From Data Justice to Climate Justice: Modeling an Open Collaborative Review Process

31 Jul 2023 (modified: 01 Aug 2023)InvestinOpen 2023 OI Fund SubmissionEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Funding Area: Community governance / Gobernanza comunitaria
Problem Statement: This project proposes the creation of an open collaborative review process for a co-authored book tentatively titled ‘From Data Justice to Climate Justice’ (forthcoming from Sage Publications in summer 2025). The review process piloted/modeled for this project will be designed so it can be used, remixed, or ported into other initiatives involving a global interdisciplinary mix of practitioners, scholars, and activists through open documentation. Academic peer review in the social sciences and humanities have been slow to adopt open review processes. This co-authored volume, although intended as a primer for interdisciplinary readership, will nevertheless undergo a traditional double blind peer review process before publication. Given the subject matter of the volume - collaborations between digital rights, environmental justice, and climate justice spaces - the proposed open collaborative review process will foster exchange and accountability of ideas, experiences, and tactics between fields that have only recently begun to engage critically with one another. Further, the project will be an important experiment in balancing traditional peer review alongside expectations of practitioners and earth defenders whose work informs the book’s subject matter deeply. This audience focus makes the proposed ‘open collaborative review’ process so important because historically, traditional peer reviews have been extractive, complicated, and sometimes even harmful to these groups.
Proposed Activities: The proposed work is built on the premise that a collaborative open review process using open infrastructure advances shared research agendas addressing complex problems. To that end, activities will include: I. December 2023: Writing content that introduces the book, its rationale, and the review process II. January 2024: Designing the governance mechanisms that will anchor the open collaborative review. This will require hosting a couple of small working sessions with early reviewers who’ve confirmed their participation. Based on their feedback regarding the written materials, preferred engagement cadence, and online reviewing experience, we can revise the final version. The open collaborative review will go live on the platform by the end of the month. III. February 2024: Outlining a community engagement plan with concrete outreach activities earmarked for each audience segment. This will include formulating a few post-participation touch points for reviewers to stay involved in the process even when they’re not directly commenting or reading a particular chapter. IV. (A) March 2024 - December 2024: Populating the page with all materials (chapter drafts, secondary sources, and annotated bibliographies) organized under a searchable index. The site will be updated with newer chapters in 2-3 month increments as the co-authors complete chapters and solicit a fresh round of feedback. IV. (B) March 2024 - December 2024: This phase will continue through 2024 as each chapter draft upload is preceded by a round of outreach inviting potential reviewers, a period of reviewing and commentary, and finally, staying connected with the nascent community generated by the review process.
Openness: The proposed open collaborative review will make all chapter drafts, secondary sources, and annotated bibliographies associated with the book, ‘From Data Justice to Climate Justice’ available on This material will be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. The commentary and feedback received on chapter drafts will also be open, but contributors and users will have the choice of staying anonymous if they wish to. The repository created through this process will be valuable for any practitioner, scholar, policymaker or activist seeking to make connections between their work in environmental and climate justice (EJ/CJ) with digital and data rights (DR) and vice versa. The repository will come with a searchable index for easy findability. Ultimately, the model can be reused or repurposed for other open review projects to different degrees. Depending on their discipline, some may use the modeled repository as a ‘plug and play’ template; others might need to integrate the nuances of their project first. Many anticipated users will be in an open infrastructure setting for the first time. The proposed review process will simultaneously serve as an introduction to, and proof of concept for, openness in engaged social scientific scholarship.
