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Diverse voices, alternative sources transcript

Ute: Welcome to this Diverse Voices, Alternative Sources session. My name is Ute and I'm joined by my colleagues Jo, Fiona, and Wendy. The slides and a handout for this session are available to download from the Join Room page. By the end of this session, you will understand what we mean by diverse sources and perspectives, understand why diverse sources are important, recognise the challenges of identifying diverse content, and have developed skills to find some reliable and diverse content.  

This is an introductory session. The Open University has always had a commitment to inclusion in the curriculum. We will be exploring how to find content written by underrepresented voices. This includes all groups whose voices are less represented, for example, because of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, or geography.  

Diverse sources are often found outside academic library content. We will explore the current situation within academic library content and consider alternative sources where more diverse content might be available. Please note that where your module may require you to do independent research, you will need to follow module advice on what resources you need to use.  

Why are diverse perspectives important? You might want to pause the recording to think about this question for a moment. By consciously expanding the range of perspectives in your research, you will broaden your ideas by uncovering different ways of thinking, discover hidden histories which might be missing from mainstream academic discourse, challenge prejudice and stereotypes, discover views that are representative of the world, and be more equipped to participate in a global and diverse world.  

This brings us to the concept of power and also of privilege. Individuals are complex with many traits and characteristics. Some of our characteristics place us in a position of power and privilege. Other characteristics might disadvantage us. And then there is the concept of intersectionality. This refers to multiple characteristics that make it particularly difficult for some voices to be heard.  

You might want to pause the recording here to take a few moments to think about what characteristics you think might affect a person's power or privilege. If you're interested in exploring this further, you might find Sylvia Duckworth's Wheel of Power useful. It is a visual exploration of how different characteristics might interplay to empower or disenfranchise. You will find a link to it at the end of the session.  

Fiona: Peer review involves an article being submitted to scrutiny by other academics, their peers, to determine its quality and accuracy before it can be published. Academic books go through a similar process. So if peer review results in gold standard information, why might there be problems with the process for underrepresented voices? You might want to pause the recording for a moment to think about what the problems with the peer review process might be in relation to people from the Global South.  

The peer reviewers are generally successful academics, mostly based in the Global North. Articles must be written in a certain format when they are submitted to a publisher. This can be hard for researchers whose first language is not English and who may not have access to the expensive prestige journals in the first place. And then having overcome the hurdle of having an article or book accepted, the next hurdle is to be published by a well known publisher with good indexing and marketing.  

Academic publishers are mainly based in the Global North and have tended to focus on authors from that region. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the Global North as the countries of the world which are characterised by a high level of economic and industrial development, as opposed to the Global South, which broadly refers to the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific.  

To be indexed in one of the main academic databases, a journal must meet strict selection criteria, which presents a challenge for some journals. Newer e-journals, for example, are often not covered by the big databases. Scopus, Web of Science, and JSTOR all require evidence of publication history and volume. Underrepresented voices are read less and therefore cited less. Generally publications that don't follow the traditional article format often don't get included in the main academic databases. And English is currently the dominant language of academia. Publications in other languages are less often included in the main academic databases.  

This map was produced by two academics using data about publications by geographical location from the citation database Scopus. The countries are resized according to the number of articles they publish. Researchers in the US published more articles than the whole of Africa and South America combined. Apart from Australia and New Zealand, there are relatively few academic research articles published in peer reviewed journals from the Southern hemisphere.  

There are various reasons for this. For example, many researchers are supported by universities and institutions in wealthier countries in Europe and the United States and increasingly China. The major academic publishers are all based in the Global North and have longstanding historical ties with the researchers of the Global North where the systems of peer review and citation counting have been developed.  

These publishers also produce databases like Scopus or Web of Science to index journal articles, and smaller journals from the Global South usually do not appear in these. The main language used in academic publishing is English, and this gives an advantage to countries where English is the main language, including South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  

Ute: If you are going to make a conscious effort to include more diverse sources within your research, you will need to uncover information about the authors. This slide covers some of the ways you might approach this. You can run a search on the internet on the authors' names and affiliations.  

You can look at their profiles on the institutions' websites and on social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter. It's also useful to look out for self identifications, for example, the use of gender pronouns and country of residence, which is often easier to find than others. But be aware that it's not always possible to identify the categories authors would come under. In that case, don't make assumptions.  

On this slide, you see a reference to a publication by the author Meg-John Barker. If you want to do this activity, please pause the recording and spend three minutes researching the author Meg-John Barker. You may want to do the activity later though.  

