Despite countless policies and mandates promoting open access, as well as the development of tools and resources that facilitate it, and despite years of advocacy work, the majority of researchers are still not compelled to make their research outputs freely and publicly available.
But why not? Why is it that despite the citation advantage, ethical imperative, economic necessity, taxpayer responsibility, contribution to national development, educational benefit and, perhaps most importantly, the public's right to access to knowledge, are researchers not compelled to make their works publicly available?
After almost 10 years of going to countless of meetings, workshops, and conferences, there is one reason that comes up again and again for explaining many researchers’ hesitation towards adopting open practices: ‘being open’ is not explicitly rewarded in career progression.
Review, Promotion & Tenure Packets as a way to motivate academic behavioural change
To advance in their careers, university research faculty regularly submit review promotion and tenure (RPT) packets. In preparing these packets, all faculty, especially those at the early stages of their careers, rely on the guidelines and forms set out by their department or university. These guidelines and forms capture the stated values of a group of scholars, and in doing so establish the framework by which faculty need to demonstrate the value and impact of their work to the university and the broader scientific community.
As such, RPT guidelines and forms are a natural place to effect lasting change towards an opening of access to research. If faculty can begin to state their support for openness here, they will normalize `being open` (making research available in OA journals, creating open educational resources, making data openly available, or generally practicing open science), and will ensure that doing so is properly rewarded.
Unfortunately, changing the RPT process will not be straightforward. The guidelines and forms are not universal across institutions, faculties, or departments: they vary in the types of achievements and products that are asked for, the language used to describe these, the amount of space allocated for each, and the types of evidence that is solicited. This is why, with the support of the Open Society Foundations, we have chosen to study in great detail, and with an eye to supporting changes towards openness, the RPT processes of a broad range of universities (with a special focus on Canada and the United States).
We hope that our effort will offer valuable insight that can be put into action to redirect investment in academic research literature and educational resources into open, freely accessible forms by finding a way to bring about behavioral change in the career advancement process in universities.
We need you to contribute!
To succeed, however, we need your help in tracking down as many RPT guidelines and forms as possible. The help we need is simple: it could be as simple as a Google search, or short email to a faculty member that you know.
If you did not consider yourself an active part of the Open Access community yet, this is your opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. If you are already part of the community, then you know the potential impact of this work. Either way: Commit to taking action to help.
We've made contributing to the project as straightforward as possible by providing template e-mails and examples of what these forms and guidelines look like on our site. If you are curious about the project and just want to learn more, sign up here to receive updates.
This post was originally published on the OOO Canada Research Network blog.