Workshop: Improving Campus Open Access Policies

This post is part of a series on highlights and key takeaways from the 2016 SPARC MORE Meeting.

So, you have visions of an open-access policy on your campus. How do you make it happen?

Or, perhaps, your institution has adopted an open-access policy, but you want to improve the number of articles that actually make it into your institutional repository. What do you do?

A workshop on March 9 at the SPARC MORE 2016 conference attempted to answer some of these questions and connect librarians with tools to help them adopt and implement OA policies on their campuses.

There is “room to grow,” but there are also librarians ready to share their knowledge and resources available from SPARC and the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI), said Nick Shockey, SPARC’s Director of Programs and Engagement who led the workshop.

At the workshop, presenters from small colleges and large universities discussed their experiences of getting OA policies adopted, setting up infrastructure, and reaching out to faculty to make open a reality on their campuses.

A few key themes emerged for passing institutional open access policies and promoting their success after adoption:

  • Engage the entire campus community and continue doing outreach throughout the lifecycle of the policy. The success of the policy is ultimately about people.
  • Make compliance as easy for researchers as possible. Help faculty upload their work, send regular reminders, consider investing in tools that make it easy for faculty to claim and deposit their articles.
  • Appeal to faculty’s self-interest. Emphasize that depositing their work will lead to more citations and more visibility, which can in turn lead to more collaborators and potentially more funding. Promote success stories of researchers whose work is highly downloaded and highlight all of the countries around the world where users have downloaded your institution’s work.

Barbara Defelice, Program Director of Scholarly Communication, Copyright, and Publishing at Dartmouth:

When the librarians at Dartmouth first drafted an OA policy, it was based on the model developed by Harvard in 2008. Then faculty members started holding forums and committees and subcommittees discussed options. Defelice said it was frantic at times. The library had to compromise, and the policy got longer as it moved through the process. But the library held the line on making it opt-out policy, which was part of the final Dartmouth Faculty Open Access Policy adopted in 2011.

Defelice says times have changed, and if she was starting an OA policy now, she would begin the process by talking with the community about what they want and write a policy to meet their needs. Dartmouth continues to push for other measures to promote the free exchange of scholarly output. “An open-access policy isn’t an end itself. It’s just simply one more tool or resource to move in an open direction,” she said.

Catherine Mitchell, Director, Access & Publishing Group, California Digital Library, University of California:

The UC system has passed three open-access policies in 2012, 2013 and 2015, extending the policy to cover all UC employees who publish scholarly work. Mitchell says she discovered the true ideologues who pushed the policies through were not necessarily the same ones who understood how to implement them.

In getting authors to share their work, good intentions are not enough to drive action. “People do not want to act for the sake of open, but the means to a different end,” said Mitchell. The digital library found it was most effective to appeal to researchers’ self interest and encourage uploading their material by emphasizing what it will do for them, their constituency, and the world.

To educate faculty members on the process, all resources were aggregated on the website of the Office of Scholarly Communication, including instructions on how to deposit an article and decision trees to follow various paths that applied to the author. “We found making it as graphic and simplistic as possible was important,” said Mitchell. The history of the policy was also posted, along with a list of publishers contacted and a “wall of shame” for publishers who still require a waiver. There is a 90-second video explaining Open Access and ads featuring colleagues talking about how the policy works.

UC is trying to streamline the process, collecting publication records and sending out alerts to authors who can click a single button to claim the paper as theirs and then deposit it in the system repository. The rate of deposit rose after automating, and authors can view a map to see everyone who has accessed their research in the world.

Ada Emmett, Head of the Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright, University of Kansas:

In 2009, the University of Kansas was the first public institution in the U.S. to pass an OA policy. Before advocating for a policy on your campus, Emmett suggests getting ready for the politics, champion building, outreach, and compromise that is sure to be part of the process.

As in every campaign, a strategy is needed: Know who will be voting, their likes and dislikes, and outreach is critical. “A policy is really about people,” said Emmett.

To increase compliance with the OA policy, KU librarians get the word about by giving talks to faculty and graduate students. They also offer a service where they ask for faculty CVs and then upload the materials for the faculty members. The provost is also provided with digital measures for scholarship from the repository. “You need outreach at the beginning, middle, and end. It’s an ongoing process,” said Emmett. “One last thought from KU experience: The revolutionaries who passed the policy may not have the same skill set needed to implement it….It takes a village.”

Diane Graves, Assistant Vice President for Information Resources & University Librarian, Trinity University, San Antonio

While the moral argument for open was powerful for a while, Graves says she feels it carries little weight today. “It’s about building careers and stroking egos,” she said. The promise of alternative metrics is also gaining steam, and researchers want to know more about the impact of their work than just impact factors.

Trinity has found success in asking new faculty members for CVs when they first come to campus and offering to set up an individual “selected works” page, describing what they have done. “It makes them feel good and supported by library, right out of the box,” said Graves.

Also, the librarians contact faculty members when the Board of Trustees is coming to campus and ask for publications from the past six months to update their pages.

Jere Odell, Scholarly Communications librarian, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

When looking at a model for adopting an OA policy, Odell said some might say IUPUI took an unorthodox route. It didn’t have a strong faculty member to advocate for the policy or an outreach strategy mapped out before it was passed. IUPUI found its own procedure that worked, and the institution passed an OA policy last year. His lesson: “Every institution is different and that impacts how to pass and implement an open-access policy.”

On his campus, with a large medical school, faculty were interested in how a new policy would interact with federal requirements to share research. Odell leveraged the federal public access policies to get support for an institutional policy at IUPUI because the library could help researchers with compliance.

To sell open access, the librarians emphasized its ability to increase readership, how the process doesn’t not have to be too much work, and it “won’t get you in trouble,” said Odell. Still, it can be a struggle to know when faculty get article accepted or when they receive new funding. The library is working more closely with the research office to get some internal notification system to keep on top of word flow.

Learn more about our work