We are thrilled to share that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $165,000 grant to a UC Berkeley-led team of legal experts, librarians, and scholars who will help humanities researchers and staff navigate complex legal questions in cutting-edge digital research.
What is this grant all about?
If you were to crack open some popular English-language novels written in the 1850’s–say, ones from Brontë, Hawthorne, Dickens, and Melville–you would find they describe men and women in very different terms. While a male character might be said to “get” something, a female character is more likely to have “felt” it. Whereas the word “mind” might be used when describing a man, the word “heart” is more likely to be used about a woman. Yet, as the 19th Century became the 20th, these descriptive differences between genders actually diminish. How do we know all this? We confess we have not actually read every novel ever written between the 19th and 21st Centuries (though we’d love to envision a world in which we could). Instead, we can make this assertion because researchers (including David Bamman, of UC Berkeley’s School of Information) used automated techniques to extract information from the novels, and analyzed these word usage trends at scale. They crafted algorithms to turn the language of those novels into data about the novels.
In fields of inquiry like the digital humanities, the application of such automated techniques and methods for identifying, extracting, and analyzing patterns, trends, and relationships across large volumes of unstructured or thinly-structured digital content is called “text data mining.” (You may also see it referred to as “text and data mining” or “computational text analysis”). Text data mining provides humanists and social scientists with invaluable frameworks for sifting, organizing, and analyzing vast amounts of material. For instance, these methods make it possible to:
- Detect racial disparity by evaluating language from police body camera footage;
- Develop new tools to enable large-scale analysis of television series and photographs; and
- Capture and design new physical representations of naturally occurring laughter
Until now, humanities researchers conducting text data mining have had to navigate a thicket of legal issues without much guidance or assistance. For instance, imagine the researchers needed to scrape content about Egyptian artifacts from online sites or databases, or download videos about Egyptian tomb excavations, in order to conduct their automated analysis. And then imagine the researchers also want to share these content-rich data sets with others to encourage research reproducibility or enable other researchers to query the data sets with new questions. This kind of work can raise issues of copyright, contract, and privacy law, not to mention ethics if there are issues of, say, indigenous knowledge or cultural heritage materials plausibly at risk. Indeed, in a recent study of humanities scholars’ text analysis needs, participants noted that access to and use of copyright-protected texts was a “frequent obstacle” in their ability to select appropriate texts for text data mining.
The good news is that the NEH has agreed to support an Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities to help key stakeholders to learn to better navigate legal issues in text data mining. Thanks to the NEH’s $165,000 grant, Rachael Samberg of UC Berkeley Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication Services will be leading a national team (identified below) from more than a dozen institutions and organizations to teach humanities researchers, librarians, and research staff how to confidently navigate the major legal issues that arise in text data mining research.
Our institute is aptly called Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining (Building LLTDM), and will run from June 23-26, 2020 in Berkeley, California. Institute instructors are legal experts, humanities scholars, and librarians immersed in text data mining research services, who will co-lead experiential meeting sessions empowering participants to put the curriculum’s concepts into action.
In October, we will issue a call for participants, who will receive stipends to support their attendance. We will also be publishing all of our training materials in an openly-available online book for researchers and librarians around the globe to help build academic communities that extend these skills.
Building LLTDM team member Matthew Sag, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and leading expert on copyright issues in the digital humanities, said he is “excited to have the chance to help the next generation of text data mining researchers open up new horizons in knowledge discovery. We have learned so much in the past ten years working on HathiTrust [a text-minable digital library] and related issues. I’m looking forward to sharing that knowledge and learning from others in the text data mining community.”
Team member Brandon Butler, a copyright lawyer and library policy expert at the University of Virginia, said, “In my experience there’s a lot of interest in these research methods among graduate students and early-career scholars, a population that may not feel empowered to engage in “risky” research. I’ve also seen that digital humanities practitioners have a strong commitment to equity, and they are working to build technical literacies outside the walls of elite institutions. Building legal literacies helps ease the burden of uncertainty and smooth the way toward wider, more equitable engagement with these research methods.”
Kyle K. Courtney of Harvard University serves as Copyright Advisor at Harvard Library’s Office for Scholarly Communication, and is also a Building LLTDM team member. Courtney added, “We are seeing more and more questions from scholars of all disciplines around these text data mining issues. The wealth of full-text online materials and new research tools provide scholars the opportunity to analyze large sets of data, but they also bring new challenges having to do with the use and sharing not only of the data but also of the technological tools researchers develop to study them. I am excited to join the Building LLTDM team and help clarify these issues and empower humanities scholars and librarians working in this field.”
