Working together to improve global access to research

About OSI

10-year effort

OSI stared in the Fall of 2014. Several full-group conferences were held in 2016 and 2017 to hear perspectives and develop group recommendations. Progress moving forward will take a variety of forms, including spin-off projects that put group recommendations into action.

Stakeholder involvement

High-level participants from every research and scholarly communication (rscomm) stakeholder group are invited to be part of OSI. These participants have a wide variety of beliefs, expertise and experiences. Most (but not all) however, are interested in working together to improve the rscomm system.

Global scope

Scholarly publishing reform is a global issue with global perspectives and impacts. Stakeholders representatives from around the world are part of this effort, with support from UNESCO and other global partners. Starting in 2018, OSI plans to actively seek out even more global engagement.

Overview

The Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) is the world’s only global, large-scale, multi-stakeholder effort to improve the flow of information within research and between researchers, policymakers, funders and the public. This effort, which is nearing its third full year of operation, was developed in partnership between the Science Communication Institute (SCI) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in early 2016. There is no other initiative like this, focusing on improving the entire landscape of research communication (from peer review to open access to publish or perish pressures in academia) by working together instead of separately through dozens of individual and often conflicting efforts.

Working together is perhaps the single most important and unique feature of OSI. After all, who speaks for scholarly communication reform today? Is it the researchers (and if so, in what discipline or even institution)? Governments (which ones)? Universities or university libraries? Open access advocates? Publishers (new or old, big or small, subscription or open, north or south, scholarly societies or university presses)? Ask anyone from any of these groups what scholarly communication means and where it’s headed and you’ll hear plenty of ideas and opinions but no clear answers.

Indeed, if you stay in your bubble in scholarly communication you’re bound to be more misinformed than informed: You’ll believe that universal open access is just around the corner, that green repositories are on the cusp of success, that a global flip to APCs will fix all problems, that a myriad of small changes in the system are serving everyone’s needs just fine, and so on. There is no shortage of hope, which is great. But hope doesn’t make it so. Everyone acknowledges that the promise of open has enormous potential and people are pushing from many different directions to make this happen. But the reality is that the path to rapid, widely adopted and sustainable open solutions is strewn with obstacles. Creating a truly effective and sustainable future of open scholarship will require input and cooperation from the entire global ecosystem of research and scholarly communication—scientists, university administrators, non-university research institutions, libraries and library groups, repository managers, publishers, government policymakers, funders (private and government), educational policy groups and more, and from all parts of the world. The last 15 or so years of open access reform has raised our awareness of the open issue and the challenges it faces. But we are quite far from succeeding and no one wants to wait another 15-20 years before moving the ball another short distance down the field. The broad goals of open can be realized more quickly and effectively if all proponents of open work together—if we find common ground, embrace the big picture, collaborate and coordinate our efforts, and make it easier for institutions and governments to work together on rapid and sustainable open solutions.

To this end, UNESCO and the Science Communication Institute joined forces in early 2015 to create the Open Scholarship Initiative. The goal was to lay out a 10-year plan for developing a new and robust framework for direct communication and cooperation among all nations and stakeholders in order to improve scholarly communication, beginning with scholarly publishing and the issues that surround it. OSI’s approach involves not only discussing solutions that work across stakeholder groups and countries but also building a stronger foundational case for open that all stakeholders agree with and support.

Why is collaboration needed? What proof is there that collaboration will succeed, and what of criticisms that any effort like this is just co-opting or watering down existing open goals? For one, it’s clear to many people who have followed the changes happening in scholarly communication over the years that an incredible amount tension and uncertainty exists in the system. People want to know what to do and how, but they aren’t sure who to follow and why, who’s leading and who’s following, what the long-term implications of change will be for faculty and researchers (not to mention the difficulty of pushing change at a university), how much change needs to be made and how quickly, who will pay for this progress and how, and a whole slew of other critical questions that don’t have simple black and white answers or even a workable playbook for making change happen (if it was even clear what change was needed). Having a forum where these issues can be discussed across stakeholder groups is critical to making more rapid progress on this issue.

It’s also clear that no one actor can affect change in this very diverse and interconnected space. Only by working together will be able to achieve open goals. In addition, it has become increasingly clear to the OSI community that we need to work harder to ensure that what we’re doing is for the benefit of researchers first and foremost—that we involve more researchers in these conversations, listen to their concerns, and design solutions that work for their disciplines and institutions. This really isn’t being done anywhere on a global and interdisciplinary scale. A one-size-fits-all approach to open hasn’t worked over the past 15 years, and it won’t work over the next 15.

