ELPUB2018 Partner Spotlight: Q&A with SPARC

Black and white image of an open book, with symbols for Q&A with SPARC logo.

In the lead up to the ELPUB conference, we are shining a spotlight on some of our key Conference Partners. In this post, we share a Question and Answer interview with SPARC.

Please tell us a bit about your organization. Who are you, and what do you do?

SPARC is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education. SPARC empowers people to solve big problems and make new discoveries through the adoption of policies and practices that advance Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education.

SPARC works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education. As a catalyst for action, SPARC focuses on collaborating with other stakeholders—including authors, publishers, libraries, students, funders, policymakers and the public—to build on the opportunities created by the Internet, promoting changes to both infrastructure and culture needed to make open the default for research and education.

The key to SPARC’s success is the commitment of our members to support and shape our initiatives. Our 200+ members are primarily academic and research libraries located in the U.S. and Canada, who use the resources and support provided by SPARC to actively promote Open Access to scholarly articles, the open sharing of research data, and the creation and adoption of Open Educational Resources on their campuses.

What projects is your organization working on that you are excited about for 2018?

SPARC’s advocacy work has been busy and fruitful this year. Most recently, SPARC worked to secure $5 million in the FY19 Omnibus Appropriations Act for the development of Open Educational Resources – the first-ever U.S. Congressional investment in OER. In addition, the Open Government Data bill we’ve worked hard to promote continues to move through the House and Senate, with the potential for passage being very likely. We’re also seeing lots of action with the Administration, with the recent increases in staffing at the Office of Science and Technology and the renewal of charter for the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Open Science.

Why is your organization supporting the ELPUB 2018 Conference?

The ELPUB Conference has always been a place where important conversations take place, the kind that drive real change. As a catalyst for action, SPARC focuses on partnering with organizations that are focused on getting things done—not just talking about action. The ELPUB Conference has been an important place for many of those critical conversations to start, and this year is no different with a theme that is highly aligned with the work of SPARC.

How does the theme of this year’s conference, Connecting the Knowledge Commons: From Projects to Sustainable Infrastructure, relate to your mission?

The theme really resonated with us this year as we ramp up our work in the infrastructure space. It has become clearer and clearer that the infrastructure upon which the research enterprise relies has to be controlled—if not outright owned—by the participants, and not ceded exclusively to for-profit players. In the journal marketplace, we’ve seen how much damage this misalignment can cause. We’re hopeful that this year’s ELPUB theme will foster a productive discussion about not repeating those mistakes of the past and how we can work together toward a more equitable and inclusive scholarly infrastructure.

What do you think are some of the challenges in creating an inclusive ecosystem for sustainable research infrastructures?

We need to be intentional about how this infrastructure is designed and ensure that considerations around inclusion and equity are foundational, rather than discussed after structural decisions have been made. This will require catalyzing conversations within the community and ensuring stakeholders understand the importance of equitable design of research infrastructure.

What discussions are you looking forward to participating in at ELPUB?

SPARC has been focusing on greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of research. This has become a priority in all of our work, and especially in our role convening the global OpenCon community.  We’ve tried to be proactive in sharing our experiences; for example, by releasing our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Self-Assessment Report last year, and we are looking forward to hearing about what others are doing in the space that we can learn from.

Are there any specific outcomes you would like to see coming out of ELPUB this year?

It’s important for the broader community to coalesce around what we mean when we talk about “The Commons.”  Discussions are happening at meetings convened by folks like Force11 and in various other pockets, but to be able to move toward a true ‘Commons’, we need better clarity and consensus on exactly what that is. With the broad diversity of participants and perspectives that ELPUB provides, it’s a wonderful venue to advance this discussion.


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