Megan Senseney, Head of the Office of Digital Innovation and Stewardship at the University of Arizona Libraries reflected on the opportunities for ongoing library engagement that extends beyond the initial institute. Senseney said that, “Establishing a shared understanding of the legal landscape for TDM is vital to supporting research in the digital humanities and developing a new suite of library services in digital scholarship. I’m honored to work and learn alongside a team of legal experts, librarians, and researchers to create this institute, and I look forward to integrating these materials into instruction and outreach initiatives at our respective universities.”
The Building LLTDM team is excited to begin supporting humanities researchers, staff, and librarians en route to important knowledge creation. Stay tuned if you are interested in participating in the institute.
In the meantime, please join us in congratulating all the members of the project team:
- Rachael G. Samberg (University of California, Berkeley) (Project Director)
- Scott Althaus (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
- David Bamman (University of California, Berkeley)
- Sara Benson (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
- Brandon Butler (University of Virginia)
- Beth Cate (Indiana University, Bloomington)
- Kyle K. Courtney (Harvard University)
- Maria Gould (California Digital Library)
- Cody Hennesy (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
- Eleanor Koehl (University of Michigan)
- Thomas Padilla (University of Nevada, Las Vegas; OCLC Research)
- Stacy Reardon (University of California, Berkeley)
- Matthew Sag (Loyola University Chicago)
- Brianna Schofield (Authors Alliance)
- Megan Senseney (University of Arizona)
- Glen Worthey (Stanford University)
On October 16-17, 2018, University of California (UC) libraries hosted a working forum in Berkeley, California, called Choosing Pathways to Open Access (CP2OA). Sponsored by the University of California’s Council of University Librarians (CoUL), the forum was designed to enable North American library and consortium leaders and key academic stakeholders to engage in action-focused deliberations about redirecting subscription and other funds toward sustainable open access (OA) publishing.
More than 120 participants arrived from more than 80 institutions, nearly 30 states, and four Canadian provinces. The goal was for everyone to leave with their own customized plans for how they will repurpose subscription spends within their home organizations or communities—and more broadly, through collective efforts, move the OA needle forward.
CP2OA was admittedly a gamble: Could library stakeholders spend two days immersed in a design thinking process, wrestling with the nitty-gritty of numerous OA funding strategies, then depart with actionable steps for making OA a reality? When CoUL approved the forum, they charged the Planning Committee (that’s us) not only with putting the forum together, but also with reporting back to them about whether this grand experiment worked. We have followed up with participants and analyzed the data, and the results are clear: Through CP2OA, the UC libraries have helped to inspire meaningful change.
With that, we hereby announce our Planning Committee’s report to CoUL analyzing forum outcomes. To keep CP2OA momentum going, our report also synthesizes forum outcomes into recommendations for further collective action by CoUL to advance OA. The report’s recommendations reflect our personal opinions as Planning Committee members, and are not an official statement by CoUL, nor should publication of this report be seen as CoUL’s endorsement of our recommendations. We are thrilled that CoUL will be considering our recommendations at its upcoming June meeting, and further note that some of our recommendations reflect efforts already underway within various UC libraries.
We encourage you to check out the full report to see why the format of CP2OA was so successful, and to learn more about everything it inspired. We also understand you may just want the highlights, so … without further ado:
CP2OA Forum Outcomes
Two months after the forum, we surveyed participants about their perceptions of the forum, and any actions they had taken as a result of having participated. Our survey response rate was approximately 48% (58 responses), and revealed the following:
- Perceptions of the forum were almost universally positive, with some participants describing the forum as “exceptional,” “highly effective,” “energizing and motivating,” and a “model for how we should be engaging professionally.” Participants found the forum structure particularly conducive to enabling action.
- Though just two months had passed between the CP2OA forum and the time when we polled participants, more than 75% of responding participants reported having taken action toward advancing open access. Fifty percent (50%) of those who took action embarked upon what we categorized as “concrete” actions—that is, express steps such as starting pilots, undertaking publishing data analyses, and negotiating with publishers. The remaining 50% undertook at a minimum conversations and outreach within or external to their libraries.
- Some examples of concrete next steps included: (1) formation of a group providing consultations and support for transitioning society publications to open access (http://www.tspoa.org); (2) first OA investment by an institution that had not yet formally engaged with OA; (3) commitment to requiring OA in upcoming license negotiations with a STEM publisher; (4) formation of OA values statements to guide institutional investment; (5) pursuit of transformative (e.g., offsetting or “read and publish”) agreements through which an institution’s publications are made OA as part of an overall subscription license agreement; (6) building OA publishing into promotion and tenure considerations; and (7) increased institutional repository deposits and outreach.
