Barricading an open access website – reflections on the attack on DOAB

As many of you might have noticed, last week the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) website was unavailable for several days. Sadly, the reason for this was not a technical glitch as we first suspected, but an actual attack on DOAB.

During the weekend of 21 January, someone decided to flood the Domain Name Server (DNS) of our registrar with requests for the DOAB record – a DDoS attack.

A short explanation: when you type in www.doabooks.org, your browser looks up this address in a Domain Name Server, which translates it to an IP address (that looks like, e.g., 123.123.123.123). However, when an attacker overloads the DNS with these lookups, this does not work any more. The result is that the website is working fine, but it can’t be reached.

Sadly, we were not immediately able to understand what was happening, as we did not have any previous experience with this kind of situation. Once the reason was clear, we could take measures. We moved our domain name registration to Cloudflare, a company that specialises in the protection against these kind of attacks. At the same time, we have done this for the OAPEN and the OA Books Toolkit websites as well.

Thank you for your patience with us as we navigated these new circumstances and please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused. We hope that our explanation was clear, but of course, please contact us if you have any questions or remarks.

Book Analytics Service testimonials

Don’t just take our word for it – read about how our partner presses are benefitting from the Book Analytics Service:

The Books Analytics Service has been incredibly beneficial for Big Ten Open Books.

We were able to implement our dashboard with data from several different content hosting platforms. The amount of time and intellectual energy that would have had to be spent on manually aggregating this data is significant and would not have been able to demonstrate the granularity of the interactions with our content.

Having this robust, and straightforward technology that pulls together all our data in one place has been amazing for us. Our open access content project is just in the first few months of our initial launch.

This data gathered and presented by the BAD project has allowed us to report back to our investors about the community engagement we’ve realized. Implementing the dashboard for Big Ten Open Books has been essential to our project’s success and has helped the broader academic community to realize how impactful Humanities scholarship can be when made open access. It is now a core element of our site.

We are so appreciative of the work that the BAD project staff have done to make the usage of open access content more visible. Making this information public on our site exceeds our expectations for being able to provide transparency to our investors. Thank you for all the work you do!

Kate McCready, Visiting Program Officer at the Big Ten Academic Alliance

CEU Press, with the help of COPIM, launched its open access model in 2021. Opening the Future funds the frontlist in open access by leveraging backlist title sales. The key to the success of the model will be demonstrating impact, which includes usage of the open access titles that we publish. Since we share our OA books on as many platforms as possible, aggregating OA usage across these sites and making sense of that data is time consuming and requires standardisation across the industry. The Book Analytics Service is the solution to this problem!

Emily Poznanski, Director, CEU Press

The BAD project team have made it possible for University of Michigan Press to pilot the groundbreaking Book Analytics Service in the USA. The team’s information science expertise has smoothed the bumpy task of normalizing data from the many different platforms that host our open-access books. The team has shown both innovation and a commitment to integrity and partnership. The benefits of their work are hard to overstate. Authors can now easily monitor the impact of their individual titles to advance their academic careers. Funders can use the dashboard to obtain proof of return on investments. The visualizations of global reach have reinforced support for the Press’s equitable business model that never requires author payment. As 2022-2023 Association of University Presses President, I know that many other publishers are excited by the Book Analytics Service. This is due to the expertise of the BAD project team.

Charles Watkinson, Director, University of Michigan Press and Associate University Librarian, University of Michigan Library

We have worked with the BAD project team since 2019 on the management of UCL Press book download data, including gathering, collating and presenting data on a public dashboard developed by the team. They provide a seamless and reliable service that we have not found from any other provider, and as such we regularly recommend them to other presses.

Our dashboard provides vital information about the global usage of the open access books we publish which demonstrates the success of the OA model to our institution and shows how the university’s investment in UCL Press benefits UCL. It also means authors can easily see how their books are performing, and other stakeholders such as funders, prospective authors and the wider scholarly publishing community can see the global impact of OA books, which helps to make the case for greater support for a transition to OA.

Lara Speicher, Director of Publishing, UCL Press

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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Everything you need to know to get started with the Book Analytics Service

Niels and I were recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet with publishers and spread the word about our new Book Analytics Service (BAS). 

Laura J. Wilkinson and Niels Stern at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2023

Funders increasingly require data about the usage of open access books. This data is also useful for authors, and for explaining the case for the increased reach of OA content compared with paid content.

