Access, Equity, Openness: Opening Social Work Research

What is the view outside the journal paywall? Students, faculty, practitioners, and clients require access to social work research to inform change on behalf of people we support. Our project, Open Social Work, is designed to open the corpus of social work knowledge to the public. Research-informed practice is an ethical mandate that is severely inhibited by current structures and practices of knowledge sharing in our profession. Grant writers, clinicians, and advocates need to understand social science to fight for social justice. Paywalls are obstacles to informed practice and client self-determination. 

Generally, faculty believe that unless they publish in an open access journal, their work will forever be locked behind a paywall. This is false! Our project is dedicated to faculty archiving their print-ready manuscripts in an open, community-owned platform, Socarxiv. Also known as Green Open Access, archiving one’s work can happen prior to submitting to an article to a journal, during the peer review process, or after publication (though embargo periods apply for some journals). If you are curious, you can check a journal’s open access policies in this public interest database or navigate to the open access policy on the journal’s website.

Is this legal? Yes! Commercial publishers’ open access policies explicitly allow faculty to deposit their work into an institutional repository at their university, a personal website, or a disciplinary archive. Because our project reaches across many campuses, we’ve chosen to highlight the disciplinary archive Socarxiv as it is non-profit, requires no log-in for download, does not monetize user data, and is hosted on the Open Science Framework (OSF) platform. Using OSF, faculty can link their paper with the measures, data, and materials from the associated project, facilitating transparency, replicability, and confirmability. Socarxiv is also indexed by Google Scholar, the only database of scholarly knowledge available outside of a library or university. 

We applaud the work of faculty who make their preprints available via commercial platforms such as, SemanticScholar, ResearchGate, SSRN, and other platforms. However, we are concerned with about the monetization of user data on these platforms, and as such, we seek to build practices that encourage the use of open platforms like Socarxiv and OSF. Similarly, although it is legal to share copies of your work for free to people who ask, posting them publicly in a disciplinary archive eliminates barriers to accessing knowledge from those redlined from university or academic library access. 

Open Social Work is about building practice of open sharing of social work scholarship into the workflows of faculty and researchers who create and share knowledge.  So, how can you share your scholarship? First check the journal’s open access policy. Then, follow these instructions to submit your paper to Socarxiv.