A Look Back: Challenges of OA in 2017

Over the course of the year, three issues repeatedly reared their heads as barriers to the successful implementation of Open Access: the burden of expected author OA expertise; the underutilization of metadata in the publication lifecycle, and the challenges posed to authors and institutions by one-off solutions. October 2017 marked the tenth Open Access Week. With its theme on the concrete benefits of making scholarly research openly available, where have we gotten to in solving these problems and realizing the potential of OA?

1. The OA compliance labyrinth increases the burden on authors

By now, institutions, funders and publishers have developed a raft of OA guidelines and systems. But is it realistic or reasonable to expect authors to learn a whole new ecosystem in addition to their day jobs? A recent report from OpenAIRE identified a lack of incentives for authors to move to OA and the need to improve technical infrastructure for publishing and archiving. Likewise, the level of complexity is such that author education is no longer a suitable strategy for enabling OA authors to get to publication. Instead, the focus must shift to author automation, using technology to save time and improve the author experience. Systems can be structured using logic rules to drive pre-population of key fields and menus to help them understand what they should know and do to successfully comply with the policies of all stakeholders.

As the 10th Open Access Week draws to a close, with its focus on the concrete benefits of making scholarly research openly available, where have we gotten to in solving these problems and realizing the potential of OA?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set up Chronos (reported at the ALPSP conference) to help grantees focus on research, rather than the process of publishing, by helping them identify and submit work to compliant journals. And as reported in this earlier post, Copyright Clearance Center are working to develop a new range of tools within RightsLink© platform to assist authors in seamlessly complying with publisher, funder, and institutional mandates.

2. Metadata are underutilized pre- and post-article-publication

Upstream of article publication, consistent metadata is essential for successfully automating author Article Publication Charge workflows. Without requiring metadata such as funding information, author affiliations, or ORCiDs, publishers cannot deliver a smart compliant workflow that removes the burden of OA expertise from the author. Likewise, open doesn’t necessarily mean discoverable in the post-publication ecosystem. Without the appropriate, consistent metadata, it’s just online content that doesn’t find an audience, deliver its potential impact, further scientific dialogue, or provide recognition for the researcher(s).

What’s being done to orchestrate metadata adoption and related policy to ensure consistency across the STM industry? A new initiative – Metadata 2020 – launched in September 2017, aims to elevate metadata to the level of strategic priority for the whole research community. Key stakeholders have agreed to work together to connect systems and communities, remove duplication, improve discoverability and boost innovation.

3.  Authors and institutions are disadvantaged by the multiplication of proprietary solutions

While large publishers have resources to build new bespoke systems, what happens to other stakeholders if they all pursue proprietary solutions? Authors, funders and institutions are asked to register for, learn about, and use a myriad of individual systems. Now is the time to ask ourselves whether the big disadvantage of this approach is less uptake of OA across the board. We have already witnessed the clear expression of researchers’ preference for a consistent and unified user experience in the area of content discovery, reflected in the rise of non-publisher-specific platforms like ResearchGate. Is the APC payment space next to follow?

If we want to find a cost-effective and user-friendly experience to managing the APC process, outsourced, interoperable approaches will be critical in making the process efficient and effective.



A version of this post originally appeared in IP Watch.


Author: Suzanne Kavanagh

Suzanne Kavanagh is a publishing consultant focusing on strategy, management, and marketing. She has nearly 25 years’ experience, most recently as Director of Marketing and Membership Services at ALPSP.
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