivity and accountability in Canadian Literature.
As of this December, she is also a co-recipient—with ScholCommLab director Juan Pablo Alperin—of the inaugural Research Excellence Award for Making Research Knowledge Public. Adjudicated by a university-wide panel, the award was jointly presented to the duo in recognition of their “demonstrated excellence in making research outcomes and insights public and in engaging new communities with scholarly or artistic work.”
Like McGregor, Alperin is an assistant professor in the Publishing Department and a strong believer in the importance of public scholarship. But while McGregor takes a public-focused approach to making research knowledge public, Alperin’s work is centred within the academic system itself—dedicated to investigating the ins and outs of open access publishing, the barriers that prevent academics from engaging in public scholarship, and more.
In celebration of the award, we asked Alperin and McGregor to share their views on making research knowledge public and the challenges that sometimes stand in the way.
What does “making research knowledge public” look like to you?
Juan Pablo Alperin: I see open access as a very basic, initial step toward making research knowledge public. We never know who in society might care about our work, regardless of how niche an audience we might have in mind. My own research and other evidence points to the fact that there are members of the public who want to know. Even if faculty don’t want to change anything else about what they do, they can make sure that their research is at least accessible to anyone who wants to see it. For me, making research knowledge public is about enabling and supporting an ecosystem in which that becomes the norm.
Hannah McGregor: I think open access should be the default and baseline, particularly for journals. But access goes beyond just paywalls; it also has to do with language and discoverability. Journals—open access or not—still circulate within particular systems of discoverability that are available mostly to people who know how universities work.
The side of things that I have been working on is what my colleague Jon Bath calls public-first scholarship. I’ve been thinking about what it means to do your work in the public from the get-go, rather than doing it within the university and then making it public later. I’m making podcasts, because podcasts are not a university medium. They are a medium that has their own logic, a logic that is inherently open and inherently public-facing. I want the audience for my work to not be precluded by people who have access to scholarship.
What are the top challenges when it comes to public scholarship?
JPA: What I see as the biggest challenge is getting academics to think and care about non-academic audiences—to start believing that making research available matters. Everyone cares in a very abstract way, but not everyone thinks about non-academic audiences as important constituents who they have a duty to share their work with. We need to shift that perspective so that faculty see public scholarship as a primary objective of their work, and not way down the list of things they have to do. We need to make it a priority.
“We need to shift that perspective so that faculty see public scholarship as a primary objective of their work, and not way down the list of things they have to do. We need to make it a priority.”—Juan Pablo Alperin
HM: For me, it’s the finitude of our time and energies. I’ve been working on my podcast for a year and a half. I love making it, but I also can do almost nothing else while I’m working on it. Many, many scholars doing this kind of work have been facing this challenge for ages: you end up having to do twice the work. You have to do all of the traditionally recognized scholarship in order to secure a job and then secure promotion and tenure. But at the same time, you want to do this other work—the work that, in my view, really matters.
The podcast is great and brings me a lot of public interest in my work. But can I get tenure for a podcast? Maybe not.
If you could change one thing…
HM: I’d like to see some pretty significant transformations in how, at the departmental level, research is valued. I think non-traditional scholarly options need to be taken seriously as the primary output of scholars. Based in part on conversations that I’ve had with other academics and in part on research that came out of this lab on public scholarship and the degree to which it’s represented in tenure and promotion documents, we know that the vast majority of university departments do not care about public scholarship. They care about published journal articles in peer-reviewed journals. People have finite energy, and if one thing is going to get you a job and the other is going to get you a thumbs up, but ultimately no financial security, what thing are you going to choose?
“Non-traditional scholarly options need to be taken seriously as the primary output of scholars… People have finite energy, and if one thing is going to get you a job and the other is going to get you a thumbs up, but ultimately no financial security, what thing are you going to choose?”—Hannah McGregor
What do you think researchers could do better?
JPA: There’s a lot more that could be done around sharing, disseminating, and talking about our work in a wide range of venues. We need to look for broader audiences for our research—be that by posting on social media, doing outreach to media, or creating infographics and other simplified forms of communicating our results.
We need to widen our conception of who our audience is. An audience could be anyone, so just put your research out there in slightly different forms and different ways—as many as come to mind and as you have time and resources for.