Gathering usage data for OA books is time-consuming, as you have to retrieve it from all the different platforms which host your content. The output formats and even what’s being counted will vary between these platforms, increasing the amount of work you need to do to synthesise the data.

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) project is the origin of the Book Analytics Service. It’s come a long way from its early days as a pilot, and the service is now functioning and hosted by OAPEN, under the same community governance model that has made OAPEN a trusted infrastructure for OA books. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the Book Analytics Dashboard project (2022-2025) is focused on creating a sustainable OA book focused analytics service. We are indebted to our fantastic COKI colleagues at Curtin University for their meticulous technical development work – thank you all!

Our core idea when designing the dashboard was to make it faster and easier for you to see usage for your OA titles across a range of data sources, such as OAPEN, JSTOR, and Google Books among others. We label downloads and views from the different sources, so that clear(?) comparisons can be made between what’s being counted in different places. 

To ensure the future of the Book Analytics Service beyond the timescale of the project funding, it’s essential that we have a sustainability model to bring in enough revenue to keep it going. This is a key element of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure – see OAPEN & DOAB’s POSI self-audit.

With our project colleagues, we carefully modelled the costs of running the service, and translated this into a pricing model which takes publisher revenue into account. This cost recovery model means that if we get more publishers to sign up than are necessary to cover the costs, we can (in discussion with the community) use the surplus to develop additional dashboard features, or lower the future cost of the service. None of the revenue is paid to shareholders – as a Dutch stichting, we don’t have any – and any surplus is reinvested in our work for the community. 

Much of the cost of onboarding a new publisher to the Book Analytics Service arises from the work needed to integrate their data feeds at the start, which is why it’s not feasible to offer a free trial. However, University of Michigan Press have kindly agreed to make their dashboard and usage data open so that anyone can see it and play with the settings to see how it works – come and have a look at our demo dashboard for yourself.

At the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, some publishers asked us how the Book Analytics Service is different from commercial alternatives. Here are some of the ways in which we differ:

  • BAS is built around the book as the primary object, rather than developing a system for journals and then including books as a sidecar/afterthought.
  • BAS is hosted by OAPEN, an independent, not-for-profit organisation which can’t be sold, so our work is not at risk of being acquired and locked in by a commercial company. Learn more about our multi-stakeholder community governance and transparency in our OAPEN & DOAB’s POSI self-audit.
  • Our code is open source, allowing you to inspect, replicate, and improve it. This open box approach means you can know what’s happened to the data used in your dashboard, in contrast with opaque systems which obscure their internal workings. We present you with the collated data for your interpretation rather than producing badges or scores with no working.

Note that although our source code is open, your publisher data is private. We know that although publishers often want to see and compare themselves against others’ data, they rarely want anyone else to see their data. This is the type of question that is being explored by our parallel project, the OA Book Usage Data Trust, which focuses on the ethics and standards of data exchange.

What would you like to do next?

  • Experiment with the template Book Analytics Service dashboard (thank you for choosing to make your dashboard data open, University of Michigan Press!)
  • Learn more about how the dashboard can help you, the service levels, and pricing model. Smaller publishers may like to explore the possibility of a consortium model, in which they collaborate with other presses to share a dashboard and its costs.
  • Need help getting your metadata into the correct export format to send to BAS, or other services? Try using Thoth to create, manage, and disseminate title metadata.
  • Interested to know more about funder requirements? The PALOMERA (Policy Alignment of Open Access Monographs in the European Research Area) project investigates the reasons why books are only rarely mandated to be published OA by research funders and institutions within the European Research Area (ERA). PALOMERA will provide actionable recommendations and concrete resources to support and coordinate aligned funder and institutional policies for OA books. Such services will also include monitoring of the usage of OA books which is another use case for the Book Analytics Service.

Ready to participate? We’re delighted to have you on board! Get started by contacting us for an initial conversation.

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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Open access books – measured in a context

For over a decade, there have been open access books platforms. Each of those platforms share usage data and when you are an author of an open access book, you would find that it has been downloaded a certain amount of times. But how should you interpret that number? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. The usage is influenced by the language of the title, its subject, but also by the platform: not all platforms reach the same audiences; furthermore, there might be seasonable differences. For instance, usage of the OAPEN Library is lower in the months of June to August, compared to September to November.