When we researched the author, we've noticed that Meg-John Barker uses the pronouns they and them on Twitter to clarify their gender identity. The purpose of this exercise is to explore the process of looking for information about the diversity of an author. Our example, Meg-John Barker, is a well established author based in the UK who writes on creativity, gender, and sexuality. Their work is available in traditional academic databases and retrievable through our library search engine Library Search.  

As we saw earlier when we discussed power and privilege, some authors have characteristics which are both underrepresented, for example, gender identity, and privileged, for example, white academic from the Global North. So you can see that Meg-John Barker is an example of this. Other characteristics are more challenging to discover. Disability and sexuality, for example, are often not that easy to determine. Ethnicity is also not always straightforward to determine from a photo and a name.  

Here are some suggestions of what you can do if you want to include more alternative voices and diverse sources in your reading and research. The library has a collection that shows resources that represent a range of voices. Follow the link on the slide to find out more. You often find some examples of diverse voices and sources in your module material. It's also a good idea to follow diverse academics in your subject area. We've provided a link with suggestions on this slide.  

Unless your assignment tells you otherwise, you might want to spend more time looking at grey literature. So a loose definition of grey literature is that it's literature not published for a commercial purpose. Grey literature needs to be evaluated carefully due to the lack of peer review when it is published. You can see examples of grey literature are, for example, research papers or government departmental reports, white papers, blogs, or market surveys.  

Jo: We now want to look at how to evaluate the quality of the resources we find, especially as many of them might not be peer reviewed. We'll have to make sure that they are reliable sources.  

When considering the diversity of your reading, it might be helpful to ask the following questions. Are the sources by diverse authors? Are the sources published in different countries, including those in the Global South? Are diverse perspectives included in your reading? Do any of your sources reinforce stereotypes?  

We use these and other prompting questions when we write library materials such as our library tutorials. As we've seen earlier, these questions are not always easy to answer, but we can try at least to find some information about the authors by searching for it and by also checking how they self identify.  

In addition, here are some general evaluation criteria which can help us to check the quality of the information that we use. A useful way to assess the credibility and potential value of a resource is to apply the PROMPT criteria. PROMPT is a mnemonic which stands for provenance, relevance, objectivity, method, presentation, and timeliness. It's worth considering each of the PROMPT criteria when assessing information that you might use in your research.  

The criteria can also help us in considering diversity. In terms of diverse perspectives, provenance is very important. We've already discussed the importance of finding out about the authors of any sources you use. It's really important to consider all of your reading. Does your research include a range of different perspectives? Are there any points of view that you have not considered? Do the authors state clearly the viewpoint they are taking and their positionality?  

The O in PROMPT refers to Objectivity. To consider the objectivity of your reading, you need to recognise the positions represented in what you read. Information is presented from a position of interest, whether this is intentional or not. And it's the same for you as the reader. You will hold your own belief system, which will influence your ability to objectively appraise information.  

It's impossible for an individual to let go of these beliefs, but acknowledging them during the research and critical reading process will support a more objective reading. The key point here is that when conducting research, you need to be alert to any omissions or biases you encounter in the research of others. We'll now show you how to find alternative sources on a topic.  

Wendy: We will look at how we might use a library to search for sources that include diverse voices. In this case, voices from the Global South or underdeveloped countries. We will use a topic how cash crops, for example coffee, provides food security in Ethiopia. We'll then ask you to search for some alternative sources and select sources using our pointers and PROMPT framework.  

I'm now sharing my screen. And you should now be able to see the library homepage. So we'll start with library search, which searches across many of the library's collections. I'll enter the search terms cash crops and coffee and Ethiopia and food security. I'll then select the Search button.  

We have a few results that look relevant to our topic. Let's have a look at the first article in our results, "Cash Crops and Food Security, Evidence From Ethiopian Smallholder Coffee Producers," which certainly looks relevant. To access the article, I'm selecting the title link. And then the link to the publisher, in this case Taylor and Francis, which will give access to the full text of the article.  

By hovering over the authors' names, I can find some information about the authors that show at least two are based in Ethiopia. The first author, Tadesse Akuma based in Addis Ababa, as well as a third author listed, Kalle Hivornen. The other two are based in Europe.  

The abstract or summary of the article outlines how the authors collected data from 1,600 coffee farmers in the country. So we found an article which gathers evidence from Ethiopian farmers and is written by authors who are based in Ethiopia or the Global South. We've previously mentioned that peer reviewed articles in library databases heavily represent voices from the Global North. However, it is possible to find articles written by authors from the Global South, although this may vary depending on the topic.  

