At the start of this month we published the spring update from our open access good practice pathfinder projects including the latest developments in other Jisc open access (OA) services and projects that were discussed in detail at March's Digifest.
The pathfinder projects are blazing trails in the creation of shareable models of good practice that you can take away and use to enable better OA implementation within your own institution.
The work of the pathfinders is mainly clustered around creating models of good practice in five key areas: cost management; workflows; policy and strategy; systems and metadata, and advocacy/communications to researchers.
Recent work around open access advocacy is especially interesting because it underpins every other aspect of the move to OA. Getting it right is vital to communicate an often complex policy landscape to researchers who may be quite uninitiated.
Arguably, the open access policy for the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), with its mandate for research outputs to be deposited in an institutional or subject repository on acceptance, has gone some way to redefining the relationship between the institution and the researcher, putting more of the responsibility for OA on researchers themselves.
A number of the pathfinder projects have developed resources to support the tricky issue of OA advocacy to researchers and from these some useful tips stand out.
Do your homework
Inter-related issues such as how researchers are expected to deal with OA, how it affects their research publication and how the institution is developing new workflows to support OA, can be difficult to untangle. To address this, what’s needed is a communications programme that clarifies the different funder and institutional policies and spells out how the institution’s infrastructure and systems are gearing up to cope.
Make sure you offer clear, simple information on the differences between green and gold OA routes, a rundown of various policies and requirements and the way these are being implemented at your institution.
The Sherpa Juliet service offers a good way to check funders archiving mandates and guidelines.
Understand researchers’ behaviours
Understanding researcher behaviour is a fundamental requirement for professional staff who are planning support for OA implementation, so that it can be targeted to suit workflows and to enable a more positive route to achieving compliance.
The Oxford Brookes Making Sense pathfinder (partnering with Nottingham Trent and Portsmouth) has focused on this approach as a means to develop My Individual Assessment of Open Access, a practical self-assessment tool for researchers to measure themselves and their institutions against.
The Coventry O2OA pathfinder (partnering with Northampton and De Montfort) has also developed OA lifecycle: a guide for researchers that will form the basis for the development of new OA workflows. The project very much views OA implementation as a mix of technical/procedural workflows and individual researcher behaviour.
Hone your messages
Create simple, compelling messages that clear up confusion and motivate researchers.
The UCL Pathways to OA pathfinder (partnering with Newcastle and Nottingham) has produced an advocacy toolkit for librarians and research support staff that offers help with this and with all aspects of building an advocacy programme from scratch.
Several of the pathfinders also report that it is important to explore broader benefits like the value of engaging the public in research, the possibility of developing new collaborations, and wider reach and impact for research outputs rather than simply focusing narrowly on the need to comply with funder policies and for the REF.
It’s easy to get bogged down in compliance issues but, after all, the real purpose of OA policy is to secure these wider, very compelling benefits.
And don’t forget to use case studies and human-interest stories to help make the point. Using case studies may even prove useful in terms of determining how your institution might best approach advocacy - perhaps taking a centralised approach with the library taking ownership for all the administration, or possibly a decentralised approach with more work being carried out in schools and colleges.
Perfect planning prevents poor performance
Involve the right people with your campaign, including people from the library, research management and a variety of different academic disciplines. Secure senior level support and nurture some OA champions.
Pathfinder institutions have taken different approaches to planning their campaigns depending on institutional resources and culture and several have developed planning tools and checklists that are worth a look.
Monitor progress constantly, be prepared to adapt if necessary, and evaluate how your programme is working.
Exploit as many communications channels as possible
Face-to-face advocacy is very powerful, but don’t forget to spread your key messages consistently via social media, email, video and print as well.
Portsmouth have developed a good example of effective communication of the REF policy, using the original HEFCE artwork repurposed and customised for local use.
Stay up to date
If your institution is still working on its plans for effective OA implementation, it is worth taking a look at the latest updates from our pioneering pathfinder institutions. Have a look at our new spring update and perhaps review some of our other open access good practice resources.
If you’d like to share your own experiences with us join our oagoodpractice mailing list.