So, it would be helpful to have some clarity. A possible solution is a new metric – the Transparent Open Access Normalized Index (TOANI) score. It is designed to provide a simple answer to the question of how well an individual open access book or chapter is performing. The transparency is based on clear rules, and by making all of the data used visible. The data is normalized, using a common scale for the complete collection of an open access book platform and – to keep the level of complexity as low as possible – the score is based on a simple metric: the usage is either average, below or above average.

How does it work? As a proof of concept, we analysed the usage data of over 18,000 books in the OAPEN Library. Each book was assigned one high level subject, and the language was categorized as either English, German or Other languages. Each book was placed in a group that combined one subject and one language. Within those groups, we looked at the usage data, and determined whether a book was having average, more or less downloads.

Between groups, there are large differences: for instance, a German-language book on Humanities with 300 downloads is doing better than average, while an English-language book on Humanities would need to have reached at least 652 downloads to reach the same level. Another example is the difference between titles on Language in German versus other languages. Here, German-language books downloaded more than 250 times are scoring better than average. For books in other languages the bar is much higher: 385.

In this way, we can see how well a book is performing, compared to similar titles. In other words: when we consider the context of a book, we can actually say if its usage is better than expected.

Read more in the newly published article by Ronald Snijder, “Measured in a context: making sense of open access book data,” Insights, 2023, 36: 20, 1–10; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.627

A guarantee of OAPEN’s independence: we cannot be sold or acquired 

We’ve just published the 2022 stakeholder report for OAPEN (which is a Dutch stichting, or foundation). The financial section of this report is based on the annual accounts for 2022 which have been audited by a registered accountant specialised in Dutch law.

There are two key elements to extract from the annual accounts. Firstly, OAPEN made a surplus of €103,000 and secondly, the OAPEN Board decided to allocate €100,000 of the surplus to a contingency fund. Both elements are in line with the Principles for Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI). One principle says: “It is not enough to merely survive, it [the infrastructure] has to be able to adapt and change.” For 2022 the OAPEN Board then decided to follow the principle stating that: “a high priority should be generating a contingency fund that can support a complete, orderly wind down” by adding to its contingency fund most of the surplus, namely €100,000.  Learn more about our POSI self-audit for OAPEN and DOAB.

If OAPEN again manages to create a surplus in 2023, the Board will again have to decide how to make best use of the surplus. The contingency fund is not yet complete, but other investments could also be considered. However, the important point is that any surplus that OAPEN will generate will always be re-invested in OAPEN. This money cannot leave the organisation but can only be used to pursue the mission and the objectives of OAPEN. This follows the Dutch law for foundations.  

You may already be familiar with the American concept of a 501(c) organisation, which is a type of nonprofit organisation that is exempt from some federal income taxes. A Dutch foundation goes much further – it is an autonomous corporate vehicle that has full legal personality. Its main aim is to benefit the foundation’s mission or purpose, and not to create a profit for the founders.  

A Dutch foundation is an independent legal structure, is represented by a Board of Directors (which can be in the form of a Managing Director and a Supervisory Board as is the case for OAPEN), and is not controlled by shareholders, partners, or members. Furthermore, we are a not-for-profit rather than a non-profit because if we operate successfully we may well make a profit (termed a surplus because we are not a commercial organisation), which is then reinvested in our activities. 

A foundation cannot be sold or taken over. This means that OAPEN is guaranteed to remain independent. A foundation can only be dissolved by a decision of the Board. Any credit balance of the dissolved foundation must be used in line with the objectives of the foundation. 

The Articles of Association of a foundation specify: 

  • Its name, including the word stichting
  • Its purpose or mission 
  • Procedures for appointing and removing officers 
  • Location 
  • Decision-making procedures 
  • Procedures and payments in the event of dissolution 

Learn more about the OAPEN Articles of Association, OAPEN Bylaws (Managing Director), OAPEN Bylaws (Supervisory Board), and how a stichting works.  

Niels Stern & Laura J. Wilkinson

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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The Book Analytics Dashboard project: reflections on coordination, collaboration, and community consultation

This blog post was initially published by Kathryn Napier on the the Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI) website on May 30, 2023.

