How open access can support Humanities book authors: Interview with Drue Barrett

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Thu May 27 2021

Author: Guest contributor

Dr Drue Barrett is the Lead of the Public Health Ethics and Strategy Unit in the Office of Scientific Integrity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She is co-editor of open access book Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe (Springer, 2016). In this interview, she talks about the importance of open access for the public health community and for resource-poor countries.

Why did you choose to make your book available on an open access basis?

We published Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe as an open access (OA) book to ensure it would be accessible to the widest possible audience. Going the OA route allows the public health community to freely access the book over the internet rather than having to purchase it. The reader can download the entire book or just the specific sections that are of most interest. 

Public Health Ethics

How was the open access fee (book processing charge) funded?

The OA fee was paid for by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Tell us about the relationship with your funder(s) – do they have a strong open access policy? How did you start working with them?

CDC is the employer of three of the book editors (Drue Barrett, Leonard Ortmann, and Gail Bowen). CDC supports OA and has several journals and products that are published in an OA format (e.g., Emerging Infectious Diseases, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report).

Why did you choose to publish this book with Springer?

We explored several OA publishing options and concluded that Springer was the superior choice for ensuring the widest readership. Springer is a well-established publisher and a respected name in scientific publishing. Springer would actively promote the book on social media and at conferences, thus ensuring it would have high visibility and reach a wide audience. 

Having the book go through the Springer peer review process would also add scientific credibility.

Publishing the book as a regular printed book that would have to be purchased would significantly decrease the number of people who would be able to access the book, especially in resource-poor countries, thus significantly limiting its impact. In addition, Springer was developing a series of books on public health ethics and the casebook was an important part of this series. 

It was also important to us that the book would be accessible to libraries that subscribe to Springer; students with access to these libraries would have the option to purchase a soft bound copy of the book at a minimal fee. We also appreciated that the casebook would have its own page on the Springer website and that the book will be clearly labeled as OA and would always remain as OA.  Finally, we appreciated that Springer would allow translation of the book into other languages. One of the editors was able to translate the book into Spanish.

What were you hoping to achieve with your book?

As described in the preface of our book, when we published the casebook back in 2016, there were few practical training resources for public health practitioners that considered ethical issues and dilemmas likely to arise in the practice of public health. In our training experiences, we found it useful to illustrate public health ethics issues through cases. This allowed us to better demonstrate how ethical principles could be applied in practical ways to public health decision-making. Our goal for the book was to increase awareness of public health ethics and the value of ethical analysis in public health practice, and to provide a practical tool for the development of skills in this area.

How were you hoping that open access would help with achieving your goals?

OA publishing would provide easy, free access to the book. The number of downloads of the book (currently at 895,000) illustrates the that this goal has been achieved.

What benefits or impact have you seen from publishing this book open access? Do you think publishing OA helped?

Yes, again, I think the number of downloads of the book demonstrates the usefulness of publishing as an OA book.

How did you and your co-editors promote the book?

We distributed notice about the book through various public health organizations and listservs. We have also done presentations about the book or at least mentioned the book as a resource when we present at scientific conferences. In addition, we provide information about the book when members of the public contact CDC to request public health ethics training resources.

Do you have any advice to others considering publishing their next book or chapter open access? 

We have found OA publishing to be an important mechanism for reaching a wide audience and increasing impact.

Would you publish open access again?

Definitely, yes. In fact, we currently have a second book manuscript under review by Springer and we plan to publish it as an OA book. This second book will expand upon the casebook by exploring how narrative can be helpful in illustrating public health ethics issues. We are hoping this book (The Value of Stories: Narrative Ethics in Public Health) will be published by the end of 2021.

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This interview was published as part of the Open Access Books in the Humanities campaign

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About the author

Drue Barrett
Dr Drue Barrett is the Lead of the Public Health Ethics and Strategy Unit in the Office of Scientific Integrity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this position she provides leadership, tools, technical assistance, and training on ethical and regulatory obligations to CDC staff. She is the Chair of the CDC Public Health Ethics Committee and the lead of the Ethics Desk in the CDC Emergency Operations Center. Her work has included the development of a training manual on public health ethics for local health officials and a public health ethics casebook (Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe, open access). She is currently working on developing a book that uses narrative ethics approaches for exploring ethical issues in public health. Dr Barrett served for many years on CDC’s Institutional Review Boards (IRB), and chaired one of the IRBs. Other positions she has held at CDC include Acting Associate Director for Science in the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Director of the Veterans Health Activity in the National Center for Environmental Health.


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