UW Libraries Blog

April 28, 2020

Insights from Going Public: Opening Scholarship to All

Verletta Kern, Digital Scholarship Librarian and Elliott Stevens, English Studies & Research Commons Librarian

UW Libraries inaugural Going Public event launched in 2017 as a forum for sharing ideas and exploring ways researchers communicate their work to the public through the media. In the following years, other topics were explored–like public scholarship, citizen science, and community-based participatory research. Hosting events like this is central to UW Libraries mission and vision advancing research for the public good. As Libraries work has evolved far beyond a mechanism to provide resources alone, we strive to help researchers and students create and share new knowledge. We see access to information as a universal right, not a privilege available only to the few who enter our institutions or to those who can pay for it.

This year’s theme “Opening Scholarship to All,” focused on equity in the production of and access to scholarship. The symposium featured a keynote address from Nikkita Oliver, a social justice advocate working at the intersection of arts, law, education, and community organizing. Some know Oliver through her campaign for Mayor with the Seattle People’s Party, and others are familiar with her because of her opposition to the King County youth jail or her directorship of Creative Justice, an arts organization for youth affected by the school-to-prison pipeline.

When the planning committee started brainstorming about “dream” keynote speaker possibilities, Nikkita Oliver was at the top of our list, and we were so grateful she was willing to participate. Given the restrictions for public gatherings, we decided to shift the event to a virtual forum. Everyone involved adapted quickly to plan for the event in an entirely new format. This was one of the first events the Libraries held virtually after our public spaces were closed. Given the incredible response from more than 269 registered participants, we were glad that we decided to move forward remotely.

Oliver’s keynote was definitely a highlight—a layered, complex, impassioned composition that led us from ancient libraries, to the first libraries in the United States, and to the Central Seattle Public Library Branch in Seattle, a place that Nikkita said she loved. Other sessions explored equity in data visualization, equity in open education resources, and public scholarship. Each session brought forth different points of views and engaging discussions. Below are just a few of the interesting questions and insights from each session. To see and hear the complete sessions, visit the Going Public web page here

Reconsider the cliché “knowledge is power.”

  • The ability to decide what we view as knowledge is a power. How do we decide whose knowledge is power?
  • Consider the concept of gate-keeping and the exclusionary side of libraries—aspects that are more segregationist, punitive and carceral—as opposed to ones that are built on reparation, transformation, and trust. 
  • Imagine a system of libraries that would represent a People’s University, a place that would bring about healing and creativity. A place that wouldn’t just be open to the public but radically and powerfully for it.
  • Watch Going Public: Welcome & Keynote Address – Nikkita Oliver

How do we re-imagine our disciplinary constructs?

  •  The Center for an Informed Public is using partnerships with libraries and town halls to engage the public in a meaningful way around coronavirus misinformation. 
  • Strengthening academic discourse can’t just happen within the walls of the academy. We need to reimagine and reconfigure our disciplinary constructs to engage with the public.
  • Public scholarship can begin long before the research starts. Note who your public is. Work with the community and keep community needs in mind as you develop your research process.

How do we avoid oversimplification of data practices?

  • Numbers are always placeholders for something, or in most cases someone else
  • When we are invisible in the data, we don’t exist.
  • Think about equity when selecting data visualization tools. Is it an open source tool? Can anyone access the tools to reproduce your work? Using open tools and open data will help your scholarship go public.
  • Having data is power and sharing data is sharing power.
  • Watch Going Public: Equity in Data Visualization – Negeen Aghassibake

How can OER shape equity in the classroom?

How can we develop a diverse design process for research?

  • Start with the needs of the community. Work together in partnership to align the research with their mission, values, and needs.
  • Involve community leaders and share materials developed openly with them throughout the research process.This allows you to adapt your process in real time.
  • NOTE: These highlights are from the panel discussion that was not recorded.

These are just a few of the thought-provoking themes and ideas that participants discussed at this year’s Going Public. You can access the complete recorded sessions here

Thank you to all of our dynamic speakers:

  • Chris Coward, Senior Principal Research Scientist, TASCHA and Center for an Informed Public UW Information School
  • Jason Young, Senior Research Scientist, TASCHA
  • Negeen Aghassibake, Data Visualization Librarian, UW Libraries
  • Lauren Ray, Open Education and Psychology Librarian, UW Libraries
  • Gillian Harkins, Associate Professor, UW English Department
  • Clarita Lefthand-Begay, Assistant Professor, UW Information School
  • Linda Ko, Associate Professor, UW School of Public Health
  • Jenny Muilenburg, Research Data Services Librarian, UW Libraries

Special thanks also to our co-sponsors:  the eScience Institute, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Technology & Social Change Group, the Center for an Informed Public, and the Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies for their support.