Planning Committee’s Recommendations to CoUL
In advance of considering our recommendations this summer, CoUL has already approved some right off the bat, including:
- Making available the CP2OA Planning Committee’s report and all CP2OA public-facing documentation so that other institutions can have a blueprint for replicating or tailoring CP2OA to their needs. CoUL also approved a second round of CP2OA reporting so the Planning Committee could check in on forum participants’ progress later in the year.
- Continuing CoUL’s efforts to develop a public toolkit to support other institutions seeking to engage in “big deal” (large subscription journal package) re-negotiations that include OA components, and/or to engage more generally in transformative (e.g., offsetting/read-and-publish) agreements.
In June, CoUL will be addressing the other proposals in our report, including:
- Engaging the UC academic senate with OA in promotion and tenure
- Expanding institutional staffing and support for identification and evaluation of, and decision-making relating to, OA publishing investments and transforming the scholarly publishing landscape
- Dedicating collections funds across campuses to be used for supporting OA publishing
- Funding new data analyst positions to provide further inward-facing support for data-driven OA investments by UC libraries as well as outward-facing consultative support to the community beyond UC
- Collective investment in UC Press OA publishing
- Increasing support for monograph subventions for UC authors
- Collective investment in transformative cooperatives or non-APC approaches to OA publishing
- Committing to enhancing eScholarship, including expansion of OA publishing services
- Exploring opportunities for collective investment in open source infrastructure to support OA publishing
We will keep the community updated about how CoUL responds to these recommendations, as well as any UC collective next steps.
In the meantime, we hope you will share in some of the excitement that CP2OA has generated and continue your own journeys toward helping to transform our scholarly publishing ecosystem.
Onward to open access!
- Rachael Samberg (UC Berkeley; CP2OA Co-chair)
- Donald Barclay (UC Merced)
- John Renaud (UC Irvine)
- Lisa Schiff (California Digital Library)
- Allegra Swift (UC San Diego)
- Anneliese Taylor (UCSF)
- Mat Willmott (California Digital Library)
Our Library is thrilled to have digitized some unique materials from 1923 and shared them with the world for Public Domain Day 2019. We thought we’d dig deeper here on the Office of Scholarly Communication Services blog about why we were able to do all this without infringing anyone’s copyright.
Grab your popcorn, because here we go!
What is copyright, and what’s the public domain?
Despite seeming daunting at times, at its core, copyright is surprisingly straightforward: Copyright laws give authors of expressive works (imagine: paintings, musical scores, essays, articles, novels, screenplays, and the like) exclusive rights over their creations for limited periods of time. Unless some exception applies (we’ll say more below), the person or entity who holds copyright is the only one who can publish, reproduce, adapt, perform, or display that creative work for as long as the copyright protection lasts. Providing authors and artists these exclusive rights is intended as a reward system to encourage them to write and make things. But, these rights do not last indefinitely because perpetual protection would stymie innovation–since other scholars and artists would not be able to build upon the existing works.
This time-limited incentive framework originated from Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which empowered Congress to create laws meant promote the “progress of science,” which they intended broadly). The copyright laws that Congress subsequently created grant authors what is often referred to as a “bundle” of time-limited exclusive rights. There are some important exceptions to an author’s exclusive rights, such as fair use–which is intended to promote scholarship and research by allowing otherwise-protected uses of a copyrighted work.
You can begin to see that if a scholar is writing a book or article that reproduces or adapts someone else’s creation, the scholar may need the copyright holder’s permission if the work is still protected, and the scholar’s intended use exceeds what’s considered “fair” (a target sometimes hard to nail down).
A key point in this reward framework is that copyright protection does expire–and when it does, the works enters what is called the “public domain.” Public domain works can be used by anyone for any purpose, without having to ask the author’s permission first. When materials enter the public domain, suddenly it becomes possible to adapt or excerpt them in any fashion without worrying about whether one’s use falls within the fair use exception, or whether the author’s permission is needed.
With an entire year’s worth of U.S publications now entering the public domain, scholars and artists have a rich new crop of unrestricted content with which to play.
How long does copyright last?
What is so special about 1923, and why is it the magic number right now for the public domain? In 1998, Congress amended the copyright laws such that many works published from 1923 through 1977 received an extended grant of copyright protection for 95 years from the date of their creation. When the clock struck January 1st, 2019, those 95 years were up for anything published in the United States in 1923. Now, and for the next few decades unless Congress changes the laws again, each time we mark a January 1st, a new year’s worth of once-copyrighted material will enter the public domain.
This January 1st public domain extravaganza will not carry on indefinitely, though. For many U.S. works created after 1977, the length of copyright protection is actually the author’s lifetime plus 70 years–rather than a set 95-year period. That means, to determine the public domain status of a work written in, say, 1985, someone would need to investigate whether the author is still alive and, if not, whether 70 years have transpired since her death. (The period is even longer for corporate-authored works.)
