Announcing the release of the report “Knowledge Exchange consensus on monitoring Open Access publications and cost data”

Back in May 2015 in Utrecht and then again last December 2016 in Copenhagen, Knowledge Exchange ran a workshop focused on monitoring open access. The aims of the KE workshop in Utrecht were to explore sustainable open access approaches at policy, service and business levels for all research outputs and information, to the benefit of the communities that KE serves. The workshop brought together 32 participants, representing Open Access policy-makers and practitioners from the five KE partner countries as well as experts from Ireland, Norway Belgium and Spain.  The second workshop was a direct response to the suggestions made in Utrecht and was designed to create some tangible recommendations by gathering experts from all the KE countries and beyond to discuss and compare results and ongoing experimentation in the fields of Monitoring OA publications and Monitoring cost data for OA publications.

The Copenhagen workshop successfully addressed both topics in a number of ways, with keynote presentations giving useful and general overviews of ongoing initiatives and results while presentations from six different countries offered unique insights into the most prominent activities regarding monitoring of OA publications and related cost data. Finally, and most importantly, two breakout sessions involved all 57 participants in discussions about monitoring, leading to 48 concrete recommendations and the report “Knowledge Exchange consensus on monitoring Open Access publications and cost data.” 

The report gives a great deal of detail on the presentations from the different countries, as well as the keynote address from Stuart Lawson on the true costs of publishing, which coincides significantly with the excellent work he and Katie Shamash have done with the Total Cost of Ownership project in Jisc Collections.  In addition, Kai Geschuhn from the Max Planck Digital Library spoke about the idea of moving from offsetting deals to pay-as-you-publish; Rachel Lammey discussed CrossREF and open access meta-data; and Graham Stone, from Jisc, focused on collecting information on APC cost data. Those two break-out sessions were dedicated to data, workflows, standards, and policy, all of which fed into the recommendations and suggestions for moving forward into a more robust and transparent market for academic research and dissemination. I don’t want to go into any great detail on the presentations, since the report does such a good job of highlighting the talks; instead, I want to focus on the results and invite on-going dialogue with others on what can be done to implement the recommendations outlined.

As the report begins, the host and organiser of the workshop, Michael Svendsen (The Royal Library, DK), set out the goal of the workshop as a push for transparency with the aim of influencing evidence based policy making and promoting better outcomes in negotiations with publishers – both of which are issues each participant has strived to do individually, with the hope that in working together more, a great deal can be accomplished.

In summary, the recommendations on monitoring OA publications include:

  • Standards and common definitions are crucial
  • Standards already exist to a large extent, i.e., in Common European Research Information Format (CERIF) and Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH)
  • If new standards are needed they should be added to the existing protocols
  • With the standards and definitions in place, policies and agreements can require publishers to deliver data in ways that make the workflows open and transparent
  • Current Research Information Systems (CRIS’s) can be used as sources for monitoring OA publications and ensure that the monitoring data is open through open API’s (application programming interface) so that the results can be validated, thus ensuring transparency and reproducibility
  • Finally, libraries should play an active role in this area

In terms of the recommendations centred around the monitoring of cost data, they include:

  • Accounting systems and CRISes are central to the topic
  • These systems should be interoperable and aligned so that cost data at all levels can be easily retrieved
  • The data should be open and shareable
  • The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a key tool for data transferal between systems giving Crossref an important role in the workflow
  • Publishers should be required to enter all funder data in the publication metadata as well as in the publications themselves
  • Such requirements should be embedded in offsetting or licensing contracts with the publishers
  • Non-disclosure regulations in these contracts should be avoided at all times

The report has also consolidated some conclusions based on the break-out sessions from the second day.  From the sessions on monitor OA publications, it was generally agreed that standards and common definitions are crucial. Since some do exist already, e.g., in CERIF and OAI-PMH, if new standards are needed then it is recommended that they should be added to the existing protocols. However, it was pointed out that some very basic and important definitions, like the concept of Open Access itself, are not yet in place. These are needed to make monitoring exercises comparable among the various countries who are working to embrace OA. With the standards and definitions in place, policies and agreements can require publishers to deliver data in ways that make the workflows open and transparent. An important tool for monitoring, for example, is the persistent identifier. DOIs have certain limitations mainly due to the fact that they are based on metadata entered by publishers. And finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there was agreement that libraries should play a very active role in this field.

Based on the sessions focused on the monitoring of cost data, it was noted that accounting systems and CRISes are central to the issue, and these systems should be interoperable and aligned so that cost data at all levels can be easily retrieved, which means the data needs to be open and shareable. Again, the DOI was seen as a key tool for data transferal among systems and Crossref is expected to play a crucial role as a central hub for all the metadata that is being transmitted among publishers, CRISes, and accounting systems. In addition, publishers should be required to enter all funder data in the publication metadata, as well as in the publications themselves, with such requirements being settled in offsetting or licensing contracts with the publishers. Non-disclosure regulations in these contracts should be avoided at all times, which is easier said than done in many cases. It is vitally important to dissect the costs of publishing carefully, because APCs do not necessarily cover all costs, as Stuart stated in his keynote: there are administrative costs, infrastructural costs, special extra charges set by the publishers on a per publication basis and so on. Repeatedly, we see that transparency and access to the cost data is paramount.

The report is available for reading and downloading, so I encourage anyone interested in what Knowledge Exchange has been doing to have a read through it.  Additional information can be found on the KE website and via any of the contact details available.  If you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch.

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