Dear SPARC Directors,
As we prepare to close out this eventful year and look forward to the next, I want to thank you for your continued commitment to creating meaningful change in the scholarly communications arena. SPARC has worked hard on your behalf to capitalize on opportunities for expanding access to research outputs and educational materials, and on reducing the long-term financial pressure on our member libraries.
Because of your support, SPARC is widely recognized as the leading organization providing education and advocacy to secure open access to both research outputs and educational materials. Our demonstrated successes have fueled our ability to attract a growing amount of grant revenue – including new funding from the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, among others – which has helped us to leverage your dues investment, and to expand our robust programs in support of Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. To support our members, SPARC works hard to deliver targeted initiatives and services. Here are just a few examples of what your member dues produced this year.
Policy Advocacy & Education
Our high-profile federal policy advocacy program continued to keep issues of deep importance to our community front and center during a challenging transition year.
- Our strategic decision to educate all presumptive presidential candidates paid dividends, as we established connections on both sides of the aisle that have kept us well-positioned to promote our policy priorities. SPARC staff served on a variety of Presidential administration transition committees, contributing recommendations and suggesting policies to the incoming administration.
- SPARC is well-respected internationally, and is regularly invited to represent our community’s views in policy forums and consultations ranging from the European Commission to the South African Parliament. Our strong SPARC affiliates in Africa, Europe and Japan provide us with a deep network of colleagues and collaborators that greatly strengthens our advocacy presence and reach.
- We continue to push hard for both congressional and federal agency action in our key issue areas. This year, we increased support for our core issues in key leadership offices in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, securing the re-introduction of key legislation including the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, the OPEN Government Data Act and the Affordable College Textbook Act. We also worked on developing key new regulations like the Department of Education’s Open Licensing Rule.
- Interest in Open Educational Resources really blossomed in both the U.S. and Canada this year, and we expanded our work in promoting policies on the state and local level, supporting successful OER legislation in California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington.
SPARC is a trusted source of expertise and guidance on Open policies and practices.
- SPARC was asked convene the ‘Open Research Funders Group’ whose members include the Gates, Sloan, Arnold, Arcadia, and Soros Foundations, among others, and provides the group with a forum for regular discussion and opportunities for collaboration in strengthening the open research environment.
- SPARC staff supported the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in creating and issuing its first-ever grant program supporting Open Access initiatives. The program awarded its first $2 million in community grants in 2017, and is expected to expand in the coming year.
- Our suite of active partners continues to expand, helping us to expand the work we do on your behalf, and to deliver effective, cost-effective programs. New partners this year include Issue Labs, Mozilla, UnPaywall, and ASAPbio.
- In keeping with our commitment to partnering with the next generation of leaders, SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition hosted the third OpenCon event bringing together students and early career researchers from 60 countries and dozens of SPARC member institutions to catalyze projects to advance Open Access, OER, and Open Data. This event is exploding in popularity with more than 10,000 applications received for the 2016 event and 2,200 individuals participating in satellite events hosted across 20 countries over the past year.
- SPARC’s annual International Open Access Week, a partnership with the international Open Access Community continues to grow in popularity and participation. This year’s theme of “Open in Order to…” encourages stakeholders to take concrete steps to make their own work more openly available and encourage others to do the same.
Resources and Supporting Services
At SPARC, we regularly ask ourselves “What are we doing to help our members do their jobs better/faster/more efficiently?”
- This year, we rolled out a number of well-received new resources to help make sense of the increasingly complex Open policy environment, including an online tool supporting campus compliance with U.S. Federal public access policies, and a new tool tracking OER policies on the statewide level.
- We are particularly proud of our unrivaled Open Education program. This year, SPARC introduced ‘Connect OER’, a comprehensive report documenting library-centered OER activities across our member campuses. This will be expanded to include non-SPARC libraries in 2018.
- Responding to popular demand, SPARC also launched a pilot of a professional development initiative, the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, to help prepare library professionals to continue to serve on the cutting edge of this emerging area.
SPARC aims to keep its members ahead of the curve in understanding the latest developments in the scholarly communication environment.
- SPARC provides a concise monthly Member Communication summarizing key happenings, and hosted regular webcasts (free to our members) on important topics. This year SPARC also launched a new “rapid reaction” format to quickly address breaking news items.
- We also 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 helped keep the profile of our members and their concerns high in the media. SPARC was regularly consulted and quoted as an expert source on topics relating to scholarly communication, and our programs have been featured this year in both the national and trade press, in outlets ranging from NPR to the Washington Post to the Economist to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
With each of our programs, SPARC aims to provide our members with tools and resources that are of direct benefit in helping you and your library more effectively engage with faculty, administrators, and students on campus. 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. We remain committed to providing these resources, as well as, timely access to leading experts and ideas, and our own energy to continue to build a system of scholarly communication that better serves the needs of our members, and of the academy as a whole.
We look forward to another successful year of working with you to make this happen.
With our thanks and best wishes,
Executive Director, SPARC