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ARL Publishes “Affiliation in Transition: Rethinking Society Membership with Early-Career Researchers in the Social Sciences”

illustration of people physically distanced but connected via phone or internet
image CC0 by Cristina Estanislao for United Nations

Even before COVID-19 and its associated pressures on higher education budgets, today’s early-career researchers faced more insecurity in the academic job market than the generations before them. These labor market realities—fewer tenure-track positions and increasing adjunctification across the disciplines—have also placed financial pressure on scholarly societies, many of which have seen corresponding declines in membership. Meanwhile, early-career researchers have found rewarding new forms of connection and community in less formal structures, often facilitated by social media and other communication technologies. These new settings for scholarly affiliation in the social sciences are the subject of a paper by scholarly communication researcher Marcel LaFlamme. By learning from these loosely institutionalized spaces, LaFlamme contends, societies as well as research libraries and their parent institutions can adapt to a changing environment and take steps to make scholarship more open and accessible.

At the end of 2018, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) convened leaders of research libraries, scholarly societies in the social sciences, higher education associations, funding agencies, university and library publishers, and individual open access advocates and scholars. The aim of this meeting was to build a shared vision and agenda for advancing a more open and equitable scholarly communication ecosystem. One of the action items coming out of the meeting was to commission this paper on the role of disciplinary societies and other spaces of affiliation in a post-subscription landscape. As one participant noted, co-creating an inclusive, equitable, transparent, and durable system of scholarly communication means remaining open to reimagining our institutional roles and not taking existing structures for granted.

Affiliation in Transition presents findings and recommendations drawing on interviews with early-career researchers from the United States and Canada in the fields of anthropology, economics, geography, linguistics, psychology, science and technology studies, and sociology. In these times of profound public-health, financial, and social disruption in the academy, this paper offers valuable guidance to membership organizations navigating their way to resilient and responsive futures. As a membership organization itself, ARL has conceived of this paper in the spirit of partnership with early-career researchers and scholarly societies alike. All organizations, including our own, are reckoning with the upheavals of the current moment. As partners, libraries and societies can work together to—in LaFlamme’s words—“consolidate the gains in scientific openness seen during the pandemic” while renewing the institutions that have long advanced the aims of scholars and scholarship.

Read Affiliation in Transition: Rethinking Society Membership with Early-Career Researchers in the Social Sciences by Marcel LaFlamme.


About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.