Open educational practices: Faculty self-defense in a privatized knowledge ecosystem

Social work knowledge is ruthlessly privatized. The overwhelming majority of educational resources created by faculty and disseminated to students reuses content that is commercially copyrighted. That is, the content is behind a paywall and the copyright holder does not allow for people to reuse the content in transformative ways. For example, slideshows or activities that instructors adapt from commercial journal articles or textbooks cannot be publicly archived or published. These derivative resources must remain with the professor—at most, shared informally with colleagues—because commercial “copyright prohibits unauthorized copying or modification of particular instances of expression” (Nelson et al., 2014, p. 2). In this way, commercial copyright alienates educators from the product of their labor and atomizes them by limiting the emergence of a community based on sharing derivative and adapted resources.

The price, use, and reuse of educational content is controlled by a small oligopoly of academic publishers of textbooks and academic journals. It is a very profitable business, borne out of the broken markets for journals and textbooks. Student and faculty movements to lower textbook costs discuss their deleterious impact on food insecurity, housing, student debt, and employment (DeCarlo & Vandergrift, 2019; Senack & Donoghue, 2016). Although textbook prices have increased nearly 200% since 1998 (Kight, 2018), student spending on textbook has declined (National Association of College Stores, 2019). As student cost-cutting measures drive prices lower, publishers have attempted to lock down content by integrating rental platforms—which eliminate the used textbook market—and wraparound courseware using access codes and automatically billing from student accounts (i.e., inclusive access) (Senack et al., 2016). Similarly, while library budgets are strained, resulting in drastic cutbacks to journals, publishers sustain record profits from “big deal” agreements with ever-increasing fees (Shu et al., 2018).

The shift in textbook and journal publication from print-first to digital-first highlights the structuring impact of the platforms used to disseminate knowledge. If faculty create content using the tools in a proprietary learning management system (LMS), they will not be able to share those resources with colleagues at another university or transfer them to another LMS should they change jobs. Indeed, many universities claim ownership of faculty products under intellectual property policies (Nelson et al., 2017). Universities who contract with private companies to create resources or manage online programs may agree to intellectual property licenses that deny faculty ownership and prohibit redistribution (Hall & Dudley, 2019). 

In the emerging privatized knowledge ecosystem, access, ownership, and equity are under threat (Bali & Caines, 2018). Faculty are digital sharecroppers, tending the intellectual gardens of publishers who can aggregate and enclose their work for profit (Carr, 2006). This workshop will review open educational practices (OEP) and situate them as a commons-based alternative to privatized and commercialized scholarly publication. Guided by the facilitator, participants will explore how to use open platforms and apply open pedagogy to their everyday work—creating educational resources for their classes and disseminating research products. The workshop will conclude with a discussion how OEP can support networked learning and communities of practice (Hendricks, 2017).

Open educational practices can be defined as (a) the use of open educational resources (OER) and co-creation of curricular materials with students and (b) “the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus, n.d., para. 1). Cronin (2017) elaborates that OEP involves the “open sharing of teaching practices… as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation, and empowerment of learners” (p. 16-18). In this view, sharing one’s faculty products openly contributes those resources to a common pool of faculty development resources from which best practices, stewardship, and critique emerge. Faculty engaging in OEP offer a persistent invitation to the community to build from their resources and expand social work scholarship—improving it, decolonizing it, interrogating it, and localizing it—while ensuring free access to anyone with an internet connection.

Interactive workshop delivered at the Council on Social Work Education 2020 Annual Program Meeting (virtual)

References:

Bali, M., & Caines, A. (2018). A call for promoting ownership, equity, and agency in faculty development via connected learning. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education15(1), 46.

BCCampus (n.d.). What is open pedagogy? https://open.bccampus.ca/what-is-open-education/what-is-open-pedagogy/

Carr, R. (2006). Digital sharecropping. http://www.roughtype.com/?p=634

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning: IRRODL18(5), 15-34. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3096

DeCarlo, M. P., & Vandergrift, K. F. (2019, December 29). Textbook cost burden and social work students. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/5q239

Kight, S. W. (2018, September 1). College students are skipping meals to pay for textbooks.

