Exactly what is OSI advocating? It’s open—not particular open agendas or specific solutions (yet), but a robust, realistic, sustainable framework for moving open forward, which means being able to discuss issues and options as a community, collaborate on efforts, and adapt solutions and approaches the community can get behind and help grow. The OSI2016 report wanders into the weeds a bit more about what OSI is trying to accomplish and why, and also describes what OSI2016 was able to accomplish. Specifically, the goal of OSI as described in this report, is “to build a sustainable, robust framework for direct communication and cooperation among nations, universities, researchers, publishers, funding organizations, scholarly societies, libraries, policy makers, and other scholarly publishing stakeholders, in order to shape the future of scholarly communication, beginning with scholarly publishing and the issues that surround it, to support a climate for finding common understanding and workable solutions and to help this stakeholder community move toward these solutions together.“ The eventual outcomes of this effort will include:
Apart from annual meetings and reports, how exactly does this group plan to achieve these lofty outcomes? The short answer is not in one step. Because the OSI community is coming at this issue from so many different directions, the best strategy for encouraging more open is to acknowledge and value where each stakeholder group is in the process and then figure out what course adjustments can be made to the system to continue to expand open and what assistance this community can offer—new incentives, coordinated policies, collaboration efforts, formal partnerships, new studies, pilot products, expanded perceptions, and so on—to help flip to a more open mindset going forward and thereby accelerate the growth rate of open publishing and also increase the volume of scholarship available in open format.
As the OSI2016 report notes, “No single actor in a multi-stakeholder system like this can enact system-wide change unilaterally; a mechanism for collaborative action needs to exist but it doesn’t currently exist in scholarly communication on a broad scale.” Therefore, OSI has been designed to work on this change collaboratively and deliberatively, in a way that involves input from all stakeholders in the scholarly communications community, and always with an acute awareness that the new world of scholarly communications being designed needs to be accepted by the research community and be of benefit to this community, needs to work in every country, institution and field of study, and needs to be reliable and effective over the long term.
It is at these intersections of idealism and reality, of open knowledge and intellectual property, and of politics and policy that OSI’s most important work will be done—-determining the best balance point between embargoes and immediate release, designing data repositories that scientists actually want and will use, curbing the unintended consequences of publish or perish without dismissing the importance of publishing in academia, improving access to scholarship for underserved regions of the world without unintentionally making the access problem worse, and more.
The OSI report notes that scholarly communication is changing and that this change presents opportunities and challenges. Some of the change that is happening involves shaking up the current system to utilize publishing tools and approaches that may be better suited to an Internet-based information world. But not all current and needed changes fall into this category. Indeed, some of the most needed changes do not. The general guidelines for action as defined by the OSI2016 group are therefore as follows (with the specific recommendations contained in workgroup reports):
The two most important communication instruments OSI has been using in this process so far are:
Other communication instruments may evolve over the coming year (the OSI2016 group talked about forming tiger teams, for instance—maybe geographically close groups of delegates who could talk about OSI at meetings and institutions), but for now, the listserv and workgroups are OSI’s two main drivers for action.
Going forward, OSI planning groups have put forward a draft governance plan which will be discussed at the upcoming meeting. Also to be discussed will be the strategic recommendations from OSI2016 delegates to create a united front for OSI by taking actions such as:
Why is collaboration needed? What proof is there that collaboration will succeed? On the one hand, it’s clear to many people who have followed the changes happening is scholarly publishing over the years that much tension and uncertainty currently exists. To this, OSI delegate Rick Anderson noted in a recent OSI listserv conversation that “All of us have an imperfect understanding of ‘the bigger picture,’ and we should…try hard both to listen to and to learn from the perspectives of those who spend most of their time working in a different part of the system than we do.”
Having a forum where issues can be discussed that reach across stakeholder groups is critical, as it is with many other societal concerns. Imagine OSI’s approach to improving scholarly publishing as being akin to auto manufacturers needing to establish common standards, or environmental regulators working toward common goals with a wide variety of stakeholders in the private sector, state and local governments, and federal and international governments.
In scholarly publishing, a variety of independent stakeholders are independently working to create a similar class of products that should ideally be interoperable and that have significance to society—the production of knowledge of consequence to medical research, industry, environmental protection, and so on, using public money in most cases. This information isn’t entertainment, nor is the type of information we’re likely to easily find in newspapers or online (without access privileges), but research that we’ve invested in, that we monitor, and from which we increasingly expect to receive a return on investment. And in the production of this good, we have no universal guidelines—no coordinating body that says how it will be done, where it will be stored and preserved, how it can (or can’t) be used, and so on.
Ensuring that this process has reasonable guidelines that protect the benefits owed to society is the best way to protect the outputs from this system.
So to create these guidelines—or at least to begin having this conversation—we need to create some kind of working group, some kind of representative body or forum that can work toward developing a system of joint responsibility for its proper care and development.
Please see the OSI2016 report (linked above) for more FAQs.