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) project (2022-2025) is a 3-year, Mellon Foundation funded project that is creating a sustainable analytics service to support diverse Open Access (OA) book publishers. Affectionately referred to as the BAD project, our goal is to provide publishers with user-friendly tools to navigate complex data about how their books are being used. The project is grounded in the premise that efficient, user-friendly usage analytics services are needed to safeguard and support diversity in the voices, perspectives, geographies, topics, and languages made visible through OA books. 

The BAD project is building on the earlier (2020-2022) Mellon-funded Developing a Pilot Data Trust for Open Access Ebook Usage project, affectionately referred to as the OAeBU project. The BAD project is scaling workflows, infrastructure and customer support processes originally developed during the earlier project. In addition to technical refinement and scaling, BAD is developing a long-term plan for housing, maintenance, and funding of the analytics service as a sustainable community infrastructure.

The team working on BAD is truly international. The Principal Investigator (PI) team comprises: Lucy Montgomery from Curtin University (Australia); Cameron Neylon (Curtin University); Niels Stern and Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation, the Netherlands), as well as community cultivation expert Katherine Skinner (Research Lead at IOI, based in the United States). 

I lead the project’s technical team, which is based at Curtin University and has close links to the Curtin Institute for Computation. The Curtin team is working closely with OAPEN to support the development of the governance and sustainability model needed to ensure the long-term stability of a dashboarding service. The whole project team meets weekly, coordinating a series of teleconference meetings and coworking sessions across hemispheres and timezones.

Cameron Neylon (Curtin University), Rebecca Handcock (Curtin University), Kathryn Napier (Curtin University), Sînziana Păltineanu (OAPEN Foundation), Laura J. Wilkinson (OAPEN Foundation), Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation), Lucy Montgomery (Curtin University), Katherine Skinner (Formerly Educopia Institute, now IOI), Niels Stern (OAPEN Foundation) meeting online in March 2023.

Consult, listen, iterate

Engaging with community feedback productively has demanded willingness, not just to consult stakeholders, but also to listen and iterate technical directions. The decision to move away from Elasticsearch Kibana in favour of Looker Studio during the first year of the project is an example of how this process of consulting, listening, and iterating has worked in practice. 

In 2022, when the BAD project kicked off, an important first priority was community consultation and the development of the first annual Technical Roadmap. A draft technical roadmap was made available for community comment and feedback in June-July 2022. The draft technical roadmap had a dual purpose: making technical systems and plans visible to stakeholders; and inviting those stakeholders into a conversation about where effort and resources should be focussed. 

The original project plan placed a heavy focus on standardising technical workflows developed during the previous OAeBU project, in order to support scaling of a dashboard service. This included the use of ElasticSearch Kibana, a system chosen because of its ability to allow for fine-grained user access roles and permissions, and well suited to keeping the information contained in dashboards private. However, ElasticSearch Kibana is less well-suited to a publisher-focussed dashboard service that engages with the value of dashboards to support advocacy and public communication. Being able to easily make dashboards public, embedding dashboards within publisher websites, and simple, visually appealing user interfaces required a different solution.

An example of pilot dashboards produced using ElasticSearch/Kibana during the OAeBU project.

Community consultation and feedback in the early stages of the BAD project highlighted important differences between the primary use cases imagined during the OAeBU project, which focussed on keeping data private; and the needs of users focussed on external messaging and public sharing of visualisations. Improving user experience needed to become a higher priority. Rather than simply standardising ElasticSearch Kibana workflows, the BAD dashboards needed both a visual and technical revamp. Technical work shifted focus to producing dashboards that can be used both publicly for marketing and communication and internally for reporting by publishers.

An example of the BAD dashboards produced using Looker Studio during the first year of the BAD project (see the template dashboard here, and the University of Michigan Press’ dashboard embedded in their website here).

We therefore shifted our focus on technical priorities in the updated technical roadmap (released in January 2023) to investigating alternative dashboarding solutions, and produced a template dashboard using Looker Studio, a dashboarding solution offered by Google. This template dashboard formed the basis of focus group community consultations that took place in the first quarter of 2023, and the dashboard design will continue to iterate and incorporate feedback through the life of the BAD project.

Virtual, in-person, hybrid: working as a truly global team

The first year of the BAD project presented both challenges and exciting opportunities. Coordinating project management and deliverables across a multinational and multidisciplinary team is not a simple exercise, and we have discovered that a combination of detailed in-person meetings and workshops with regular teleconference meetings has resulted in the best outcomes for the project. The lightbulb moment that occurred in late 2022 where we shifted our technical priorities and dashboarding system would not have occurred without a series of in-person meetings.