Axios. https://www.axios.com/college-textbooks-expensive-overpriced-students-poll-469a89fc-f80f-4595-98cb-2a33170ba235.html

Hall, S. & Dudley, T. (2019, September 12). Dear colleges: Take control of your online courses. The Century Foundation. https://tcf.org/content/report/dear-colleges-take-control-online-courses/?agreed=1

Hendricks, C. (2017). Open pedagogy; open educational practices. http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2017/10/14/open-pedagogy-open-educational-practices/

National Association of College Stores (2019). Student watch: Attitudes and behaviors toward

course materials, 2018-2019. Oberlin, OH.

Nelson, C. R., Barnett, G., Gorman, R. A., Reichman, H., Zurbriggen, E., & Nisenson, A. M. (2014). Defending the freedom to innovate: Faculty intellectual property rights after Stanford v. Roche. Academe100(4), 38.

Senack, E. & Donoghue, R. (2016, February). Covering the cost: Why we can no longer afford

to ignore high textbook prices. Student Public Interest Research Groups. https://studentpirgs.org/assets/uploads/archive/sites/student/files/reports/National%20-%20COVERING%20THE%20COST.pdf

Senack, E., Donoghue, R., Grant, K. O., & Steen, K. (2016, September). Access denied: The new

face of the textbook monopoly. Student Public Interest Research Groups. https://studentpirgs.org/assets/uploads/archive/sites/student/files/reports/Access%20Denied%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

Shu, F., Mongeon, P., Haustein, S., Siler, K., Alperin, J. P., & Larivière, V. (2018). Is it such a big deal? On the cost of journal use in the digital era. College & research libraries79(6), 785.

Open for whom? Challenging information privilege in social work

Accepted CSWE 2020 Conference APM presentation proposal, in the Values & Ethics track.


A majority of the knowledge produced, shared, and sustained by social work scholarship is inaccessible. Apart from faculty, students, and researchers at well-funded universities in North America and Europe, paywalls, copyright maximalism, and the inheritance of social privilege marginalize the least powerful from engaging with scholarly information for social change. Even within North America, a recent study found that over half of social work journal articles cannot be accessed without a subscription or payment, and for those that are available, authors skirt copyright law to share their research (Pendell, 2018). For practitioners, community stakeholders, and international colleagues, the inability to engage with knowledge furthers social oppression and injustice.

Open access calls attention to the practices and policies surrounding the creation and transmission of knowledge. Information is not inert; information has multiple dimensions of value, and it is inherently political (Hare & Evanston, 2018). Indeed, “access to knowledge is a human right that is closely associated with the ability to defend, as well as to advocate for, other rights” (Willinsky, 2009, p. 143). Within both social work and all of science, the majority of scholarship is owned by a handful of commercial publishers, scholarly societies, and other private companies. As a result, it is highly costly to obtain (Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon, 2015). These information monopolies and walled gardens are the products of neoliberalism and antiquated scholarly practices that are contradictory to our contemporary ability to produce, review, and share information. While commercial publication can effectively disseminate knowledge, the dramatic barriers to access, reliance on unpaid academic labor, and demand for copyright transfer are in stark contrast to the 40% profit margins of Elsevier (Lowe, 2019) and the over 1000% hike in textbook costs over the past 50 years (Popken, 2015). Additionally, many federal agencies are still not in compliance with mandated public access to taxpayer-funded research (GAO, 2019).

Information privilege is defined as the “advantages, opportunities, rights, and affordances granted by status and positionality” to information and knowledge building (Booth, 2014). Information privilege impacts individuals and communities locally and internationally. Professionals are cut off from the very research that evidence-based practice demands they utilize. Community members, as participants and stakeholders of research, cannot access and use that same research to inform social change and practices. Developing nations cannot afford journal subscriptions, software licenses, or commercial textbooks–inhibiting people from using the corpus of existing Western knowledge to the benefit of oppressed and marginalized groups. A vicious cycle, these barriers also reify the role of Western nations as producers of knowledge and objective scientific truth while scholars in the rest of the world are positioned as passive recipients of Western knowledge, not as producers of knowledge themselves. 

