‘It’s not Easy Being Open’ – A report from the 8th OASPA Conference in Arlington, Virginia 2016

By: Sofie Wennström.

Stockholm University Press is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), the organisation behind the 8th Conference on Scholarly Open Access Publishing which was held at the Westin Arlington Gateway, Virginia, USA on September 21-22, 2016. A poster about our work with peer-review for books was presented in the lightning talks and poster session.

Sofie Wennström at COASP 2016
Sofie Wennström at COASP 2016

This conference gathers publishers and other stakeholders within scholarly communication working with strategies for Open Access and Open Science, and it gives an opportunity to share insights, updates and ongoing projects with international peers and colleagues. The two-day conference was packed with interesting talks and demonstrations from some of the key stakeholders in the open paradigm.

The full list of speakers, presentations and recordings can be found here. The Twitter flow of comments, updates and shared extra information can be found here. This was the first time an OASPA conference was held in the US, which also influenced the program slightly towards talking about how we can finance the switch to Open Access on a larger scale.

Keynote: Forming strategies for Openness

One of the highlights of the conference was the first keynote speech held by Heather Joseph, the Executive Director of the organisation SPARC. The title was ‘It’s not Easy Being Open’, taking a hard look at where we are today in the Open Access movement. Starting from talking about the intention with Budapest Open Access Initiative to create something for the greater good of the public, explaining it as a social movement from emergence through coalesce, bureaucratisation; via success, failure, co-optation and other stages of development.

However, what is our shared goal? When can we say that we have succeeded? Perhaps when we have managed to convey the message that ‘Open’ is not just for the sake of ‘Openness’, but to serve another end goal of changing something in society by means of making information available to more people. Heather’s talk was a great start to the conference discussion, and it is well worth watching the entire video clip available here, whether you are already working openly or not. The question for the audience was: How can we form strategies together for a greater openness?

Keeping Track of the Openness

Other highlights of the conference included the ‘Show and Tell’ presentation from Jennifer Lin, Director of Product Management at CrossRef, called ‘Six Degrees of Connectedness’. This talk related to the utility of the end game of openness, from Open Access to Open Use in the broader ecosystem of scholarly communication. She asked: ‘How do we connect all these open resources in different incarnations, from pre-prints to open data?’ To get the information flowing, the metadata is essential, to connect the pieces of information together. Referring to the ‘How Open Is it?’ guide from SPARC, Jennifer showed the central position held by CrossRef through the management of connections of literature and research entities, diverse outputs and the people creating, by DOI-numbers. Lots of progress has been made, but the stakeholders will also have to comply with machine readable standards for the masses of data to be organised. See her presentation explaining the CrossRef role here. Also, read more about their API interface to test these functions here.

Asking us publishers to stop building a data desert, and instead deposit and share full metadata openly, asserting not only the article but also its relationship to other information sources contributed to the answer of the ‘how’-question asked by Heather Joseph at the beginning, aiming to further advance Open Access to research publications. Luckily, we are already following the protocol of CrossRef for all publications (books and journals) by Stockholm University Press through the ‘No Lock-in’ policy, where all our articles are machine readable in their XML versions via the OAI-PMH metadata standard, read more about this at our website.

Open Citations, Finances, Data and more…

There were many excellent presentations, of which I cannot mention all, but a few other highlights included the Wikidata project, presented by Dario Taraborelli from Wikimedia, working to ensure better citation linking to scholarly material used on Wikipedia (and elsewhere) and related sites with the aim to show the sum of all human knowledge, see the presentation video and slides.

A lot of the presentations mentioned the financial implications of Open Access, for example the keynote lecture ‘Financial Sustainability of Open Access Scholarly Journals at Scale’ made by MacKenzie Smith, Librarian at University of California, Davis, see video and slides here. Or, the story about how the Open Library of Humanities has been created with the aim of providing a publishing platform without author-facing charges within disciplines that do not have structures to pay for publication, presented by Caroline Edwards, Editorial Director at OLH, and Lecturer in Literature at Birkbeck. See slides and video here.

The problem of the evaluation tools of openness and sometimes lack of transparency was addressed in a panel session with Melissa Gymrek from University of California San Diego, in her presentation ’Middle author dilemma: how to recognize critical contributions of multidisciplinary teams’ (video and slides). By Veronique Kiermer from PLOS Journals, talking about ‘Credit and Accountability – Tools for a Better Ecosystem’ (video and slides) and by Melissa Haendel from Oregon Health & Science University and FORCE11, in the presentation ‘Credit where Credit is Due: Acknowledging all Types of Contributions’(video and slides) with an interesting Q&A session to follow (see video here).

To conclude: it seems like we are heading towards more transparency and openness, with lots of great initiatives and development, but we need to work with our metadata and make sure to distribute funding for publication better in order to succeed in our joint goal of total openness. See also the closing remarks by Catriona McCallum, from the OASPA Board, where she summarise the whole event better than I do, noting the time of renaissance we are living in as well as the female dominance on the speaker list for the entire conference. Thanks for a well organised and interesting conference!


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