“For four years, Juan Pablo Alperin has been using an online annotation tool called Hypothes.is to generate reading-based discussions in his classes. The results have been so positive that this year he applied for a Dewey Fellowship (a teaching and learning–focused position granted by SFU’s Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines) in order to spread the word.
‘I applied for the fellowship because I’m so excited,’ says Alperin, an assistant professor in the Master of Publishing program. ‘I want to use it to get more people to know about this option.'”
The DH Café presents a series of short introductory workshops and informal discussion on topics relevant to the basic theories and methods behind digital research in the humanities. The courses cover a broad range of topics, from larger issues in digital research in the academy to specific tools and research techniques.
Beginning March 1st and running until April 5th, the DH Café will meet Wednesday afternoons from 3pm – 4pm, alternating between SFU Burnaby and SFU Vancouver (see individual workshops to confirm location). Workshops can be hosted at other locations by request.
Working under the direction of Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin, the position will offer the successful candidate the opportunity to explore a wide range of questions using a combination of computational techniques (including applied statistics, machine learning, network analysis, and natural language processing) and innovative methods (such as Twitter bot surveys) to investigate how knowledge is produced, disseminated, and used.
The position is ideally suited for (but not limited to) someone with an interest in scholarly communication and social media research, as it offers access to an unparalleled set of data and expertise to explore many facets of scholarly communication, particularly around issues of open access and the public’s use of scholarly work.
On top of having a proven record doing data-driven research, the ideal candidate will have the ability to lead multiple research projects, participate in external grant writing and publications efforts, as well as play a leadership role in small, but growing research team.
All candidates must possess the following qualifications:
Ability to conduct research independently.
Strong programming skills in either Python (Pandas) or R
Ability to wrangle, explore, and visualize data
Knowledge of at least one of the following: social network analysis, natural language processing, or machine learning
Strong communication skills
Outstanding candidates will also possess some of the following qualifications
A demonstrated interest in scholarly communication (interest in Open Access an extra plus)
Understanding and experience working with third party APIs
Publications in peer-reviewed journals
Experience with time series data
Experience with Tableau or other data visualization tools
Research design expertise
The fellow will have access to funding for travel to present at academic conferences and events, as well as to hire research assistants to support them in their work.
Target start date: flexible (as soon as possible) Duration: one year, renewable Salary: Commensurate with experience Location: Simon Fraser University (Downtown Campus), Vancouver, BC Deadline for applications: This posting is now closed.
Postdoctoral candidates from anywhere in the world are encouraged to apply, regardless of their eligibility to work in Canada; however, in accordance with Canadian Immigration requirements, pre-doctoral candidates can only be considered if they are eligible to work in Canada or if they meet the requirements for a visiting graduate researcher.
About Dr. Alperin:
Juan Pablo Alperin is an Assistant Professor at the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing and the Associate Faculty Director of Research with the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University. He believes that research, especially when it is made freely available (as so much of today’s work is), has the potential to make meaningful and direct contributions to society, and that it is our responsibility as the creators of this research to ensure we understand the mechanisms, networks, and mediums through which our work is discussed and used.
“Generative art” is a blanket term for any creative work produced in part through programmatic or algorithmic means. “Playful generative art” makes use of highly technical disciplines—computer programming, statistics, graphic design, and artificial intelligence—to produce chat bots, digital poetry, visual art, and even computer-generated “novels.” These pieces may be motivated by serious social or political issues, but the expressions are decidedly unserious, often short-lived or quickly composed. Creators working in this medium are rarely artists first—as programmers, designers, game developers, and linguists, they use the tools of their trade in unexpected and delightful ways. Generative art also has much to teach us about issues at the intersection of ethics and technology: what is the role of the artist in a human/machine collaboration; what is our responsibility when we design programs that talk with real people; how do we curate and study ephemeral digital works? Digital artists, writers, technologists, and anyone interested in media studies are invited to attend.
The SFU Digital Humanities Innovation Lab, in partnership with the Departments of English and First Nations Studies, is pleased to invite you to several upcoming events focused on Indigenous media and texts. The events are free and open to all, but registration is required. Spaces are limited, so please register soon. Please share this information with others who may be interested in participating.
