How could we address OA issues in the future? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 3)

After earlier sessions identifying existing issues in OA and how we, both within our institutions and in the broader HE community, have responded, the third session of the workshop provided participants with the opportunity to discuss what we could do in the future. Participants were asked to think hypothetically, about what we could do without focusing too much on our current strategic or operational planning, but still realistically. This generated ideas that are in our power to enact, rather than relying on external factors such as receiving further funding or staff resource.

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We identified a few key issues that will impact on how we move forward.  OA support services tend to be based in the library, as they grew organically around institutional repositories. This means that though often the role of the library in supporting OA is, in team descriptions or service plans, quite technical and focused on repository administration or management of Open Access funds, the staff working on these services are often called upon to offer advice or guidance. If this is already happening, we wondered if more libraries should formalise this, working in collaboration with our research offices or other services involved in supporting research, to offer advice on publication choices. If so, should we step in and provide advice on areas academic staff often enquire about, such as negotiating publishing contracts or licences to publish?

Though acknowledging that we are in a good position, we also felt there are things we could do better. In communicating with research active staff we have used vague “want to know more about OA?” messages, which require the individual to recognise there is a gap in their knowledge to take up whatever offer is attached to this message. Though HEFCE, RCUK et al. have given us the opportunity to talk more about OA, our messages have become focused on compliance and penalties rather than the benefits and overall purpose of OA. Some suggested actions included:

  • Creating top-level webpages about open access, instead of information being split between library or research office pages. Though each will offer different support, it’s confusing to people seeking advice to have to make this distinction before seeking information. This can be difficult considering how websites are set up in Universities (for example, at Northumbria the library’s webpages are completely removed from the CMS), but we can certainly make efforts to link to other sources of information or signpost other services.
  • Use fewer vague “want to know more” messages and instead clearly communicate with positive messages about what to do at each stage of the publication process. “When your paper has been accepted, do this…” FAQs and step-by-step instructions are practical ways of communicating about OA, addressing the gap in knowledge.
  • Communicate the principles and benefits of Open Access, not just the rules and regulations. This helps address the ‘REF divide’, where staff may feel that if they are not REF-able either OA doesn’t apply to them or we’re not interested in helping them disseminate their work.

We could also change our approach to training and development. Instead of targeting just the academic staff, we should look at the information we give to everyone with a stake in OA and OA support services. This could include offering training for faculty administrators, personal assistants and research students, each of whom may be involved in the administrative side of submitting for publication, paying fees or depositing to a repository. We should also look at the information give to front line library staff. Often OA services are office based and operate 9-5, Monday-Friday. Making sure customer service or enquiry staff have a basic understanding of OA and the services on offer could be hugely beneficial, making sure anyone unaware of direct lines of contact can go to a service desk and leave with basic information about what to do next. Academic staff should also feel empowered to talk about OA in departmental or faculty meetings, and we could make this easier by providing template texts or slides for them to use in their own presentations or reports

We identified some areas for our institutions to act on, that may be beyond our own remit, but that we could have some part in influencing.  Clear top-level guidance would help remove some of the uncertainty among academics about what they’re expected to do and why, and we felt that open access policy should sit within an institutional research dissemination strategy that addressed research impact and visibility. Ideally this strategy would also cover intellectual property and rights management, to create a fully joined-up approach to publication and dissemination.

Finally, we talked about what could be done nationally, with support from external stakeholders. One issue that came up throughout the day was that discussion with publishers, who are also new to OA and can be unclear on the policies and services they advertise, has been fragmented. Though we often share information we’ve been provided by publishers via Jiscmail mailing lists for the benefit of the community, there is still a lot of rework in communicating at this level. A more coordinated approach and greater transparency on the negotiations we’ve done regarding fees or repository deposit would be beneficial.

Through discussion on Jiscmail mailing lists in the lead up to Open Access week, it became clear that a few institutions don’t engage with the international awareness week as it does not fit in with the academic calendar. We suggested a national awareness week at another time of year, with April 2015 put forward as a good candidate.

Read the other sections of this report here:


About Ellen Cole

Scholarly Publications Librarian at Northumbria University.
This entry was posted in Events, Northumbria, Sunderland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How could we address OA issues in the future? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 3)

  1. Pingback: OA Pathfinder Workshop Report | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  2. Pingback: How Have We Tried to Address OA Issues? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 2) | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  3. Pingback: How have we responded to the challenges of Open Access? (OA Pathfinder Workshop – Session 1) | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

  4. Pingback: Open Access Pathfinder Workshop Report | Northumbria Research Support

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