Beginning the Journey Towards an OA Policy

Itemized below are a number of preparatory steps that are useful to consider before launching open access policy work. This is followed by our suggested top ten key strategies.

Preparatory Steps

Identify governance structures, procedural requirements and other processes including collective agreements by which official policies are developed and approved on your campus. This will determine the timeline you will need to consider, the formatting and shape of the actual policy and whether there is a particular administrative group or Senate body that has oversight over official University policy development, approval processes or other administrative requirements. Consider, for instance, who votes for an approval of a policy or who has influence over the outcome. Individuals responsible for managing University procedural documents and policies (ie. Senate Secretary, Legal Counsel’s office etc.) are frequently very good resource people to discuss logistics early on.

  • Consider the character and makeup of a committee or working group to advance an open access policy. Consider:
    • The reporting structure, governance, membership of the committee that will be most advantageous to advance the work.
    • Identify early on the sponsor for the committee and what needs to happen to influence support for such a committee if needed.
    • In most cases, the Librarian representatives on the committee will be the most knowledgeable about the broader OA landscape and various intersections of scholarly communications and open science in all disciplines.  Likely library representatives will need to present or build in educational opportunities so that all committee members are brought up to speed with the larger OA landscape and all its manifestations. 
    • Begin the work of constructing a planning framework, communication plan or roadmap to identify steps and phases to advance the work. An initial internal environmental scan may be helpful to: 
    • identify faculty or students who are publishing open scholarship or participating in open access  in order to identify current uptake, potential allies, stakeholders, champions or committee members. 
    • develop mechanisms to identify levels of understanding of open access, disciplinary attitudes, cultural perspectives and uptake for open access. Suggestions include:
      • identify where and how open access has particular traction;
      • identify the “flavour” of the uptake and how it is supported. This will be helpful in beginning the work of considering best framing for campus engagement and communication.
      • Consider identifying some initial low risk avenues to get a sense of the campus climate for engaging in the potential for an open access policy discussion or to begin the work of socializing the need for an open access policy:
        • identify initial campus awareness events or educational campaigns that may be a strategic first step (i.e. authors rights workshops, publication agreements consultations, introductory sessions on OA).

Listed below are ten key strategies for undertaking the journey towards an institutional OA policy. While we cannot guarantee these will lead to success, it is our hope that you will see the process as productive and positive, regardless of outcome. 

Top 10 Strategies

1. Identify the most critical or initial preparatory steps to get started 

While it is always wise to have an initial plan it is also equally important to remember that the plan will evolve as learning occurs through campus engagement. Consider thinking about your plan as a living document that will grow and develop as you progress and learn from campus interaction. Consider staging elements as more is known. 

We also strongly suggest in unionized environments that collective agreements are examined to ensure language is alignment with scholarly provisions including academic freedom statement.

2. Identify Campus Champions (Faculty or Student Champions or Other Influential Stakeholders)

Consider who has influence on campus and how groups, individuals or other stakeholders could be engaged to champion efforts or lend credibility to actions. Starting where there has already been traction or success in campus open scholarship arenas may be a good starting point. 

3. Focus on Institutional Relevance

Draft a policy that speaks to institutional relevance. Consider alignment with institutional strategic priorities, academic plans or research plans. Use relevant phrases from these documents that signals why and how the policy is highly relevant to the campus community.

Consider incorporating institutional mottos, points of pride, or other overarching institutional principles that resonates most with your campus community. 

4. Surface Meaningful Benefits of OA

Most open access policies articulate the benefits of open access to their community. Typically succinct, highly relevant statements are included in the policy itself with further elaboration in the accompanying FAQ, website and presentation materials. 

As a starting point, consider developing a fulsome list of benefits that can be incorporated into policy documents or educational materials. Shape the benefits  to fit the institutional context, specific audience, various disciplinary perspectives, and most importantly aligned with the core values, mission and principles of one’s organization. 

Typical benefits include:  increased visibility and reach of research (and therefore impact), equitable global access to research, ease in reuse and distribution of work, supports for author rights, acceleration of discovery, transparency  and reproducibility of research. See section six of the toolkit for inspiration from other policies.

5. Strive for a Faculty-Driven Process

Given open access policies depend on faculty support, it is recommended the faculty perspective is represented in the policy. It is also recommended that faculty lead campus engagement so that the framing of the benefits are from a trusted collegial voice. Selecting respected faculty to facilitate presentations or discussion groups in partnership with librarians is a common approach. Depending on patterns of influence, institutional culture, and where openness has traction, other leads could also be considered or in partnership with others. For example,  including a high level administrator in the mix may be very effective in some organizations while in others it may be negatively received as a top-down approach. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) may be an important ally, spokesperson or committee member if endorsement of system wide technical infrastructure support is critical to success.

6 . Be Prepared for Varied Disciplinary Perspectives

Surfacing disciplinary differences is critical to ensuring successful cross campus dialogue. In this regard, it may be strategic to choose faculty leads and librarians from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and areas of expertise in your presentation team. Identifying faculty support from within the different faculties can be very beneficial to the campus engagement process. 

7. Consider Change Management Principles as Part of Process

For some stakeholders, advancing open access can feel like a threatening change in practice. Consider integrating change management practices as part of your campus engagement strategy and in the framing of presentations. It is important to stay curious and allow for a diversity of opinion to surface so that meaningful, transparent dialogue can be part of the process. It is equally important to build trust in the process, to consider how trust building most effectively works organizationally and to acknowledge and surface legitimate concerns. It is recommended that the FAQ be developed as campus engagement progresses in order to ensure consistency in responses and messaging and as a potential avenue to address areas of concern. 

8. Understand Your Institution’s Culture

The shaping of a successful policy and its rollout is highly dependent on inserting language and educational materials that are informed by the institutional culture one is operating in. This can vary from faculty to faculty or discipline to discipline. Preparing presentation materials that can be templated and then adapted to differing cultural perspectives will go along way to limiting unnecessary flash points.

Finding voices and presenters who are trusted, respected facilitators is also helpful. See also number 5 above.

9. Continued Momentum and Sustainability

From the outset factor in what will happen after a policy is approved so that your campus continues to be engaged in open access and support and interest doesn’t languish post approval of a policy. It will also be important to factor in what infrastructure and sustained support will be needed to ensure long term success. It is recommended a sustainability plan is considered from the outset.

10. Take the Long View and Enjoy the Journey

Advancing an open access policy can be years in the making. It likely already began with providing institutional supports for publishing in open access journals. Every institution will have its own journey and timing can be everything. Sometimes elements need to be staged to socialize acceptance and experience with open access before a policy can be achieved. Be prepared to see this process as a journey. Sometimes the journey will be slow and at other times it will be fast. The winning strategy is to recognize that this journey is an enormous opportunity to foster campus awareness and education and engage in important campus dialogue whether the policy is successful or not. 




Icon for CC-BY Creative Commons licenceThis work, the CARL Institutional Open Access Policy Toolkit, was developed by members of the CARL Advancing Research Committee and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.