On June 1, 2020, Kathleen Shearer, COAR Executive Director delivered the keynote speech at the (virtual) Open Repositories Conference 2020.

The topic of the speech was bibliodiversity


Crises like this pandemic expose the cracks and weaknesses in our societies and systems. How we look after our elderly, inequalities in healthcare, bad governance and so on And the deficiencies of the scholarly communications system have also been in full view. Slow processing times between submission to publication, paywalls, lack of transparency in peer review, and so on. These issues are simply unacceptable when they are measured up against the seriousness of fighting a global pandemic. While distasteful in the past, these problems are now just simply unacceptable.

However, sometimes with these weaknesses in full view, we are forced to reassess our current assumptions, to revisit things that we have taken for granted, and to look at the world through a different lens. Take open access. This pandemic has illustrated so clearly and unequivocally why we need open access and open science.  If we are to understand this disease, to develop effective treatments and ultimately and find a vaccine, we need rapid and open sharing of research outputs. Let’s hope that this experience will settle the open access debate once and for all.

This talk is about another set of foundational principles that have not garnered the same amount of attention as the “open” discussion, but are equally important –  diversity, inclusion and equity in scholarly communications. Diversity, inclusion and equity matter, most of all, in a moral sense, because each person has intrinsic value. But for other reasons as well.  As has been demonstrated with the covid-19 pandemic, we are all in this together. Our societies and economies are intricately connected, and the problems of one region, group, domain will have an impact on everyone else.  We are not living in a highly integrated and connected global world. So it is in all our interests to ensure that the scholarly communication system works for everyone. But also research will simply be better, of higher quality in a diverse, inclusive and equitable system. In his book called “The Difference”, Scott Page argues that “diversity trumps ability” when it comes to problem solving, as different perspectives can come at a problem in different ways, leading to greater innovation.