knowledge mobilization

Knowledge Mobilizers: Breaking down the (pay) walls between academia and the public through open access

March 31, 2022

The Scholarly Communications Lab (ScholCommLab) is tackling an important issue experienced by many researchers in academia. 

There is too narrow of a focus on developing traditional scholarly outputs, like peer-reviewed publications and books, that very often sit behind a paywall. Not only are these forms not necessarily the best way for disseminating scholarly work, they also unnecessarily limit accessibility and perpetuate inequities.

In searching for real solutions, the ScholCommLab was founded by its co-directors Juan Pablo Alperin, SFU publishing professor and co-scientific director of the Public Knowledge Project, and Stefanie Haustein, information studies professor at the University of Ottawa.

They founded the lab based on their shared values—wanting academic research to be open, transparent, collaborative, and non-hierarchical—and a shared research interest in scholarly communication. 

In keeping with these values, when I connected with Alperin for this story, he insisted the invitation be extended to the full ScholCommLab. In addition to Alperin and Haustein, interviews were conducted with lab members Kathleen Gregory, Anton Ninkov, Alice Fleerackers, and Remi Toupin.  

The research at the lab covers open data, open access, science communication, and scholarly communication. The lab practices what they preach. 

For example, Gregory and Ninkov are looking at researchers’ current practices for using open data while also trying to ensure they are following good open and transparent data management themselves.

The researchers are thus learning from their own experience of doing aspects of what they are studying and promoting it. They are inspired by the aphorism “the perfect is the enemy of the good” – recognizing that both the research and their data practices must proceed, despite the imperfect data sets and practice standards, in an effort to make progress on both.

In another lab project, Fleerackers and Alperin looked at the issue of how journalists cover pre-prints, in response to concerns and interest in the area early in the COVID pandemic. Not only did they address a question relevant to knowledge user groups, but then they shared the findings in various mediums tailored to different stakeholders. The research question was so topical that the outputs shared were circulated very widely. (They also recently did a follow-up study; it’s fittingly available as a preprint).

This work is an excellent example of how “meta” knowledge mobilization research can be: the team is both researching scholarly and science communication AND studying the type of knowledge mobilization strategies used to share that same research.

Is operating in the science and practice of knowledge mobilization space worth it? According to all of these researchers, the answer is a resounding yes. 

As Alperin explained, “if people know about our work, we can be more successful”. The ScholCommLab are united in their interest to improve scholarly and science communication in a way that is useful and accessible to all.

Want to learn more about unique ways of sharing your research? Register now for Unlock your research impact: Using graphic novels to share research stories. Stay in the know - follow Lupin Battersby, knowledge mobilization officer, on Twitter for the latest news, events, jobs, and publications, and sign up for the SFU Knowledge Mobilization Hub newsletter.

Knowledge Mobilizers is a story series from the Knowledge Mobilization Hub that highlights knowledge mobilization (KM) projects around the university. At SFU, KM is about collaborating on, and exchanging, research discoveries to create a positive impact in our far-reaching communities.