Complicating matters even further is the fact that there are many publications published between 1923 and 1977 that are already in the public domain, even though 95 years have not yet transpired since their creation. This is because certain procedural requirements applied during that time period that obligated authors to take extra steps to either receive or extend their copyright protection. Here’s an illustration: Imagine two authors each wrote an autobiography in 1977. One of those autobiographies is still protected by copyright, but the other is already in the public domain because the writer failed to publish it with a copyright notice (sometimes designated as “©”), which was a formality required at the time. These days, copyright protection applies automatically, and it is not necessary to include a copyright notice on one’s work or register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive protection.
In fact, some of the items we digitized for our Public Domain Day project were technically already in the public domain! We could have digitized them earlier, but it’s actually quite challenging for individual libraries to research the registration and formalities compliance of materials on an item-by-item basis. Now that it’s 2019, we can safely digitize 1923 without having to dig into each item individually. (By the way, HathiTrust, an online digital library, has been trying to distribute the work of identifying more titles from 1923-1977 that have entered the public domain. They have organized a Copyright Review Program to help spread the item-by-item labor across multiple institutions.)
Why does the public domain matter for scholars?
You can start to see that these laws regarding copyright duration can be extraordinarily complex. But, sifting through all of them can be critical for campus scholars if they wish to use or republish portions of other people’s creative works in their own scholarly writing. Fortunately, our Office of Scholarly Communication Services helps the campus navigate these nuances, as well as evaluate whether their scholarly intentions may fall within the fair use exception.
Certainly, the more material no longer protected by copyright, the clearer everything becomes for scholars seeking to use it. If writers wished to adapt those 1977 autobiographies mentioned above into a movie, or to republish large portions from them in their research, the prospect of doing so becomes a lot easier with the autobiography that has entered the public domain.
The public domain also offers another boon for scholars: More content to freely text mine.
Text mining describes a research approach in which scholars use automated methods to identify, extract, and analyze patterns and trends in large volumes of digital content. For instance, text mining techniques have made it possible for scholars like UC Berkeley’s David Bamman to extract language from novels to understand how depictions of gender have changed in fiction since the eighteenth century, or analyze the rhetoric of campaign speeches to make predictive determinations about audience response. Having more material in the public domain can help with that by removing potential copyright barriers as scholars access and republishing the text being analyzed.
Many of our campus scholars ask important questions about socio-cultural trends. Often, the content they need to study–let’s say content embedded in scientific journals–is protected by copyright. Our office helps these researchers understand that their text mining research methodologies can be fair use. However, if the researchers also want to share the content that they are analyzing with others–so that other scholars can verify the algorithms being used, or query the text for different questions–then, researchers might be pushing the limit of what is a “fair” amount of republishing or redistribution of copyright-protected text. Again, as more content enters the public domain, these barriers disappear.
We hope this Public Domain Day 2019 explainer has helped clarify the mechanics and frame the significance of what happened on Jan. 1. If you’d like to learn more or need some copyright help, be in touch!
Is it just us, or was fall semester a whirlwind? The Office of Scholarly Communication Services was steeped in a steady flurry of activity, and suddenly it’s December! We wanted to take a moment to highlight what we’ve been up to since August, and give you a preview of what’s ahead for spring.
We did the math on our affordable course content pilot program, which ran for academic year 2017-2018 and Fall 2018. This pilot supported just over 40 courses and 2400 students, and is estimated to have yielded approximately $200,000 in student savings. We’ll be working with campus on next steps for helping students save money. If you have questions about how to make your class more affordable, you can check out our site or e-mail us.
We dug deep into scholarly publishing skills with graduate students and early career researchers during our professional development workshop series. We engaged learners in issues like copyright and their dissertations, moving from dissertation to first book, and managing and maximizing scholarly impact. Publishing often isn’t complete without sharing one’s data, so we helped researchers understand how to navigate research data copyright and licensing issues at #FSCI2018.
We helped instructors and scholars publish open educational resources and digital books with PressbooksEDU on our new open books hub.
On behalf of the UC’s Council of University Librarians, we chaired and hosted the Choosing Pathways to OA working forum. The forum brought together approximately 125 representatives of libraries, consortia, and author communities throughout North America to develop personalized action plans for how we can all transition funds away from subscriptions and toward sustainable open access publishing. We will be reporting on forum outcomes in 2019. In the meantime, one immediate result was the formation of a working group to support scholarly society journal publishers in flipping their journals from closed access to open access. Stay tuned for an announcement in January.
We funded dozens of Open Access publications by UC Berkeley authors through our BRII program.
