KU Libraries announce 2023 Shulenburger Award for Innovation & Advocacy in Scholarly Communication

During International Open Access Week, October 23-29, KU Libraries granted the 2023 David Shulenburger Award for Innovation & Advocacy in Scholarly Communication to two recipients: Bruce Lieberman, professor in KU’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and senior curator at the Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum; and Cameron W. Piercy, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Founding Director of the Human-Machine Communication Lab

The Shulenburger Award recognizes KU faculty, staff, students and academic departments who champion open access and innovation in scholarly communication. The award was established in 2014 through a gift by former KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger to encourage open sharing of the results of research and promote greater equity in access to scholarly endeavors. 

Lieberman was chosen as a recipient for his efforts to convert a prestigious and extensive subscription-based journal into a broadly accessible open access resource. Piercy was honored for his commitment to the advancement of open access, and for mentoring students in the creation and use of openly available materials. 

In the Spring of 2023, Lieberman worked with KU Libraries to transform the “Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology,” a renowned encyclopedia-like resource of current and historical paleontology with more than 50 volumes dating back to 1953, into a freely available online resource for researchers, students, and lay scientists around the world.  

“Dr. Lieberman’s work is significant not just for the future but also in removing barriers for past accumulations of knowledge,” said Melinda Lewis, School of Social Welfare, and member of the Shulenburger Award Committee. “Working with the libraries, he helped open an entire repository of material to facilitate inquiry by scholars and curious laypeople.”


Lieberman has worked extensively on making information about the fossil record accessible to the scientific community and to non-academic users alike. He collaborated with colleagues from the Paleontological Research Institutionin Ithaca, N.Y., to develop a freely available field guide to fossil invertebrates known as the “Digital Atlas of Ancient Life” and the associated Digital Atlas of Ancient Life App, which brings information and images to handheld devices, making it easier for casual or aspiring naturalists to identify fossils they might encounter. He is the co-author of the open educational resource, “Digital Encyclopedia of Ancient Life,” aimed at high school and undergraduate students, and has made several of his articles openly and freely available through digital repositories. 

“Dr. Lieberman has shown innovative and insightful commitment to open access and passion for increasing the discovery of critical works relied on by interdisciplinary scholars of all ages and types,” said Sarah Goodwin Thiel, Head of KU Libraries’ Center for Community/Affiliate Initiatives and Engagement and chair of the Shulenburger Award Committee. 

Piercy was honored for his commitment to the advancement of open access, including open educational resources, and for his work with students in the creation and use of openly available materials. The selection committee noted Piercy’s work encouraging open access principles in the lab and with colleagues, creating a positive impact on the KU Open Access community.  

“Dr. Piercy is at the forefront of an ever-increasing number of scholars whose efforts are advancing innovations in open sharing,” Goodwin Thiel said. 

Piercy’s open access textbook, “Problem Solving in Teams and Groups,” has reached thousands of students and has been adopted at approximately a dozen universities, including the creation of an associated text resource by a colleague.  

“He remains committed to the creation of open education resources and his research continues to focus on the open access experience for users—the students and educators whose work is facilitated and enhanced by the availability of high-quality open access materials and instructional tools,” Lewis said. 

Added Dean of KU Libraries Carol Smith: “We’re proud to continue this tradition of honoring top contributors to open scholarly communication at KU. Librarians and scholars are continuously working together within their communities to close gaps in terms of time, accessibility, and affordability of materials in the digital era. The promise of open access is incredibly aspirational in terms of where human knowledge can go.” 

In addition to naming Shulenburger Award winners, KU Libraries is marking Open Access week by celebrating the release of "Scholarly Communication Librarianship and Open Knowledge," co-edited by Josh Bolick, head of the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright in KU Libraries, and with a special “Open Access” edition of "Fridays on Fourth," a weekly, collaborative graduate student engagement initiative in Watson Library on Oct. 27. During the session, Open Education Librarian Heather Mac Bean will highlight best practices and common mistakes as researchers prepare to share scholarly communications with a broad audience. Free pizza will be provided for in-person attendees in Watson Library’s 455 Conference Room.