Laura J. Wilkinson (OAPEN Foundation), Ronald Snijder (OAPEN Foundation), Lucy Montgomery (Curtin University) and Cameron Neylon (Curtin University) meeting in person for a series of project workshops in The Hague, October 2022.

This shift in technical focus came at an ideal time within the first year of the project. We are now well placed to further refine the dashboard design through the feedback received from the focus groups (detailed in the draft technical roadmap for year 2), which will also inform the continued development of the dashboarding services sustainability, governance and financial models. We will continue to endeavour to build the best service we can with the combined talents from our multidisciplinary team.

Kathryn Napier

Learn more about the BAD project

Books in a bubble

Nowadays, we refer to “bubbles” as online places where no information from outside is allowed in. But in this instance, the opposite is true: the bubbles are a tool to help visualise how well one set of books is performing, compared to other sets of books. The OAPEN Library is an open online platform, and recently we have audited ourselves, based on the POSI principles. However, apart from an infrastructure, it is also a library.

When our collection passed the 20,000 titles milestone, we felt it was time to assess our collection: how well does it perform? That is not a simple question to answer: assessments of libraries and their collections are taking place within a certain context. OAPEN is not a ‘traditional’ library with a mixed collection of physical and digital publications, and our collection criteria are perhaps a bit different: books should be peer reviewed and have an open license, but we welcome all languages and subjects. We are not linked to one ‘parent organisation’, but try to serve everybody.

Three types of stakeholders support the OAPEN Library: publishers, funders and libraries. Both publishers and funders contribute to the collection by making publications available. They will be interested in the dissemination of the books and chapters. For libraries, the composition of the collection will be paramount. How do the titles on offer fit within the information needs of their patrons?

The evaluation of the OAPEN collection should consider these two aspects. The dissemination of books and chapters is measured through the number of downloads – based on COUNTER R5 conformant data. The composition of the collection is measured among two axes: subject and language. Both dissemination and the content-related aspects are paired to the number of publications. So, we have to take into account three dimensions: number of titles, number of downloads and average downloads per title. On top of that, we need to look at the differences between languages and subjects. All in all, a complex mix.

Our solution was to use three-dimensional pictures: the bubbles.

Usage of social sciences books depicted as three-dimensional bubbles
Social sciences in the OAPEN Library collection

The bubbles display the composition of the collection and how its readers make use of it. Visualisations like this help to tell a complicated story in a simple way; a powerful instrument to guide the further development of the OAPEN Library.

More details can be found in this open access article:

Snijder, Ronald. ‘Books in a Bubble.: Assessing the OAPEN Library Collection’. JLIS.It 14, no. 2 (15 May 2023): 75–92. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-498.

Open Access Books – Helping small libraries think big

Over the last couple of years, the OAPEN Library and Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) collections have grown significantly. We have seen more open access (OA) books being added, and welcomed new publishers from around the world. Much of the continued momentum for OA books has been made possible thanks to the support of a growing library community: investing in OA book programmes, infrastructures and services that enable not only the availability of these books in an OA format, but also their discoverability, preservation and integration into everyday workflows. 

Today, we are speaking with David Dusto, Electronic Resources Librarian at the Elizabeth City State University to learn more about their engagement with OA books.

David, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. Libraries worldwide increasingly include our collections in their library catalog. These range from large academic libraries to specialized libraries attached to research institutes as well as smaller colleges. For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth City State University, could you share a bit more about the University and its library?

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a public university that is part of the University of North Carolina system. With just over 2,000 students, ECSU is one of the smallest universities in the system, and it is also a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and approximately ⅔ of the enrolled students are minorities. Historically, ECSU started in 1891 as a teaching college, and still has a large education school. Today, ECSU is also known for its innovative aviation program. The largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the United States is also located in Elizabeth City, so we have many military students as well. The G.R. Little Library is the campus library. We have a small staff of 5 full-time librarians and two other permanent staff, and we work to meet the research and information needs of all the student body.

Could you share more about your role in the library and how you first became familiar with open access books?

