Open Advocacy

12. Open Advocacy

What is it?

Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:

  • Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Advocacy means giving voice to a group.

  • Defend and safeguard their rights.

  • Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.

Advocacy include actions of defending, influencing, changing, decision-making, persuading, lobbying, attracting attention.

Open Advocacy focuses on the movement to promote Open Science at various levels of stakeholders, highlighting and stressing the societal, professional and personal advantages that it entails.


Trainings (workshops, seminars, presentations) can be used as advocacy tools. The structured approach to advocacy practices helps to address the main issues the trainer has to keep in mind if the training is connected to an Open Science advocacy program. how to use advocacy strategies as tools for effecting specific changes, and on building the basic skills necessary for employing advocacy tools (e.g., ad campaigns, meetings with policymakers). Training here is considered as a tool for effecting specific changes, and for building an Open Science advocate community.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the context and goals of the advocacy program

  2. Be able to communicate effectively with audiences and draw community’s attention to an important issue and directing decision makers toward a resolution.

Key components


Objectives to achieve

SMART is a way of reminding you that your objectives should be:

Specific — by this we mean that you need to set a specific objective for your programmes.

Measurable — your objective should be measurable.

Achievable — the objective should be attainable or practicable.

Realistic — which also means credible.

Time-bound — and should be accomplished and achieved within a certain amount of time.

Objectives can be long term or short term. Long-term objectives usually focus on changing the policy or practice of institutions, whereas shorter-term objectives can focus on attitude changes, raising awareness, getting an issue on the agenda, building a constituency of support or movement for change. It may be necessary to achieve some of the short-term objectives before you can achieve the longer-term ones.

Main goals of advocacy program:

  • To increase awareness among influential groups and the public

  • To reduce stigma and fear

  • To engage and mobilize key stakeholders within the community who will champion the development

  • To expand advocacy groups, including community volunteers

  • To mobilize resources to support the implementation of key priority (core) interventions

  • To maintain the involvement of decision-makers and the public l by disseminating information on achievements to date and future challenges.

Steps to good advocacy

  1. Define your goals

    1. What needs changing?

    2. What do we want to ask for? Changing legislation, policy, regulation, programs, funding

  2. Understand your audience: different strategies for each target

  3. Build a profile of open access stakeholders and their attitudes

  4. Craft your message: create compelling messages that appeal to stakeholders’ interests

    1. Be clear on what we are asking for

    2. Keep it simple and focussed

    3. Use positive language

    4. Use evidence - facts carry more weight than anecdotal evidence

    5. Economic arguments are important

  5. Plan and develop your communication and advocacy campaign

  6. Identify delivery methods:

    1. Advocacy is relationship building,

    2. Tactics change by target audience

  7. Identify Resources and Gaps:

    1. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis

    2. Build on existing resources and opportunities

  8. Plan next steps, identify achievable goals that set stage for larger work: advocacy strategy/plan

  9. Evaluate effectiveness regularly

Aspects of advocacy

  • Advocating for your own rights as an author

  • The basic steps for achieving local culture change (Kotter n.y.)

  • Advocating to your peers: Writing letters and articles advocating for Open

  • Talking to journal editors - having the OA conversation with your field

  • Talking to policymakers

Tools and methods

Indirect: stimulate participants to take action on their own behalf

Direct: lobbying before decision makers by representatives on behalf of others

Campaigning: generating a response from the wider public and using a variety of techniques such as:

  • Chain e-mail or letter

  • Opinion pieces and letters to the editor in newspapers

  • Newsletters

  • Celebrity endorsements

  • Media partnerships with newspapers, journalists and film-makers

  • Web-based bulletins and online discussions

  • Public events

  • Large-scale advertising campaigns

  • Use of social media (Twitter, Facebook)


  • Write a letter for a newsletter or forum for your scholarly society about Open Access.

  • Make your own email template reply about only reviewing for OA journals, etc. Reuse/base it on ones out there already.

  • Outline concrete solutions and benefits Open Science can deliver for current headaches university administrators may struggle with.

  • Find your local advocacy group and volunteer for them!

Questions, obstacles, and common misconceptions

Lack of interest from audiences. Lack of understanding the value.

The institution and/or senior management is concerned about the impact of the advocacy efforts.

Learning outcomes

The trainer will be able to consider the training event in the context of a program.

Further reading

  • A Crowdsourced Resource by OpenCon attendees. Starting Open Projects From Scratch. CC Zero Google Doc

  • Bolick et al. (2017). How open access is crucial to the future of science. (comment by authors: rebuttal article written in the Journal of Wildlife Management after a misleading / fear mongering article about OA)

  • Clyburne-Sherin (FSCI2017). Advocating for transparency policies - a toolkit for researchers, staff, and librarians.

  • JISC Pathfinder project Pathways to Open Access (n.y.). Advocating Open Access - a toolkit for librarians and research support staff. PDF

  • Jones (2015). Open science and its advocacy.

  • Kotter (n.y.). Kotter's 8-Step Change Model of Managementt.

  • Lingua / Glossa articles on their move away from Elsevier - their advocacy as editors with a publishing organization Wikipedia

  • Mozilla Science Lab (2015). Open Science Leadership Workshop. Working OpenProject Guide.

  • Smith (2014). The Open Access Movement and Activism for the “Knowledge Commons”. (comment by authors: example of a letter to a scholarly society advocating for Open Access)

  • Smith (2015). Defending the global knowledge commons.

  • SPARC*. Author Rights & the SPARC Author Addendum. Your work, your rights.

  • Webinar Report: Organising and advocating (2018). How can early-career researchers make their voices heard? eLife ECRwednesday webinar.

  • 8 Steps to Good Advocacy. PDF

Initiatives and projects

Last updated