This article originally appeared in Publishing Perspectives, re-published with permission.
Over the last decade, scholarly publishing has moved toward Open Access business models, driving enormous change across all stages of the research workflow. In the UK and across Europe especially, and in North America as well, publishers turn to technology and organizational innovation to achieve sustainability.
This spring, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) presented a special “OA Innovation Seminar Series.” I spoke with guests who are seeing positive outcomes in their transitions to open access.
Sybille Geisenheyner, director of open science strategy and licensing at the American Chemical Society, focused on innovations in data and workflow, shortly after ACS announced the first ever California-wide transformative open access agreement. Altogether, the UCal system produces more than 11% of the US’s scholarly journal articles output and delivers instruction to more than one million students.
Sybille Geisenheyner: You can imagine how negotiating on that scale was quite a journey. It was not just the level of participants in the negotiations, it’s also the outreach that the agreement has committed us to.
The workflows behind publishing are complex, and I think everybody who is in publishing knows that from the heart – from submission through peer review, and whether it goes down the open access route or the traditional publication route.
Author communication plays a vital role here: Informing authors what is the most fitting path to publish the way they want, in the journal they want, and to be compliant with any funder mandate, if there is one in place.
CK: The California agreement emphasized bringing funders into the process, to make them a collaborative partner. Why is that important?
SG: Funders play a vital role in the research system, not just because they fund the research, but also because they have certain requirements and set certain standards or have certain policies. To have them involved as a partner in such agreements can be very important and provides more transparency in who is paying for what, and who is responsible for what.
CK: Quality data is essential. You use the image of a giant washing machine.
SG: You need to be able to curate the data running through a transformative agreement and see it coming out clean on the other side. In a read-and-publish environment, institutions, authors, and publishers care that an article has the correct affiliation and institution, author names, funder numbers, and all that in place.
There needs to be trust in the data, and that is always something we start with. The data will never be 100% perfect, but it can get even better. How many articles get published? What is the APC spend on an individual basis? What is the subscription spend? We do have a lot of data. And to share that data is key.
Matthew Day, head of open research policy and partnerships at Cambridge University Press, also appeared in CCC’s OA Innovations Seminar Series. CUP maybe the oldest university press in the world, but Day’s work involves responsibilities that are as new as 2022.
CK: What’s it like to be a change agent in the middle of change?
MD: It forces me, and lots of other people here, to think in ways that we didn’t have to think before. And it’s constantly revealing things that we didn’t expect. The weight of history is on our shoulders. We must balance massive, radical change with the health of the press. We can look back 500 years, and hopefully, we can also look forward 500 years.
We cannot progress – no one is really going to make open research work – unless we have a detailed, shared understanding of the worlds that other people exist in and their challenges. There’s been a lot of trust-building, and that’s been vital.
The focus on communications and collaboration is about moving the business from what was a commercial product – the actual physical journal – to a service, and particularly, a service for researchers. It’s not surprising that communications is important, because it’s customer service, fundamentally, that is going to be the metric for success.
We’re not selling you a journal. We’re selling the ability to produce high-quality content. Pretty much everyone now understands that the scholarly communication infrastructure to work efficiently is about moving digital information around, and that requires systems. It requires data.
Journal teams want to know how many submissions from this region they’re getting, or how many articles they published last year. How many articles does University X publish? These aren’t easy questions, but they should be easy, and they will be easy. We’re all sharing information with each other – with publishers, with institutes, with funders, with authors – information flows are important, and that means standards and shared infrastructure that haven’t existed until now.