Last Friday Joe McArthur and I presented an Open Access (OA) Week Planning webcast. We thought it best to follow that up with a simple post detailing the key points of the discussion. If you’d like to watch the whole webcast, it’s embedded for your viewing pleasure at the end of the post. The slides used can also be downloaded, again, we’ve embedded them below.
Your OA Week does not have to be overly academic and boring. Appealing to students and people who have absolutely no idea what OA is means you need to make OA sexy. Here are a few tips to help you organise a really cool event:
- Head outside the bubble
Advocating for OA to people who are already supporters is much like preaching to the choir. This not to say that those already participating in furthering the OA mandate should be side-lined, but our suggestion for OA Week is to venture outside the OA bubble and try to appeal to those who have no idea what OA is about. This could mean finding out what the campus hot-topic is about and trying to insert the OA dialogue in to the discussion in a relevant way. You could also tie OA to research impact, career choices and campus policy rather than just talking about it in isolation.
- Find support
The more support you have, both within and outside of your campus, the more successful your OA Week will be. The first point of call would be to get your library involved. Hold an info session for librarians about OA and OERs so that if students approach them during the week they are well informed. Ask librarians whether they would be willing to display journal price tags, posters, programmes, and stickers in the library.
Secondly, look at involving student organisations in the week’s events. Getting the Student Representative Council on-board for the week is useful as they are the primary proxy for reaching students. Ask them whether they would be willing to wear promo OA t-shirts for the week to increase visibility on campus. You could also approach research groups and debating unions.
Linking back to the point of heading outside the bubble, contact organisations outside your campus to participate in discussions during OA Week. Last year, OpenUCT Initiative at the University of Cape Town held a panel discussion about access outside the ivory tower to raise awareness around NGO’s, like Rape Crisis in South Africa, that struggle to access research relevant to their cause. In doing this, you could also establish a network between organisations outside the insular campus space and students with access to research.
Finally, R2RC, OKF, SPARC, OA Button and openaccessweek.org are useful if you have any questions or difficulties with your events.
- Everyone wants free stuff!
If you can afford to get your hands on t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and bags please do! Students love nothing more than free stuff and it can be used to incentivise participation in activities. Offer a free meal during a workshop or panel discussion and watch them walk straight in the door.
- Don’t hold an event
DO NOT WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO COME TO YOU, GO TO THEM! Make yourself visible on campus– hand out flyers, orange balloons, and free OA promo giveaways. It’s important to get your foot in the door with people so that you can follow that up with engaging discussions about what OA is and how they can get involved. The great thing about going to organisations and large groups of people is that they already have the large base of students and this makes the whole process easier.
- Do something different
As I mentioned earlier, having an overly academic week of activities isn’t fun. Students want to be engaged in things that are interesting and sexy so you gotta think outside the box. Host Access Challenges and OER Hackathons (anything with the word “Hackathon” in it is super hot right now!). Why not really do something really different and cover your campus in orange bananas. This can get your campus asking questions which you can answer with a video message or signs. More here : http://students.stopaidscampaign.org/2012/02/glasgow-goes-bananas/
- Do something easy
If you are hosting an event for the first time you don’t have to go all out and over-commit yourself. You can do simple things to attract attention during the week– watch the kick-off events and stream OA videos from YouTube. At the University of Cape Town we streamed the following videos on loop at high-trafficked campus zones:
Open Access Explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5rVH1KGBCY and How Open Access Empowered a 16 year old to make a Cancer breakthrough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G55hlnSD1Ys
The great thing here is that the work has already been done for you, you just have to show it to students.
- Join the global discussion
Do not isolate yourself from the global discussion ongoing during the week. Join the openaccessweek.org page and create a profile to document your events during the week. This way you can also get an idea of what other groups and universities are doing. Use the OA Week hashtag on twitter (#oaweek #oer #oa #openaccess etc) and blog about your experiences as much as you can.
- Give people tools
Students can be lazy and apathetic, so go to them and give them the resources they need to engage with OA. Create a list of OA journals and sites where you can access free stuff. At UCT we created a PowerPoint entitled Finding Open Stuff, which lists all the free content, from pictures to research available. You can find it here: http://openuct.uct.ac.za/article/finding-open-stuff-2013-update
- Get feedback
Make sure you get feedback from events; this will help you to gauge where people are regarding OA and how you can tailor future events.
- Follow up on it
It is important to follow up your OA week events to increase momentum– host satellite events of OpenCon etc. You need to create outputs from each event so think about creating policy groups after OA week and give people actions they have to build on. If possible, keep in touch with students who participated in OA week activities via email and twitter.
From everyone at R2RC we wish you a successful OA Week, and please feel free to contact us should you have any queries or concerns.