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Paving the Path: Considerations for Transformative Agreements

Strengthening the scholarly communications system

Author’s Note: At the 2021 Charleston Conference, I was invited to speak as part of the panel: “Progress Through Partnership: The Dolly Parton Rule for Transformative Agreements.” The conversation took as its starting place the quip, “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one!” My role was to provide framing remarks in advance of the presentations by other speakers — Mathew Willmont, California Digital Library; Sybille Geisenheyner, American Chemical Society; and Sara Rouhi, PLOS — who detailed the specifics of models they are working on. This is an edited version of my remarks.

Reflecting on the theme of “Paving a New Path,” I found myself deep into the literature on road pavements. It’s actually quite fascinating and “paving a path” turns out to be a very apt metaphor. We hardly think about the roads we drive on and yet they require intense planning and attention to detail. They are incredibly complex in their design and construction, which must take into account a wide range of conditions and context – geology, climate, weather and planned usage, which itself includes predicting changing human behaviors and preferences, diversions, community planning, etc. The road built for Siberia is not the one built for the Galapagos, which is not the road built for South Carolina, at least not if you want the road to be functional, safe and reliable for the future. We take roads – pavements – for granted. Well, except when they fail.

Road pavements are designed in layers. You may have observed this when encountering road construction. These layers serve the following objectives, at least according to the 598-page manual on “Geotechnical Aspects of Pavements”  from the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) I found myself reading.

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