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Coopetition in Open Access Management

During Open Access Week 2022, we discussed how the OA management community can come together and collaborate, despite increasing competition in a webinar with speakers from all across the research ecosystem. Read about the discussion here or watch the webinar.

Event duration November 21, 2022
Event location Copenhagen, Denmark


With so many stakeholders involved, duplicated processes, manual work, and communication between researchers and administrators, it is no secret that managing open access can be painful! As the demand for open access grows, so does the number of organizations tasked with creating a sustainable and uncomplicated workflow. The discussion centered on how we can collectively put competition aside to create open access management solutions that simplify the process.

Our moderator Josh Brown from MoreBrains Cooperative was joined by Wilhelm Widmark from Stockholm University, Sven Fund from Knowledge Unlatched, Jamie Carmichael from Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), Johan Rooryck from Coalition S, Nettie Lagrace from NISO and ChronosHub Founder, Christian Grubak.

The challenges are recognized, and we see that more and more providers are trying to solve them, but so far, the result has increased competition and not necessarily increased collaboration. Therefore, the main question is: is there a case for coopetition? Meaning - is there a way we can both cooperate and compete at the same time? We believe there is, and we also believe that open access management is a domain in its own right.

Marianne Knudsen, Co-CEO, ChronosHub

Map the open access management landscape

About a year ago ChronosHub partnered with MoreBrains Cooperative to learn more about the open access management landscape. At ChronosHub we love a deep dive – so steady yourself and take a jump into our position paper to see the results in full here. We surveyed 64 respondents in 22 countries with the vast majority from the US, UK and Germany. It makes sense that universities and research institutions are the most represented, as they are often responsible for maintaining open access agreements with publishers.  

To support the statement that open access is growing, 80% said they participate in multiple OA initiatives. In some places they are participating in eight or more open access initiatives, and it is fair to say that this is a huge administrative burden! To add further complexity to this, open access is usually managed across different departments and close to 40% of researchers are involved with some element of the OA workflow.  

Despite high engagement in open access, half of those surveyed reported low levels of trust in the management of OA publishing and the associated costs. And a majority want article processing charge (APC) data to be open. It is clear from this that something needs to change to better serve the community. The position paper laid out three areas where change can start to happen: APC data needs to be open, agreement on technical standards, and community governance is vital.

There is clearly a very strong need in the market to address the issue of OA management. What is so interesting about this particular issue is that nobody can solve it alone: whether you are big or small or independent or not, it doesn’t really matter. We have to work together and give meaning to the word ecosystem.

Sven Fund, Senior Director, Knowledge Unlatched

More in common

We are often reminded that we have more in common than our differences, and this is true of open access management! Everyone working in this space experiences some form of technical limitation. Sven pointed out that different technical standards across systems and publishers complicate how data is shared. Some smaller publishers have a fragile technical infrastructure, and this makes it harder for them to join the open access ecosystem. Christian identified that legacy systems are more likely to stifle innovation than competition.

This sounds quite daunting – where should we begin? Jamie was happy to share that they have already seen publishers make good investments in improving their infrastructure. However, there is still work to do! She proposed that if some issues were resolved upstream, it would help a lot: “the workflows will work when the metadata is present and complete”. Johan agreed that if submission systems were upgraded, it would improve the exchange of data and experience overall. The good news is that things are starting to happen and there are systems out there willing to improve the metadata at the start of the publishing process.

Set the standard

To set things in the right direction the prospect of creating standards was brought to the panel. Standards are in place, such as coalition S licensing requirements, but more work needs to be done on the technical side. There was discussion about education and making sure that, for example, authors provide an ORCID so that their article is linked to their unique identifier. Using this, Johan pointed out, means not only does the author have a record of their publications, but their university does too – all without having to do the reporting themselves!  

Josh pointed out that sometimes collaboration can be impeded without a stakeholder realizing it. In this case, if not everyone implements adding an ORCID identifier (a standard in itself) then it can cause inconsistencies in the quality of data across different journals and publishers. It means that collaborators like Wilhelm, based at a university, end up cleaning the data themselves later in the process. This is something that could be solved through clearer communication and upgraded tech solutions.

We need to reduce complexity through tech, but also through communications. We need to see things more from the author’s perspective. They are often presented with concepts they don’t know about. Some authors don’t know what a CC BY license is. This is also something to consider when we communicate as a community. We need to think of authors as part of the solution.

Christian Grubak, Founder and Co-CEO, ChronosHub

A need for collaboration

The discussion really showed there is a desire to collaborate. Especially because we collectively understand the root of where the issues come from: legacy systems, poor quality metadata, and not being able to implement solutions due to technical constraints. The far-reaching nature of these challenges means we cannot solve them alone. Watch this space because we are just getting started - there are many more conversations to be had about how we streamline open access!

Watch or re-watch the webinar via the page below.


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