I am the Electronic Resources Librarian, but my predecessor held the title “Serials Librarian”, which shows how rapidly academic libraries are changing. I first became familiar with open-access books while I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Science over a decade ago, and have been avidly interested in the subject of both open access books and journals since then. I am also involved with the university’s institutional repository (NCDOCKS), which serves as an open-access collection for material published by students and employees at the university.

To what extent are OA books a part of your library’s strategy today?

ECSU is a small university and our budget for collection development is limited, but I have found that I can supplement our existing eBook collections by locating high-quality open-access collections and adding them to the library website and discovery system. This has been enormously helpful – usage statistics indicate that a considerable percentage of eBook views through the library website are from open-access items. Therefore, despite the small size of the library and its resources, I have been able to build a large and useful online collection for our students and faculty.

How can OA books further support your library and the institution’s mission?

It’s important for institutions such as DOAB to exercise quality control in what they add to their collection, in order for it to be as useful and relevant as possible. Ensuring that links are working correctly in OA directories will save librarians like me a lot of time and aggravation in the long run, as we won’t have to deal with authentication issues and access limits that we are often confronted with when working with subscription-based collections.

In recent years open access for books has gained momentum, yet starting from a small base with a long road ahead still. Do you have any particular expectations or wishes for the open access book community and how this may evolve in the coming years?

I hope to see more institutional support for open-access book publishing. The focus for OA materials that I have seen from universities is primarily focused on journals rather than books, and I would be pleased to see increased support from both university presses/publishing houses and also from smaller institutions that may not have their own press. This would give authors from smaller universities the opportunity to publish and raise the prestige of their own institution, rather than going through a central system press. Similarly, I would like to see increased support for open course materials, such as open-access textbooks. As textbook costs continue to rise, having open course materials not only available but also adopted by instructors would go a long way towards easing the financial burden for students while simultaneously increasing access to materials.

 

OAPEN & DOAB POSI self-audit

It is with great pleasure and sense of achievement that we share with you today our POSI self-audit for OAPEN & DOAB (download OAPEN & DOAB POSI self-audit PDF).

As you may know, OAPEN and DOAB are separate but interconnected infrastructures for open access books, governed by the OAPEN Foundation and DOAB Foundation respectively. In practice, our small team of nine people works with both systems on a daily basis. But since the two organisations have different governance, we’ve carried out a self-audit for each. We hope you agree that seeing the two self-audits side-by-side helps to compare and contrast the ways they operate.

Update: learn more about OAPEN’s governance structure and why we can’t be sold or acquired.

Our POSI self-audit process

Like the world of research in which our work is immersed, we started this project by reading everything we could about POSI and the self-audits already undertaken by other organisations (the POSI Posse).

We did the first draft which was then shared internally for comments and discussion with colleagues, and then we took the document to our official governing bodies (OAPEN Board of Directors and DOAB Supervisory Board) for their views and feedback.

What did we learn?

POSI obliged us to take a good look at our practices, and address areas where we had fallen short. In some cases, we had good intentions, but as these weren’t documented anywhere, we couldn’t cite them. In others, we needed to tidy up our procedures. Some of these changes could be made immediately, while others will take a while longer. We documented these aspects in the “Next steps” column of our self-audit.

Some of the matters which gave us pause included:

Governance > Non-discriminatory membership

Is OAPEN a membership organisation? This became the subject of some debate, as we speak of publishers “joining” OAPEN. However, a publisher entering into a service agreement with OAPEN does not “buy” them a special voice or role in our governance. Our terminology for libraries is clearer, as we call them “supporters”. This has sparked efforts to improve our language to make it clear that there is no relationship between payments of any sort and governance roles.

Governance > Transparent operations

This part of the self-audit made us realise that we could improve by making more prominent on our website the OAPEN Bylaws and Articles of Association, and DOAB Articles of Association and Terms of Reference for the DOAB Scientific Committee. It was nice to be able to have this as a quick win!

Governance > Cannot lobby

At the heart of the matter is the difference between lobbying and advocacy, and whether an infrastructure should engage in such matters. We believe that any mission-driven organisation is going to have reasons to promote particular issues or approaches. For example, part of the mission of both OAPEN and DOAB is to promote open access to books. Could the Oxford English Dictionary help us?

  • Lobby, v. To influence (members of a house of legislature) in the exercise of their legislative functions by frequenting the lobby. Also, to procure the passing of (a measure) through Congress by means of such influence.
  • Advocate, v. To act as an advocate for; to support, recommend, or speak in favour of (a person or thing).

