Advocacy has been a key element of embedding repositories in research culture from the start. It is needed both to ensure that resources will be available, and also to help raise the value of the repository through increasing the number of items deposited. Effective advocacy often involves as much listening as speaking, and should be seen as part of an interactive process of involving users and stakeholders in the long-term sustainability of an embedded repository: this is best facilitated by ensuring that they are aware that development of the repository and associated systems is responsive to their requirements rather than imposed.
The advocacy case is still exactly the same (in an integrated CRIS/repository). It’s just… that some of the functions are taken on by the research information system which allows us to concentrate on promoting the main message which is still around open access and around the simplicity of deposit and demonstrating to academics that it’s a simple extra step to add your file to your metadata.” Rachel Proudfoot
Aligning advocacy with institutional strategy
It is very important that activity promoting the repository is seen to tie in with the overall research strategy of the institution, whether it is primarily focused on research assessment and grants or more oriented towards promoting research expertise to local business and the community.
Advocacy for an embedded repository
Some people have argued that advocacy is ineffective in building deposit levels compared with ensuring that the process is embedded in academic workflows; others take the view that combining both approaches is the key to success. For example, at Cranfield, where the repository team has been implementing a CRIS which has a workflow into the repository, argues that it is equally necessary to have an advocacy strategy for the CRIS. Although the institutional commitment is greater to the overarching research management process, engagement with a new system does not just happen by itself. In the process of holding workshops and training sessions for the CRIS, it has been possible to raise awareness of the repository and the importance of depositing full text.
While every institution will face different situations, there are many lessons to be learned from the experiences of other repository teams.
One example is the EMBED project, a JIC-funded project with Cranfield and the Robert Gordon University (RGU) as partners, which explored a range of issues concerned with drivers and barriers affecting researchers’ willingness to deposit. Within the overall objectives to design added value services and workflows to encourage deposit, it tested two different models of advocacy appropriate to different institutions. The experience at Cranfield has been explored in a chapter of UKSG’s E-Resources Handbook. The final report of the EMBED project is here.
Creating repository champions through one on one contact (RGU)
RGU’s strategy in the project was to have face-to-face contact with targeted individual researchers. This was highly labour-intensive, but the feeling is that it was time well-spent as it resulted in increased deposit. Overall the volume of material is increasing and the rate of increase is growing. Such personal contact also gives the library staff the confidence to know that what they are offering is of value; they may think so, but hearing it from researchers themselves certainly helps the staff when going to talk to another individual or group. As well as the direct effect of individual discussions, which boosted deposit rates, some researchers themselves then became advocates, and that had a far bigger impact than anything the library staff could have done alone. This approach also led to a far greater appreciation by the repository staff of the particular needs of researchers in different disciplines, for example, in the Art School. This is turn helped with designing workflows.
It has also been possible to build out from individual contact to more general advocacy activities; for example, holding an event at which the Vice Chancellor for Research has a much bigger impact if a number of the attendees have already been spoken to in depth, have put material into the repository and seen it used, and become enthusiasts as a result. These researchers may therefore be ready to back up the ‘top-down’ message with ‘bottom-up’ testimony about the benefits outweighing the effort.
Having consulted users at an early stage, the University of Southampton also adopted a tailored individual approach to advocacy using early-adopters. Instead of traditional publicity using posters and ﬂyers, “a personal approach was used, where a relationship was built with the people who were interested in the repository. Then it was often the case that these people sold it to other people” The success of this method was revealed in a user survey, where 43% of e-Prints Southampton users indicated that they had learned about the existence of the repository from a colleague or friend.
Top down and bottom-up advocacy (Cranfield)
Following a user study to identify the level of awareness of the repository and barriers to deposit, the strategy at Cranfield involved both top-down advocacy – such as events at which senior management spoke, and meetings with heads of research schools, in which issues identified in the user study were addressed – with more focused community building activities. These were designed to overcome the perception which emerged from the user study that the repository was ‘a library thing’ and reposition it as part of the research management landscape.
Advocacy materials, brands and slogans
An important lesson learned by many repositories is that advocacy cannot stop with a launch or re-launch. It must be sustained over a long time to have any effect. Repositories have used a number of campaign techniques such as posters and leaflets, and some have branded themselves so that their names are more clearly linked with research activity and less identified with the library or with the platform. Slogans can emphasise the benefits to the researcher of depositing:
- Be Seen, Be Read, Be Cited (EMBED)
- Visibility, accessibility, impact (NECTAR)
Several projects have created materials and toolkits which are freely available for use. These include:
A collaboration between five UK universities (University of Leeds, University of Plymouth, Exeter University, Keele University and Queen Mary University of London) and commercial partner Symplectic Ltd, the JISC-funded RePosit project has been based around advocating more academic deposits of full-text into institutional repositories via the ‘quick and easy’ connector from each institution’s CRIS system (or RMS or ERA depending on your terminology preference). Working together, the project partners came up with a list of key messages (the ‘whys’) aimed at different stakeholders – producing a pick-and-mix bank of reusable slides for advocacy presentations, plus some real-life examples of such presentations and a handy cribsheet. Taking the key message of ‘quick and easy’ to heart, four different posters (and matching postcards) were designed – the files available in an editable format with space to slot in any institution’s logo and appropriate system URL. (Please note that the image licences purchased are valid for reuse by UK higher education institutions in deposit advocacy campaigns up to a total of 250,000 print-run for any one image across all uses.) Each partner institution also produced an advocacy/communication plan of action. All these advocacy materials – and more – are available to download.
The Kultivate advocacy toolkit is aimed at repository staff engaging with arts researchers and is designed to provide useful information and practical tips on how to conduct advocacy. It is designed so relevant information on advocacy is clearly signposted and readily available at the point of need. The resources page contains material which can be re-used, re-purposed and adapted for individual institutional use.