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Investing in the Open Access Book infrastructure: a call for action

This is a guest blog post by Pierre Mounier, Jeroen Sondervan, and Graham Stone.

Join Pierre Mounier (EHESS, OpenEdition, OPERAS), Jeroen Sondervan (Knowledge Exchange Open Access Working Group and Utrecht University Library), Graham Stone (Jisc), and key stakeholders in signing a position paper calling for investment in the open access book infrastructure (Zenodo version of record, Google doc version for signatories).

In June 2020, we published a blog Open Access to academic books: Working towards the “tipping point”, which reflected on the work of the Knowledge Exchange (KE) task and finish group’s work around open access books (see “Towards a Roadmap for Open Access Monographs: A Knowledge Exchange Report”. The blogpost led to a number of valuable discussions with stakeholders and key experts in the OA books community regarding the need to develop a joined up approach to the open infrastructure required for a successful transition to open access for books.

In light of forthcoming (and existing) policy on open access for books, the KE task and finish group agreed to extend their work on open access books by facilitating a partner exchange in February 2021. This one-day virtual workshop gathered key stakeholders, including representatives of cOAlition S, SPARC Europe, OASPA, OAPEN, DARIAH-EU, OpenAIRE, national funders, KE partner organizations and many more.

After a brief overview, the day used a workshop approach to develop a common understanding on the need for further attention and support for open access for academic books. Delegates explored the key issues in three parallel sessions (OA Book Watch, OA Book Network, OA Book infrastructure), before a Mentimeter poll was used to prioritise areas for further discussion. At the end of a long day of vibrant and fruitful discussion, we took stock of the contributions and discussed the idea of a position paper on open access books infrastructure. A writing group was formed and we started work on the position paper.

The position paper identifies three legs of a policy stool that together will support the full transition to open access for academic books by:

  1. Engaging people in a common place to discuss issues and share knowledge related to the development of open access books.
  2. Sustaining the technology needed to host, disseminate, index, preserve, ensure access and quality to open access books.
  3. Gathering knowledge to monitor the transition of the academic book towards open access under several perspectives and the implementation of open access book policies.

The paper discusses different challenges that need to be overcome around bibliodiversity vs scalability, and the lack of knowledge and awareness, support for open access books services, and interoperability across the system.

There are existing communities engaged and willing to meet these challenges but resources are lacking. We believe that this infrastructure needs to be strengthened to develop the capacity, expertise and support that will sustain and grow the publication, dissemination and usage of open access books. Immediate investment in the areas identified below, and the alignment of stakeholders will enable decentralised initiatives to contribute to a sustainable system, significantly increase open access book publishing across disciplines and countries, thus strengthening researcher trust and reader awareness.

  • OA book community engagement and capacity-building

Sustain and develop the OABN to continue building the community and achieve mutual support and the sharing of knowledge of open access book policies and practices between all stakeholders. This will facilitate a more open dialogue about the challenges and opportunities posed by OA books, raise awareness of new solutions to current problems, and help to build capacity in the OA book community. It will also inform policy makers, funders, libraries, and service and infrastructure providers.

  • Technical services

Developing a sustainable infrastructure based on interoperable and robust services (e.g., quality assurance, hosting, dissemination/discoverability, access, indexing and preservation) for open access books requires coordinated and long-standing support. Current and developing services need more support and it is necessary to identify and fill gaps in the infrastructure. All stakeholders need to be involved in the development of this infrastructure, which should be open, community-governed, and transparent. This will allow for the effective implementation of any future open access book policies.

  • Open Book Watch

Tracking open books by setting up an Open Book Watch (OBW) that will monitor the development of scholarly books using a variety of agreed metrics (output, business models, impact). The emphasis will be on open access books. The OBW will aggregate open data in a structured way and display it transparently to the benefit of all stakeholders in the open access books community (research funders, policy makers, researchers, research institutions, publishers, libraries etc.). However, the prototype of the Open Book Watch will be focused on serving the needs of research funders that have deployed open access book policies. It will allow funders to monitor the success of their own policies, through alignment of data and monitoring techniques, and to monitor the success of a transition to open access for books.

The full position paper is available as a PDF to download via Zenodo. There is a Google doc version where we invite you to add your name to the growing list of signatories. We will update the PDF at regular intervals to ensure we have an up-to-date version of record.

We would like to thank Bas Cordewener and Sarah James at KE, Jean-Francois Nomine and the KE task and finish group and all those who took part in the partner exchange, particularly those that volunteered their time to help construct the position paper.

 

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