Introducing the Work and Family Commons

Martha Muldoon is an independent consultant providing individuals and organizations with assistance in a wide range of targeted areas including: project management, documentation, web and print content writing and editing –such as resource guides and communications materials – along with benchmark, best practice and other research and analysis to help organizations operate productively and perform strategically. Formerly the Director of Work/Life Initiatives at BankBoston, Martha has worked with the Sloan Network since 2006 in a variety of capacities including project manager for FlexNet, a proprietary web-based resource for Sloan Foundation flexibility grantees. Martha was also responsible for a quality control overhaul of the Network’s statistics database and, most recently, has been a member of the transition team supporting the evolution of the Network from grant funding to sustainability including the development and implementation of the new WFRN website and the creation of the open access repository component described in this blog. Please note that the views of our guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network.

When the second stage of the new WFRN website launches later this fall, it will include a unique resource for those who create, read, teach, study or follow the latest scholarship from the work and family research community. WFRN will host the Work and Family Commons (WFC), an open access subject matter repository; the first such repository devoted exclusively to interdisciplinary work and family research.

A repository, as the name implies, is an online collection of information (e.g., reports, journal articles, conference papers and presentations, books, book chapters, and working papers). The WFC repository was created to gather and preserve the intellectual output of the international work and family research community.

Open access (or OA) is a newer term describing a movement aimed at offering immediate, permanent online access to the full text of research articles for anyone, worldwide. To learn more about open access, go here.

Put the two together and you get the Work and Family Commons. Materials will be submitted directly by authors, including faculty, researchers, staff, and other contributors. Anyone with an interest in this area will be welcome to access and browse the materials free of charge.

Open access is principally about availability. It is about how we access, use and share information. OA enables scholarly literature – often in the form of journal articles – to be publicly available for free on the web. OA can remove some traditional barriers, such as costly subscriptions, for those who wish to read, copy, use and even re-use information via the internet. Open access is a relatively new movement, but it is gaining momentum in many areas of academic scholarship. Next month will be the fifth annual Open Access Week; a global event that promotes OA as a “new norm” in scholarship and research.

For the academic work and family community, OA seems tailor-made to strengthen the rich tradition of sharing knowledge inherent to the advancement of scholarship. Not only do many universities, both public and private, have open access policies and institutional repositories for faculty research, some (e.g., Harvard) have instituted a policy that mandates open access publishing of all faculty papers. Many funders – most notably the National Institutes of Health – have adopted a policy requiring open access for journal articles with findings from any NIH funded research.

Open access can increase the audience for an authors’ work by expanding its reach beyond typical subscription-based journals that are often only available to students and researchers at particular libraries. It also gives other interested individuals broader access to materials they need to complete their own research. OA can spark new collaborations and innovations and can level the playing field for faculty and students across institutions by providing equal access to resources suitable for a given curriculum.

OA is not only compatible with existing academic culture, it can actually transform the ability to conduct research across disciplines and therefore, is a good fit for interdisciplinary work and family scholars and researchers. In the words of the enthusiasts at Open Access Week, “OA has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship.”

We encourage you to visit the Work and Family Commons when it debuts on the new WFRN website later this fall.