Open Access Week | Guest Post |On Generous Scholarship

By Willow Fuchs

During the month of Open Access week (October 19-25) we will be highlighting a number of guest posts from University of Iowa Faculty and Staff who have personal experience making their work Open Access.  We appreciate their contributions.

The third guest post is by Meenakshi Gigi Durham, distinguished scholar, teacher, and writer whose durhamwork centers on media and the politics of the body. Her research emphasizes issues of gender, sexuality, race, youth cultures, and sexual violence.  She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies.

See her Iowa Research Online deposited publications here.

On generous scholarship

A vital aspect of doing academic work is disseminating the knowledge we create so as to maximize its potential to have positive effects on the world. That’s why I’m a fan of institutional repositories. The impetus in the United States today seems to be to corporatize and commoditize education, somehow turning it into a for-profit enterprise instead of a public good. Institutional repositories are a great way to challenge and resist that impulse, returning us to the recognition that research is a crucial element of a collective vision of social progress.

I lived for years in a resource-poor country, and I know that even in the wealthier nations, there are many institutions and scholars who don’t have access to the treasure trove of databases we are privileged to use every day via the wonderful library system at the University of Iowa. But scholarship can’t happen without access to up-to-date knowledge; as scholars, we build on the work that advances our fields. It’s always been inspiring to me that some of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions have been catalyzed by an encounter with some prior work: Galileo read Copernicus and came up with his theory of heliocentrism; Srinivasa Ramanujam read G.S. Carr and made groundbreaking contributions to number theory; Toni Morrison read Virginia Woolf and went on to write Nobel Prize-winning novels. Connecting with the thoughts and ideas and perspectives of others inspires and informs us. We need to make sure the next great scholar can read everything he or she wants to. Part of our work is facilitating the discoveries of the future. That takes generosity and a social conscience —that’s the spirit behind teaching, just as it is behind scholarship.

So whenever I can, I contribute my writings to Iowa Research Online. I offer my work humbly, as part of a community of thinkers whose aims are to change the world for the better. It’s truly gratifying that my IRO papers have been downloaded far more often than they have from commercial journal websites or databases. I hope they are contributing to the way others are thinking about the issues I study: gender, sexuality, and the media. I hope they are sparking new ways to think about these issues, and I hope those ideas will translate into the real goals of my own work, which include social justice, gender equity, and an end to sexual violence.