I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Nicolae Irina, CBERN’s E-Librarian and contributor to Globethics.net to get some insight about the Globethics.net library – an expansive, state-of-the-art, and totally free resource on all-things-ethical. As a PhD student in York University’s Philosophy Department, Nicolae’s work is focused on the relation between corporate social responsibility and human rights, the ongoing discussion of the UN Draft Norms and the subsequent debate over the Reports of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Q1: Let’s talk about the organizational profile of the Globethics.net project, in order to give our readers an overview of its scope of activities and objectives.
A1: In a nutshell, Globethics.net is a worldwide ethics research network based in Geneva, which began its mandate in January 2009 as a non-profit foundation under Swiss law. According to the Statutes of the Globethics.net Foundation, its purpose is “to constitute a global network of persons and institutions involved in applied ethics or interested in teaching and promoting the latter … with the aim of a) sharing knowledge through access to global information and documentation on ethics, in particular in developing and transition countries, b) networking to link global and contextual ethical perspectives and to strengthen ethical behaviour in practice, c) research in selected areas of applied ethics with international participation through projects, conferences and publications, d) promoting responsible leadership on the part of decision-makers.” (Art. 2)
From a bird’s eye view, Globethics.net facilitates web-based collaborative research, conferences, online publishing, and the active sharing of information, aimed especially at increasing access to ethics perspectives from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in order to create a global and interactive community of individuals and organizations with an interest in ethics. It is worth noting that the Globethics.net website receives visits from 226 countries and territories, and currently, there are more than 60,000 registered participants. Various electronic workgroups (now 36!) are actively engaging Globethics.net participants in short term or longer term research projects together with other members on a wide range of themes, like the recently launched Business Ethics for SMEs and Certification Workgroup.
Q2: What can you tell us about the infrastructure that guides collaboration with and access to this project’s publications and resources?
A2: In order to make its vast database of knowledge resources widely available, Globethics.net has developed a digital library on ethics, offering complimentary access to well over one million articles, books, and reference materials, organized in 21 collections. The Globethics.net library is a communal repository, pooling open source content (such as the electronic versions of journals from the Global South, documents submitted through the submission process, open access journals, and other ethics related content from open repositories), while also providing its registered users with free access to otherwise licensed material.
Q3: What was the first step in getting this project off the ground, and what kind of preparation went into establishing an efficient organizational structure?
A3: The Global Digital Library on Ethics (GlobeEthicsLib) was the first e-library initiative, but Globethics.net is now building up further libraries on related disciplines. As a first step, a Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (GlobeTheoLib) was inaugurated in 2011. The Globethics.net Libraries are an integral part of an international project and have been created with the assistance of many partners, including CBERN as one of its scientific partners. The Globethics.net e-library collections are classified in several categories: A – Globethics.net Collections; B – Thematic Collections; C – Religious Ethics Collections; D – Institutional Collections; and E – Educational Collections. Here and now, I will touch briefly only on type B and D.
Q4: What is the underlying purpose of this venture? How does Globethics.net connect those people who are involved with business ethics research on an academic, professional, and/or personal level?
A4: The goal of the thematic collections is to create an overview of the major actors, themes and resources in a given ethical issue or field. The documents are selected, gathered, and classified in a proper classification tree. The Climate Ethics Special Collection was the first available thematic collection, while the new online collection of research, documentation, and articles in Health Ethics Special Collection was the latest addition announced last month in the Globethics.net July 2012 Newsletter.
Perhaps of even more significance to CBERN members, the Business Ethics Special Collection was officially launched last year during the 2011 Global Ethics Forum. The classification tree of the Business Ethics thematic collection was developed with the support of an international advisory board including Álvaro Pezoa Bissières (Chile), Carolyn Erdener (Kazakhstan), Gedeon Rossouw (South Africa), Joseph Petrick (United States), Royston Gustavson (Australia), and myself. The organization of the collection was further discussed with experts from various countries and involved disciplinary approaches.
The first version of the classification tree was put together by the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India (a partner of Globethics.net), on the model of the trees formerly developed for the Climate Ethics and the Catholic Ethics collections. The second step was to submit this tree for review to the nine regional coordinators of the Business Ethics Survey (Globethics.net project), as well as to CBERN. Answering the Globethics.net request for advice, several CBERN members generously offered their feedback including Ben Bradshaw, Wesley Cragg, Andrew Crane, Chris MacDonald and Mark Schwartz. CBERN’s feedback was systematized by me and sent back to Globethics.net.
Q5: What is the function of the Globethics.net institutional collections archive? How is information classified therein in order to make navigation of the site convenient and practical?
A5: Both of Globethics.net’s special collections – thematic and institutional – aim to address two needs of the Globethics.net library as a large and heterogeneous database that is ever-growing: (a) to ensure visibility of the content provided by institutional partners, and (b) to help the user navigate more easily and comfortably in the database by highlighting some manually selected content that is made more visible than the rest of the documents in a given institutional database. Thus, the most relevant Business Ethics related content in each institutional collections (e.g., ISBEE, CBERN, Transparency International and EBEN) is classified, when applicable, in the thematic collection.
Q6: What is the current status of your project, and what are some accomplishments that it has achieved since its inception?
A6: The CBERN institutional collection was launched online, on June 29, 2011, on the occasion of the same Global Ethics Forum organized in Geneva. At the date of the launch, this institutional collection consisted of almost 100 documents, as a result of the first tripartite Library Agreements signed by CBERN with several Canadian and international organizations, as well as Globethics.net and its partners. The CBERN collection has gradually evolved and will continue to be enriched further on the basis of new partnerships. Currently, the number of publications in the CBERN collection has more than doubled, as well as the number of organizations with which Library Agreements have been signed, now including Sustainalytics, MiningWatch Canada, Network for Business Sustainability and Maquila Solidarity Network. [Check back for more information on specific content provided by these organizations for the CBERN collection.]