Scholar’s work highlights power of Open Access and community engagement

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For Immediate Release
January 13, 2011

For more information, contact:
Jennifer McLennan
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org
(202) 296-2296 ext 121

Scholar’s work highlights power of Open Access and community engagement
SPARC announces January Innovator

Washington, DC – To go beyond the confines of academia and engage with the community to improve their lives through research, Ventura R.Pérez launched an interdisciplinary open-access journal dedicated to the study of violence and the impact it has on society. A biological anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Pérez adopted an open-access model to share insights into the causes of violence directly with the communities affected, in addition to making the research available to scholars. For his efforts, Pérez is honored as the first Innovator of 2011 by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).

Pérez, a faculty member in the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, studies skeletal remains from victims of violence and examines the larger perspective of the cultural forces that lead to such acts. Whether working with those affected by recent drug-related violence or a century-old massacre in Mexico, Pérez consults with the community prior to conducting his research and makes sure they have access to the findings afterward.

In October, Pérez launched Landscapes of Violence (LoV) to provide a platform for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists and others to discuss causes of violence and include voices from the human experience behind it. He wanted to make the journal open-access so those affected could leverage the information to push for policy and social change. “I felt I had a moral obligation,” says Pérez. “In my mind, it’s another tool of scholarly engagement and a part of our mission as a land-grant university.”

Pérez’s mentor, Debra Martin, chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, says the Open Access concept was a difficult sell at first. “We thought: ‘Yeah, yeah, online. Too bad it’s not going to be a real journal,” says Martin. But she and other colleagues supported Pérez in his efforts. Soon she changed her mind. “Once he laid it all out for us this light bulb went off… I thought journals are really limited. Now in the most remote part of the world, people will see Ventura’s journal.”

“Perez’s work really drives home the deep need for access to scholarly articles by constituencies that are often overlooked – the communities impacted by research studies, and policy makers who depend on real-time, high-quality information to make informed decisions,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC. “His focus on making sure the research process is deliberately inclusive through to the communication of final results is critical and admirable – especially for the kind of intensely interdisciplinary work that he carries out.”

The full January 2011 SPARC Innovator Profile is online at http://www.arl.org/sparc/innovator.

The SPARC Innovator program recognizes advances in scholarly communication propelled by an individual, institution, or group. Typically, these advances exemplify SPARC principles by challenging the status quo in scholarly communication for the benefit of researchers, libraries, universities, and the public. SPARC Innovators are featured on the SPARC Web site semi-annually and have included the authors of the Panton Principles for Open Data; Mike Rossner, executive director of the Rockefeller University Press (RUP) in New York; The Optical Society of America, R. Preston McAfee of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; Harvard University FAS; and others. SPARC Innovators are selected by the SPARC staff in consultation with the SPARC Steering Committee.

Individuals can nominate their colleagues as potential SPARC Innovators at http://www.arl.org/sparc/innovator/nominate.shtml.
For further information or a list of previous SPARC Innovators, please see the SPARC Web site at http://www.arl.org/sparc.

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SPARC
SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), with SPARC Europe and SPARC Japan, is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. SPARC’s advocacy, educational, and publisher partnership programs encourage expanded dissemination of research. SPARC is on the Web at http://www.arl.org/sparc/.