On May 19, three members of the scholarly community participated in a webinar sponsored by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, “an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. … SPARC’s strategy focuses on reducing barriers to the access, sharing, and use of scholarship.” As its website states: “Our highest priority is advancing the understanding and implementation of policies and practices that ensure Open Access to scholarly research outputs. SPARC’s primary focus is on journal literature, but our evolving strategy reflects an increasing focus on Open Access to research outputs of all kinds—including digital data and open educational resources (OER).”
Open Access (OA) Week 2014 (October 20–26) is months away yet but successful events require planning. This webinar is the first in a series of efforts planned by SPARC to assure ever-expanding participation in OA Week 2014.
OA Week began as a single day in 2007, the National Day of Action for Open Access, conceived as “a partnership between SPARC and students who organized local events on a handful of campuses across the United States. Since then, both student involvement in Open Access and Open Access Week itself have grown exponentially. SPARC’s student program, The Right to Research Coalition, has grown to more than 75 member student organizations, which collectively represent nearly seven million students in more than 100 countries around the world.”
The theme for this year’s OA Week is Generation Open, intended to highlight “the importance of students and early career researchers as advocates for change in the short-term, through institutional and governmental policy, and as the future of the Academy upon whom the ultimate success of the Open Access movement depends. The theme will also explore how changes in scholarly publishing affect scholars and researchers at different stages of their careers.”
International OA Week is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of OA, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make OA a new norm in scholarship and research. As Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, notes, “This year’s theme reflects the importance of putting our future scholars and researchers at the core of the shift to an open system of scholarly communication.” The theme Generation Open will return OA Week to its foundation of partnership.
Planning a Successful OA Week
The experts participating in the May 19 webinar described how their organizations/institutions have planned OA Week events in the past, providing useful tips to ensure a smooth planning process and successful events. All view OA Week as a way to emphasize and highlight the work of students and early career researchers, recognizing that OA means different things as researchers transition roles throughout their career.
All of the presenters agree that engaging students and early career researchers in planning any OA event is crucial. SPARC recommends that you:
- Reach out early, inviting students/early career researchers to participate in the planning process.
- Target student organizations and student government.
- Leverage OA week to get students involved in other OA-related work (e.g., pushing for greater OA at your institution).
The first webinar presenter was Anneliese Taylor, assistant director for scholarly communications and collections at UC San Francisco (UCSF), who listed the many ways in which her institution has celebrated OA Week in the past, such as setting up an information table in a highly trafficked area during lunchtime and offering SPARC OA T-shirts and cookies.
SPARC giveaways and food feature prominently in all of the successful celebrations, but it’s all about the events. Some are offered in conjunction with vendors (e.g., Elsevier)—a good opportunity for library staff to learn what’s new. Taylor suggests that institutions take advantage of OA-oriented people in the local area, and other organizations involved in OA. She stresses that the topics should not be policy-focused, realizing that usable, interesting tools appeal more to students and researchers, compelling them to attend. One successful event at UCSF involved Jorge Cham of the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD). She recommends finding the OA “hot topic” on your campus (e.g., data sharing) and organizing events designed to generate dialogue that begins (or continues) the conversation. For example:
- A Dissertation to Book event was organized to help graduate students answer the question, “If I put my dissertation online, will I be able to publish it as a book in the future?”
- Last year, an Open Access Innovators event showcased innovative open source tools (Youreka Science, Journal Lab, and WikiPathways) developed by students, postdocs, and scholars at USCF to improve research and scholarship. There is a recording of the event available on UCSF’s website.