Board of Trustees

I am running again for a term on the WMF Board of Trustees, in a heavily contested election with some great candidates, one of the best slates I’ve seen in years.

My statement is here. Space constraints, or maybe my own lack of creativity, meant that I didn’t really elaborate on what’s important to me as Board priorities, but the many community questions have gotten me thinking about this.

What do I want the Board to do, and where can I help?

  • Support and guide the Executive Director: this is a major part of our role that we don’t talk about as much. I was on the hiring committee for this ED, and thus have insight into how complex the role is and ways in which the Board and ED interplay. And this is a role where I think I can continue to help: both by sharing my Wikipedia & academic experience, and asking the right questions at the right time.
  • Set up our long-term financial future: this means an endowment (which we’ve started planning for) and long-term investment strategies. I’ve been a steady and strong voice for an endowment over several years, and the organization will need trustees committed to this goal to help make it happen.
  • Assessing our strategies and helping figure out what our work should look like in major areas: engineering, communications, public policy advocacy. This is our crucial, ongoing role.
  • Overall, helping the organization not be defensive, but rather open in the face of criticisms and problems; to see the volunteers of our editing communities and affiliates as partners in a shared mission. Most of the recent criticisms of the WMF boil down to not doing this.
  • To help us be creative and strategic about what’s next. What’s the future of Wikipedia and Wikimedia? We need people able to really deeply think about this question, or who have already done so.

Here’s a few more things: I believe continuity is important, including for the elected trustees. I saw a comment somewhere that surely it didn’t matter if 3 seats out of the 10 had continuity. That assumes of course that all the rest of the seats are stable, which is not a good assumption: appointed trustees might step down, affiliated-selected seats may also turn over. But having trustees that have served for a while in addition to new trustees is important, because it takes a year or two just to get up to speed, and longer-serving trustees are in a better position to help lead the Board, including as chair and vice-chair.

We need women on this Board. That doesn’t mean you need to elect me, per se, but like Maria I am disappointed that we are the only two women running.

We need articulate readers, writers and thinkers on the Board — this is by far the most important quality trustees need. Fortunately, I think all of the candidates qualify. But it’s worth remembering that our job is digesting complex documents and presentations, in context, giving feedback, and then moving on. We don’t usually have endless discussions, Wikipedia-style. We also don’t ever have enough time to discuss everything we want to, so prioritization and clarity is important.

Candidates should know that they can only really affect change in what the WMF does if they get all the other trustees and ED to see things their way, which means an ability to be persuasive and come to consensus is important.

Candidates should also know that, as I wrote in one of my answers, they will be held responsible by our (committed, critical, wonderful) community for decisions they did not make or that they disagree with. This is the nature of the job.

I wish there were a way to give all candidates a chance to sit in on a Board meeting — it might be a different experience from what they are imagining. (Or not!) That would be an idea for the future, actually: to have a couple of open online board meetings, where we would conduct some business and have candidates sit in.

At any rate, if you’re eligible, please do vote, and I’m glad that there are such good candidates this time.

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I am incredibly pleased to announce some exciting news: starting August 5, I will be working at MIT Libraries as Librarian for Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering Systems.

This position will work with the EECS community to support and understand their research needs, including working with research data management and MIT’s open access mandate. I can’t imagine a more exciting library to do this in; the MIT Libraries have a reputation of innovation and creativity, and are incredibly welcoming besides.

I have been at UC Davis for nine and a half years, since 2005. I will be sad to leave: I have a stellar group of colleagues and friends here, and have built strong connections with faculty, researchers and students in the departments I support. And Davis (the town) is pretty amazing: a warm, supportive and quirky community, with access to perhaps the best food and wine in the country. I will miss everyone a great deal, and I am incredibly grateful for all of the experience and support I have gotten here. But it is time for new adventures and new challenges. I’m looking forward to pushing myself by living in a totally different part of the country, working at a totally different type of school, and exploring ideas about how to support the information needs of engineering disciplines.

Over the next two months, I’ll be wrapping up projects here and figuring out how to pack up a house that I’ve lived in for ten years. I’ll be thinking about how to introduce myself to a world-class faculty and student body. And I’ll be looking for a place to live in Cambridge, hiring a moving truck, and (oh yeah) going to Wikimania somewhere in there too. It will be hectic and crazy: and I can’t wait.

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(draft) thoughts on OA

/rough cut ideas, probably repeating other people/

The last few days, I’ve been at ACRL 2015, which is one of my favorite library conferences – largely focused on topics that are relevant to my day-to-day work, and a solid size: big but not enormous.

At any rate, there were a number of talks on open access that I went to,  including Lessig’s barnburner of a closing keynote. So I’ve been thinking about OA. Including these questions:

  • We tell authors to keep track of their author contracts/agreements for whether they support OA, and have sort of built systems to advise on these, but shouldn’t we take a lesson from all our work on research data and actually give out practical advice and/or tools to do this for new researchers? I mean, I know better, and I don’t know what I did with my last author contract (which I know allowed OA after one year, but when did I sign it? when did that article get published, exactly?) Assuming that most authors are, like me, always pressed and disorganized, how can we make this easy?
  • How much would it cost to build a pay-up-front publish all you want conference infrastructure, like PeerJ, but for conferences? I’m thinking about how ACM works. They publish many hundreds of conferences, which means taking preformatted pdfs that the conference submits and putting them in the ACM digital library (and providing the template for the article). I know that’s how it works, because I ran an ACM conference and provided the papers. The peer review and metadata collection was on the conference’s end. We’ve got the Open Conference System, which is pretty good,  but I think there could be an end to end solution. For that matter, I think ACM itself could implement this without much trouble. Right now ACM affiliation for individual one-off conferences is granted by the SIGs, who take the responsibility for making sure it’s a real conference, and pass that info on to ACM HQ. That process could continue, to ensure reputational integrity, but the conference could pay in a publication fee ($500? $1000? Size-dependent?) for each conference, and then everything published could be open access. The same could be true for the big flagship conferences, too. I don’t know how IEEE and the other big distributed societies work, but I assume it’s similar. In other words, don’t make it about the authors at all — make it a venue-provided fee, since everything is about the venues anyway.
  • Speaking of the authors, don’t make it about the authors anywhere. Pay-to-play I think won’t behoove us in the long run, though there are ways to make it better: everyone should have PLoS’s policy of no questions asked waivers, and the fact that not every venue does is an artifact of the wild-west times we live in. There’s some studies about this in the works, including one at UC Davis, but I think we can step back and think about the ethics of it from an inclusionary scholarly communication point of view. So where does the money come from? Right now, funders and universities, or for science, funders via universities. Why can’t that simply go directly into publishing? Skip the multiple transfers, which would make the whole process more inefficient.
  • So what about creating independent journals and publication venues? There is in fact no law that says you can’t ask for funding and have OA articles. Nothing about open licenses or anything else prevents this, except perhaps an aversion to paying for “free” things. But for small amounts of money that are essentially donations towards a project, libraries as large as mine would probably be willing to continue to pay. (Think about: ArXiv funding.) What we’re not willing to pay forever? the million-dollar bills for packages to commercial publishers.
  • The fact that the library literature itself still isn’t totally open is dumb, and gives our profession no particular moral standing. Let’s fix that. A simple boycott / editor strike would take care of several of the commercial journals. JASIS&T, LJ & the rest are on the related societies. And those of us who write need to insist.

What else?

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