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Library Spotlight: Michael Ladisch, Scholarly Communications Officer

Michael Ladisch leads the library’s Scholarly Communications Program, which supports UC Davis researchers on a range of scholarly communications and publishing matters such as open access publishing, publishing agreements and copyright issues, citation analysis, and how to use the ORCID identifier. He joined the UC Davis Library in summer 2019, with more than 20 years of experience in academic library settings in Germany, Ireland, Alaska and, most recently, at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

Scholarly communication can encompass many different things for different people. How do you define it?

I take a rather broad interpretation, with an emphasis on the communication part. It includes the exchange of ideas and research among scholars, collaboration with other scholars, as well as communication from the scholarly community to the public. 

There are several interconnected parts: 

  • open access publishing; 
  • copyright issues, which are not necessarily related to open access; 
  • and citation analysis, altmetrics and bibliometrics, which encompasses the whole question of giving credit to and measuring the impact of research ‘products.’

How will you be supporting UC Davis researchers?

I’ll be focusing primarily on graduate students, faculty and other researchers on campus, providing individual consultation and answering questions in person and over email. Starting in Winter Quarter, I also plan to offer workshops on different topics in scholarly communication, such as copyright, bibliometrics, open access publishing, creating your online persona, or how to leverage various professional networks from ResearchGate to Twitter. Though these are more generic, I’d also like to offer discipline-specific talks to research groups, departments, etc., as well. For graduate students and early-career researchers, I’m thinking about topics like how to find the most appropriate journal for your research. 

To surface other needs, I will use this fall to meet with deans, department chairs and individual researchers to better understand their areas of concern with which I can help them best. I like to go where researchers are, to see where the research is done, so I’m really looking forward to those conversations.

What else do you anticipate focusing on in your first year here?

Supporting researchers with open access publishing will be another major theme for the years to come. I’m a great advocate of open access publishing and encourage researchers to do so whenever possible. At the same time, I’m very aware of the barriers, so I am excited about some of the initiatives we have underway to make it easier and less costly to publish open access. 

For book authors, we can provide up to $15,000 through the TOME Open Access Monograph Fund to help cover the costs of open access book publication. The fund has already supported the publication of four books on a diverse range of topics biodesign, gaming and digital culture, Chinese Communism, and early modern English theater — with six more in the pipeline. Additional funds are still available, so I hope we’ll continue to receive applications from more UC Davis book authors over the coming year.

The University of California also reached its first open access agreement with a scholarly journal publisher, Cambridge University Press, this spring, so we’ll soon be able to offer authors who publish with Cambridge the opportunity to make their articles open access at no or low cost. As the three-year pilot with Cambridge begins, I know questions will come up. There will be some new steps in the author’s workflow when they are going through the publication process, and while it will be pretty straightforward, there can always be special circumstances and situations — and that is when I can come in and help.

Citation analysis is one of your specialties. Can you explain more about what that means for UC Davis researchers?

I look forward to helping educate researchers about what the various metrics mean that funders, for example, may pay attention to. There’s journal impact factor, the metric that evaluates a journal’s impact based on the number of publications and citations, and the h-index, that takes the productivity and the impact of a researcher’s work into account. There are a lot of buzzwords flying around but people don’t necessarily understand what they mean. All too often I have seen these metrics used without context and without considering their limitations and caveats. I want to support UC Davis researchers who want to understand the concepts and methodology better. 

Then there’s the whole question of helping research groups — departments, centers, schools, informal groups of research collaborators — see the combined impact of their research publications. These metrics are part of national and worldwide institutional rankings, so it’s important to understand the various ways a group’s output can be measured.

Having dedicated support for scholarly communications is still fairly new for the UC Davis Library. What do you see as the greatest value-add for our faculty?

Because time is short for everyone, especially for researchers, it can be hard to keep up-to-date with all of the developments in these different areas. That’s where I and our other librarians can be a point of contact for faculty to provide them with the latest information.

What makes you most excited about being here at UC Davis?

Of all the areas of librarianship, scholarly communication is what interests me most because of all of the changes that are happening at the moment in how people discover, perform and evaluate research.

On a personal note, being here at Davis I feel like I’ve come full circle. After school, I first trained and worked as a dairy farmer for four years before starting to work in libraries, so farming, animal husbandry, wildlife as well as sustainability and environmental issues are close to my heart.