“Guerrilla OA” done right.

I was reminded recently (when Graham Steel uploaded this photo) of something I’ve been meaning to write about for nearly two years.
For those who don’t know him (which must surely exclude nearly everyone involved with Open Access!), Graham (blog, FF) is a patient advocate, which work has made him a staunch supporter of OA and all things Open. (Those of us who promote OA from an academic or research perspective sometimes, I think, forget about the incalculable value that OA offers other professionals and the lay public.)
Graham’s first foray into “guerrilla OA” (most emphatically not to be confused with these well-meaning idiots) was in September 2007, when he attended a conference and ran a one-man unofficial promotional campaign. Do read his own description, but the basic strategy was to be a human signpost (wearing “Research Made Public” and “I’m Open” t-shirts) and distribute OA promotional materials in such a way as to give most of the delegates at least a brief exposure to the concept.
(Pause here to marvel at the dedication of the man whose belief in the possibilities of OA makes him willing, entirely at his own instigation, to arrange attendance, travel and accomodation, collect up the necessary materials and then physically go and do all this.)
Sadly, we can’t yet clone Graham; but perhaps we can duplicate some of his efforts. I wonder how much it would cost to make “guerrilla OA” kits like the one Graham made for himself, but aimed at conference delegates so that researchers could turn into “Steel lite” activists at every conference we attend. Here are a few ideas:

  • t-shirts to start conversations
  • a badge instead of a t-shirt (“free your research, ask me how”) for those who prefer more formal attire
  • “OA in a nutshell” cards the size and shape of regular business cards, for handing out in conversation and leaving on appropriate tables
  • slides for your talk: start with Cameron’s “Presentation Rights” and end with a “Basics of OA” slide
  • equivalent add-ons for your poster, such as a Copyright Notice and an OA Basics placard, about the size of a postcard so they should fit on most posters as an afterthought and would be easy to incorporate into the poster itself

Here’s another idea: it would only take half a dozen delegates to run an “OA stall”, similar to the vendor stalls with which we are all only too familiar. This would mean working with conference administration, so maybe they would even help with “recruiting”; alternatively, it should be simple to set up a website where one can advertise for help in running such a stall at a particular conference. OA publishers could contribute materials (perhaps in return for help with costs), but I think transparent independence from any particular commercial effort would help tremendously in establishing credibility and producing a positive response. A prominent “who are we and why are we doing this?” banner might be a good idea. Flyers could include “OA:what’s in it for you?”, “Why the Impact Factor should be retired”, and “Elsevier: just another greedy bottom-feeder, or SPAWN OF SATAN????”. (OK, maybe not that last one… though a single page with this graph on it, or a reprint of this if I ever get around to publishing it, might be a good idea.)

4 thoughts on ““Guerrilla OA” done right.

  1. Thanks very much for the repost, Bill. I really enjoyed doing this despite the fact that in many ways, this was a foray into the unknown.
    One of the side effects of my efforts was being contacted by Prof Murray-Rust to co-author a Manuscript relating to OA/Patient Advocacy/Medicine which was totally unexpected.
    Thanks for the neat ideas you mention !!

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