For these reasons, the open movements were born, including Open Access (OA), Open Educational Resources (OER), and Open Science. These movements fight for the public access and distribution of scientific research, measures and data, and educational resources. Open movements help actualize the right to education and free expression, i.e. “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Cate, 1989, p. 374). It was these ideas of universal human rights that grounded the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Open University, the Free Software Foundation, and many other organizations. However, making research and pedagogy “open” is not as simple as publishing with particular journals or using an OER; in fact, neoliberal market forces are already co-opting the intentions of the open access movement through mechanisms like article processing charges (Ghamandi, 2018). 

This presentation will explore open practices in relation to social work research and education, as well as challenge the earlier universalist frameworks of “open” to engage with ethics of care and critical social justice perspectives that consider knowledge production holistically. Open practices challenge the traditional, hierarchical structure of information sharing only among predetermined and wealthy audiences. Instead, open practices encourage engagement broadly and inclusively. How can the process of publishing become more collaborative and communal? How can the benefits of publication be extended beyond the author and the information privileged? Utilizing these perspectives, authors will position the philosophical and values-orientation of open movements as well as the practices and policies that support them within social work values and ethical frameworks. Presenters will highlight how community-based and open alternatives to textbook and article publication can reflect a caring and more equitable “investment in accessibility for present and distant others” (Nadim, 2018, p. 31). The presentation will conclude by contextualizing “open” as central to addressing the Grand Challenges. 

References

Booth, Char. (2014). On information privilege [Blog post]. Info-Mational. Retrieved from: https://infomational.com/2014/12/01/on-information-privilege/

Cate, F. H. (1989). The first amendment and the international “free flow” of information. Virginia Journal of International Law, 30, 371.

Ghamandi, D. S. (2018). Liberation through cooperation: How library publishing can save scholarly journals from neoliberalism. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 6(Special Issue: The Role of Scholarly Communication in a Democratic Society), eP2223. https://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2223

Government Accountability Office (2019). Federal research: Additional actions needed to improve public access to research results. Retrieved from:  http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-81

Hare, S., & Evanson, C. (2018). Information privilege outreach for undergraduate students. College & Research Libraries, 726–736.

Larivière, V., Haustein, S., & Mongeon, P. (2015). The oligopoly of academic publishers in the digital era. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0127502. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127502

Lowe, D. (2019, March 1). California tells Elsevier to take a hike [Blog post]. In the Pipeline, Science. Retrieved from: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2019/03/01/california-tells-elsevier-to-take-a-hike

Nadim, T. (2018). Friends with books. In S. Moore (Ed.) The Commons and Care (pp. 26-33). https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:19817/

Pendell, K. D. (2018). Behind the wall: An exploration of public access to research articles in social work journals. Advances in Social Work 18(4), 1041-1052.

Popken, B. (2015, August 6). College Textbook Prices Have Risen 1,041 Percent Since 1977. NBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/freshman-year/college-textbook-prices-have-risen-812-percent-1978-n399926

Willinsky, J. (2006). The access principle: The case for open access to research and scholarship. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Social Work’s (Very Few) Gold OA Journals

First, let’s define “Gold” Open Access: Gold OA is when the journal makes all articles freely available at the time of publication. In contrast, “Green” OA is allowing a version of the article to be deposited in an institutional or disciplinary repository, often after an embargo period.

12 of 281

I pulled together a list of 281 social work journal titles by collating the “universe of disciplinary journals for social work” by authors Aubele and Perruso, the list of journals on SocialWorkEducation.net, and a couple newer journals which did not appear on either (Radical and Critical Social Work and the Journal of Comparative Social Work). I then checked each title against the Directory of Open Access Journals. The following 12 titles from the journal list are Gold OA journals:

  • Advances in Social Work (English)
  • Critical Social Work (English)
  • Cuadernos de Trabajo Social (Spanish)
  • Janus (Finnish)
  • Journal of Comparative Social Work (English)
  • Journals of Family Strengths (English)
  • Latin American Review of Social Sciences, Childhood & Youth (Spanish)
  • Ljetopis Socijalnog Rada /Annual of Social Work (Croatian)
  • Servi√ßo Social e Sociedade (Portuguese)
  • Servi√ßo Social em Revista (Portuguese)
  • Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk (English)
  • Social Work & Society (English)

So What?

