Open Access Advocacy – Joining the Dots workshop

I recently attended the Open Access Advocacy workshop: Joining the Dots. This workshop was run by the UCL, Newcastle and Nottingham Jisc OA Pathfinder project to develop a more joined up approach to open access advocacy. It presented an opportunity to discuss some of the issues that were raised at E2E’s workshops in September 2014 and January 2015, including:
• Complexity of publishers’ Open Access policies and versions
• Promoting Open Access to our researchers
• Best ways of communicating change to different stakeholders
• How to avoid confusion surrounding different funders’ policies
• Earlier engagement with publication cycle (e.g. notification of acceptance)

All three members of the Pathfinder group presented their approaches to advocacy and engagement. Key messages for promotion and engagement were:
• Importance of senior management OA champions
• Simplify the OA message – a single page summary of information works well
• Competition amongst researchers – UCL offered a bottle of champagne to the millionth upload in their repository
• Advocacy is about listening to stakeholders, as well as informing them

There are still difficulties around engagement: finding the right person to speak to in departments, promoting different funders’ policies, avoiding a two-tiered approach (gold and green, funded and non-funded), finding the staff time to do this as OA policies proliferate, keeping information up-to-date as polices change.

We had group discussions which raised similar themes:
• The need to include the IT department, as well as the library and research management
• Avoid jargon
• Useful to get academics to discuss it with peers
• Small messages sent out regularly work well – little and often
• Write a short, sharp clear policy document with FAQs

The workshop also included presentations from three publishers; Taylor & Francis, BMJ and Oxford University Press. It was useful to hear about OA from the publishers’ perspectives and to understand it is complex and time consuming for them too. For example, Vicky Gardner from Taylor & Francis discussed how they have changed their acceptance email to authors to include information about a green OA option – previously the email was purely about gold. Sana Mulla from BMJ followed up the workshop by asking for help in user testing their new platform.

There is a tension between what publishers can offer and what research administrators and librarians would like. We would like additional information at the acceptance stage, but as Rhodri Jackson from Oxford University Press pointed out, the publisher’s relationship is with the author, so there is a limit to how much information they can give the library.

In the Q&A that followed, we asked the publishers for clearer information about OA policies, APCs etc. This information often sits in the author section – it would be helpful if all publishers could include this in a separate OA section for administrators. We also asked for publishers to provide a DOI on acceptance and for them to label the version of the article.

Steven Hill of HEFCE and Mark Thorley of RCUK both gave presentations from the funder’s perspective. They talked about how to communicate an Open Access policy, although their policies took different approaches to this. Both highlighted the importance of open research, with Mark Thorley saying that we must accept it will cost us money and Steven Hill that it is better to do less research but disseminate it better.

Among other things, we asked how funders can influence publishers (they can’t do this as they are not their customers) and how they can ensure that systems are in place (they have a responsibility, but aren’t duplicating existing systems).

There was considerable interest in this workshop and enough ongoing issues to suggest that it would be useful for us to take this forward and run a further Advocacy and Engagement workshop as part of our project.

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