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How authors build structural equity and inclusion practices through open access

2020 Open Access Week - Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and InclusionThis year’s Open Access Week theme is “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. According to Nick Shockey in his #OAWeek blog post announcing this year’s theme, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be consistently prioritized year-round and integrated into the fabric of the open community, from how our infrastructure is built to how we organize community discussions to the governance structures we use.”

With this in mind, the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) is exploring the author’s role in building those priorities into our work – in both open access and traditional publishing environments.

Structural equity

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, structural equity exists when “decisions are made with recognition of historical, cultural and institutional dynamics and structures that have routinely advantaged privileged groups in society and resulted in chronic, cumulative disadvantage for subordinated groups.” Specifically noted, “decision-makers institutionalize accountability”.

The academic publishing community has a responsibility to provide opportunities to authors from all backgrounds for access and contribution to the body of knowledge written and published. Open access publishing models, by design, are intended to reduce barriers – specifically financial barriers – to accessing published research on which new work can be based. 

As a result, historically disadvantaged groups without financial means to access high-cost journals can now freely access more work published under open access licensing models. It is equally important that these communities of academics are provided equal opportunity for their voices to be heard and published. 

This goal of structural equity through open access publishing efforts is well summarized by Taylor & Francis‘ acknowledgement that “In 2002, the Budapest Open Access Initiative set out the potential benefits of unrestricted access to scholarly content: ‘accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.’”


Inclusion, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “is the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. More than simply diversity and numerical representation, inclusion involves authentic and empowered participation and a true sense of belonging.” On June 19, 2020, the TAA Council issued a statement on racism in which TAA committed “to establish short-term and long-term goals that effect positive change toward social equity in textbook and academic authoring.”

Author’s responsibility

As textbook and academic authors, we have a responsibility to promote and support the efforts of all members of our academic and research communities in a way that provides greater levels of equity and inclusion for historically underrepresented groups. By recognizing the role that open access publishing has played in expanding availability of research and publishing opportunities to members of these groups and supporting the efforts of open access through citation and choice when publishing new work, we can further encourage the structural change needed throughout the academic publishing community to better meet goals of equity and inclusion.

The author’s responsibility extends, however, beyond the open access publishing community to a broad adoption of these priorities throughout all aspects of our scholarly publishing efforts. An intentional exploration of research and ideas published by diverse populations, implementation of more equitable peer review processes, and support of publishers who actively promote equity and inclusion in their processes are ways that we can all make a difference.

As noted earlier, structural equity is an environment by which decision-makers institutionalize accountability. As authors, our key responsibility is to hold ourselves and those in our individual circles accountable for making more equitable and inclusive decisions as we continue to research, write, and publish.

Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.