Challenges: The main challenge we foresee in this review process would be to secure participation from individuals who are, more often than not, strapped for time. Their energies are spread thin, and uncompensated work for a “worthy” cause is the norm. In order to not repeat these patterns, we will find creative ways of compensating contributors for their time. For example, we might offer free e-copies, or a discounted price for hard copies, upon publication. The second challenge involves making a case for open collaboration as an inherent collective good that leads to better scholarship. Not all contributors coming into this collaborative review will have prior knowledge of open processes. The applicant will prepare a README explaining why this process is useful for practitioners and scholars alike, what they can expect going forward, and how they can use the final book as well as the materials generated by the review process in their current work. Bringing practitioners and others into a collaborative peer review process for the first time can be a complicated process. The README (or elsewhere) will also be accompanied by an editorial handbook to demystify the process. This resource will be easily portable into similar processes and will be published as licensed CC-BY 4.0 content on the review platform.
Neglectedness: The book project was contracted by Sage in July 2023. This is the first grant one co-author is applying to for piloting an open collaborative review process that will run concurrently to the writing timeline. While there are funding sources available for open infrastructures in STEM fields, open principles are yet to gain similar traction in the social sciences and humanities. Furthermore, funding is concentrated in open access/publication, but limited attention is paid to resolving the governance issues that emerge from running open review processes in mixed scholar-practitioner settings. The proposed pilot will: i) create a field ready process for similar projects involving similar collaborations between mixed groups; ii) align social scientific scholarly practice with the expectations of frontline earth defenders, policymakers, and practitioners by making the iterative, shared aspect of knowledge production explicit; and iii) acknowledge contributors across the writing and reviewing spectrum in contrast to the implicit hierarchy between authors and their sources in traditional publishing. The final text of the book - in hard and soft copy versions - will include all annotations, edits, suggestions, and commentary from users and contributors via the open collaborative review process. The choice to remain anonymous will also be offered as an alternative for those who’re sharing their expertise on sensitive topics.
Success: The key insights following the conclusion of the proposed project will come from a survey that seeks to understand how people experienced the process viz. ease of use, their past experience in similarly structured processes compared to this one (if applicable), and willingness to participate in open collaborative reviews again. Another performance indicator would be the number of people who engage with the open collaborative review process from each sector - digital rights and environmental/climate justice. These inputs and engagements can take the form of requests for additional explanation, historical context, or conceptual clarity. Given the inter-disciplinary breadth being attempted in this text, the opportunity to involve community expertise will be especially valuable. Another indicator of success would be continued future collaboration between those who meet one another through the review process, thus proving that open infrastructures of knowledge co-creation can be generative well beyond their original intent.
Total Budget: 20462.60
Budget File: pdf
Affiliations: No
LMIE Carveout: Karak (applicant) is an Indian citizen who divides her time between India and Turkey. The project’s community is global but disaggregating between “user”, “contributor”, and “maintainer” categories will show a greater proportion of users and contributors from LMIEs because that’s where the majority of struggles over resources (land, rare minerals, rainforest) are located. Our interlocutors - grassroots groups, coalitions, loose networks, nonprofit organizations, and intergovernmental initiatives - working on digital rights, technology, environmental and climate issues have local, regional, and international focus.
Team Skills: Madhuri Karak (applicant and co-author) and Becky Kazansky (co-author) are researchers and advocates who’ve been working at the intersections of environmental social movements, climate activism, data justice, and critical risk studies for 12+ years. Karak’s Ph.D. is in Cultural Anthropology from The Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she explored Indigenous struggles over sovereignty in the bauxite-rich mountains of southern Odisha, India. Kazansky has a Ph.D. in Media Studies and Political Science from the University of Amsterdam, where she was part of the DATACTIVE research group, which investigated the politics of data according to civil society. The authors met over a research project exploring the intersections of digital rights and climate justice in 2021-22 for The Engine Room, an international nonprofit focused on supporting social justice through the responsible use of technology and data. Both have extensive relationships with earth defender groups, environmental policymakers, digital rights organizations, strategic litigators, sustainability practitioners, data and disinformation campaigners, to mention only a few. They will draw on this cross-section for the open collaborative review process with the aim of writing and researching in community with the people whose work we draw on and want to remain accountable to.
Submission Number: 175