The problem with there being very few Gold OA journals in social work is multifaceted:

  • None of these journals are high impact, and none of them are indexed in Web of Science. This means that a researcher’s desire to publish in one of these journals is going to be pretty low, especially if they are pursuing promotion or grant funding;
  • Immediate OA in social work is therefore dependent on Article Processing Charges (APCs) paid to “hybrid” journals (more on hybrid journals below);
  • Or, authors must use Green OA (deposit of preprint or postprint in a repository, and there is demonstrably low engagement with repositories in social work, and journal archiving policies and long embargo periods can be discouraging.

Hybrid journals charge authors an APC (often ranging between $3000-5000 in the social sciences) to make their individual article OA, while also charging libraries the standard subscription fee. So, the journal capitalizes on two revenue streams. Meanwhile, any institution with a subscription and financial support for faculty APCs is paying twice for access, or an unreasonable burden is placed on individual authors to pay the APC independently. Sometimes grant funded research allows for APC costs in the budget, but, anecdotally, this is not consistent across funding agencies. Also, social work research might very well not be grant funded.

Possible Solutions

APCs are problematic, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, and recognition of this has grown significantly over the last few years. Hopefully, new OA funding models will replace APCs entirely at some point. To learn more, read:

It would be great to hear that some of the social work journal publishers are exploring new OA publishing models. Imagine if NASW made all their journal content available to *all* social workers around the world, not just members. I recognize that journal access is often seen as a key feature of association membership, but extending that access to all would seem to be in the spirit of social justice and social work ethics. (Please note, I’m not trying to pick on NASW specifically, but it’s easy example.)

Another solution is to simplify journal archiving policies and encourage deposit in a repository like SocArXiv.

Overall though, it feels like something needs to happen from inside the professional associations in order for there to be a meaningful increase in social work’s engagement with Open Access.

#BPD2020: Technological engagement as transgression: Social work and digital citizenship

Authors: Matthew DeCarlo (Radford University, @profmattdecarlo) & Kerry Fay Vandergrift (Radford University)

Abstract: This presentation will discuss how social work educators can integrate information and new media literacy in the classroom and educate the digitally-engaged change agents of the next decade.

Keywords: access to higher education; college access; open educational resources; social work; social work education; textbook cost

Presentation Materials:

Share Your #BPD2020 Presentations

Hello colleagues!

I know you are likely as disappointed as I am for the cancellation of the BPD 2020 conference. For me, it means missing a treasured opportunity to share and learn about resources and research from social work educators.

For faculty and student presenters at BPD 2020, I you worked hard on your presentation, and it should still find an audience! Since BPD is not planning to provide a virtual space to share our work, presenters and creators need to adopt open sharing practices to create our own virtual conference!

Open sharing practices, like the options listed below, are not just useful in a disaster. Rather, they should be incorporated into every in-person conference you attend. Conference attendance is structured by geography, income, race, disability status, contingent faculty status, among many other inequities in social work education. Sharing your presentation and its associated resources publicly and openly ensures that anyone with an internet connection can find and use your scholarship to better social work education and practice. Otherwise, your audience is limited to the people privileged and lucky enough to end up in the conference room for your presentation.

As a service to the BPD community, myself and Kimberly Pendell, the social work librarian at Portland State University, plan to signal boost #BPD2020 scholarship on our website, OpenSocialWork.org, as well as our Twitter accounts and social networks. We aim to create a virtual representation of #BPD2020, celebrate faculty and student scholarship, and foster open sharing practices into how faculty and students share their work at conferences.

I’ve created a few examples of open sharing based on my presentation with my colleague Dr. Kerry Vandergrift on Textbook cost burden in social work students. Our presentation covers how much social work students in Virginia pay for textbooks, the stress associated with these costs, and their impact on food insecurity, academic performance, and social equity.

Options for sharing your #BPD2020 scholarship include:

Virtual spaces you might share your #BPD2020 scholarship include:

  • The BPD listserv
  • Twitter (use the hashtag #BPD2020)
  • LinkedIn
  • Your personal website

To make sure Kimberly and I see your work and can catalog it on our website and Twitter account, please email us at openswresearch [at] gmail.com with the following information. We would appreciate if you shared this with us by June 1st, so we can share your work over the summer as faculty have time to work on professional development and course design.