We developed a novel literacies workflow for text data mining researchers. Text mining allows researchers to use automated techniques to glean trends and information from large volumes of unstructured textual sources. Researchers often perceive legal stumbling blocks to conducting this type of research, since some of the content is protected by copyright or other use restrictions. In Fall 2018, we began training the UC Berkeley community on how to navigate these challenges so that they can confidently undertake this important research. We’ll have a lot more to say about our work on this soon!
Next semester, we’re continuing all of these efforts with a variety of scholarly publishing workshops. We invite you to check out: Copyright & Fair Use for Digital Projects, Text Data Mining & Publishing: Legal Literacies, Copyright for Wikipedia Editing, and more.
We would like to thank Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, for their generous support in helping to make the work of the Office of Scholarly Communication Services possible.
Lastly, we’d like to thank all of you for your engagement and support this semester! Please let us know how else we can serve you. In the meantime, we wish you a Happy New Year!
Today, all ten University of California campus libraries released a Pathways to Open Access toolkit to help research libraries and organizations around the world make the same kinds of difficult decisions that we’ve been undertaking about repurposing campus subscription spends to support sustainable open access publishing.
“Essentially no research institutions in the world,” says UC Berkeley University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, “can afford to provide their scholars with access to the full corpus of scholarly literature being produced and then sequestered behind increasingly out-of-reach subscription paywalls that yield major academic publishers a nearly 40 percent profit margin.”
In the Pathways documents, linked below, the campus libraries critically analyzed different open access publishing models, as well as the various funding and other strategies to achieve them, and then developed a set of possible next steps as to which UC libraries could partner or experiment. The libraries hope this toolkit will be equally valuable to other institutions wrestling with how to make strides in moving away from a closed-access publishing landscape.
You can read more about the toolkit here: http://news.lib.berkeley.edu/pathways-to-open-access
- Pathways to OA: Executive Summary https://libraries.universityofcalifornia.edu/groups/files/about/docs/UC-Libraries-Pathways%20to%20OA-Executive%20Summary.pdf
- Pathways to OA: Full Report https://libraries.universityofcalifornia.edu/groups/files/about/docs/UC-Libraries-Pathways%20to%20OA-Report.pdf
- Pathways to OA: Chart https://libraries.universityofcalifornia.edu/groups/files/about/docs/UC-Libraries-Pathways%20to%20OA-Chart.pdf
With any questions, please contact email@example.com.
The Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication Services is thrilled to announce that Maria Gould has joined as our new Scholarly Communication & Copyright Librarian. Maria started on January 16, and has already begun helping scholars on this campus and beyond in shaping their scholarly publishing skills and publishing impact.
While Maria is new to this position, she is not new to UC Berkeley—having received her MA in Latin American Studies in 2011. Maria also obtained her MLIS from the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and completed an internship at Bancroft Library while pursuing her degree.
Maria’s substantial scholarly publishing experience makes her an incredibly valuable resource for campus researchers. Prior to joining the Library, Maria worked for PLOS (Public Library of Science) for six years, where, among other projects, she was responsible for developing staff training and resources, updating and maintaining policy guidance and system instructions for authors and peer reviewers, and supporting outreach and engagement initiatives for editorial board members and the reviewer community.
Already in just her first month at the Library, she has helped shepherd our work in support of open digital scholarship and affordable course content. With this warm welcome to her, we hope you will reach out to all of us in the Office of Scholarly Communication Services for your publishing needs. We can help with:
- Copyright in research, publishing & teaching
- Authors’ rights, and protecting & managing your intellectual property
- Scholarly publishing options and platforms
- Open access for scholarship and research data
- Affordable and open course content
- Tracking & increasing scholarly impact
Want help or more information? We provide:
- Individualized support & personal consultations
- In-class and online instruction
- Presentations and workshops for small or large groups & classes
- Customized support and training for each department and discipline
- Online guidance and resources
Learn more at: lib.berkeley.edu/scholcomm
Keep up to date: @UCB_scholcomm
150 years following its founding in 1869, the University of California is regarded by many as the most successful and highly-respected public research university in the world. In his new book, Judson King, former Berkeley and University of California Provost and former CSHE director, explores the most important factors for this academic success, and what makes UC tick. What’s more, he’s made his insightful analysis available to the world by publishing his book open access.
Please join Judson King, Chancellor Carol T. Christ, University Librarian Jeff MacKie-Mason, and CSHE administration for a special event and reception delving into the academic history of the University of California, and examining how best it can be shared to inspire global institutional development.
- Discussion of The University of California: Creating, Nurturing, and Maintaining Academic Quality in a Public University Setting
- February 28, 2018, at the Morrison Library from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
- Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served
- RSVP required
This event is co-sponsored by the Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication Services and the Center for Studies in Higher Education. It is also offered in connection with Berkeley’s celebration of 150 Years of Light.