We hope you will be able to join us!
Indigenous Wikipedia Edit-a-thon (with a focus on Film and Media) – 6pm-9pm on November 23, SFU Surrey Campus (Galleria 5, Rm 5080)
Professor Deanna Reder (SFU English and First Nations), a leading scholar of Indigenous literature and culture, will lead SFU’s first Indigenous Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. Students of Professor Reader’s MATE course (English 851, Introduction to Indigenous Media and Film) will be the central participants in this workshop, using their knowledge of indigenous film and digital media, including podcasts, online installations and video games, to enhance Wikipedia’s coverage of Indigenous media arts. For this workshop, Professor Reader will be supported by technical experts in Wikipedia editing, Sara Humphreys (St. Jerome University), Heather De Forest (SFU Research Commons Librarian), and Rebecca Dowson (SFU Digital Scholarship Librarian). This workshop will provide hands-on guidance that will allow everyone to edit and add to the world’s largest encyclopedia.
Digital Gaming and the Decolonization of Indigenous Texts – 12pm-2pm on November 24, SFU Burnaby Campus (Research Commons, 7th floor SFU Library)
Dr. Sara Humphreys is currently building a “gamified” academic edition of an Indigenous text that reconfigures the colonial practices endemic to academic publishing and editing. This scholarly game edition offers an alternative to often exclusionary academic publishing standards, by creating an interactive edition of Mourning Dove’s Cogewea (1927). This edition of Cogewea (1927) uses digital gaming affordances and protocols, which break from the Eurocentric forms of editing and publishing that stifle or even silence the Okanagan knowledge systems crucial to the novel. She is building this edition using Twine, a digital storytelling platform, which is open access and offers opportunities to tell stories (even archival stories) beyond traditional print and publishing conventions. This digital edition challenges the western educated reader to move beyond the conventions of academic texts and engage with Cogewea in ways that empower and privilege Indigenous knowledge.
Would you like to “play” this digital edition and help to develop this project? Dr. Humphreys will provide guidance on using Twine and give you the opportunity to build the edition and also develop your own sections of the edition. No previous experience with digital gaming, development, or scholarly editing is required.
The Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University (Canada) is seeking a research assistant to conduct a literature review to assess current review, tenure, and promotion (RTP) practices at higher education institutions in the U.S. and Canada. The review will encompass topics in the higher education literature such as the application of traditional benchmarks of academic achievement (teaching, publication, and service) as promotion criteria, the effects the tenure decision-making process has on tenure-track and early career faculty, and how stated evaluation criteria differ from perceived criteria.
This work is motivated by the recognition of the problematic nature of public investments in research being captured in privately owned, toll-access journals that widely prevent public access to research. A strong and vocal community that promotes open access to research has emerged that has worked to study and educate researchers about the advantages of opening access to research (as well as data and educational materials). However, very little is known about current RTP practices as they relate to questions of openness and public engagement. This dearth of collectively organized information makes it difficult to propose concrete, evidence-based reforms to support openness and public engagement, which this literature review begins to address.
The literature review is part of a larger project supported by the Open Society Foundations under the leadership of Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin (SFU), Dr. Meredith Niles (UVM) and Dr. Erin McKiernan (UNAM). The project will examine the RPT process in the U.S. and Canada through the collection and analysis of RPT documents in ways that can directly inform actions likely to translate into behavioral change and to a greater opening of research.
The literature review is expected to be carried out in the Fall of 2016 at a rate of $25-35/hour CAD (commensurate with experience). The work can be carried out off-site, although an office, library access, and computer resources are available at the Vancouver Campus of Simon Fraser University.
Interested applicants should send a brief cover letter, CV, and sample literature review to Dr. Juan Pablo Alperin (firstname.lastname@example.org). Position will remain open until filled.
Our Faculty’s FCAT blog has a new showcase of Dr Juan Alperin (@juancommander), who has just been awarded a three-year SSHRC Insight Grant for “Understanding the Societal Impact of Research Through Social Media.” The proposed project seeks to create an empirical and methodological basis for the systematic analysis of the societal impact of research through the engagement with scholarly documents on social media.