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Open Access Week 2014: Celebrating 'Generation Open'
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Posted On November 4, 2014
On Oct. 20–26, 2014, students, researchers, librarians, publishers, and open access (OA) advocates around the world celebrated Open Access Week. This year’s theme, Generation Open, highlighted the recent surge of enthusiasm for OA from students and early-career researchers and encouraged librarians, publishers, and OA advocates to consider openness through the lens of the newest generation of researchers. The week was formally launched with a live kickoff event sponsored by the World Bank Group and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). Nick Shockey, the director of the Right to Research Coalition (R2RC) and director of programs and engagement at SPARC, started the session by talking about the idea of “Generation Open”:

[We’re here to] celebrate the leading role that students and early career researchers and the next generation is having in opening up scholarly and scientific communications, both in the long run as future faculty members, future administrators, publishers, and policymakers, but also in the short term, as advocates who are actively leading projects that are making an impact in opening up access to science and scholarship.

One of the projects Shockey highlighted was the Open Access Button, a student-developed, browser-based application that was designed to identify articles locked behind paywalls that researchers, students, and other readers wish to access. As part of OA Week, a new version of the app was released. One useful feature of the button’s prototype was that it conducted a real-time search to attempt to locate another copy of an article—one that had been deposited into an open repository. The latest release of the button takes this functionality one important step further. According to the website, “the Button will email the author and look for more information about the paper.” As Shockey noted, the button is now “pushing researchers to deposit [in open repositories].”

OA Week Celebrations From Around the Web

R2RC’s blog includes an excellent post by graduate student Uvania Naidoo, “How Orange Bananas Could Make Your Open Access Week a Success!” The post was targeted at students, but includes several useful tips for librarians, starting with this key point: “Your OA Week does not need to be overly academic and boring. Appealing to students and people who have absolutely no idea what OA is means [that] you need to make OA sexy.”

Librarians continue to play an important role in serving as OA advocates and promoting OA Week. In late September, ACRL published an updated version of its popular Scholarly Communication Toolkit, “a resource for education and advocacy efforts in transforming the scholarly communication landscape.” The toolkit includes a wide range of resources covering hot topics related to OA and the broader scholarly communication ecosystem (e.g., authors’ rights, data management, and digital humanities). According to its website:  

This toolkit provides context and background, along with exemplars of specific tools, so that you can engage faculty and students in conversations on campus or begin taking action in your own library setting. Please download presentation templates, integrate our text into letters to your faculty, print out and distribute flyers … and otherwise treat this information as if it was created for your library alone. In the spirit of open communication, you can also contribute your tools and case studies on your local scholarly communications campaigns thereby providing colleagues with the benefits of your library’s lessons learned.

Contributions From Colleges and Universities

Several college and university libraries in the U.S., Canada, and Australia hosted their own events and produced materials to raise awareness about OA on their campuses. The University of Virginia shared a new video in which members of the community talk about their experiences with making their research openly accessible through the library’s open repository.

One of the most unusual items that emerged from this year’s OA Week was a short film produced by Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) and Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS), starring several members of the Barnard and Columbia communities. The film, Open Access Movement: A Philosophy, a Dance, a Practice, takes the concepts of OA and reuse and applies them to the world of dance. As explained on the film’s YouTube page:

A dance: A ballerina makes her performance accessible to a student outside the formal dance performance space, which traditionally features restrictive financial barriers. The student learns a set of ballet movements, and adapts them to her own contemporary style. She passes them onto her own dance class. One member of the class recognizes an opportunity to transform these movements in a new physical therapy situation.

A practice: Making work openly accessible allows adaptation, transformation, and attribution (orange accessories not required). Whether we're talking about access to traditional scholarly publications or traditional dance forms, making them available to a broader audience enables the transformation and reuse of the original creation.

The University of Toronto (U of T) engaged students through a photo campaign by asking them to use their own words to answer a series of questions such as, “If I lost access to ALL online research today, I would …” Students’ responses are posted to its Facebook page in the Open Access Week 2014 photo gallery. This low-cost advocacy campaign appears to have generated a good deal of buzz among students on campus and was able to effectively raise several issues related to OA. U of T’s student newspaper, The Varsity, published an article about OA and the university’s events. 

The Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University–Indianapolis) also took a fun approach by sponsoring an OA scavenger hunt with 10 challenges.

Universities around the world, including York University in Canada, UTS (University of Technology–Sydney) in Australia, the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Oregon State University, hosted screenings of the new documentary The Internet’s Own Boy, about the life of OA advocate Aaron Swartz.

At Harvard University, Peter Suber, director of its Office for Scholarly Communication, shared an OA success story. A recent article about Ebola, “Genomic Surveillance Elucidates Ebola Virus Origin and Transmission During the 2014 Outbreak,” by almost 60 co-authors, was deposited into the university’s repository and was made OA by the journal Science. Suber explained via a blog post that a reader sent the following note to the Office for Scholarly Communication:

Thank you for allowing open access to this paper. I am a consultant based in South Africa. Some of my clients (South African IT companies) are active in West Africa. One of the risks that my clients must consider is the welfare of their personnel that must on occasion travel to other African countries. Open access to scholarly papers aid in forming a considered opinion on risk to personnel based on information that goes well beyond what is available in the media, and that would not have been considered in cases where access was closed.

Continuing OA Advocacy Efforts

Using a humorous angle, Knowledge Unlatched (KU) sponsored the KU Open Access Week Meme Competition. It featured five photos and asked participants to contribute an OA meme (caption) for one of the photos. First prize was publication of the winning meme on KU’s website and a donation in the winner’s name to Book Aid International.

Even though OA Week is now over, efforts to draw in more students and early-career researchers will continue. In November, R2RC will host OpenCon, “the student and early career researcher conference on Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data.” The next generation of researchers will be instrumental in pushing forward the goals of OA, and it is critically important that we keep engaging with “Generation Open” as we continue to redesign the scholarly communication ecosystem.


Abby Clobridge is the founder of and principal consultant at FireOak Strategies (formerly Clobridge Consulting), a boutique firm specializing in knowledge management, information management, and open knowledge (open access, open data, open education). Abby has worked with a wide range of organizations throughout the world, including various United Nations agencies; private sector companies; colleges and research universities; nonprofit, intergovernmental, and multi-stakeholder organizations; and the news media. She can be found on Twitter (@aclobridge).

Email Abby Clobridge

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