Ever wondered how Open Access (OA) affects the journal submission process for authors? And how it challenges publishers, institutions, and submission system providers?
Open Access is turning the game rules for the publishing world upside down, creating room for new questions and concerns. So, we invited a solid panel of guest speakers to join us for our third educational webinar to hear about some reflections and insights into how each of them has experienced Open Access in their organizations in connection with article submissions and author workflows. The panel included Matthew Goddard, Head & E-Resources Librarian at Iowa State University, Kate Horgan, Director of Client Services at Aries Systems, and Matthew Day, Head of Open Research Policy & Partnerships at Cambridge University Press.
Matthew Goddard kicked off the session by sharing the perspectives of Iowa State University, being a library that’s entering into OA agreements to support OA publications of researchers. Currently, Iowa State University has 17 different OA agreements and the amount of OA publications under these agreements has almost doubled over the last three years.
“We do expect that this is the beginning of a broader shift of our subscription spend, shifting from paying for access from our readers to funding Open Access publication for our researchers”, Matthew Goddard said. While entering into these agreements, the problem remains that researchers find it difficult to understand what these agreements entail. The back-end complexities of these agreements should never obstruct the front-end complexities, Matthew Goddard claimed.
So, the important thing is to make sure researchers understand the agreements fully so that they know what needs to happen in order to be covered under these agreements. To support this development, Matthew Goddard highlighted two directions of effort for Iowa State University. The first one is ‘technical solutions’ that refers to the fundamental improvements in technological systems, for instance, publisher’s systems and editorial management systems. The other is ‘cultural change’ which is about the social/communicative/educational aspects aiming toward a broader change where these agreements will be, more or less, taken for granted and researchers won’t need to spend time thinking about it.
The increasing growth in OA publishing for Iowa State University is quite similar to that of Cambridge University Press, according to Matthew Day. The university has 400 journals across all subject areas and aims toward publishing openly in all of them as quickly as possible. “But it’s not just about switching off the paywall”, Matthew Day underlined. The system needs to be rebuilt or modified in some way toward a new system that works. “It’s truly an exciting process to be going through, but, fundamentally, it’s just very complicated, particularly for authors.” To him, we’re currently making things more complicated and more difficult as we’re constantly evolving and, ultimately, we need to get to a much simpler way of publishing research outputs.
These aspects and concerns resonated with Kate Horgan who referred to similar conversations at Aries Systems. Aries Systems has a peer review system, Editorial Manager, and a production system, ProduXion Manager. The data that these systems capture from the beginning can help inform what the researcher experience is – ultimately, it’s where the institutions and publishers can go to find the information about where and how their research is published. And the conversations have developed in many ways over time. “Frankly, our challenge has been language”, Kate Horgan said. The problem of not always knowing what’s right or wrong when it comes to, for instance, different agreements and OA routes, is what Aries Systems is trying to solve and support as a system. And the aim is to be ready to support the best practices in the industry and adjust some of the initial assumptions. Based on various conversational processes, Aries Systems has turned to partnerships to help solve some of the challenges.
“The ultimate takeaway is that the workflow does not need to be a burden. The policies can be complicated, but the experience doesn’t need to be, especially when we have a really clear understanding and guidelines of how we capture the required data, share that information, and guide the researcher through the experience, and then the publisher through managing that experience”, Kate Horgan underlined.
To address the challenges, Cambridge University Press has recently changed its terminology from using Read & Publish to transformative agreements – this is more in line with the language that funders are using and aims to relieve some of the confusion for researchers. There’s so much variety in language and concepts, and the complexities around the circumstances of when an agreement applies and when it doesn’t are constantly evolving. Ultimately, Matthew Day believes that building the systems to support and make it painless is difficult when the underlying information is constantly shifting. Ultimately, it’s generally a complicated matter of combining the different systems – which is why the Cambridge University Press has had to tap into them, rebuild them, and get them to do different things in new ways – against the background of a changing landscape.