At present, over 380 leaders from 250 institutions, 24 countries and 18 stakeholder groups are part of the OSI effort. Most OSI participants are high-level representatives of their institutions—people who are positioned to lead change. In several cases these people are not subject matter experts but instead lead the teams that employ these experts. Our hope is that the scale of this effort will only grow—particularly with more involvement from the global south, which has been marginalized by the information revolution and whose marginalization may only increase if some of the current scholarly publishing reforms being discussed are enacted. Funding support for OSI to-date has totaled $303,000 ($136,000 in 2017 and $167,000 in 2016), roughly evenly divided between publishers (26%), UNESCO (24%), participants (24%, by way of conference registration fees) and foundations (23%).

For more information about OSI, please email SCI/OSI director Glenn Hampson at ghampson@nationalscience.org. The Science Communication Institute is the parent body of OSI. The goal of SCI is to change the culture of communication inside science. Other SCI projects related to OSI include the All-Scholarship Repository (ASR), the Research & Scholarly Communication Network (RScomm.net) and the Science Communication PhD program. Funding for OSI and these other efforts flows through SCI with no overhead. SCI is a US-based 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit charity registered in Washington State (EIN 27-4690007). For more information about SCI, please visit nationalscience.org.

Identifying the problems and solutions

The Open Scholarship Initiative originated from the efforts of nSCI, a US-based nonprofit. Between October 2014 and January 2015, nSCI convened and moderated an online conversation between 120 open access stakeholders, including many thought leaders in open access, publishing, and scholarly communications. This conversation, which began as the “Open Science Initiative,” resulted in the recommendations below, as well as a post-discussion partnership with UNESCO to expand this effort globally as the Open Scholarship Initiative, broadening the focus both geographically and intellectually. For more details about the Open Science Initiative’s discussions and recommendations, see the group’s working paper at http://bit.ly/1DJwRLT

OSI Working Group recommendations

The problems

The solutions

THE SCHOLARLY PUBLISHING SYSTEM IS AT A CROSSROADS. There are a wide variety of stakeholder perspectives on the critical issues in scholarly publishing—everything from journal prices to copyright requirements, peer review, impact factors, publishing fraud, and more. The stakeholder community is divided over whose perspective is correct, and this division has led to the creation of a variety of solutions that don’t work for everyone, or even with other solutions. This uncoordinated, stakeholder-centric, patchwork approach is far from optimal, and is poised to create even more information inequity, particularly in the Global South.

CURRENTLY FAVORED APPROACHES AREN’T CREATING OPTIMAL OUTCOMES. Open access adoption rates have been slow, there is confusion and disagreement amongst stakeholders about what qualifies as OA (open vs. public access, CC-BY vs. copyright, and more), and the currently-favored pricing model in OA (the current direction toward more “author pays” solutions) may be harming access and publishing prospects in parts of the developing world. In the repository world, which is critical to the future of OA, programs that are intended to link together institutional storehouses of research information—programs like CHORUS and OpenAIRE—are not optimal because research institutions have widely differing methods for archiving their work, and these methods aren’t usually interoperable. The outputs from these repository domes also suffer because of subscription paywalls, a lack of centralized control to ensure institutional participation, the completeness quality of deposited information, and more.

KNOWLEDGE CREATION CONTINUES TO ACCELERATE. Knowledge creation—and of particular relevance, the continued growth of more and more new academic journals every year—continues to accelerate, which is exacerbating the knowledge fragmentation and access problem.

THE OSI WORKING GROUP AGREED UNANIMOUSLY THAT THE OPEN SCHOLARSHIP INITIATIVE WILL HAVE THESE TWO FOUNDATIONAL ELEMENTS:

10 YEARS OF HIGH-LEVEL ANNUAL MEETINGS. The OSI working group proposed organizing high level annual meetings between all key stakeholders, beginning in early 2016, to clarify the path forward for scholarly publishing. These stakeholders will meet annually for 10 years to incorporate feedback and fine-tune solutions. An annual meeting format creates a future where decision makers from all stakeholder groups can come together regularly to share perspectives, find common ground, make plans, and follow up on previous agreements.

FIND ANSWERS to key, unresolved questions in the scholarly publishing reform debate (see http://bit.ly/1DJwRLT for details). Finding answers to key questions in scholarly publishing lays the groundwork for broad agreement on the right reform path, and enables stakeholders to move away from entrenched positions.

A MINORITY OF THE OSI WORKING GROUP ALSO DECIDED TO SPIN OFF THIS NEW PROJECT, NOT RELATED TO THE OPEN SCHOLARSHIP INITIATIVE CONFERENCES:

INVESTIGATE CREATING THE WORLD’S FIRST ALL-SCHOLARSHIP REPOSITORY (ASR). An ASR could serve as a single repository for all the world’s research information. Such a repository enables a future where much more of the world’s research knowledge (from all sources) becomes not only accessible, but integrated and organized in ways that enhance participation and usability. As a result, more interdisciplinary research happens, more discovery happens, and improvement occurs in everything from public policy to funding, education, and beyond.