How, Where, and What to Publish: UC Berkeley Scholarly Publishing Symposium
January 31, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
309 Sproul Hall (Graduate Professional Development Center)
Register online: bit.ly/013018pubsymposium
Are you an early career researcher looking to make a mark? Come hear from leading scholarly journal and book publishers (such as Elsevier, Springer-Nature, and UC Press) and open publishing framework and platform creators (such as Collaborative Knowledge Foundation and California Digital Library) during a half-day symposium in which experts cover all aspects of how, where, and what to publish.
Panel presentations and participant discussions will address:
- Targeting the “right” journal for submission
- Overview of the editorial process from submission to acceptance, and responding to reviewer comments
- Publishing ethics
- Communicating your research with a broad audience
Trends in Open Scholarship
- Value of publishing open access
- Publishing preprints & post-prints
- Avoiding predatory publishers
- Trends in peer review
- Open data, publishing mandates, and publishing options
- Research data management
- Licensing research data for reuse
Refreshments will be provided.
Teaching Free: Instructor Insights on Making Course Content Affordable and Accessible
By, Rachael G. Samberg (Scholarly Communication Officer, Library) & Richard Freishtat (Director, Center for Teaching & Learning)
Note: This commentary is being cross-posted on the Center for Teaching & Learning’s blog.
On October 27, 2017, UC Berkeley faculty and lecturers convened to share how they are making textbooks available for free to students—and how they are designing more accessible and transformative learning materials in the process.
In this post, we pass along key takeaways from the stories they shared, in the hope that you may consider implementing similar cost-saving options for students. We also consider why the UC Berkeley campus has come together at this critical moment to address such issues.
This is the first of a series of posts we’ll be doing this semester to dig into the “how” of improving students’ quality of living through affordable and accessible course content.
Students Can’t Afford Class
Before we dive into the lessons gleaned at the October event, campus context behind faculty members’ efforts might help.
Textbook prices have risen 88 percent in the past decade, as detailed in a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. With UC Berkeley undergrads expected to pay at least $900 (a low estimate) on books and materials each academic year, students are financially encumbered to obtain required readings. The campus is conducting a survey to understand the true impact of these expenses for students—including how textbook costs affect whether students take, remain in, and succeed in their classes.
One way to alleviate financial burden for students is by offering them free, digital versions of their assigned readings that can be accessed online or downloaded to electronic devices. For course readers, this might mean uploading materials to the class bCourse site under fair use principles, and for textbooks, this might mean switching to “open textbooks.” Open textbooks (also called “open educational resources” or OERs) are entirely free for anyone to access, read, and download, and are typically licensed for reuse by others to encourage further downstream adaptation and development. Many instructors and students prefer hard copies, and so open textbooks can often be ordered as “print on demand” for a nominal printing fee, or students can print them out themselves.
In the studies to date on open textbook impact, students who have been given access to open textbooks perform at least as well, and often better, than those without open textbooks. This is likely because the playing field is leveled: Everyone in class has access to the readings from day one, and they’re not beyond anyone’s financial reach.
There are several other key advantages to offering parallel access to digital books: Digital native texts are inherently more accessible to students with disabilities. Screen readers and assistive technologies fare much better working with born digital materials rather than print copies that have been scanned in and converted into optical text (not to mention the potential access delay involved in remediating print content). Digital materials are generally also text searchable, so that students can easily find concepts or passages within their readings.
Seeking to address both affordability and accessibility concerns, in 2017, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education (VCUE) charged a campus-wide Course Content Affordability & Accessibility Committee (CCAAC) to identify strategies to educate the campus about the costs of course content, and encourage practices that lower costs for students while also making materials more accessible. CCAAC’s report and recommendations are forthcoming in Spring 2018.
An analogous campus partnership has also been very busy: The University Library, Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and Educational Technology Services (ETS) teamed up and obtained a VCUE and Library-endorsed charter to test services aimed at students course content burdens. Through our Affordable Course Content Pilot program, we have incentivized both adoption and creation of open textbooks. Our idea was simple: What if we offered $2000-$5000 grants for faculty and lecturers to switch to an open textbook, or create their own? We would provide the needed digital publishing and programmatic support to facilitate the transition, and the instructors would use or create something new that was open—and free—to all.
