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SPARC 2021 Accomplishments

As we head into the final months of 2021, we’re once again taking stock of a year full of unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic, continuing economic and political uncertainty, and the urgent need to address racial justice issues. We are very fortunate that the work that we do on behalf of our members — promoting equitable, open systems of research and education — has been central in helping academic institutions and research funders operate effectively. This has enabled us not only to continue our work, but also to grow significantly in size and scope as an organization — and we are deeply grateful for our members continued support.

Over the past few years, SPARC has become a full-fledged virtual organization, opting for a structure that better reflects the distributed nature of our community and reduces our overhead. We’ve revamped our programs, eliminating our large in-person annual meeting in favor of increased virtual and local events to better meet our members where they live, and creating greater opportunities for community participation. We’ve worked hard to extend our capacity, attracting increasing levels of grant support, and using cost-effective structures (like Visiting Program Officer and SPARC Fellow positions) to expand our work into areas of immediate and pressing concern for our members — including providing extensive academic publishing market financial analyses, organizing robust antitrust challenges, supporting library negotiations with publishers, and jump-starting the establishment of a U.S. repository network.

We’ve also upped our online game, adding informational resources like our new website, our dynamic Landscape Analysis reference website, our Big Deal Knowledge Base, as well as our professional development programs like our first-of-its-kind Open Education Leadership Program and regular member-only programing like our just-in-time national policy briefings.


Mission Critical Focus

Everything we do is centered on our objective of creating a more open and equitable research and education system. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic increased the relevance and urgency of our mission; and ensuring open access to research results played a central role in dealing with the pandemic. SPARC’s work in leading the fight for open access has intensified this year as policymakers, funders, and university leaders have recognized that eliminating unnecessary barriers to scientific research is critical not only for public health, but also to address other critical societal challenges, including climate change.

Similarly, with higher education institutions thrust into online operations, providing access to high-quality free, open educational resources has become essential to ensuring that students have the best possible environment in which to continue their studies. There is high demand for SPARC to accelerate our successful efforts in increasing the awareness, creation, and adoption of OER as a cost-effective strategy for student retention.

As a membership organization, everything we do is designed to support our members ability to deal effectively with pressing challenges in the areas where we have the most expertise. This year, the SPARC team redoubled our outreach to our members and applied what we heard to shore up our efforts in the places where SPARC is uniquely positioned to help, including:


Driving Policy Change

  • Spearheading advocacy for national policies to make federally research articles, data, and code more openly and equitably available.

  • Securing language supporting faster access to taxpayer-funded research in the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260).

  • Coordinating community  response to the White House OSTP Requests for Information on Improving Federal Scientific Integrity Policies, as well as for the Department of Education’s evidence-building plan, The Learning Agenda.

  • Securing $7 million in federal funding for the U.S. Open Textbook Pilot grant program in FY2021, with an additional $14 million proposed in the Senate FY2022 Appropriations bill.

  • Successfully advocating for $115 million in funding for OER in California.

  • Driving the “open” agenda for private funders via the Open Research Funders Group.


Equipping Members for Successful Publisher Negotiations

  • Providing our members with resources (including contract libraries, pricing information, guidance on data analysis for negotiation, and more) to better prepare for journal negotiations

  • Convening regular vendor-specific negotiation discussions for our members to share strategies and learn from one another’s experiences.

  • Hosting regular discussions on topics related to negotiations, including a Negotiations 101 and 201 series co-hosted with ACRL to better support libraries and library workers in building their skills for negotiation with vendors.


Centering Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity

  • Thoroughly examining and revising our recruitment processes for both staff and governance positions.

  • Partnering with the Knowledge Equity Lab to launch the Unsettling Knowledge Inequities podcast series and produce its second season.


Realigning Research Incentives 

  • Partnering with the U.S. National Academies of Science to convene the ongoing “Roundtable on Realigning Research Incentives” to reform research incentives to support Open Science.

  • Leading the development and launch of a new Open Science Toolkit for use by institutions and funders.


Empowering Librarians Through Online Resources and Development

  • Launching a new informational resource, for members to get the facts about automatic textbook billing.

  • Providing intensive online professional development through the 5th year of our popular Open Education Leadership program.

  • Serving as lead organizer of the International 2021 Open Education Conference.

  • Collaborating with the United Nations Library to organize the 2nd UN Open Science Conference.

  • Releasing the SPARC COVID Impact Survey, undertaken to better understand libraries’ pandemic-related budgetary challenges with a focus on understanding how they affected attitudes towards content, collections, and open initiatives.


Raising Competition Concerns with Regulators

  • Working with antitrust and legal experts to file a challenge urging the Federal Trade Commission to block the proposed merger of Clarivate and ProQuest.

  • Proactively working with regulators and legislators to educate them on issues in the scholarly publishing market, and to initiate interventions where necessary.


Supporting Community-Controlled and Open Infrastructure

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—contribute to creating a more open and equitable system for sharing knowledge. Because of our members support, SPARC is widely recognized as the leading organization providing education and advocacy on openness in research and education. Our successes have fueled our ability to attract grant revenue including new funding this year from the Arcadia Fund, the Open Society Foundation, Michelson 20MM Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has helped us significantly amplify the value and impact of our members dues investment.

The entire SPARC Team thanks our members for their continued support!

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