SPARC 2018 Accomplishments

Thank you for your support of SPARC as we work on your behalf to create meaningful change in the scholarly communications system. 2018 has been a particularly eventful year!

In January, following extensive consultation with our members, SPARC posted an ambitious new program plan designed to tackle some of the thorniest areas of concern for our community. We focused our efforts in two places: promoting community-owned scholarly communications infrastructure and the realignment of the existing reward and incentive structure in the research process. We dove headlong into both of these areas, and I’m pleased to report that we’ve made significant progress.

In April, we secured respected market analyst, Claudio Aspesi, to produce a comprehensive analysis of commercial strategies in infrastructure across the higher education sector. We tasked him with helping us to identify key areas of vulnerability, and to highlight specific points of potential community leverage. Working extensively with the SPARC team, and conducting interviews with dozens of key stakeholders including provosts, CIO’s, library leaders, higher education administrators, publishers, and other market experts, Claudio is in the process of finalizing this report. It will be available to SPARC members in November, and we will hold a SPARC members-only webcast to walk through the findings and recommendations from this extensive analysis in early December.

I’m also extremely proud to report significant progress in the area of promoting changes to the research incentive system. Working with our colleagues in the Open Research Funders Group, which SPARC has been convening since 2016, we successfully secured the support of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) to establish a Roundtable on Realigning Incentives and to host a series of convenings (two per year for the next three years) to generate recommendations and pilots in this crucial area. The initial NAS Roundtable, which is in the planning stages and set to be convened in the coming months, will bring together research funders and higher education leaders at the President/Provost level to serve as champions and peer-influencers to promote incentive realignment. Subsequent Roundtables will include ample opportunity for wider participation by library leaders, faculty, researchers, students, and publishers.

While these two new program areas have required intense work, we have not let up on our efforts on your behalf in other areas. This year, our policy advocacy work paid extraordinary dividends, as we were successful in getting the U.S. Congress to open its coffers, and for the first time provide $5 million in direct support to our campuses to produce OERs. And because of a quirk in the timing of Congressional appropriations, we were able to do this not just once, but twice in a calendar year. Here are a few selected examples of what your member dues produced this year:

Policy Advocacy & Education

  • In Congress, the OPEN Government Data Act, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act and the Affordable College Textbook Act are our main authorizing priorities, and we are active in the appropriations process as well.
  • On the state level, we supported and successfully secured OER legislation in California, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, as well as passage of Open Access legislation in California.

Resources and Supporting Services

  • SPARC developed a new resource to assist libraries who are considering canceling Big Deal journal subscriptions and outlining strategies for critically assessing the need to continue these packages. We also established a new community of practice to regularly convene members interested in exploring Big Deal cancellations in more detail.
  • Our unrivaled Open Education program launched several important new resources this year, including our Open Education Leadership Program, which has rapidly established itself as the premier professional development opportunity to prepare library staff with the skills and know-how to lead OER initiatives, and our OER State Policy Tracker to help keep you up-to-date on policy activities affecting your campus.
  • SPARC released “Declaring Independence”, an interactive, practical, web-based tool to help editors and publishers evaluate the effectiveness of their business operations in advancing the interests of their community, and to provide alternatives – including Open Access models.


  • Along with our concise monthly communication summarizing key happenings, we also provided programming that was timely and targeted only to our members in order to give them a behind-the-scenes look at our policy work, strategies for promoting community-controlled infrastructure, and more.
  • We actively supported our members’ local, campus efforts by providing free visits by SPARC staff to member campuses, SPARC-sponsored speakers for events, practical guides, talking points, templates, and expert counsel on campus Open Access and Open Education issues.
  • SPARC hosted free webcasts on topics of importance to our members, including Community Efforts to Combat ‘Predatory’ Publishers, Building Next Generation Repositories, and Exploring Big Deal Cancellations.

Partnerships and Community Building

  • SPARC became a founding Steering Committee member of the Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools (JROST) community, an effort to build a strong model for community-controlled infrastructure.
  • Building on the successful model of OpenCon’s early career librarian community calls, SPARC has helped support the launch of similar forums for the Repository and COAPI communities that have already seen participation from hundreds of individuals this year.
  • SPARC’s OpenCon initiative continue to be a powerful catalyst for next generation engagement in opening up research and education. OpenCon 2017 convened representative from 60 countries, and for the second year in a row, the event received more than 13,000 applicants to attend.

With each of our programs, SPARC aims to provide our members with tools and resources that directly benefit you and your library. All of our materials are available under an open license, so you can customize and use them in ways that you and your campus find most valuable. Our demonstrated successes have fueled our ability to attract a growing amount of grant revenue – including new funding this year from the Open Society Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation – which has helped us to expand and deepen our programming, and greatly extend the value of your dues investment.

Because of your support, SPARC is widely recognized as the leading organization providing education and advocacy on Openness in research and education.

With our thanks and best wishes,
Heather Joseph
Executive Director

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