We did not expect to get many takers for the pilot, since designing and writing a textbook requires an incredible amount of work. Yet, we underestimated the earnest commitment on this campus for truly making a difference in students’ lives and academic success. In Fall 2017, five faculty members committed to creating their own open textbooks, and two more are on board for Spring 2018. Fall participants included:
- Brad DeLong and Martha Olney, for Economic Theory – Macroeconomics (ECON 101B)
- Evan Variano, for Elementary Fluid Mechanics (CE100)
- John Wallace, for Dynamics of Romantic Core Values in East Asian Premodern Literature and Contemporary Film (EA LANG 105)
- Jonathan Zwicker, for Seminar in Classical Japanese Texts (JAPAN 240)
Most of their books will be unveiled and implemented in their classrooms beginning this semester. In a future blog post, we will explore their creation of these open books, touching on everything from mechanical issues related to the digital platforms and tools being used, publishing mechanics, and how students have received them. (Sneak preview: You do not need to be a technological wizard to create a digital textbook! And, we can help.)
Now, however, we’d like to consider the salient lessons discerned from these faculty members’ experiences in creating open textbooks for the pilot.
Lessons from the Trenches
On October 27, 2017 pilot program participants Brad DeLong and John Wallace were joined by Ani Adhikari (whose Data 8 open textbook has already been in use for several years) in speaking to a rapt crowd about why they chose to create open textbooks, and what they have learned in the process. We have taken the liberty of distilling their guidance.
1. If you create an open textbook, you have tremendous flexibility and complete control over what your students see, and when they see it.
Wallace observed that, although his book on East Asian literature and film will be deployed in Spring 2018, it will remain a work in progress. The beauty of writing and managing one’s own digital material is that changes (and typo fixes!) can be made in real time, without having to wait until your publisher decides to release a new edition. Wallace is utilizing Pressbooks.com to administer his material, and he can log in and change whatever he wants, whenever he wants—sharing his creative product in stages or in full, at his election.
This level of control also offers topical benefits. DeLong and Olney are converting their Macroeconomics print textbook into an open textbook, with interactive data for students to play with as they experiment with formulae and economic theories. To provide meaningful, real world information, DeLong and Olney need to be able to update and adjust content regularly. Because they are in complete command over the Jupyter Notebook which they use to manage their content, they can incorporate current economic events and statistics in real time, or keep it current on a semester-by-semester basis.
2. Creating your own open book allows you to choose your voice and write to connect with your students—and in so doing, capitalize on intellectual freedom as you forge and sculpt your discipline. As you branch off into new knowledge areas, disciplines can be redeveloped into what you make them.
Writing your own open textbook is a tremendous amount of work, but it can also offer tremendous intellectual freedom. Wallace, DeLong, and Adhikari each exclaimed the benefits of being able to write in a tone and on issues directed to their students—using language and content that may not have survived traditional textbook editing processes. The value is that the written material has the potential for resonating more meaningfully with students.
Adhikari discussed some foundational examples in the Data Science 8 textbook, in which she writes vibrantly about a water pump in Victorian London. The lesson frames for students one of the first ways that data was used to establish causality (in this case, mapping cholera outbreaks to a water pump). Here is a brief excerpt:
One of the earliest examples of astute observation eventually leading to the establishment of causality dates back more than 150 years. To get your mind into the right timeframe, try to imagine London in the 1850’s. It was the world’s wealthiest city but many of its people were desperately poor. Charles Dickens, then at the height of his fame, was writing about their plight. Disease was rife in the poorer parts of the city, and cholera was among the most feared. It was not yet known that germs cause disease; the leading theory was that “miasmas” were the main culprit. Miasmas manifested themselves as bad smells, and were thought to be invisible poisonous particles arising out of decaying matter. Parts of London did smell very bad, especially in hot weather. To protect themselves against infection, those who could afford to held sweet-smelling things to their noses.
From reading even just this brief excerpt, it is hard to imagine traditional textbooks so compellingly establishing an argument, or traditional textbook authors maintaining enough editorial control over their work to ensure that these points are included exactly as intended.
3. Digital editions provide valuable portability for students, while preserving print on demand options.
Adhikari and DeLong also addressed portability benefits of open textbooks. UC Berkeley students are incredibly engaged academically, and as a result, under considerable competing demands on their time. It is not uncommon to see students working on portable devices on public transportation or at the gym, just to make the most of any spare moments they have.
In survey responses by students whose classes participated in our pilot program, students near universally described how having online access to, or being able to digitally download, their reading materials improved their learning experience. Not only could they take their readings everywhere (and we mean everywhere!), but also they did not have to lug around numerous heavy books. Many also remarked that they valued not having to “waste paper” and harm the environment. Students knew that printing out the materials was an option, though few reported having chosen to do so—actually preferring the electronic format.
4. You can create an open module or two to fill in the gaps, rather than requiring students to purchase an entire textbook just for a few sections.
Let’s say you have found the perfect textbook for about 80% of your course, but it lacks two or three topics that you cover in class, and for which you assign a separate book entirely. There may be no need to reinvent the wheel in designing an entire textbook from scratch, but perhaps you could create just what you need to fill in the gaps rather than recommending a second book for purchase.