In Kate Horgan’s view, four major personas form part of the peer review/production spaces: author, reviewer, editor, and publisher. But with these new conversations encircling the Open Access landscape, there’s now added a ‘fifth’ persona, that is the funder, she argued. The funder hasn’t been part of the picture before, and so for Aries Systems, it felt quite sudden to have the funder become part of the conversation. "They’re not part of the workflow but they have a very strong voice, so the task is also how to navigate that role as well", Kate Horgan stated.
From a library perspective, Iowa State University is also making certain efforts how to communicate to researchers, as sort of a minimum set of expectations for ensuring that their eligible publications are going to get published on an OA basis under the agreements. Matthew Goddard highlighted some basic aspects.
One of these was about the role of the corresponding author. For all but one specific OA agreement, the affiliation of the corresponding author is the only one considered relevant at Iowa State University – a ‘blessed area of standardization’, in Matthew Goddard's words, in a landscape where standardization isn’t common. With authors also coming from other institutions, this step is a new consideration for the role.
Matthew Day quickly stepped into the aspect of the corresponding author. “I totally agree – the use of corresponding authors is opening the door to Open Access publishing”, he responded. “But I just cannot see it surviving”. According to Matthew Day, it’s a ‘misappropriation’ of an author’s role for something completely unrelated and creates great stress thinking, “How are we going to transform all our journal articles?”
Expecting everything to be paid for by the institutions of the corresponding authors probably won’t work forever. “That’s one piece of standardization we’ll have to throw out”, he said.
Adding to this, Kate Horgan pointed to the fact that some publishers leverage the corresponding author role as the person that you go to if there’s an issue with contact – but that’s not always the person that should be the corresponding author for publication. “Usually, that’s the more senior author”, Kate Horgan said.
From a system perspective, the corresponding author tends to be a bit more junior – it can even sometimes be a general admin that institutions have that facilitates the process, Kate Horgan claimed. With this in mind, evidently, there are different ways to call out the different corresponding author roles. In Kate Horgan’s view, when we look at the corresponding author role used for funding, it would be an idea to consider a checkbox or credit, perhaps expand some of the industry standards; ways in which the author can declare which parts of the research they’re responsible for and if they’re responsible for funding. “There’s no perfect answer for that. Lots of variety”, she said.
“One thing you can say for sure is that everything depends on good quality metadata – who the author is, where they work, who funded them – and that information can only really come from the author, ultimately”, Matthew Day added. And with that, we need the systems to be able to act on this, making the processes smooth.
One of the ways Aries have had to adapt to and navigate in this changing landscape is by being strict – in short, reflecting upon its own core competences and, from this, searching for partners who have competences in the needed areas, so that it’s possible to continue with own solutions.
At Aries, joint conversations about future steps are taking place – these involve, for instance, mapping institutions and agreements, but also the topic of identity is pervading. Namely, trying to ensure that the people who are submitting are who they are as not everyone’s using the institutional email address. So, the task is to look into ways to accommodate and flag this concern in the system. “Where are there competing nuances to bring to life?”, Kate Horgan said.
Iowa State University aims to continue signing OA agreements and growing the overall share of its institutional research that’s being published Open Access under the library funding. The focus is also on the work with publisher partnerships so that 100% of eligible publication is being published Open Access.
Finally, at Cambridge University Press, Matthew Day argued that looking ahead “the system will become simpler because it has to become simpler”. There’s something fundamental about researchers needing to publish cost-effectively, and there must be a way that a publisher can deliver that in order to survive in the industry. In some ways, the landscape is becoming more complicated, and scholarly communication is evolving, so the change surely is complex, but the act of publishing Open Access will become much simpler, Matthew Day highlighted.
Arguably, there’s a need for educational effort to help make researchers understand fully what’s expected of them and give them the confidence needed to comply with their funders. Hopefully, we’ll get to a place where authors won’t even have to think about these choices, Matthew Day concluded.
If you want to get the full scope of this educational webinar and hear our three speakers share all of their insights in detail, go watch the recording below. We also have two upcoming webinars during May, so if this webinar sparked your interest, we’re certain the next ones will as well!
Browse through all our upcoming events here.