We debated the reasoning behind this element of POSI, and we also asked one of the three POSI authors, Cameron Neylon, about it. He replied: 

“The point is not to advocate or seek regulatory enclosure. For instance, advocating that OAPEN membership be required for a funder to provide BPC funding would fall within the intended scope here. Generally we felt that communities should advocate, infrastructures should support implementation. Obviously missions do involve goals and speaking to them but the argument was that lobbying in the sense of seeking regulations that benefit the infrastructure would be a red flag.”

Cameron Neylon, via email

Having also discussed this with members of the POSI Posse, we learned many of them have interpreted this Principle in the political and financial sense; that infrastructure organisations should not seek to influence legislation or regulation.

It is perhaps useful to remember that we advocate in support of our mission, a mission that is shared by many in the scholarly communications community. This is therefore a goal which is of benefit to the community in general, as compared with lobbying in the narrow interest of shareholders. This ties in well with the Principle of “formal incentives to fulfil mission & wind down” – if we no longer have the support of the community, we will take steps for an orderly wind-down, rather than continuing to exist for our own sake as a company might do.

Governance > Living will

We suddenly became aware of what it really means to have a handover plan. In our publisher agreement, it is noted that if the OAPEN Library ceases to exist, the rights granted to the OAPEN Foundation under this agreement may be transferred to the KoninklijkeBibliotheek Nederland [KB, National Library of the Netherlands, where the OAPEN office is based] exclusively for purposes of depositing the Publications in the KoninklijkeBibliotheek. Although there has long been this arrangement, we’ve never actually developed a documented process that would help the KB to put this into practice. This has spurred us to investigate how to develop such a plan.

Sustainability > Goal to generate surplus

As a not-for-profit organisation, we still have a goal to generate financial surplus. However, the surplus never leaves the organisation, it is always re-invested. The surplus is used for different things, such as building our contingency fund, new technical developments, and upgrading our existing technical infrastructures; as well as employing new colleagues to support our expanding operations and increased engagement with the community. OAPEN and DOAB have been considerably under-staffed for years, and it has long been an explicit goal to create surplus to enable us to hire more people, thus ensuring a resilient and dynamic organisation.

Sustainability > Goal to create a contingency fund to support operations for 12 months

OAPEN follows this principle by setting aside surplus revenue each year to build its contingency fund. The exact size of the contingency fund should be established by the OAPEN Board on a yearly basis. The contingency fund should cover at least 12 months of operational costs for OAPEN. At the time of doing the self-audit, OAPEN is still building its contingency fund.

Insurance > Open data

But of course our websites are openly licenced! Oh, wait… we need to state this clearly. We took action and updated both the OAPEN website and DOAB website, and OAPEN Library and DOAB Directory with CC BY 4.0 licence details. Et n’oublions pas que le site de DOAB est également disponible en français, donc il faudrait aussi le mettre à jour.

How we will follow up

Our aim for the POSI self-audit is that it will be a living document that will accompany our existing strategic plans and updates for both organisations. We plan to review our self-audit every few years to ensure it stays accurate. Meanwhile, it performs the essential everyday task of providing you, the scholarly community, with our public commitment to POSI and allowing you to question, challenge, or even encourage us on any of its aspects. We look forward to hearing from you at info@oapen.org!

Niels Stern & Laura J. Wilkinson

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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Top findings from the BAD focus groups

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) Project (2022-2025) is focused on creating a sustainable open access (OA) book focused analytics service. During this project, we are scaling up from our prototype dashboard to a fully functioning service. New to BAD? Learn more about the people, background, and work packages in our project overview.

In the first quarter of 2023, we carried out a series of focus groups with publishers to test some ideas and get their feedback to help inform our future decisions.

We really enjoyed meeting the participants and we thank them warmly for their participation. So, what did we learn from our interactions with them? You can jump to the full findings on Zenodo (which includes our methodology and instruments), explore the BAD template dashboard (currently featuring University of Michigan data – thank you U of M!), or continue reading here for a summary.

How will the Book Analytics Dashboard help publishers?

Our participants told us that this data would provide them with a better understanding of the usage of their OA books across different countries, including which titles are most popular, how language and translation affects circulation, and comparing users’ preferences for full books vs chapters. Participants largely agreed that one of the most important aspects of the service is its ability to combine, normalise, deduplicate, and visualise OA data so that it can be quickly used and trusted. 

