Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Micah Vandegrift discusses the future of climate justice and open access research

“Let’s listen to communities as a foundation for action”
Micah Vandergrift via Twitter
Micah Vandergrift via Twitter

On Oct. 24, open access advocate and researcher Micah Vandegrift provided a keynote speech that focused on climate justice and open knowledge, hosted by the University of Massachusetts.

SPARC, a non-profit education and research advocacy group, organized the virtual address in partnership with the Open Access Week Advisory Committee.

The event commemorated International Open Access Week (Oct. 24-30). The organizers explained that Open Access Week is an “opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship a new norm in scholarship and research.”

Open Access is defined as free, immediate, online access to scholarly research, holding the right to use results as needed.

This year’s Open Access Week theme was Open for Climate Justice, which, according to the organization’s website, aims to “encourage connection and collaboration among the climate movement and the international open community.” The site goes on to say that climate justice is “an explicit acknowledgement that the climate crisis has far-reaching effects [that disproportionately affect vulnerable groups].”

UMass Scholarly Communication Librarian Christine Turner moderated the virtual meeting. Turner began by introducing Vandegrift, who joined the virtual event from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Vandegrift’s career began at Florida State University as the founder of the University’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. Some of his achievements include working as a Fulbright-Schuman Research Fellow in 2018 and 2019. His research project, which he conducted in Denmark and the Netherlands, focused on understanding open science policies and infrastructure in the European Union.

Vandegrift is North Carolina State University Libraries’ first Open Knowledge Librarian. His current work centers around building programs that enable the academic community to develop and practice Open Access values.

After Turner provided insight into Vandegrift’s academic background, Vandegrift began his keynote. He showed old family photos of Hurricane Erin in 1995, which was the first time that Vandegrift evacuated his home due to severe weather.

“I remember the mixed emotions … seeing my parents in deep anxiety,” Vandegrift said.

“My experience is a far cry from any kind of climate displacement or serious concern, but it felt real to me as a young kid,” he added. “[It was] the first time I can recall at being awed at how the weather can radically change people’s lives.”

Vandegrift stated that he intended for his presentation to examine “what has changed, what is the same, [and] what is ahead for open science and public knowledge.”

Addressing the evolution of the open access concept, Vandegrift moved through three distinct phases of open access. First, he described the rise of open access in the 1990s, then moved to the open data era in the wake of the Obama Administration’s 2013 Holdren Memo.

The Holdren Memo, a policy memorandum issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology, stated that “the direct results of federally funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.” Vandegrift then addressed the open education era of 2017.

He then reached present day, which he referred to as an era of open science. Vandegrift interpreted the open science era as a “renaissance in technology, for good and for ill.”

Vandegrift offered potential mobilization into what he referred to as “changing a research culture.”

“[We’re] moving from communities making research culture normative, to incentives making it rewarding,” he said.

He recounted his experience at NC State, saying he was “shocked, excited, [and] uneasy at how commonplace open access seemed to be” there. Public knowledge is “a recognition that change is occurring, and therefore we need to focus on adaptability and resilience as a research measure,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift’s address concluded by offering resources on how to get involved in the open access movement, directing participants to “Let’s listen to communities as a foundation for action,” Vandegrift stated.

“Academic knowledge in the public sphere – that’s my goal,” he said.

Mia Vittimberga can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MiaVittimberga.

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