Impact of Open Scholarship on public audiences

A chapter of Women, AIDS and Activism is available to the public in Academic Works.

Scholarship for the public good.

Have you ever wondered after making one of your works publicly accessible in CUNY Academic Works (or while considering doing so), “who is this new audience I am reaching?” In a post earlier this year CUNY’s Scholarly Communications Librarian, Megan Wacha, framed this question in terms of our institution’s mission of public service (paraphrased here): when we talk about OA as a tool for helping our scholarship serve the public good, who exactly is that public? How does access to our work impact them?

Meet your public

Thanks to a new feature on the cover page of your Academic Works submission, readers can provide feedback about how your scholarly contribution has impacted their work, studies, and life.1 In the case of “Prostitution and HIV Infection: Women, AIDS, & Activism2”, authored by Zoe Leonard and the Graduate Center’s own Polly Thistlethwaite, a reader had this to say:

I am a dramaturg on a community based devised theatre project concerning women living with HIV in politically conservative spaces. There is little in the mainstream AIDS discourse, if one could claim such a thing, on women and issues/experiences specific to them. This article will benefit my packet, approach to the work, and overall creation of the project in critical ways.

— Reader

Thistlethwaite’s response to feedback on her OA work:

This is thrilling. Since I posted my two chapters from the Women, AIDS & Activism book, I’ve been amazed at how much traffic they get. This comment offers insight about why that is. The book was published by South End Press in English in 1990, and later in Spanish. At the time of publication, the authors (the ACT UP / New York Women and AIDS Book Group) distributed it as widely as possible for free or at low-cost to reach as many readers as we could. Print copies are still available from online second-hand book retailers, now for pennies. But posting the work in CUNY Academic Works, along with good metadata to draw in web searchers, really boosts its discoverability. This archival work is still finding new readers because we’ve put it online where new readers are looking for it.

— Author, Polly Thistlethwaite


This window into how Thistlethwaite’s work is being used in the public sphere was made possible because she submitted it to Academic Works. We hope to see more stories like this one; we also encourage you to share your own Academic Works experiences, as authors and readers, with your library!


1 Contact for more information about this feedback feature.
2  Originally published as “Prostitution and HIV Infection” in Cynthia Chris, Monica Pearl, and The Act Up/NY Women & AIDS Book Group, eds. Women, AIDS, and Activism. Boston: South End Press, 1990. pp. 177-185.


About the Author

Adriana Palmer works in the Collections Department at the GC Library.