  • Title
  • Presenter names, emails, and Twitter handles (if any)
  • Abstract and learning objectives
  • Keywords
  • Embed code (preferred) or links to your presentation and associated resources (e.g. video, slides, papers)

If you need help working with open platforms, sharing your work, or open licensing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or Kimberly and we’ll help you as best we can. Please don’t let COVID-19 erase the incredible scholarship that our community worked so hard to create for #BPD2020.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

Matthew DeCarlo PhD MSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work

OER Committee Chair

Open Textbook Network Campus Leader

Radford University School of Social Work

 

 

Archiving Policies of Social Work Journals

The table below provides a quick overview of embargoes for post-print archiving; visiting the full policy (via “details”) will further demonstrate a complex set of rules and conditions. Even as a librarian, I am confused by some of the policy language I found (what constitutes a “free public server” to NASW?). And while many publishers are quite flexible regarding pre-prints, post-prints are often subject to long embargoes for OA repositories (2 years for all NASW journals!).

While “green” archiving (the ability to deposit pre-prints, post-prints, or–rarely–publisher PDFs in OA repositories) has proliferated over the years, the rules around when and where have grown more complex:

“By tracing the policy journey of the original 107 publishers on the RoMEO database, we found that the number of publishers allowing some form of self-archiving grew by 12% in the 12 years since 2004. However, the volume of restrictions around how, where and when self-archiving may take place increased by 119%, 190% and 1,000% respectively. “

Gadd, E., & Troll Covey, D. (2016). What it means to be Green: exploring publishers’ changing approaches to Green open accessImpact of Social Sciences Blog.

As OA (hopefully) grows in social work, it will be important not only to be a “green” journal, but also one with a policy is not so complex and restrictive as to effectively act as another barrier for deposit.

The following table provides a quick overview of archiving policies for discussion purposes. Please do not use this information as official policy; instead refer to full record (under “details) or journal’s information for authors.

Journal TitlePublisherPre-print Archiving Post-print Archiving
Affilia: Journal of Women and Social WorkSageOn any website (details)No embargo (details)
British Journal of Social WorkBritish Assoc. of Social Workers/Oxford Uni. PressMay only be posted prior to acceptance on author’s personal website, employer website, free public server or pre-prints in subject area (details)2 year embargo (details)
Child Abuse & NeglectElsevierOn any website (details)1-4 year embargo (details)
Children & SchoolsNASW/Oxford University PressMay only be posted prior to acceptance on author’s personal website, employer website, free public server or pre-prints in subject area (details)2 year embargo (details)
Clinical Social Work JournalSpringerOn author’s personal website and non-commercial pre-print server (details)1 year embargo (details)
Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work Taylor & FrancisOn author’s personal website or departmental website immediately (details)1 year embargo (details)
Health & Social WorkNASW/Oxford Uni. PressMay only be posted prior to acceptance on author’s personal website, employer website, free public server or pre-prints in subject area (details)2 year embargo (details)
Journal of Family Social WorkHaworth PressOn author’s personal website or departmental website immediately (details)1 year embargo (details)
Journal of the Society for Social Work & ResearchUniversity of Chicago PressOn a not-for-profit author’s personal website, institutional website, social website or pre-print server immediately (details)1 year embargo (details)
Journal of Social Work PracticeTaylor & FrancisOn author’s personal website or departmental website immediately (details)1 year embargo (details)
Research on Social Work PracticeSageOn any website (details)No embargo (details)
Social WorkNASW/Oxford University PressMay only be posted prior to acceptance on author’s personal website, employer website, free public server or pre-prints in subject area (details)2 year embargo (details)
Social Work ResearchNASW/Oxford University PressMay only be posted prior to acceptance on author’s personal website, employer website, free public server or pre-prints in subject area (details)2 year embargo (details)
Trauma, Violence & AbuseSageOn any website (details)No embargo (details)
All the journals allow the author to archive pre-print and post-print, but not the publisher PDF. The one exception to this is the Journal of the Society for Research & Social Work–authors may post the publisher PDF version of their article in a repository. Information for this table from SHERPA/RoMEO, “details” links to individual journal record

Running an OA Social Work Journal: Interview with Margaret Adamek

When I was working on my article about paywalls and practitioner access to research, Advances in Social Work (AISW) was always where I planned to submit it. Social work unfortunately does not have a wealth of open access journals, AISW is one of the few. As this project, Open Social Work, is a space for promoting and supporting open access publishing, it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss journal publishing with the Editor of AISW, Margaret Adamek. 

