Last week OASPA welcomed two new publishers to the organization – The BMJ Group and Oxford University Press (OUP). Following our announcement the Board has received a number of questions about OASPA’s membership requirements and would like to answer some of these.
On what grounds did OASPA grant membership to the BMJ Group and OUP?
OASPA grants full membership to any publisher that publishes AT LEAST one full Open Access journal. According to the organization’s definition of Open Access, a journal must provide free immediate online access to all original research and allow re-use AT LEAST for non-commercial purposes. We highly encourage all applicants to adopt a Creative Commons License as a standard (see below) and in particular the most liberal license, the CC-BY. However, a CC-BY-NC or similar is also acceptable.
Applicants must also comply with the OASPA Code of Conduct. To ensure that they do, applicants are asked to provide information regarding their ownership structure, number of full OA articles published in their full OA journal(s) per year, links to their licensing and copyright policy, links to information regarding publication fees, and more.
Both the BMJ Group and OUP meet our criteria. The BMJ Group publishes the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which provides immediate free access to all original research and other materials online under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC). OUP publishes six (6) full Open Access journals, also published under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY-NC). OUP publishes hybrid journals that offer authors the choice of paying for Open Access for individual articles, but this was not a point of consideration for their membership. Both publishers meet with our Code of Conduct.
Why a Creative Commons License or similar?
One of the key motivations of Open Access publishing is to maximize the potential impact of any piece of published research by removing any barrier to access or reuse of that work. The best way to achieve that is to attach a Creative Commons license to each and every publication.
Furthermore, as a trade organization for Open Access publishers OASPA seeks to contribute to setting standards that provide greater clarity and consistency within scholarly communications to the benefit of all stakeholders. Essential to scholarly communications is a clear understanding of what rights the users of scholarly texts have, and as such we regard standards on copyright and licensing to be an essential issue to address. Creative Commons Licenses are machine and human readable. They have been translated into numerous languages and are universally defined. By adopting Creative Commons Licenses, publishers make it easier for any user to understand their rights with regard to downloading and re-use.
An additional benefit of using a Creative Commons License, and particularly the CC-BY or CC-BY-NC, is that authors, and other parties, may archive the final version of their paper, removing concerns about the circulation of multiple versions of a particular article. Moreover, from an Open Access publishing perspective, archives and repositories also provide additional channels for disseminating authors’ work. Using a CCL lets librarians and archivists know that they can easily and without permission archive the article. In this sense, our standards can help support archiving and repositories.
OASPA feels that it has already made an important contribution with respect to setting standards and helping publishers meet these standards particularly in the area of licensing. At the time of application, OASPA works with applicants that do not meet our standards to provide assistance and explain the logic behind our requirements. This has resulted in several publishers adopting a CCL.
What about free Open Access journals that do not allow free use?
We invite all Open Access publishers to apply for membership in OASPA. A publisher that offers free access to content but restricts reuse (including non-commercial reuse) is asked to consider the adoption of a Creative Commons Attribution License or similar. The Board is happy to work with a publisher to consider options and provide guidance. Those publishers who choose not to adopt an applicable copyright and licensing policy may choose an Associate Membership in OASPA. The Board will also reconsider applications when a publisher has altered their practices.
Why offer membership to publishers and not journals?
First, OASPA is an organization for publishers and as such our members should be publishers. Second, the founders were concerned about creating an organization that would balance the interests of different publishers equally. OASPA has defined two publisher categories – Scholar Publishers and Professional Publishing Organizations. The former are defined as smaller groups of scholars working outside of publishing houses generally on a single journal, while the latter are organizations that employ full-time staff to work with journal publishing. OASPA also grants full-membership to “Other organizations” that provide services to OA publishers or that leverage OA content.
The OASPA board consists of nine (9) members. Three (3) board seats are reserved for professional publishing organizations, three (3) for scholar publishers, one (1) for “Other organizations” and two (2) positions are at large. Each member (publisher/other organization) has one vote With respect to membership of the board. This means that a scholar publisher with a single journal has an equal voice to that of a large publishing house with a suite of journals, only a handful of which might be OA.
Had OASPA granted membership based on journals, this would have led to an imbalance within the organization. Scholar publishers with single journals would be dominated by larger publishing houses with many votes. Even among the professional organizations an imbalance would result, e.g. PLoS publishes few journals but many manuscripts, while BMC and Hindawi publish many journals, but fewer articles per journal than PLoS.
Why would OASPA accept publishing organizations that publish only one OA journal amongst a suite of subscription-based titles?
OASPA’s mission is to support Open Access publishing through exchanging information, setting standards, advancing models, advocacy in the form of pointing to the advantages of OA publishing, education, and the promotion of innovation. The best way to accomplish this mission is by bringing together all those publishers who are seriously working with Open Access publishing.
Each type of Open Access publisher brings a different perspective to the organization. Publishers with subscription journals who have begun publishing full Open Access journals are an important category to include. Information about why these publishers have chosen to engage in some OA publishing at this time and what potentially is holding them back from expanding their OA publishing programs offers insight into the remaining challenges that need to be addressed. Moreover, through an exchange of best practices with other OA publishers, this group might experience more positive outcomes from their Open Access journal publishing programs, experiences that could potentially offer encouragement to other publishers who remain cautious or skeptical about testing the waters.
Shouldn’t you make the grounds upon which publishers have been accepted clearer, and reveal the level of commitment each publisher has made with respect to OA publishing?
Yes, we should. Earlier this year the OASPA interim board agreed that we should provide information on the OASPA website about each of our members, based on the information collected through the membership application, as a means of providing greater transparency. Because we are a new organization and have a working board, this has taken longer than we would have liked. The board is in the process of identifying technical support to help us achieve this goal more quickly. We look to be able to provide this information during 2010.
Have additional questions about OASPA membership? Feel free to reply to this blog item or write to email@example.com.
Caroline Sutton, President