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In Practice: An Interview with Colleen Lyon (University of Texas at Austin)

Published onNov 02, 2021
In Practice: An Interview with Colleen Lyon (University of Texas at Austin)
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In this interview, Colleen Lyon, who is Head of Scholarly Communications at the University of Texas at Austin, talks with Colleen Cressman about her department’s efforts to make sharing research easier—from providing tools, such as Texas ScholarWorks and the Texas Data Repository, to offering classroom instruction, consultations, workshops, and learning communities. She also talks about the university’s focus on open practices with the Provost’s Sustainable Open Scholarship (SOS) Working Group and the ways she and her department have been able to “support open publishing initiatives that promise to be more financially sustainable over the long-term,” including a new arXiv overlay journal, Ars Inveniendi Analytica.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Colleen Lyon: I’m the Head of Scholarly Communications at the University of Texas at Austin. Scholarly Communications at our institution includes management of repositories, research data services, open educational resources, open access, and copyright. My responsibilities for those services include Texas ScholarWorks (our institutional repository), open access, and copyright.

What is the Scholarly Communications unit at UT Libraries all about—its mission and priorities? What is its connection to open access?

Our unit is very focused on customer service. We consider both library staff and faculty, staff, and students at UT to be our patrons. We strive to spread information about the benefits of open practices and provide tools and support to make sharing research easier. We do that through tools like Texas ScholarWorks, Texas Data Repository, and the Texas GeoData Portal. We also offer training through workshop series, learning communities, classroom instruction, individual consultations, and customized training options. Finally, because we want to see a more sustainable scholarly communication system, we devote a portion of our collection development budget to open access initiatives.

What excites you about the future of scholarly communication and open access at UT Libraries?

I’m very excited about the growth of our open access memberships, which, broadly speaking, include open access publishing opportunities (including publishing OA data) and the related infrastructure to make open access publishing possible. We are seeing more opportunities to support open publishing initiatives that promise to be more financially sustainable over the long-term. 

Specifically, we have had the opportunity this past year to financially support a new arXiv overlay journal called Ars Inveniendi Analytica. The Editors-in-Chief of the journal, Francesco Maggi from the University of Texas at Austin, and Enrico Valdinoci from the University of Western Australia, were very interested in creating a high quality analysis journal that would be free to readers and to authors. They are doing concrete work towards creating more sustainable publishing options for mathematicians and we are happy to help support that objective. This project is especially rewarding because we are also working with colleagues at Harvard University Library, including Colleen Cressman, who are providing support for the logistical aspects of starting up the journal, i.e. what kind of policies need to be in place, how do you get an ISSN, what is the process for getting indexed, etc. We don’t often get to work collaboratively with other libraries on projects like this so it is a great learning opportunity.

I’m also encouraged by the increasing focus on open practices by our university’s administration. This past year, faculty and staff from across the university worked on the Provost’s Sustainable Open Scholarship (SOS) Working Group. We had four subcommittees working on open access, open data, open educational resources, and licensing and negotiation. Those committees have submitted their individual reports and that work is being compiled into a comprehensive report that will be shared with campus in the next month or so. I am hopeful this report will give a boost to the work that is already happening to support open access, and create new opportunities to make all UT Austin research more widely available.

What challenges do you anticipate, either at UT Libraries or in the open-access ecosystem more generally?

I think the biggest challenge we face is inertia. Researchers have been publishing in specific ways for decades or even hundreds of years. It can be hard to pivot and try new things or to take the time to reassess the evaluation rubrics that are used for promotion and tenure. That’s part of the reason why I think exploring different OA options is helpful—we’re more likely to find something that works for a wide range of people.

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

I’m really looking forward to the coming year. We have some new open access initiatives we’re investigating; the SOS report should be released soon; our open education program is really taking off; and we are continually investigating ways to make our repositories easier to use for both depositors and readers.


Editor’s Note: Learn more about Ars Inveniendi Analytica.


Text: © 2021 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and Colleen Lyon, 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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