Advances in Social Work published its first issue in 2000, with founding editor Dr. Paul Sachdev, Professor of Social Work at the Indiana University School of Social Work. Since 2015, Margaret Adamek has served as editor, while also serving as the School of Social Work’s PhD Program Director. Initially a print publication, the journal moved online in 2008, and also became open access that time. 

My interview with Professor Adamek took place in early 2020 via email. Her responses include input from Assistant Editor Valerie Decker and the AISW Editorial Board. 


KP: Can you share a little of the journal’s history? What motivated the editors to make Advances in Social Work open access in 2008?  

MA: ​The first issue of Advances in Social Work was published in April 2000. The journal published 2 issues per year up until 2019 when it moved to a 3-issue per year format. Based on the low number of subscriptions and the commitment to share social work knowledge widely, the Editorial Board decided in 2007 to transform the journal from a paper format to an online open access format. Essentially, we gave up on the idea of making a profit from the journal (which was not a major motivation in the first place). Being an open access journal, which means AISW is accessible to practitioners, reflects our commitment to the values and ethics of social work. 

Since 2008, we have published 26 issues that are open access. In addition, we retrospectively converted our first 16 issues into our online format so that every issue is available globally. As a courtesy to our readers, we have also retrospectively added DOIs to the reference lists of all issues, including the ones that started out as paper journals.

KP: You have served as the journal’s editor since 2015. What inspired you to step into this position? 

MA: I had been serving on the Editorial Board since its inception in 1999, so I was committed to the success of the journal. I served as a guest editor for one semester when one of the early editors, Dr. Barry Cournoyer, took a sabbatical, so I had a bit of experience as the editor.  When the Editor who came before me, Dr. Bill Barton, retired from the faculty he suggested that I take up the position as editor. He endorsed me as someone who he thought would do a good job. At first I resisted and Dr. Barton continued to serve as the Editor even after he retired from the university. Frankly, I was a bit concerned with adding the editor duties to my responsibilities as PhD Program Director. Eventually, I conceded and took on the post. I have always enjoyed editing papers and mentoring writers to improve their work so it turned out to be a good fit.

There are different ways that open access journals support themselves, not just article processing charges–a common misperception. Can you describe how the journal is supported?  

We do not charge authors any fees. And AISW authors also retain the copyright to their work. AISW is supported by the Indiana University School of Social Work. Costs are minimized by using a journal management portal system (OJS) available to us for free through the IUPUI University Library. The library staff are also available to us for free and provide technical support and training on the journal management system. The journal expenses are primarily a modest stipend for the Editor and hourly wages for the Assistant Editor.

KP: What are the challenges and rewards of running the journal? Do you think being open access changes any of these versus a non-open access journal? 

MA: Some of the challenges of running the journal include getting reviewers to respond in a timely manner and authors not following the Author’s Instructions during the submission process. On occasion we have reviewers who just do not do a good job of reviewing papers and in that case we may have to resort to the timely process of recruiting n​​ew reviewers. It also requires time and resources to handle article submissions that are outside of the journal’s scope, as well as an increasing amount of spurious submissions.  

The rewards of running the journal include mentoring authors to revise their initial submissions that have been favorably reviewed into publishable papers that make a contribution to the knowledge base. It is rewarding to learn about and promote best practices and emerging models–whether theoretical or practical–that are moving the profession forward. It is rewarding to have a hand in promoting translational research that delivers new research findings to the world of practice. Scholars in academia who read the journal can also become informed about emerging trends in the practice world.

​Being an open access journal means that the rewards of running a journal (contributing to the knowledge base, mentoring authors, promoting best practices in teaching and practice, and revealing emerging research) can readily be accomplished on a global basis. It is also gratifying to know that our published papers are available to practitioners and students as readily as they are to university faculty. For example, when we published a special issue on social work with refugees and migrants, we were able to freely share the special issue with all of our field placement agencies that worked with refugees and migrants. Having an open access journal means that you can truly “get the word out.”

One challenge I assume that open access journal editors do not have to face is consternation from potential readers whose access is blocked by paywalls. I love the fact that AISW articles can reach a global audience (at least those with access to the internet) including those who do not have the means to pay article fees.

