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In Practice: An Interview with Harrison W. Inefuku (Iowa State University Digital Press)

Published onOct 26, 2021
In Practice: An Interview with Harrison W. Inefuku (Iowa State University Digital Press)
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In this interview, Harrison W. Inefuku, who is Scholarly Publishing Services Librarian at Iowa State University and directs its library publishing program, talks to Colleen Cressman about the fully open-access Iowa State University Digital Press, including how the press makes it a priority to work with open-source and community-/academic-owned platforms that align with its mission and values. He discusses what he sees for the future of open-access publishing and the work we need to do in order to achieve, in Harrison’s words, “a publishing landscape that is inclusive, equitable, and truly values diversity.”

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Harrison W. Inefuku: I’m the Scholarly Publishing Services Librarian at Iowa State University. I direct our library publishing program, helping scholars publish journals, books, conference proceedings, and textbooks in disciplines found in Iowa State’s academic and research programs.

What is the Iowa State University Digital Press (ISUDP) all about—its mission and priorities? What is its connection to open access?

The Iowa State University Digital Press was launched in 2019 as a 100% open access publisher. Our mission is:

In support of Iowa State University's land-grant mission to spread knowledge beyond campus walls, the Iowa State University Digital Press aims to:

  • Facilitate broad dissemination of knowledge through Open Access publishing and promotion;

  • Provide increased opportunities for Iowa State University faculty, students, and staff to share their research;

  • Publish quality scholarship in alignment with the university's curricular and research strengths; and

  • Diversify the voices, identities, and perspectives represented in the scholarly record.

Prioritizing open and diversifying the scholarly record aligns with the land-grant mission that is central to Iowa State—that higher education should be accessible to all.

We’ve prioritized working with open source and community-/academy-owned platforms that align with our mission of supporting open access publishing. We support Janeway, Pressbooks, and PubPub. Our support for open access and open source solutions complements broader efforts the University Library participates and invests in to transform scholarly communications.

The Iowa State University Library has also developed a robust open educational resources program under the leadership of Abbey Elder, Open Access and Scholarly Communication Librarian. To support the creation and adoption of OER on campus, we provide faculty and staff access to Pressbooks and support for peer-review and formatting to publish open textbooks.

What excites you about the future of open access at ISUDP?

One of the things that I enjoy about working with the Digital Press is building a publishing program that is based on values, rather than profit. Our portfolio has grown a lot faster than I expected, and I’m thrilled to be able to work with authors and editors who also hold these values.

We’re really interested in working with professional and scholarly associations in publishing open access journals and conference proceedings, whether it’s flipping subscription-based journals or launching new open access journals. Our Associate University Librarian for Collections and Scholarly Communication, Curtis Brundy, is especially active on this front. We’re currently working with four associations: American Meat Science Association, International Textiles and Apparel Association, Midwest Archives Conference, and Stratospheric Ballooning Association, and I’m hoping to have the opportunity to partner with more.

Given the complexity of the publishing landscape, what challenges do you see and anticipate, either at ISUDP or in the open-access ecosystem more generally?

Regarding library-based publishing in particular, how do we ensure the long-term sustainability of library publishing programs? Publishing is expensive, requiring a large amount of human and financial resources. Many libraries cannot offer the same level of support for journal editors that the large publishers can, such as providing a managing editor and copyediting and typesetting. Since many journals published by libraries do not charge authors Article Processing Charges, this labor is added to the list of tasks volunteer editorial boards must undertake. How can libraries reallocate their budgets to better support those who choose to publish through our publishing programs?

More generally, we’re far from having a publishing landscape that is inclusive, equitable, and truly values diversity. We see huge screw ups all the time, including in journals in librarianship. Making publishing inclusive requires transformative change not only in publishing, but in academia and librarianship as well. In addition to hiring more people of color, those involved in open access needs to do more than put out empty statements and put in the actual work necessary to ensure that the open-access ecosystem doesn’t continue to perpetuate the systemic racism present in scholarly communication.

Anything you’d like to share regarding upcoming ISUDP initiatives, to close?

I’m excited that the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication is participating in the LYRASIS Open Access Community Investment Program. This is a great opportunity for us to explore a new funding model for open access publishing.


Text: © 2021 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and Harrison W. Inefuku, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license

Media: Header image by Agnes Monkelbaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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