In September this year, over 160 delegates working in scholarly publishing, librarianship, academia, government, startups, scholarly societies, consultancies and for non-profits. descended on Arlington, Virginia, for the 8th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing (COASP). From the evening of Tuesday 20th September through to the afternoon of Thursday 22nd September, delegates listened to presentations on a wide variety of issues in open access scholarly publishing, networked, and discussed the present and future state of open access.
After an evening of drinks and networking on Tuesday 20th September, the conference program kicked off on the morning of Wednesday 21st September with a keynote by Heather Joseph of SPARC. Heather argued that it’s ‘not easy being open’, since, at its heart, the open access movement is a ‘social change movement’; while the growth of open access should be celebrated, its growth brings with it complexity in various policies, stakeholders, goals, and strategies. Progressing the open access movement is about more than just collective action, she argued; it’s about collective impact, which involves delivering on important conditions such as common agendas, progress measures, and communications.
Following Heather’s keynote, delegates were treated to eight ‘lightning talks’, which served to illustrate the diverse range of posters on show at the conference throughout the proceedings. Sofie Wennström (Stockholm University Press), David Mellor (Center for Open Science), Rebecca Kennison (Open Access Network), John Dove (Paloma & Associates), Jason Colman (Michigan Publishing Services), Diana Marshall (BMC Journals), Sonia Barbosa (Dataverse), and Xenia van Edig (Copernicus Publications) talked on topics ranging from how to reward transparent and reproducible scholarship and improve author adherence to reporting guidelines, to introducing initiatives from data sharing solutions, new models of open access, examining the book peer-review process, open monographs, a new approach for recruiting scholars to open access, and thinking about interactive open access publishing in a historical context.
The day included two panels: one on technology and innovation, the other on non-APC (article processing charge) open access publishing. The first panel, which featured Alberto Pepe (Authorea), Dario Taraborelli (Wikimedia Foundation), and Katharina Volz (OccamzRazor), argued for open data to be put at the centre of open access debates, and for scholars to release citation data to Wikidata and use licenses supporting content mining. Discoverability, reusability and societal impact were all placed front-and-centre of the discussion. The second panel, which featured Kamran Naim (Stanford University Graduate School of Education), Caroline Edwards (Open Library of Humanities), and Arianna Becerril (Redalyc) reflected on the wide variety of open access publishing models, pointing to how publishing cooperatives offer an alternative mechanism for open access, how non-APC models are being built within the humanities, and how Latin American open access models differ to those in the Global North. Unlike in the Global North, research dissemination is often part of the cost of research in Latin America, and Arianna argued that widespread adoption of the APC model threatens to exclude Latin American researchers.
Our second keynote of the day was from MacKenzie Smith (University of California, Davis), who made the case for financial sustainability of Open Access scholarly journals to be at scale. Citing the University of California, Davis Pay it Forward project, MacKenzie argued that there is no correlation between cost and quality for purely open access journals, but there is for traditional journals; that authors have a lot of market power; and that authors exhibit price sensitivity when faced with cost and quality decisions.
In our final session of the day, six speakers gave a ‘show and tell’ presentation on various open access publishing initiatives. Abel Packer (SciELO) spoke on the internationalization of SciELO Brazil journals; David Soloman (Michigan State University) reported on the Journal Flipping Project; Amye Kenall (Springer Nature) talked on research data policy and practice in journals; Kathryn Funk (PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine) gave us an overview of PubMed Central’s inter-agency public access efforts; Katie Foxall (ecancer) spoke on open access and cancer research, pointing out that 59% of cancer researchers found their research slowed down as a result of being unable to access articles in closed-access subscription journals; and Jennifer Lin (CrossRef) highlighted the importance of connecting research with multiple stakeholders – authors, institutions, funders, and more.
The second day of the conference began with a keynote by Hilda Bastian (PubMed Health/PubMed Commons) on directions in pre- and post-publication peer review. Hilda pointed to the need for making communications within publishing more constructive and inclusionary, arguing that it’s harder to hide demographic biases in open peer review than traditional peer review. Segwaying nicely into this theme of inclusion was a panel on evaluation, featuring Melissa Gymrek (University of California San Diego), Melissa Haendel (Oregon Health & Science University and FORCE11) and Veronique Kiermer (PLOS Journals). The three panelists emphasised the importance of recognising the ecosystem behind a paper; publishers were called on to recognise the various critical contributions of multidisciplinary teams, and to commit to requiring ORCID IDs in workflows.
Meredith Morovati (Dryad) gave us our third keynote, speaking on lessons learned (or not) toward open access within scholarly communication. A lack of open data means a lack of support for scholarship, and open data is not only about making data freely available, but also about the effective archiving of data, Meredith argued.
Our last panel of the conference, which featured John Inglis (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press), Jenna Makowski (Alexander Street Press), and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association) discussed open scholarship initiatives from the life sciences (bioRxiv) to anthropology (Anthropology Commons) and the MLA’s work to network scholarly communication (MLA Commons). As in previous panels, communication and collaboration was pointed to as being of vital importance for the success of open scholarship initiatives; the development of truly open communication requires community-based collective action, argued Kathleen.
The conference closed with a our fourth and final keynote from Jerry Sheehan (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), who returned to the discussion of policy at the beginning of the conference and gave an inspiring recent history of US access policies across federal agencies, pointing to the important progress made by the Obama administration in recent years. Under Obama, argued Jerry, there has been a ‘sea change’ in the United States with regards to the opening up of research, data and tech. Open access, open science, and open data, he argued, are enablers as much as they are ends in themselves.
Finally, the closing remarks of Catriona MacCallum (PLOS) drew together all the various stands and themes running through the conference: innovation and experimentation in open access publishing across nations and disciplines, policy differences and changes, social justice in publishing. Catriona pointed in particular to the importance of inclusivity of participants across the spectrum of non-profit and commercial publishers, the strides made in open access publishing in the way of gender diversity (with 18 women speakers at COASP 2016), and the need to evaluate researchers on the basis of their contribution to society.
All of the recordings, slides and posters are available to watch or download via the OASPA website, along with all those from previous years. Keep an eye on this page for announcements about COASP 2017.
Warm thanks to those delegates who also took the time to write up their reflections on the conference. Andrew Smeall of Hindawi discussed how COASP was centred on ‘open access expansion into new fields, new media types, and new technologies’; Enago Academy wrote about the varied aspects of open access publishing discussed; Andrew Hyde of Cambridge University described COASP as enabling delegates to think of open access ‘not simply as an end in itself but how it connects to other deep lying issues’; Sofie Wennström of Stockholm University Press celebrated the efforts made by panelists to form coherent strategies towards achieving openness in research, as well as the prominence of women speakers; Diana Marshall of BioMed Central wrote about the emphasis on open access as a social movement; and Meredith Morovati of Dryad remarked on the connections made between the open access and open data movements.