What should the future of scholarly publishing look like? How about open access? Who should decide? Can journals become more affordable and accessible? Will journals continue to serve as the primary means of communicating research? Can institutional repositories work together more effectively to integrate the world’s knowledge? Finding the answers to these and other related questions is important for research growth, research funding, public education and policy development, global economic development, global information access and equity, and more. There are many different stakeholder groups working to find the answers. But not together, and not until now.
OSI is a first of its kind 10-year effort developed in partnership with (and funded in large part by) the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), hosted this first year by George Mason University, and organized this first year by the National Science Communication Institute. The objective of these meetings will be to help build a sustainable movement and a robust mechanism for direct communication and cooperation among nations, universities, researchers, publishers, funding organizations, scholarly societies, libraries, and policy makers on shaping the future of scholarly publishing – to support a climate for finding common understanding and workable solutions, and to work toward these goals together. More information about the history and goals of OSI, and the proposed agenda and program of OSI2016 are available online at osinitiative.org.
Decisions agreed to at the inaugural 2016 meeting will be revisited and refined at annual meetings over the next 10 years, with the goal of ensuring that solutions are workable and widely adopted, and that new and remaining issues are continually reviewed and agreed-to solutions are fine-tuned.
Conference delegates who are being invited to participate in these meetings are C-level representatives from key stakeholder groups in scholarly publishing around the world, representing governments, journal publishing, open access, universities and research institutions, faculty groups, scholarly societies, libraries, research funders, regulatory agencies, public policy groups, STEM education groups, journalism, and more.
Understanding the problems
nSCI hosted a conference in late 2013 to explore the broad outlines of this issue. The proceedings of this conference are available online at bit.ly/1zkx6PJ.
Following on this effort, in early September 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 OSI working group white paper “Mapping the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” available online at bit.ly/1DJwRLT. This conversation also let to a post-discussion partnership with UNESCO to expand the OSI effort globally as the Open Scholarship Initiative, broadening the focus both geographically and intellectually.
The key problems identified by the working group were:
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.
OSI working group recommendations
The OSI working group discussed these issues and many others at length. The group also made these three important recommendations (the first two being unanimous viewpoints and point 3 being a minority viewpoint which was included in the final report because the decision was made by this minority to pursue this idea as a separate project):
- Convene an annual series of high-level conferences between all key stakeholders over the next 10 years to discuss, implement, adjust, and track major reforms to the scholarly publishing system. The first conference is currently being planned for early 2016. The delegate list will be an invited group of 200 decision-makers representing every major stakeholder group in scholarly publishing, participating with the understanding that they will try to reach an agreement on the future of scholarly publishing and will then work to help implement this agreement. The United Nations will be backing these conferences (through UNESCO) and will help mobilize broad and ongoing international support, participation, and funding. Very broad participation from US stakeholders—publishers, authors, federal agencies, companies who use research, institutions that produce research, and more—is critical to getting this effort up and running. While scientific research is certainly a global interest and enterprise, the US is the largest single producer and consumer of this research information, so without strong US participation, global adoption will be difficult to achieve.
- Find answers to key questions related to reform, as detailed in the summary document. What do we really mean by “publishing” today? Are self-archiving mandates practical? Are impact factors accurate? Do embargoes serve the public interest? Are there better ways to conduct peer review? Why isn’t open access growing faster? These and many other questions have been identified in this report as starting points for discussion.
- Investigate the possibility of constructing the world’s first all-scholarship repository (ASR). Our initial discussion regarding this repository is included in Annex 4. Conversations are currently ongoing on this matter. The Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will explore building the prototype ASR (LANL also created arXiv). We are currently preparing a briefing paper for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy so they can align upcoming federal compliance efforts with this repository. A number of OSI working group members feel that creating the world’s first all-scholarship repository will need to be a precursor to truly comprehensive journal reform, and creating it the right way may end up having a greater impact on science discovery than anything ever attempted to date.
The OSI initiative already has a broad range of stakeholder support, but as we move forward we want to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table and also make it clear that we’re not just spinning our wheels to produce another white paper for discussion.
Glenn Hampson is managing this project for nSCI, and is also nSCI’s executive director. Email email@example.com.
Initial OSI conversation
Initial OSI conversation
OSI2016 conference planning
OSI2016 delegate commitments (out of 225 total)