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SPARC 2020 Accomplishments

2020 has been a year like no other.  As we’ve worked to rise to the challenges presented by the pandemic and resulting economic crisis, along with political turmoil and the urgent need to address racial justice issues, we’re deeply grateful for the continued support of our members.  We are fortunate as a team to have remained healthy and to operate in a way that has allowed us to continue our work on our members behalf, without missing a beat.  

Over the past few years, we’ve evolved SPARC into a virtual organization, opting for flexible co-working space that reflects our distributed structure and reduces our overhead.  We have revamped our programs, eliminating our large annual meeting in favor of increased campus visits and local events to meet our members where they live, ensuring greater opportunities for community participation. We’ve upped our online game, adding regular just-in-time programs on everything from “Big Deal” negotiations to national policy briefings, and establishing professional development programs like our first-of-its-kind Open Education Leadership Program.  

Mission Critical Focus

Everything we do is centered on our objective of creating a more open and equitable research and education system.  The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the relevance and urgency of our mission.  Ensuring open access to research results has played a central role in dealing with the pandemic.  SPARC’s work in leading the fight for open access has intensified this year as policymakers, funders, and university leaders have recognized that eliminating unnecessary barriers to scientific research is critical for public health. 

Similarly, with higher education institutions thrust into online operations, providing access to high-quality free, open educational resources has become essential to ensuring that students have the best possible environment in which to continue their studies. There is high demand for SPARC to accelerate our successful efforts in increasing the awareness, creation, and adoption of OER as a cost-effective strategy for student retention. 

As a membership organization, everything we do is designed to support our members ability to deal effectively with pressing challenges in the areas where we have the most expertise. This year, the SPARC team redoubled our outreach to our members and applied what we heard to shore up our efforts in the places where SPARC is uniquely positioned to help, including:

Driving Policy Change

      • Spearheading the development of an Executive Order to create a national policy making “open” the default for all federally research articles, data, and code
      • Securing federal funding for OER, with an additional $7 million for the U.S. Open Textbook Pilot is currently poised for passage in the FY2020 federal budget
      • Educating state governments about opportunities to leverage CARES Act funding for OER initiatives
      • Representing the library community on the National Institute of Standards and Technology leadership team creating a National Research Data Management Framework
      • Driving the “open” agenda with private funders and foundations by convening the Open Research Funders Group

Equipping  Members for Successful Publisher Negotiations

      • Providing our members with useful resources to prepare for negotiations, secure better deals, and, if needed, cancel big deal packages
      • Providing high-level financial market analyses of publisher operations and timely insights into their significance for our member libraries and university administrators
      • Convening regular vendor-specific negotiation discussions in order for our members to share strategies and learn from one another’s experiences
      • Hosting regular discussions on strategies for mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and improving libraries’ negotiating position

Educating Leaders on Retaining Control of Research Infrastructure and Data

      • Providing competitive analyses and recommendations for concrete actions that institutions can take to retain control of critical infrastructure and data including the 2020 Update to the SPARC Landscape Analysis and Roadmap for Action 
      • Launching a new website to showcase our infrastructure analysis and help libraries quickly find actionable information to inform campus purchasing and negotiation discussions 

Realigning Research Incentives 

      • Partnering with the National Academies to convene the ongoing “Roundtable on Realigning Research Incentives,” bringing research funders and higher education leaders together to take action on reforming research incentives 
      • Creating a toolkit for national use by institutions and funders

Encouraging Competition/Guarding Against Antitrust 

      • Successfully challenging and blocking the proposed McGraw-Hill/Cengage merger
      • Proactively working with regulators and legislators to educate them on issues in the scholarly publishing market, and to initiate interventions where necessary. 

Empowering Librarians Through Online Professional Development

      • Providing intensive online professional development through our Open Education Leadership program 
      • Stepping up as a partner to organize the 2020 Open Education Conference

Supporting Open Infrastructure

      • Catalyzing the creation, funding and staffing of the new global “Invest in Open Infrastructure” initiative to create an avenue for critical collective investments 
      • Developing plans for multi-stakeholder approaches to collectively fund open resources
      • Advising nonprofit publishers and other resource providers on designing effective open business models  

We recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing our community and our society. We’re immensely fortunate to have a remit to do work that can—and will—contribute to creating a more open and equitable post-COVID system for sharing knowledge.  Because of the support of our members, SPARC is widely recognized as the leading organization providing education and advocacy on openness in research and education. Our successes have fueled our ability to attract grant revenue including new funding this year from the Arcadia Fund, the Open Society Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has helped us significantly amplify the value and impact of our members’ dues investment. 

The entire SPARC Team thanks you for your continued support!


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