Caitlin Carter is the Scholarly Communication and Open Access Policy Fellow at The Johns Hopkins University Welch Medical Library. She recently took part in our “Five Questions” series to tell us about her role.
1. Describe your current scholcomm position?
My current position is the Scholarly Communication and Open Access Policy Fellow at Welch Medical Library. Welch is part of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine. I work closely with Robin Sinn who coordinates the Office of Scholarly Communication from the Homewood campus, while I’m based on the medical campus. We are both funded out of the Hopkins President’s Office for two years to socialize the new (as of July 2018) faculty-wide Open Access Policy. I also teach Welch classes about publishing and author resources, and I help plan and run events dedicated to the changing scholarly publishing landscape like the role of preprints for medical and health researchers.
2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?
Leaving my full time job at an IT government contractor to pursue a degree in library science was a hard choice, but one I don’t regret. When I started my program, I was attracted to academia, but I was not sure what form of librarianship I wanted to pursue. When I got a graduate assistantship at the University of Maryland working on the digital repository, helping to make research open access, I discovered the value (and definition of) green open access. This discovery then led me down a rabbit hole where I learned and explored the history of and changes happening within scholarly publishing.
3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I’m humbled by the fact that working at Hopkins means I have access to a lot of, often, well-funded researchers conducting high-level research. The most rewarding part is that I am encouraging, and, hopefully, making it easier for these researchers to make their research openly accessible to others. When I find faculty allies to encourage peers to share research, it is even more rewarding. Something I find similarly rewarding is working with early career researchers and graduate students who are navigating the publishing landscape and looking for ways to improve publishing and mentoring processes.
4. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?
It’s easy for me to think of many large-scale ways the scholarly ecosystem could be revamped: removing journal titles and impact factor from faculty tenure/promotion processes, ensuring open access research is the default everywhere, and diverting library budgets from support for Big Deals or Read and Publish agreements to instead support open infrastructure. However, because I have to pick one thing, I’m going to go with a small change that would make my day-to-day a little easier: if I had a magic wand, I’d change the perception some have that open access publishing equates to a pay-to-publish model. Heather Joseph (Executive Director, SPARC) came to campus during Open Access Week and discussed how article processing charges (APCs) bake the inequities into the publishing system, and it resonated with me. It can be easy to write off open access journals because of APCs, which not all journals have and not all researchers can pay for when they do. I try to communicate the nuances of open access publishing by describing the many ways researchers can make work open access without paying. When authors or institutions are asked to pay to publish their work, I can see how well-funded institutions and researchers are privileged, and it creates a less equitable and accessible research environment for everyone.
5. If you were not a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?
I have always liked studying what makes people operate the way they do, and helping others navigate through life situations. If I had to choose an alternative career in an alternative universe, I think I would be a psychologist. In my context, I think the better way to answer is: if not a librarian, and had I been better at biology, chemistry, and statistics, I would be a psychologist.