A positive advocacy strategy is critical to the success of institutional repositories.
Developing and implementing an advocacy strategy is a key factor in getting an institutional repository up and running. There are many ways to engage the members of an institution, e.g. via e-mails, leaflets, blog posts, events and publicity material. At the heart of this needs to be a clear message about why an institution’s repository is important, and why people need to engage with it.
Explain and keep reiterating the benefits of a repository
‘What’s in it for me?’ Both academics and administrative staff need to know how they are going to benefit from depositing in and working with their institutional repository.
The key message to academic staff is that by depositing their work in an open access repository they are making it more visible, more accessible and thereby increasing the likelihood of their article being cited.
A number of studies have been carried out in this area  which offer evidence to demonstrate this. A 2010 report by Alma Swan entitled “The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date”  summarises these studies. Clearly there are a number of other advantages for academics, e.g. the possibility of managing their publications via a single source for multiple purposes, and the ability to comply with funding body open access policies, but the increased visibility of their work is likely to be the biggest driver.
For administrative staff the key message is that a repository offers an ideal way of managing an institutions’ publications while at the same time publicising and making more accessible the work being carried out at their institution. The institutions will benefit from the re-use of publications in a range of local activities such as performance review as well as preparing for national exercises like the REF2014.
Keep it simple
Individual institutions will know best what sort of an advocacy campaign will work most successfully for them. Having established the key benefits of the repository to promote to users the other important factor is keeping deposit simple. This may mean offering a very simple interface or reducing the burden on academics by involving local administrative staff or Library staff in carrying out deposit on behalf of academics. It is also important to reassure staff about legal matters and to provide clear guidance about what they are expected to deposit and what format this should take.
Repositories need champions
The majority of institutions running a successful repository have an open access ‘champion’ who has played a major role in persuading staff to engage with the repository. While it is most often library and computing staff that set up and run repositories they generally do not have the influence to instigate publications policies or mandates. It is important for a senior member of University management to take the lead in promoting the repository and its benefits. Champions within subject areas are also important, as different areas of the institution will have different concerns about open access.
It is critical to also engage with other staff in support services such as Research Offices, Finance, Vice-Principal’s Office within the institution and try to offer a joined up service in support of research. These staff can then provide further links to the repository and assist in providing a more streamlined support service overall.
Leading by example: success stories from other institutions
A good way of engendering interest and enthusiasm is by publicising those institutions with a well established repository with success stories to tell. Examples of such institutions are:
- University of Liège, Belgium [Repository]
- University of Southampton [Repository]
- Queensland University of Technology, Australia [Repository]
Advocacy: keep talking
Although many academics will be aware of open access and repositories they will not all respond enthusiastically immediately on being asked or required to deposit in an institutional repository. Communication with all areas of the institution will be necessary, both at top level committees and at subject/school/departmental level. Messages about the benefits of the repository and how staff should engage with it may need to be frequently reiterated. Repository staff, champions, and other advocates should be prepared to give presentations, to answer questions, to dispel myths and to accept that not all academics are fully in agreement with open access.
1 Researchers: Citation Impact Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS)
2 Swan, A. (2010) The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date. Technical Report , School of Electronics & Computer Science, University of Southampton.