To succeed as a young academic in today’s tight labor market, Meredith Niles sought ways to leverage openness to advance her career.
Niles has been involved in advocating for open access since she was a graduate student. She was a leading voice promoting “open” while in graduate school, helping to organize other students to lobby for open access policies at the state and national levels. As the Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, Niles referenced her experience there to create an impressive resume, landing a faculty position at the University of Vermont this Fall. Niles, 32, is now an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and associated with the Food Systems Program at the University of Vermont.
When Niles was conducting research on sustainable agriculture and climate change in California as a graduate student, she made her research openly accessible. This gave access to those who would not have been able to read her work otherwise. Because her work was easily accessible, Niles was contacted by another graduate student interested in her work whom she collaborated with, and she has also been interviewed by a number of media outlets interested in her research.
“Making sure people were able to read and access my work has resulted in greater attention to the work—from students, practitioners, policymakers, farmers, and others,” said Niles.
Niles has been actively involved with the Right to Research Coalition, SPARC’s student program, for several years, and participated in international gatherings focused on Open Access. Through her Open Access work, Niles also developed skills as a public speaker and collaborator.
Her advocacy work in Washington, D.C and California led to new connections and opportunities. In 2014, Niles was asked to serve on the board of directors for the Public Library of Science (PLOS). “It’s been great to better understand the organization and play a role in the future of Open Access publishing,” she said. “It’s been a really impactful experience for me personally and professionally.”
Now a professor at a land-grant institution, Niles said she sees her role in promoting Open Access evolving as she teaches, works with students, and participates in university outreach. When other young researchers ask Niles if they should mention promoting open access in their job searches, Niles says: “Absolutely. Principles of open embody what it means to be a collaborative, 21st century researcher.”