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Successful OpenAIRE Workshop on Sustainable non-APC OA publishing models

dynamicGroupPicture-2_cropped Workshop participants

This blog post is the report of the workshop on Sustainable non-APC OA publishing models (MS18 Workshop on collaborative publishing models).

The 9th international OpenAIRE workshop on Sustainable non-APC open access (OA) publishing models took place on February 26-27, 2019 at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. It showcased a range of successful non-APC OA publishing models. A particular focus was on consortia models, assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses, conducting cross-disciplinary analyses of their efficacy in different academic contexts and discussing cost sharing and joint sustainability strategies.

47 scholarly book and journal editors, publishers, librarians and people involved in non-APC publishing participated in the workshop. Together they helped outline the content and structure of the forthcoming report: a roadmap to sustainability through best practice examples and recommendations. The workshop was a combination of presentations and lively discussion groups. Below are some highlights from our discussions, and stay tuned for the Roadmap which is scheduled for release in September.

​​Setting up a non-APC OA publishing initiative 

Prof. Dr. Sabrina Backs (Bielefeld University) kicked off the discussion presenting challenges and issues often faced by new initiatives. Taking advantage of the community, being mindful of potential partnerships and having a conscious awareness of how they can help is extra important in the early stages. Sebastian Nordhoff (Language Science Press) followed up on this by presenting re-usable resources - The Cookbook for OA books, annotated business model and Do-it-yourself spreadsheet (developed with support from OpenAIRE); and stressed the importance of community support: "We rely on the community for authoring and reviewing, but also for typesetting and proofreading".

Other takeaways from the session were: The importance of a clear scope, a modular approach, collaborations and community involvement work are some of the ways of moving beyond seed funded pilots and prototypes in Open Access publishing projects. It is important to be watchful of how voluntary effort is not a sustainable path in the long run. On the other hand publicly managed and owned infrastructures can be of help – E.g. central hosting of OJS instead of single instances in each (university) library, shared and collaborative reviewer databases would be very helpful for small publishers. A recurring topic was the need for new incentives and rewards - for example universities need to re-define researcher's time/hours to include editorial work and reward this.

​Sustainability and scaling

Solveig Wikstrøm (Unit / NOJSSH) presented Norwegian open journals in SSH - an experience-based attempt to develop a sustainable non-APC OA publishing model fully supported by the Ministry, the Norwegian Research Council and the universities. One of the difficulties the project struggles to address is how to develop a sustainable and fair cost model for participating institutions. Should an institution's share of the costs be based on historic subscription cost, size of the institution, number of publications or a combination of these? Furthermore it's challenging to conclude on a sustainable percentage of institutions to participate as contributors. Most of the journals (22 of 25) are published by commercial publishers, which can often lead to high costs, low transparency and sustainability and a change to other platforms/publishers may be challenging.

Kamran Naim shared Annual Reviews Subscribe to Open Program. It is based on a conventional subscription process, utilizing existing journal budgets of libraries and building on the relationship between publisher and library. Institutions are offered a choice of committing to pay a discounted price for the journal to become Open Access, or to continue subscribing to the journal as a closed access publication at full price. The uptake level of this annually recurring offer among subscribing institutions determine whether a journals content will be flipped to open or not.

The discussion following these presentations included questions like: How do you scale up? How do you find resources (human, financial etc.) for significant outreach and promotional efforts? And touched upon topics such as crowd-participation, grass-roots support and a link to learned societies, branding and reputation, proven value - high content usage, commitment to OA and support from funders/policy for Non-APC/BPC.

The question "why are non-APC models not addressed more in OA policies?" was posed. In the case of academic publishing, the model is invisible to the end-users (researchers). There are many different initiatives, many of which are grass-roots initiatives, so it's difficult to make one stance. Another issue raised was summed up with the famous quote "It's the economy stupid" - The current economic system struggles to find a place for non-profits. The system is set up and rigged to work with the traditional publishing model, and APCs are a continuation of that model.

Short-term funding is often not sufficient for establishing and building a brand/infrastructure. In non-APC Open Access publishing there is also the very real risk of free-riding. The balance of the need/wish for more OA journals and books opposed to the statement that there are too many journals and publications already, and how we should focus on quality rather than quantity, was brought up.


The final session of the first day focused on the funding perspective: Alexander Kohls (SCOAP3/CERN) shared a case study of SCOAP3 - APC-based non-APC model (APC's are used conceptually for internal administrative purposes). Tom and Max Mosterd (Knowledge Unlatched) presented their experiences with Diamond Open Access models for journals and getting support from consortiums.

The presentations brought up and a lot of questions: Could the SCOAP3 model be replicated for other disciplines? How could OA publishing costs be more transparent? Is there a consortia overload? Too many small publishers and initiatives result in too many requests to evaluate and administer for the same small budgets - would it be better to aggregate several small open science approaches into a larger consortia? Are there other ways except consortia? A freemium model, where you pay only for extra services, is too complicated for small publishers. Looking for funding for an individual journal is not sustainable, and there is a need for a collaborative model that includes journal publishers, libraries, funders, etc. It can be concluded that funding for born OA journals is scarce - mostly flipping is supported.

​Roadmap to sustainability through best practice example 

The second day of the workshop offered a chance for digesting and refining the information and debate from the day before in the form of a panel discussion and breakout sessions.

Recurring topics in several discussion were the suggestions for a non-APC OA publishers marketplace and a directory that would include relevant information about the initiative. And some of the key takeaways from the workshop were that the community is asking for funders to play a bigger role, there is a need for quality assurance and trusted evaluation of publishers/initiatives and that there is much to be gained by joint organization of small entities (also in the field of non-APC publishing).

All the input, feedback and suggestions that came out of these two productive days in Bielefeld will be analysed and considered in the process of writing the final report. The aim of this document is to provide a suggested roadmap towards sustainability for non-APC publishing targeting policy makers, funders, higher education and research institutions and learned societies providing recommendations for collective (non-APC) OA publishing actions.

OpenAIRE will try to continue this discussion with the non-APC community, and hopefully extend it to other relevant stakeholders as well. Suggestions for venues to interact were German OA Days OAT-2019 and ICOLC meeting in Luxembourg in September and October 2019, among others.

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