KP: What are your thoughts on the research to practice gap in social work? Do you think journal publishing is relevant to this conversation? 

MA: Advances in Social Work came about with the goal of integrating social work research, practice, policy and teaching. Becoming an open access journal elevated our ability to do so. We currently do not have a profile of our readers so it is difficult to know to what extent AISW is reaching a practice audience. If practitioners are expected to use evidence-based interventions, we have to give them access to the evidence. I am concerned that many practitioners may assume that they do not have access to new social work literature due to paywalls. Our editorial board has had a few discussions about how to market AISW to practitioners. One board member asserts that expanding our audience to include practitioners is not a step below, but a step up to enhancing access to knowledge about evidence-based interventions.

KP: Have you heard anything from article authors about why they chose to publish in AISW? Is AISW being an open access journal part of the equation? 

MA: We are not sure why authors picked AISW. I expect that AISW being open access is at least one of the reasons but can’t confirm that with data as yet.

KP: Where do you see open access going in the field of social work? 

​MA: As open access is a social justice issue and social work is a field committed to enhancing social justice, I see open access continuing to grow with even more platforms than are currently available. With the exponential growth in technology innovations, I would not be surpised to see social work journal apps available on smartphones (are they already here?!). A few online social work journals offer CEUs for practitioners and that seems to be a technology-supported innovation with potential to expand.

KP: Do you have any advice for others on editing an open access journal? 

​MA: Good technical support is invaluable, as well as a user-friendly interface. Be wary of solicitations from predatory publishing outfits who ask to partner with your journal. Value the advice and direction of your editorial board. Acknowledge your reviewers after each review and by publishing an annual list of reviewers. Invite published authors to become reviewers. 

Survey of Social Workers on Information Sources

Recently my collaborator Ericka Kimball, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and I surveyed practicing social workers nationwide regarding EBP or research-informed practice, which information sources they use in practice, and library instruction. The article on this study is forthcoming — in the meantime, I wanted to share some of what we learned here on the Open Social Work blog, particularly regarding information sources. If you have any questions about this study, please feel free to contact me, Kimberly Pendell, at kpendell [at] pdx.edu or openswresearch [at] gmail.com.

Survey participants (n = 123) represented a diversity of ages, but the largest age range represented was 35-44 years old, 37%, followed by 45-54, 21%, and 25-34, 20%. Most respondents had a MSW degree, 84%; 10% had a BSW; 5% had doctorate (PhD or DSW). The survey reached participants in twenty-one states, primarily on the East and West coasts, and the Midwest. In regard to their practice area, the largest clusters of participants work in healthcare and community mental health. 

Participants were asked which of the following sources they use for information to inform their practice generally. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (General Practice)Frequency Count
Continuing education events101
Professional conference95
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles78
Supervision65
Webinar55
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)48
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) Webinar25
Blogs7
Wikipedia4
Consult Peers/colleagues3
Other3

Participants were also asked which of the following sources they use for information on specific practice issues. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (Specific Practice Issue)Frequency Count
Continuing education events79
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles73
Professional conference72
Supervision62
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)43
Webinar41
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)18
Consult peers/colleagues7
Blogs4
Wikipedia2
Other4

In both categories, we can see that research articles scored in the top three sources of information for social workers. Sixty percent of participants reported that they could access research articles, mostly through an individual or agency subscription. For the remaining participants, 91% cited cost as the primary barrier to accessing the research articles they want to inform their practice both generally and on specific issues.

While access is by no means the only barrier in regards to EBP implementation or research-informed practice, it is a fairly easy barrier to overcome by an increase in OA publishing and archiving in the field of social work.

Share Your SSWR 2020 Conference Paper

Increase the audience of your SSWR 2020 conference paper! 

1. Submit to your conference paper to SocArXiv (visit https://opensocialwork.org/research/submit/ for more information)

2. Email openswresearch@gmail.com and let us know you’ve submitted a paper. Please provide your full name, institutional/organizational affiliation, and title of paper. 

3. Once the paper is approved through SocArXiv moderation, we will promote your paper on our website and twitter accounts, and we will add your name to our drawing for two $25 gift cards. 

4. On February 7th, two individuals will be randomly selected to win and contacted via email.