“After 2016, we eliminated the overhead and travel burden of SPARC’s annual meeting in favor of meeting our members where they live. We’ve increased our team’s regular campus visits and actively support local and regional community events to make sure that more of those in our member libraries who want to participate have more equitable opportunities to do so. We’ve also upped our online game, adding regular just-in-time programs on everything from preparing for “Big Deal” negotiations to running a one-person scholarly communications office to developing campus open access policies.
We also created new online opportunities for professional development like our first-of-its-kind Open Education Leadership Program and increased opportunities for our members’ voices to be heard by policymakers via online advocacy. So from a purely practical standpoint, we are well-positioned to continue to operate at full speed….
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 has thrown the entire operations of higher education institutions online virtually overnight, providing access to high-quality free, open educational resources has become an essential requirement in providing students with the best possible environment to continue their studies. As the first library membership organization to embrace and promote open education and OER, there is high demand for SPARC to accelerate our successful efforts in increasing the awareness, creation and adoption of OER throughout our member institutions as a cost effective strategy for student retention….
We realize that we’re living in a world that will be defined as “before and after COVID-19.” At SPARC, we recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing our community and our society. We’re immensely fortunate to have a remit to do work that can—and will—have a direct positive impact on our member libraries’ ability to individually thrive, and to collectively contribute to creating a more open, equitable and sustainable post-COVID system for sharing knowledge. It’s a mission we are more committed than ever to making a reality along with all of you.”
On May 4, 2020, textbook publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill announced that they have called off their proposed merger, which would have created a $5 billion publishing giant and turned the college textbook market into an effective duopoly. Announced just over a year ago, the proposed merger has drawn widespread opposition from the higher education community— including students, consumer groups, libraries, universities, and bookstores—along with growing concern from House and Senate lawmakers and antitrust authorities.
“Defeating this merger is a win for students, faculty, and preserving competition in the textbook marketplace,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC. “In an industry already rife with anticompetitive practices, preventing this merger averts dire harms that could have caused textbook prices to rise, innovation to dwindle, and student data to be exploited.”
“As publishers provide students and faculty with temporary free access to learning materials during the COVID-19 crisis, concerns have been raised about access and time limitations associated with the offers. Working with members of the library community, SPARC has developed the following template that can be used to communicate with publishers about the restrictions….”
“In December of 2019, rumors surfaced that the White House might be considering a new national, zero-embargo open access policy. SPARC strongly endorses updating current US policy and eliminating the unnecessary 12-month waiting period for the public to gain access to the outputs of scientific research, including data, articles, and the supporting computer code. We will continue to closely monitor this development and urge the administration to take action to bring the US in line with the emerging global consensus around zero-embargo policies.
SPARC has submitted a letter to the administration supporting a strong open access policy for US federally funded research, and many other stakeholder groups—from students to scientists, patients advocates to publishers—have expressed their support. You can find links to letters from these groups below.
We’ve also seen robust conversation around the potential policy on Twitter at the hashtag #OAintheUSA….”
“OpenStax began just over two decades ago as a repository of open educational resources (OER) called Connexions where faculty around the world could publish, share, and remix educational materials. In 2012, it rebranded and started publishing its own line of free, peer-reviewed textbooks as a nonprofit educational initiative.
Since then, 9 million students have used OpenStax books saving them nearly one billion dollars. Its books have been adopted in 6,900 schools and used in more than 100 countries. This spring, an estimated 3.2 million students and 24,000 faculty are using use the books – with the volume increasing by 50 to 100 percent every year.
For its work as a leader in the open education space, driving awareness, embracing diverse voices and helping make college more affordable, SPARC has recognized OpenStax with its February 2020 Innovator Award….”
“On behalf of the undersigned national and regional library, research, publishing, and advocacy organizations, we are writing to express our commitment to ensuring that American taxpayers are guaranteed immediate, free, and unfettered access to the results of scientific research that their tax dollars support, and to encourage the Administration to support continued progress towards this shared goal. We strongly endorse updating existing U.S. policy to eliminate the current 12-month embargo period on articles reporting on publicly funded research, and to ensure that they are made immediately available under terms and conditions that allow their full reuse. To unlock the full value of our collective investment in science, the underlying data needed to validate an article’s conclusions, along with any corresponding software or code, should also be made immediately available….”
“As a coalition representing more than 210 academic and research libraries on college and university campuses and related organizations across the country (see below for full list), we write to express our strong support for a federal policy that would make the results of taxpayer-funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and fully use. We wholeheartedly endorse updating current policy and eliminating the unnecessary 12-month waiting period for the public to gain access to the outputs of scientific research, including data, articles, and the supporting computer code.
Each year, the federal government uses taxpayer dollars to fund more than $60 billion dollars in scientific research. The government funds this research with the understanding that it will advance science, spur the economy, accelerate innovation, and improve the lives of its citizens. Yet, under current policy, most taxpayers – including academics, students, and patients – are not able to access the results of the research that their tax dollars fund for at least a year.
The research is only available through prohibitively expensive subscriptions to scientific journals, or through individual pay-per-view schemes where articles cost upwards of $30 to view. No college or university – even well-funded private institutions like Harvard University – can afford to subscribe to all of the scientific journals that their faculty, researchers, and students require. As a result, major university library systems (most notably the University of California System) have publicly stated that the current system is broken, and that they will no longer pay to subscribe to expensive journal packages.
Immediate, barrier-free access policies can play a crucial role in ensuring that our nation’s scientific research infrastructure is designed to optimize the accessibility and utility of these articles from the outset, amplifying all of the desired outcomes from publicly funded research. The research community has long recognized the opportunity that immediate, barrier-free, online access presents to researchers to work faster, by enabling them to get to research articles and incorporate new findings into their research more rapidly….”
“Like others, we have heard rumors about a possible new Administration Open Access Policy. As a coalition of more than 200 academic and research libraries on college and university campuses across the country, SPARC has long advocated for a federal policy that would make the results of taxpayer-funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and fully use. We wholeheartedly endorse updating current policy and eliminating the unnecessary 12-month waiting period for the public to gain access to the outputs of taxpayer-funded scientific research, including data, articles, and the supporting computer code.
Ensuring full open access to articles and data reporting on the results of publicly funded research will deliver important benefits to all by improving scientific productivity, generating new uses and applications for research, empowering startup ventures and businesses, and giving patients and their families hope of finding cures to rare and currently untreatable diseases. Without a zero-embargo policy, the U.S. stands to fall substantially behind many other nations that have already introduced strong open access policies.”