The SPARKY Awards - A Contest to Promote the Open Exchange of Information
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If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
- George Bernard Shaw

Students: Tell the World Why You Demand Open Access to Research

“Open Access” is free, immediate, online access to the published results of scholarly research combined with the rights you need to be able to use and re-use them in the ways you want to in the digital space. Students are leaders in the re-use, remix, and mash-up of online materials – and have a fair expectation that scholarly research should be equally, legally accessible and re-useable to help ensure the quality of their education.

Here’s why students are embracing Open Access in growing numbers, and why student voices need to be heard through the Sparky Awards:


The fabulous Sparky Award

Access to the scholarly journals you need to do schoolwork can be prohibitively expensive. Campus libraries, which pay up to $20 million each year for resources, simply can’t afford to deliver access to everything students need for a complete education. And when annual subscription prices go up, libraries are often forced to cancel resources they do have. When you can’t access the full text of an article that pops up in your search, ask yourself: Isn’t there a better way to share this kind of information?


There is. Open Access delivers free, immediate, online access to high-quality scholarship you – and your institution – can use.

Even when you do have access to an article, you can’t always do everything you might want to do with it. You may want to download, copy, share, print, or search the full text of these articles.  You may want to search across multiple articles or text-mine a collection of articles – but if you don’t have the publisher’s explicit permission, you can’t.     

Open Access ensures that scholarly material is licensed and available to you in a way that enables the type of sharing you need to do your work effectively. Copyright parameters are determined by the author and are set to encourage full and open sharing and reuse of the article – so that others can access, read, and build on the work. Isn’t that the point of research?


Just think of the opportunities created by free, immediate, online access to scholarship – by Open Access. Students would have full access to what they need for a complete education. Professors would be able to teach what’s relevant rather than what their library can afford access to. Researchers could build on the latest experiments rather than risk starting from scratch because they don’t have the latest news. Millions of articles could be crawled at computer speeds, better results could be surfaced faster, important connections drawn more quickly, and discoveries made sooner. Open Access has the potential to speed up research, and to open new avenues for discovery in ways we’ve only just begun to imagine.  

>> call to action

You have the power to advance Open Access TODAY. Through publishing, copyright, and policy choices, students, faculty, and administrators can ensure Open Access to institutional research outputs and support wider access to the whole scholarly record. Student and faculty authors can retain their copy rights, deposit in open-access repositories, publish in open-access journals, and more. Students, faculty, and administrators can adopt policies to ensure open online access to campus-wide outputs – and, in growing numbers, they're doing just that. (Learn more about policies and overall student engagement).

Let your campus know you support Open Access and why. Student voices – the voices of tomorrow’s academics and policy makers – are crucial. Make sure you’re heard!

The SPARKY Awards is your open mike night to voice your support for Open Access. ENTER NOW.

Here’s how:

1.    Animate – Drop into the media lab and master that illustration software. Sparky category #1 is for Best Animation.
2.    Speak – Just say how it is. Skip the fancy editing and use your 120 seconds to tell campus viewers in your own eloquent words why Open Access matters to you. Category #2 is for Best Speech. Sorry, no editing allowed. (This category will include interviews and dramatizations, too, but excludes the use of third-party material).

3.    Remix – Mix it up. Re-use video, music, images and remix with your own content to create your unique vision of the importance of Open Access. Content must be re-used legally. See Stuff you should know about copyright for details.

Here are a few takes on the theme that might inspire you:

  • Access to research - Why is it crucial for researchers, students, and the public to demand access to scholarly literature? What happens when they are shut out of accessing the important work of others?
  • New opportunities - The Web and other digital technologies have created incredible new opportunities for sharing and using information. How might technology revolutionize the way that you – students, researchers and scholars – do your work? What previously unreachable goals are possible as a result of sharing science and data online?
  • Information equity - Students and researchers at small colleges and in developing countries, as well as the general public, often have limited access to scientific and scholarly research results. What are the some of the effects of inequitable access to knowledge? What can we do about it?
  • Taxpayer access - Taxpayers fund more than $60 billion in U.S. research each year. Do taxpayers have a right to expect access to the results of the research they paid for? What might happen if this was possible?
  • Knowledge as a public good - The purpose of scholarship and scientific endeavor is to advance knowledge for the welfare of society. Should scientific and scholarly knowledge be available to anyone who wants to learn? What might be possible if Open Access to this knowledge becomes the norm?

Explore the winning entries from the past three Sparky Awards contests.

rules and requirements

Videos must:

•    Be submitted by 12:00AM (Eastern) May 27th, 2011.
•    Explain why Open Access to research matters to students.
•    Be no more than 2 minutes in length.
•    Have been completed after August 1, 2010.
•    Be narrated or subtitled in English.
•    Be posted on the Internet and available for public use under a Creative Commons license. See Stuff you should know about copyright for details.

The panel of judges who will pick the winners will rate each qualified video based on these five criteria:

Category:  Animation Speech Remix
Overall Impact (persuasive, informational, educational) 30% 30% 30%
Originality (concepts, ideas, format) 15% 15% 15%
Memorable Content and Delivery 20% 20% 20%
Relevance and Clarity of Message 20% 20% 20%
Creativity and Technical Merit 15% 0% 15%
Presentation Quality (tone, pitch, clarity) 0% 15% 0%


Make your video in as high a quality as you can. The winner will be screened on a full-size movie theatre screen!