Earlier this year the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 expert group on Future of Scholarly Publishing and scholarly Communication (E03463) published a report: ‘Future of scholarly publishing and scholarly communication’
The DG Research and Innovation has invited members of the Open Science Policy Platform (Expert Group E03436), of which OASPA is a member, to respond to the report. OASPA’s statement is shared below.
OASPA Response to the Report of the European Commission’s Expert Group on the Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication
The vision of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) is very much aligned with that of the Expert Group, particularly with regard to maximising accessibility and usability, while focusing on high quality practice and outputs that preserve the integrity of scholarship. We also value flexibility and the ability to adapt, and we promote innovation while ensuring cost effectiveness. These factors are woven into the mission and values of OASPA.
Setting standards and promoting best practice is a core part of OASPA’s work which extends far beyond our membership and sees us collaborating with allied groups within scholarly communication. We already require members to include clear information on copyright and licensing for reuse. We regularly review our policies, adding archiving as a requirement recently, for example. Much more work, however, needs to be done with regards to promoting the benefits of open licenses and open research to the scholarly community.
Academics are under immense pressure. While funders have a key role to play in rewarding behavioural change, many scholars do not receive project grants from funders and the hugely important role of institutions in supporting the necessary capacity building to enable cultural change is not given enough emphasis in the Expert Group report. We appreciate that policy mandates from funders or governments achieve a higher level of compliance than no mandates, but they are not enough on their own to change the mindsets required of all actors in the system if open research practices are to be embedded in the long term as the cultural norm. It is not only institutions that have a key role but other parts of the Academy, such as scholarly societies, who must also advocate for and champion the changes to practice.
At the crux of it all, then, lies the system of academic evaluation which OASPA also sees as a key barrier to both open access and open scholarship. This is something which affects all actors – but which those working towards open access publishing, open infrastructure and related support services are less able to influence directly. Policies and research practices of funders and institutions need to undergo significant change if open research practices and an open system of scholarly communication is to be realised. Scholars lie at the heart of the system and the burden of responsibility to change has largely rested with them, but they do not have the appropriate support, resources and incentives to change.
Preserving the integrity of research, such as through peer review, is often under the stewardship of publishers. Independent peer review is integral to OASPA’s membership criteria. We support the exploration of new models (such as transparent peer review and post-publication review) but as the burden on academics continues to grow it is increasingly important for institutions to recognise and reward this contribution to scholarly communications.
Pricing transparency is also a core value and it is a requirement for our members to be clear about the services provided. Cost transparency, as articulated by the expert group, is unlikely to lead to a more transparent competitive market because publishing operations differ so substantially. Costs incurred at a large commercial mixed-model publisher, which may include different types of businesses that cross-subsidise each other, are not directly comparable to the costs of a smaller independent scholarly-led operation. Price transparency of the services provided will be more effective both as a political instrument and to help fuel competition, for example without non-disclosure deals – a recommendation in the EG report that we support.
We do agree though that cost-effective means of publishing at scale should be explored and, where possible, implemented in conjunction with funding mechanisms to support new systems into the future. OASPA supports a variety of business models and does not favour any in particular. The APC model of OA publishing is not the only model and we certainly do not want APCs to be a barrier to publication. We are very much aware of the potential inequity this business model creates, such as that between disciplines or between different geographical regions. Our vision is for a diverse, vibrant and equitable ecosystem that also promotes innovation and competition, one in which scholarly publishers play a valuable role as service providers. The nature of publishing is changing as, indeed, is its definition and the function of publishers.
We agree there is no good argument for maintaining the status quo. In a world of global collaboration and increasing digitalisation, the key actors are tied together in an ever-changing landscape of scholarly research, academic career progression and the need to share findings and evaluate those of others. Outputs are varied and will become increasingly diverse. Some disciplines and communities of practice, such as those for the arts, humanities and social sciences, need extra attention if we are to include them in our shared vision for the future.
The OASPA community encompasses publishers of all types, sizes and disciplines, together with essential supporting services and infrastructure, and hence is a broad community with a shared vision of moving towards an open access future and the associated benefits it offers to both scholarship and society. To ensure a thriving ecosystem, OASPA fosters productive and open collaboration between its members, as well as that with key external actors who depend on the inter-connected network of scholarly communication across the world. All the actors in the current system need to adapt to the changing needs of scholarship in a digital age and this will require active engagement and coordination towards a common goal. The report from the Expert Group provides a valuable outline of the essential characteristics of such a common goal, and one that we feel could be broadly agreed on.
Executive Director, OASPA
Director of Open Science, Hindawi
OSPP Representative for OASPA
Read the full expert group report: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/464477b3-2559-11e9-8d04-01aa75ed71a1