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Community spotlight: Engaging with Jisc’s research community around the UKRI Open Access policy


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Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

UKRI launched their new open access (OA) policy in April 2022, and Jisc committed to work with UKRI and the research sector, including a diversity of research organisations, researchers, research support and management offices, and representative bodies, to develop an understanding of the challenges around open access, to share and develop best practice, and to deliver support.  

My role is to develop and deliver an integrated UKRI-Jisc comms and engagement strategy and an engagement programme that addresses identified sector needs both pre and post policy implementation. 

Stakeholder engagement  

We wanted to raise awareness of the policy and increase stakeholder engagement to understand the pain points for those involved with the practical implementation of the policy and find solutions.  

From the higher education sector, the two crucial stakeholder groups we engaged with were:  

  • Researchers (existing UKRI-funded researchers, prospective UKRI-funded researchers, UKRI-employed researchers, and disciplinary communities) – those who create the research output and are required by their funder to comply with the new policy 
  • Research support/management (Research Offices, Libraries, IT) – those who support and enable the researchers to make their output OA and be policy compliant

Engagement with the research community  

The digital research community group (DRC) was an ideal place to start engaging with the above groups. Building a new community takes time and dedication, and being able to use this existing community was invaluable.  

Engagement tactics 

We created a dedicated UKRI OA policy channel on the DRC Teams area. The channel created a space to encourage conversation and collaboration around the sharing of information and best practice, and to host regular webinars on a variety of topics associated with the policy.   

These ten ideas for online community engagement helped  inspire our engagement tactics while keeping them simple and manageable. We use polls in webinars, add images and emojis to make posts more visually appealing, tag channel members to draw attention to new posts, share relevant news and resources, and ask members to join conversations by suggesting topics. The announcements feature has been a great tool to draw in the eye and adding extra tabs at the top of the channel gives the area more of a website feel. 

So far, we have hosted six webinars via the UKRI OA policy channel, reaching over 600 attendees. The webinars are advertised via with DRC with additional promotion done via Jiscmail lists and social media. All resources are available post event in the Files section of the channel, and we always encourage the community to help determine the topics of future webinars.  

We also use the DRC Jiscmail to share information about upcoming events, blog posts and new OA agreements that will allow policy compliance. Members can join the Teams area and/or the Jiscmail list so we use both channels to reach as many members as possible. We also understand that Teams has its limitations for external members of the community, as it can be time-consuming and frustrating for members to switch from their “home” instance to the Jisc instance.  

Measuring success 

What do we actually mean by “success”? Does it mean the number of members of the Teams channel, or perhaps the number of attendees at webinars? And how do we measure “active” community engagement? 

We send a survey out to participants after each webinar, which contains a mixture of closed-ended and free-text questions. This enables us to get qualitative as well as quantitative feedback. There is also a specific question on the UKRI OA policy channel in the yearly DRC survey. There is always a possibility of “survey fatigue”, but while the response rate can appear low (hence the use of short polls within a webinar for additional feedback), our response numbers are well above the sector average, and we have a 97% satisfaction rating so far. 

The analytics feature on Teams is fairly limited; looking at the number of “active users” on the Teams area can be quite down heartening at times, especially given the amount of work we put in to making our posts engaging. 

It can sometimes feel that we are operating in an echo chamber when it is mostly Jisc colleagues who respond to, and interact with, posts. However, Jisc staff have an important role to play in engagement and the dissemination of the policy to a wider audience; they are also a stakeholder group who need to be informed of project progression so they can share with their customer groups. Likewise, when external members of the group are seemingly unengaged, it is possible they see the role of the channel as being informative, a sort of public service announcement, rather than requiring active input, and the fact that the analytics feature on Teams classes them as “inactive” is not actually a problem.  

Next steps 

We want to grow and develop the UKRI OA policy channel further in 2023. With just under a year to go until long-form publications also become in-scope of the policy, the focus of our engagement activity on the channel will now shift. UKRI will release greater detail about the long-form policy in the next few months and we are planning a range of engagement activities to support institutions prepare and comply. Watch this space! 

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