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How to Get Started: Individual Students

Individuals are the most important piece in getting students engaged in Open Access.  It’s only when individual students choose to educate their peers on the severe barriers to access, the benefits of Open Access, and how to get involved that the student voice for Open Access becomes louder and stronger.

To get started, read through the steps below, and if you have any questions, feel free to email us at contact [at] righttoresearch [dot] org.

STEP ONE: Get Up To Date, Get Connected

Use the Learn section of our Web site to get up to speed on everything from the challenges students and others face getting access to the results of research, to the impact of limited access and how we can solve this problem.

After you’ve learned what we’re fighting for (and why we're fired up), get connected by subscribing to our blog or Twitter feed, or by friending us on Facebook.  That way you’ll know all the latest news and get our Action Alerts when there are exciting new opportunities for you to make a difference, like when a bill is introduced.

STEP TWO: Sign the Student Statement on the Right to Research as an Individual

Show your support and commitment to Open Access by signing our Student Statement, and join other students in advocating for and educating students about Open Access.  Though only organizations can be formal members of the Right to Research Coalition, we believe individuals are every bit as important as student organizations and governments.

See who has signed the Individual Statement on the Right to Research and sign yourself

STEP THREE: Get Your Organizations, Student Government, and Friends on Board

As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers.  Whether you bring up the access barriers at your institution, steep barriers faced by other students, or the heavy toll lack of access to research has on students, researchers, patients, and doctors in the developing world, nearly any student organization has an interest in opening up access to academic research.  Getting your student organizations involved and urging them to join our coalition is a great way to raise awareness of the issue of access to research and get students involved in opening the system. 

Your student government exists to represent you and your interests; let them know that access is an issue and urge them to join over a dozen other student governments in our education and advocacy efforts.  Students and student governments can play a critical role in establishing campus open-access policies that make the results of research on your campus openly available to all.

Finally, bring up Open Access with your friends and urge them to get involved both themselves and through their own organizations.

Visit our Resources page for printable brochures, posters, and sample resolutions

STEP FOUR: Advocate Nationally

By advocating at the national level for public access policies, you can have a hand in making seismic shifts that will open up billions of dollars in research that were previously locked away behind subscription barriers.  And, best of all, it doesn’t have to take much effort on your part.  In our action center, we provide template letters for active legislation, so writing to your representative is as easy as it is effective.  But don’t just stop at yourself, talk to your friends and classmates and urge them to write to Congress, as well.

Visit our Action Center to write your legislators in support of Public Access policies

STEP FIVE: Educate on Campus

Educating students on your campus, as well as encouraging your professors and librarians to do the same, will help ensure that the next generation of scholars, researchers, and students doesn’t fall victim to the current closed system of scholarly publishing that is so harmful to the open, timely, and efficient spread of information.  There are a range of options to engage your student body, ranging from quick and easy to the more elaborate, more high profile, and more fun:

• Set up a table in a high traffic area of campus and talk to students about why Open Access is important.  Figures on campus-specific budget cuts and journal cancellations make effective conversation starting points, and your library will be happy to provide you with those numbers.

• Sponsor an event on your campus during Open Access Week.  Open Access Week was started by students and is a great excuse to organize a panel or set up a table in your student union.

• Open Access mischief!  Find a prominent statue on campus and dress it up in Open Access swag – it’s a great, fun way to expose students to Open Access.  Here are some pictures from George Mason University during last year’s Open Access Week:


• Overprice Tags.  Get a list of the most expensive print journals from your librarian, and print price tags to put on each of the physical copies of the journals.  Since students are rarely aware of the often incredible cost of academic journals, overprice tags are a really effective tool to shock and engage them.  Below is an example from MIT in 2007, and you can find more information including a How-To at http://mako.cc/fun/overpricetags:

• Encourage your librarians to include Open Access in the mandatory library orientation for incoming students.  Open Access at orientation is a great way to approach your whole student body at once and make them aware of the different resources available for them to make their work openly available.

Visit our Resources page for printable brochures, posters, and sample resolutions

STEP SIX: Advocate on Campus

While policies at the national level can open a large portion of published research, campus open-access policies are crucial to filling in the gaps and expanding access to the scholarly record.  These policies express the faculty's commitment to deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscript of any published articles into an institutional repository where they can be indexed by services like Google Scholar and linked to databases such as PubMedCentral.  Over 100 campus policies have been passed to date, and the majority have passed unanimously or nearly unanimously.  

For more information on campus open-access policies, visit SPARC's campus open access policy homepage.

STEP SEVEN: Adopt Open Access Yourself 

When it comes time to publish your own work, make it openly accessible by either publishing in an open-access journal or posting your article in your institution’s repository.  Doing so will not only help others by allowing them to read and build upon your work, but it will also help you.  Dozens of studies have shown a significant increase in citations (up to 600%) when an article is made openly available rather than locked behind a pay wall1.

For an in-depth guide on how to make your work open, visit SPARC’s Author Resources Page.

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