Interviews with Practitioners in the United Kingdom Reveal Effective Strategies for Open Access Outreach to Researchers
A Review of:
Dawson, D. (2018). Effective practices and strategies for open access outreach: A qualitative study. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 6(1), eP2216. https://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2216
Objective – To discover effective outreach methods used by academic libraries to promote open access (OA) publishing to researchers.
Design – Semi-structured interviews
Setting – 7 large research universities in the United Kingdom (UK)
Subjects – 14 individuals responsible for OA outreach at their institution, including librarians and other OA practitioners
Methods – Purposive sampling was used to select universities based on their membership in the UK’s Russell Group, designation in the top 20 of the Research Council UK’s OA grant-size ranking, and suggestions from other professionals. The author contacted individuals responsible for OA at these institutions by email to inform them of the study and solicit their participation. The subsequent semi-structured interviews occurred in person. Areas of focus in the interview included: job responsibilities and overview of offered scholarly communications services; sources of OA services at the institution; evolution and effectiveness of OA outreach activities; support and scholarly communication knowledge needed by researchers; and advice for fellow practitioners conducting OA outreach. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded using the qualitative software NVivo. Inductive analysis was conducted to identify key themes.
Main Results – The author identifies four primary themes in the coded interviews: “The Message”; “Key Contacts and Relationships”; “Qualities of the OA Practitioner”; and “Advocacy versus Compliance” (p. 1). Participants advocated for straightforward, frequent messaging tailored to the audience. The author identifies relationships as important to outreach – especially support from influential administrators and buy-in from key researchers – highlighting that face-to-face interaction is helpful when cultivating these types of relationships. Participants emphasized important qualities for OA practitioners to possess, including expertise, diplomacy, and perseverance. Establishing credibility as an expert was identified as important to generating buy-in from researchers. Finally, the author discusses the library’s role in OA advocacy vs. compliance. Some participants suggested an overemphasis on compliance to meet funder requirements may overshadow promotion of the inherent value of OA in academic publishing.
Conclusions – The author suggests that because UK open access efforts are robust and have been in progress for many years, OA practitioners from the UK may possess useful insights for North American librarians with growing initiatives. The study highlights implications for practice including the identification of effective outreach strategies, evidence of the need for balanced messaging, and observations on why faculty may be resistant to outreach from librarians. The author recommends further research to determine what type of messaging is most valuable and when, suggesting less complex policies in North America may allow for more focus on the public good of OA. Successful outreach is predicated upon having enough time to gain the necessary depth of knowledge, and the study acknowledges that librarians with diverse job responsibilities may have less time to invest in this way. The author also suggests more research is needed to evaluate the impact of the dynamics between librarians and classroom faculty. The article posits that librarians who participate in research and tenure processes may find communication easier and have opportunities to promote OA through participation in university governance. Finally, the author observes that librarians are poised to have a positive impact on the scholarly publishing system through outreach to researchers who can drive systemic change.
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