This is precisely what Horst Rademacher of the Berkeley Seismology Lab, did for EPS20 (Earthquakes in Your Backyard). As part of the pilot program, Rademacher created on open module through Pressbooks.com to address one topic: The Hayward Fault at the UC Berkeley campus. Doing so was not only a more reasonable time investment, but also a very efficient way of making sure students had tailor-made access to the specific content they would need for class.
5. If you collocate all digital readings and assignment submissions, it can be easier for graduate student instructors to complete grading, and focus more on pedagogy.
Generating efficiencies in one area necessarily creates opportunities in another. In this case, GSI’s, and instructors alike, can more easily move between and through grading of student work (particularly if coupled with other campus-licensed tools like GradeScope). The ability to centrally locate, quickly navigate, and reliably assess student work can considerably reduce time spent on the logistical aspects of grading. The extra time that was once necessary for grading logistics, can now be better utilized in service of pedagogy and student learning. Faculty discussed greater time available to improve their course materials, implement new pedagogies, or even supplement learning through more formative approaches that were very challenging previously due to time constraints.
6. Open textbooks have the potential to save UC Berkeley students hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while making access to higher education learning materials more equitable in your class and beyond.
In DeLong’s own words, his forthcoming Macroeconomics textbook can “go big or go home,” and he’s banking on “big.” There are four sections of macroeconomics are taught each year on our campus, with approximately 1000 students. If each of the class sections adopted the DeLong-Olney open textbook rather than the $200 print equivalent, UC Berkeley macroeconomics students could save up to $200,000 each year. Of course, macroeconomics is a staple at institutions across the nation and world. DeLong and Olney are enabling thousands upon thousands of students globally to have access to extremely high quality instructional materials—potentially saving students millions every year. The financial impact that open textbooks can have is quantifiable, and it’s huge.
Financial impact is but one piece of the equitability puzzle. Both DeLong and Adhikari discussed open textbooks’ ability to promote social justice in the classroom, and the sense of obligation they feel as faculty members in doing as much as they can to ensure that all of their students have equal opportunities to succeed.
If you would like to explore the possibility of adopting or creating an open textbook for your class, we would love to meet with you! Limited numbers of $2000-$5000 grants remain available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Scholarly Communication Website (lib.berkeley.edu/scholcomm) to learn more.
And if you are interested in CCAAC and the pilot team’s report and findings about course content affordability at the UC Berkeley campus, please stay tuned to posts distributed through the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Library’s Scholarly Communication program’s Twitter account, @UCB_scholcomm.
Friday, Oct. 27
Making Textbooks and Course Readers Affordable
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | Wurster Hall, Environmental Design Library
Do you wonder how to make your assigned readings more affordable, and how much time and effort you’d need to invest? The University Library and Center for Teaching and Learning have partnered in an innovative pilot program to reduce course content expenses and incentivize the creation of high quality, free, and open course materials. In this panel event, you’ll hear from participating faculty and lecturers who will discuss their experiences and provide practical tips from the leading edge of course content affordability. Refreshments will be provided.
Friday, Dec. 8
Open Textbook Workshop – Faculty & Lecturers
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. | Academic Innovation Studio, 127 Dwinelle Hall
Are you an instructor who is concerned about the impact of high textbook costs on your students? Do you want to adopt or create innovative pedagogical materials? Explore possible open textbook solutions by attending a two hour workshop and writing a short textbook review. The Library will provide you with a $200 stipend for your efforts! Space is limited, so please submit a very brief application form: http://bit.ly/facultyOpenTextwkshp
Friday, Dec. 8
Open Textbook Workshop – Staff & Campus Partners
12:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. | Academic Innovation Studio, 127 Dwinelle Hall
Are you a UC Berkeley staff or affiliate who is concerned about the impact of high textbook costs on students, or you are working with a faculty member who is? Do you want to support the adoption or creation of innovative pedagogical materials? Learn the landscape, opportunities, and challenges for adopting and creating open textbooks, and how to discuss whether open textbooks are a good fit.
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Publish Digital Books and Open Textbooks with Pressbooks
1:10-2:30 p.m. | Academic Innovation Studio, Dwinelle Hall 117 (Level D)
If you’re looking to self-publish work of any length and want an easy-to-use tool that offers a high degree of customization, allows flexibility with publishing formats (EPUB, MOBI, PDF), and provides web-hosting options, Pressbooks may be great for you. Pressbooks is often the tool of choice for academics creating digital books, open textbooks, and open educational resources, since you can license your materials for reuse however you desire. Learn why and how to use Pressbooks for publishing your original books or course materials. You’ll leave the workshop with a project already under way!