Both Lauren Collister and Heather Coates have embraced the concept of open on their respective campuses. But after joining other early career academic professionals at OpenCon - one in 2014 and the other in 2015 - they were each inspired to do more.
The librarians, who both attended OpenCon thanks to institutional scholarships, learned practical skills and new approaches to advocate for Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data that have translated into real change at their universities.
Collister attended OpenCon 2014 in Washington DC, when she was working as an electronic publications associate in the library at the University of Pittsburgh.
“l had been to a lot of academic conferences, but this was much different,” says Collister. “OpenCon was more collaborative, more engaging and there were many more calls to action than any conference I had been at before.”
Collister said the advocacy day on Capitol Hill, in which she met with staff for her local Congressman, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-PA, was a powerful experience where she had to put her learning into action. “I had never made a call like that before,” says Collister. “I learned to make [my case] personal, relevant and to include real numbers and figures that mean something.”
After being at OpenCon, Collister said she returned to her 29,000-student campus with tools and a new focus to push for Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Last year, she moved into a new position as a scholarly communications librarian at Pitt, and channeled her experience from OpenCon in three ways on campus:
1. Providing advocacy training. Collister has held workshops and consulted with library colleagues individually about how to talk about the value of openness with faculty and administrators. With role playing and practice, she illustrated the importance of tailoring the message. “Librarians often think about things from a library’s perspective,” says Collister. “I try to teach them that it’s important to consider who you are taking to - if it’s an early career faculty member, a tenured faculty member or a department chair - to frame the conversation to be relevant to the interest of that audience.”
2. Ramping up publicity. A poster has been created on campus that lists concrete steps that anyone can do to make their work more open - basic strategies, Collister says, she learned at OpenCon, such as sharing research on social media and putting articles in the institutional repository. In the information packets that new hires receive, Collister is pushing to have materials added about open advocacy issues. Collister has also held copyright workshops for graduate students to help early career researchers become aware of the issue.
3. Enhancing Open Access Week. That personal connection made with Rep. Doyle’s office at OpenCon 2014 paid off this fall. The Congressman accepted an invitation from Collister to speak on campus as part of its Open Access Week celebration in late October. That week Collister also helped host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon using open access resources to make new pages.
The increased push is catching on, says Collister. Librarian meetings with leadership in the psychology and education departments have led both wanting to use alternative metrics in their annual reviews and promoting depositing work in the institutional repository.
The campus is becoming very interested in entrepreneurship and connecting with industry. “People are thinking about the impact of scholarly work and how it can be applied and used. We use that conversation to ask how their work can be impactful if people outside the university can’t get to it,” says Collister. “It’s really on their minds, and we are seeing a change and push in that direction, which is helping the long-time commitment that the library has had for Open Access really start spreading outward.”
Heather Coates, who works as a digital scholarship & data management librarian at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has leveraged her experience at OpenCon 2015 in Brussels to promote open practices at her multi-campus institution. Her work focuses on helping faculty at the nearly 30,000-student school develop data management plans, supporting data sharing, teaching better data practices, offering research metrics services, and promoting the strategic dissemination of research including through open-access journals.
Meeting others at OpenCon helped Coates think more creatively about how to make scholarly work available to the largest possible audience and use technology to gather evidence to demonstrate that engagement.
“While I was dipping my toes into Open Science and Open Educational Resources world and I had been publishing in open-access journals, the broader ethos of the OpenCon community helped me to step back from the institutional context to get a bigger picture of how I can advocate to promote openness on our campus,” says Coates.
Coates says she liked how OpenCon focused on early career researchers and students. “They allow people who are the next generation to really voice their perspectives. That’s not something you are always able to do at the institution or professional society level,” says Coates. “It allows them the space to consider: How can I adopt practices I’m hearing others are doing and use that to support own career?”
What were some tangible things that Coates has done since OpenCon?
Sharing resources. Coates is trying to do more outreach and position the library as a place to support researchers looking for more open practices and tools. For example, she has been working with some social science researchers on campus interested in open science, speaking to the group about open data and data management practices. The faculty members want to broaden the impact of their research, and that of their students, and Coates in helping them tap into what’s available. “Because we are so large, faculty members don’t always know what resources are available to support their research. I try to serve as a navigator,” says Coates.
Raising awareness. Coates has helped expand open practices for research within the library and integrate Open Access, Open Data and Open Research into instruction to graduate students. She has a lot of one-on-one training with subject liaisons at the library and shared slides she developed to talk with students about the reasons to support more data sharing and open practices in research
Highlighting impact. There has been a push to share stories of how faculty and student have engaged in Open Access and highlight open publication. Coates has been developing examples of ways researchers can publish and gather metrics to demonstrate that the work is getting reused by communities. “A lot relates to supporting faculty for making a strong case for promotion and tenure,” she says. “We don’t tend to talk about Open Access as an end, but a means to end help them engage with their colleagues or engage with the community.”
Coates says OpenCon helped her figure out how to tell her story of engaging in open as a researcher and to advocate as someone who is practicing it herself. “I’ve learned to use my own experiences and those experiences of people I have consulted with to publish openly or gather alt metrics to help them understand how that translates back to their professional goals,” she says. “Sometimes people think Open Access is an extra step or a check box, but we try to make it clear OA is a way to achieve their goals.”
To stay updated on these issues, both Collister and Coates have participated in the monthly OpenCon Community Call for Early Career Librarians. Check out http://www.opencon2016.org/community_calls for information on the next call.