OU faculty panel discussion: Open forum for climate justice

On Oct. 26, Oakland University Libraries hosted a faculty open panel regarding the topic of climate justice as part of OU’s planned events for Sustainability Month. Faculty members Dr. Thomas R. Raffel, Thomas Bianchette and Mozhgon Rajaee spoke to attendees about open-access publishing and open data. 

Climate change is a social issue threatening adverse effects on society as a whole, while disproportionately affecting underprivileged populations. The concept of climate justice addresses these inequalities through mitigation and adaptation strategies. 

Open access publishing of research plays a large role in reaching climate justice goals. Essentially, open access publishing refers to the sharing of research and data results with the public in a free, accessible manner.

At the open panel, the three faculty members summarized their research for attendees, explaining that open access publishing is essential for the integrity of the scientific community.

Rajee, an associate professor of public and environmental wellness, spoke about her research on chemical exposure disparities. She explained that environmental health disparities are adjacent to climate justice.

While in college, Rajee completed public health research in Ghana. This experience made her realize the importance of publishing research open access, so the people who are actually affected by the issues can be knowledgeable about the information collected.

“The whole goal is to make people healthier,” Rajee said. “The biggest thing is giving them the information and tools they need in order to do so.”

Bianchette, an assistant professor of chemistry, described his research on hurricanes. Bianchette pointed out that the world’s data on hurricanes is extremely limited, with the earliest records going back to 1851.

“Open access hurricane data is important because it will allow us to keep more people safe,” Bianchette said. “The more data we have, the better model we are able to create.”

Raffel, an associate professor of biological sciences, detailed his research on the effects of temperature on infectious diseases. Raffel acknowledged that his research requires a breadth of data, so he heavily relies on open access data for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“Open data is extremely important and revolutionary, making it more common that we deposit our data in an accessible place,” Raffel said. “This makes it easier to compile actual raw data to supplement other work.”

Despite the advantages open access data provides to researchers and the public, it is not without its drawbacks. Raffel recognizes that many researchers struggle to publish their findings open access due to high entry costs.

“There are high costs to authors of open access, which results in the voices of people who have money and resources being amplified, leaving people who do not have financial resources at a disadvantage,” Raffel said. “Additionally, there is an influx of new journals being published for open access works, which may mean that their review processes aren’t as thorough.”

The array of challenges associated with open access publishing reminds researchers that an integral part of the process is keeping scientific integrity upheld. Researchers at OU strive to further the goals of climate justice while continuing to open access publish their work.