Information about the authors and the abstract or summary of the article can help to identify which of our search results include diverse voices. And you can often find more information in an article, such as the research methodology or details about research funding, that might help you make a judgement.  

So we mentioned earlier that Grey literature, which hasn't gone through a formal publication process, can be a source of diverse voices. There are different ways to find Grey literature. For instance, use a search engine such as Google or search on the website of a relevant organisation. We can also follow up references to Grey literature in a useful academic article. So let's have a look at the references in our article. We can scroll to the end of the article to find the references or I can click on this handy link at the top.  

So our article references include journal articles, books, and Grey literature. We can identify journal articles and books from the references. For instance, reference five includes the journal name, volume number, and the issue number. While reference seven, which is a reference to a book, includes the book title, the place of publication, and the name of the publisher, Cambridge University Press.  

A reference to Grey literature, often a report or working paper, will includes the name of an organisation. For example, in reference 11, the World Bank is the organisation. Many of the authors listed in the references are linked to organisations from the Global North, and much of the Grey literature, for example reports from organisations such as the World Bank in reference 11 and 12, or the Centre for Study of African Economies in reference 15, are from organisations based in America or Europe. So while Grey literature can provide access to diverse voices, Grey literature, like peer reviewed journals, may often provide the perspective of the Global North. So you may need to select your Grey literature carefully.  

Looking through our references and moving down the list now, it may be worth following up reference 30, "Household Perception and Demand for Better Protection Rights of Land Rights in Ethiopia," as the organisation appears to be based in Ethiopia. So we can use a search engine to find the organisation.  

So I'll open another tab and search for the name of the organisation. Addis Ababa International Food Policy Research Institute. And I can select the first link to access the website. So from the organisation's website, we can search for the paper mentioned in the journal article reference. And it was "Household Perception and Demand for Better Protection of Land Rights in Ethiopia." And we can find the full text of the working paper on this website.  

So you may also find other relevant papers on this website. So while the International Food Policy Research Institute is based in Washington, browsing the content of the Addis Ababa branch shows that much of the research is carried out by local researchers.  

So we'll now look at searching within the library's diverse voices collection, a collection of resources that represent a range of voices. Please remember this is only a selection of available diverse sources. So to access the diverse voices collection, I'm returning to the library website. Returning to the library homepage. And from there, I will select Library Reources link. And then on the right there's a link to Explore Library resources. And then a link to Diverse Voices.  

So this page includes different types of resources, which we have grouped into databases where you can search a topic across multiple sources, collections where a selection of articles have been collated on a specific topic, and websites which are directories of writers and academics with a particular characteristic. For the purpose of this activity, we will look at the databases. So selecting the Database link. I can see a list of these databases.  

So I select African Journals Online database, as it looks the most relevant. And we can see in the introduction that African Journals Online is a nonprofit organisation that works to increase access and use of African published peer reviewed research. On the right of this page, you have the option to select titles by country. So in this case, I'm selecting Ethiopia. And we can see a list of relevant journals.  

So you could access one of these journals and browse or search within the journal. But in this case, we'll search across the journals. So I'll enter the same search terms I used previously. It's cash crops and coffee in Ethiopia and food security. There are a few articles in the results that look relevant.  

So let's have a look at one of them. The fourth one in the list, "Agricultural Commercialization in Coffee Growing Areas of Ethiopia." I'm just going to click on the link and to access. And it has downloaded it, so I'm just going to open the PDF. If I zoom in, just zoom in slightly, we can see information on the authors, again. And one is based in the UK, Overseas Development Institute, while another is based in Ethiopia, in the Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute. So again, includes an author from the Global South.  

So this brief demonstration has introduced you to ways of finding diverse sources in the Open University library while at the same time highlighting some of the challenges. So now I'm going to stop sharing my screen and return to the slides.  

So now it's your turn. Spend around 10 minutes or more to see what information you can find on one of the topics on the slide. You might want to start by using library search. Then explore the resources and the diverse voices collection to see if they offer different perspectives. You'll find links on the slides. You can also search on Google for Grey literature on the topic, and you can look at organisation websites if you want to find relevant reports. If you'd like more information and guidance on the topic, you can follow the links on this slide.  

You're now able to understand what we mean by diverse sources and perspectives, understand why diverse sources are important, recognise the challenge of identifying diverse content, and use search and evaluation skills to find some reliable diverse content.  

The library helpdesk is there to help you whenever you need us, and our contact details are available on every page of the library website. The phones are staffed 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday, or you can send us an email. We also have a webchat service, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

And finally, these slides are available to download along with a handout which summarises everything that we've talked about in today's session. You can download these from the page where you accessed this recording Thank you.  

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