The Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Annual Meeting, the 41st such event, was held this year in beautiful San Diego and the Cabells team once again had an amazing time reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and attending excellent sessions full of great discussions. The focus of this year’s meeting was on connecting stakeholders from around the globe to usher in a new era of scholarly communication. A common theme that emerged in so many sessions was the importance of previously underrepresented groups and markets being connected to the scholarly community as we move ahead to tackle new challenges and bring about the “New Status Quo.”
Having had some time to step away and reflect on the meeting we are imbued with a sense of community and the pressing need to work toward removing barriers that prevent the sharing of research. Things were kicked off on a very high note by Dr. Mariamawit Yeshak, Assistant Professor of Pharmacognosy at Addis Ababa University, who spoke of the disconnect between the rate of publication and impact on societal development in Africa in her opening keynote. Dr. Yeshak stated that “research is not complete until it is shared” and that was a common theme that could have been applied to many sessions throughout the meeting. The need to leverage technology to ensure indigenous peoples and their methods in key areas such medicine, farming and animal husbandry are not marginalized was made clear.
Inclusion and diversity can not just be buzz words. They must be the tenets that we use to build the future of scholarly communication. This thought was also front and center during the day 2 keynote talk by Betsy Beaumon, CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit organization with the mission to empower communities with software for social good. Ms. Beaumon spoke of the need to think of those with disabilities from the outset when developing technology. The key to her message was, “everything born digital must be, and can be, born accessible.” There are one billion disabled people on the planet and the vast majority of them cannot consume information through the traditional methods that have dominated the information sharing landscape.
Technological innovations are opening a world of possibilities to those who were previously denied access to knowledge. While this is a huge move in the right direction, it is also important to think critically of existing technology and examine just how accessible the products and platforms are (or quite possibly, are not) and how they can be made truly accessible to all. While there has been significant progress made in this area, and more and more technology is being developed to be accessible from “birth,” there is still a great deal left to be done.
Thanks to all who made this year’s SSP Annual Meeting a memorable one, and we cannot wait to see you all next year!