Advocacy is the deliberate process of speaking out on issues of concern in order to influence behaviour and ideas. For librarians, this involves initiating discussions on campus about the existing problems with scholarly communication and demonstrating that Open Access is a viable solution. Librarians are also well placed to offer practical advice about how researchers can make their research output Open Access through an Open Access repository or an Open Access journal.
Libraries are still learning about how best to advocate for Open Access on campus and to date no method has proven the most effective. However, a study conducted for JISC in the UK did find that researchers preferred advocacy efforts that involved face-to-face interactions rather than written material, such as websites and newsletters. Keeping this in mind, libraries may want to consider a multi-pronged strategy, where library staff advocate for Open Access in their regular interactions with faculty. Although face-to-face advocacy is especially effective, libraries can supplement this with other means:
- Posters in the library and around the campus
- Newsletters sent by email to researchers
- Information on the library website
- Information on the institutional repository website
- Postcards announcing special milestones, such as the anniversary of the repository, or the 5000th deposit in the repository and so forth
- Events to celebrate these milestones (some universities have made a small presentation to the researcher who deposited the 1000th, 5000th or 10,000th item in the repository, for example)
In addition, libraries can organise events on campus such as information sessions or full-day symposia. It has been found that for researchers Open Access advocacy is more effective when delivered by peers. Thus, inviting researchers with a knowledge of Open Access to speak at an event is recommended.
Committees are another way of raising awareness of Open Access with researchers. Committees offer a venue in which faculty members and librarians can explore the issues in depth and discuss solutions. Some institutions may want to strike a special committee on ‘scholarly communication’. Alternatively, addressing Open Access through an existing committee may be more appropriate.
Librarians as special Open Access advocates
A growing number of libraries are creating staff positions with a specific responsibility for campus outreach. The role of these staff members is to develop a strategy for the library to promote changes in scholarly communication and to communicate about the issues with other library staff and faculty members. The Association of Research Libraries in the US maintains a list of job descriptions for these types of positions, often called scholarly communication librarians. Ideally, other library staff should also have some knowledge of Open Access and scholarly communication issues as well. This is especially so for liaison librarians, who work closely with researchers and who can play an important role in intiating discussions with the research community.
Key messages for faculty
Regardless of the advocacy method, it is important for librarians to understand the context and concerns of the specific research community they are addressing. Providing concrete examples of the problems with the subscription-based system, such library budget figures or examples of cuts to acquisitions, can help to crystalise the argument. This can be accompanied by a discussion of why researchers should make their work Open Access using the following points:
- Impact and visibility: Authors’ principal motivations are almost always to disseminate the results of their research, advance their careers and contribute to the public good. When an article is published in a subscription-based journal, it may only be accessible to a small number of readers in institutions whose libraries can afford to pay for the subscription. When an article is Open Access, however, the potential readership includes everyone with an internet connection, including all an author’s peers around the world. Scholars and researchers at institutions without journal subscriptions and interested individuals outside the academy will have immediate access. With a broader audience and no access delays, the research has the potential for the greatest impact. Open Access: A SPARC Brochure is a good resource for authors.
- Accessibility: Readers have access to only a portion of the subscription-based literature in their field – the portion that is made available through their library. The prices of journals have risen at a much higher rate than the consumer price index, forcing libraries to cut subscriptions. Even the most well-endowed library cannot afford to subscribe to all the journals requested by its research community. In an Open Access environment, readers will have immediate access to the entire corpus of literature in their field. Faculty are not often aware of how much money libraries are paying for journal subscriptions. The Sticker Shock web sites developed by the Engineering Library at Cornell University are an excellent way of demonstrating the high costs of journals. For a good overview, read Library Journal’s annual Periodicals Price Survey. The most recent version is Periodicals Price Survey 2008: Embracing Openness
- Funding agency policies: In many countries, funding agencies have implemented policies that require funded researchers to make their published articles open access within a certain amount of time. Talking to researchers about these policies is an excellent way of initiating a dialogue about Open Access. Librarians should be well informed of the relevant policies in their jurisdictions.
- Authors rights: Standard publishing agreements generally require that authors transfer the copyright for their work to the publisher. This restricts them from placing their work on course web sites, copying it for students or colleagues, depositing it in a public online archive, or reusing portions in a subsequent work without permission from the publisher. In order for authors to control and optimise access to their work, they must retain the rights they need. This can be done by negotiating directly with publishers or attaching one of many authors addenda which have been developed for this purpose. Many publishers also already allow authors to place articles in their university or a disciplinary repository. One resource that can be used is the SPARC Authors Rights Brochure
Addressing common misconceptions
- Open Access threatens peer review: Open Access journals apply the same rigorous peer-review processes as traditional subscription-based content. There are two ways of achieving Open Access: Researchers can publish their paper in an Open Access journal or they can publish in a traditional subscription-based journal and then make their paper freely available through an Open Access repository. Since both methods still require that papers are peer reviewed, publisher claims that making research Open Access necessitates foregoing the peer review process is wrong and misleading. For an in-depth analysis of the issue, read Richard Poynder’s article on the topic, “Open Access: Death knell for peer review“.
- Open Access journals are not high impact journals: Like traditional subscription-based journals, the impact factor of Open Access journals varies considerably. However, according to the ISI’s own studies here and here, nearly every scientific discipline has an Open Access journal in the top cohort of impact factors. To highlight this point, librarians who are talking to faculty may want to print out a list of Open Access journals in the appropriate the discipline using the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Furthermore, most high impact subscription-based journals allow authors to deposit their articles into an Open Access repository, thus acieving Open Access for their work by the ‘green’ route of self-archiving.
- Open Access infringes copyright law: This assertion, which usually comes from the publishing community, is simply false. Most subscription-based journals have policies that allow authors to post their articles in Open Access repositories. Where Open Access journals are concerned, publishers usually don’t ask researchers to transfer copyright so the copyright remains with the author.
See Peter Suber’s Field Guide to Misunderstandings about Open Access, which identifies 25 of the the most common misconceptions.
The Create Change website, created for librarians and researchers, discusses new opportunities in scholarly communication, advocates changes that recognise the potential of the networked digital environment, and encourages active participation by scholars and researchers to guide the course of change. Create Change was developed by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and is supported by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).
Please also see the OASIS section ‘For Researchers‘, which provides much useful material that can be used for advocacy to the research community.