“Our current articulation of OA is narrative-, not data-driven, so it’s very labour intensive”

Some participants also hoped the data might help inform their publishing decisions; others hoped it would inspire acquiring editors and other decision makers to become more engaged with usage data. We also heard from participants that having tangible dashboards and reports to show people would be very helpful in getting editorial boards, authors, and funders to understand OA impact. Publishers acknowledge that this needs to be done with appropriate context and explanation, but also note that this type of data is increasingly requested by authors and funders.

A key value proposition of BAD is that it allows easy synthesis and consolidation of disparate data sources, which is otherwise a very manual process that is often conducted by publishing staff members.

Features of the Book Analytics Dashboard

Publishers appreciate being able to download visual elements of the dashboard and export data from it. They value the accuracy of the data sources used, allowing them to make comparisons. Participants encouraged us to maximise this by making provenance information available so that users know that we’re providing standardised and good-quality data. 

The focus group participants identified a number of features we can improve or add, and these will be reviewed by the technical team for inclusion in the technical roadmap for years two and three of the project (see the technical roadmap for year one).

Publishers helped us explore which features would be present in different levels of the service, for example a standard dashboard with additional features as a premium offer (such as an API, integrations, or more detailed reports). It would also be possible to include additional ONIX streams (for example, from non-OA titles) as an à la carte option.

Financial sustainability

Though few participants are immediately ready to commit financially to the dashboard service, they widely acknowledged that such data and dashboards will be essential for their operations in the not-too-distant future. We discussed a number of options for pricing, and there was agreement that there should not be a flat fee for all publishers.

Community governance

We asked publishers what they wanted and expected in terms of community governance qualities or characteristics for BAD. To our surprise, many participants were reluctant to commit to being involved due to bandwidth constraints. There was a strong preference for consultative rather than democratic engagement with BAD governance. This is quite a contrast with other open scholarly infrastructures where community participation in governance of the organisation is considered a key value. Perhaps this is because people realise how much time and effort it requires to stay abreast of developments and think deeply about these aspects of work; it also might stem from cultural differences in scholarly publishers (as compared with librarians). It could also be because of the participants’ high levels of trust in OAPEN, the suggested long-term home for BAD.

Publishers welcomed being part of a community around OA books usage data as long as that did not demand they undertake governance responsibilities. They appreciate periodic stakeholder reports and annual meetings, as well as opportunities to contribute to a technical roadmap – though participants do not think that they should make decisions about technology.

“We can make suggestions, but should not fly the plane.”

As we expected, participants told us that it was important that the OA books data is provided in trust, not sold on, and is only used appropriately. Transparency is key; as is the not-for-profit status of this service.

Many publishers were happy with the idea of BAD becoming an OAPEN service under OAPEN’s existing governance. 

Next steps

The focus groups findings have given us plenty to think about! Our technical team are currently considering all the feature requests and tweaks that we discovered, and our findings will also directly feed into our work around sustainability and modelling different pricing possibilities.

Laura J. Wilkinson & Katherine Skinner

Learn more about the BAD project

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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NWO-funded book author interview: Rens Bod

Since the start of our collaboration with NWO – The Dutch Research Council, the OAPEN Library has seen the NWO collection grow, now containing almost 200 titles. OAPEN asked 3 authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the third interview is with Rens Bod:

L.W.M. (Rens) Bod is a professor in digital humanities and history of humanities at the University of Amsterdam.  His research focuses on the exploration of patterns and underlying principles in language, music, art, literature, and history. He is the author of the first historical overview of the humanities from Antiquity to the present: A New History of the Humanities. Bod is a Vici-laureate and he is currently PI in the NWO Gravitation project “Language in Interaction”.

Your recent publication is an English translation of your book that was previously published in Dutch. Published with Johns Hopkins University Press: World of Patterns – A Global History of Knowledge was made freely available under a CC-BY licence, allowing re-use. What was your motivation for publishing the translation of your book openly and under this license, in other words what was your motivation to change your pattern?

I wanted to make the book as widely accessible as possible, and open access is the best strategy to do this. Thus I learned from the publisher (JHU Press) that my book was downloaded already over 40.000 times in the first month only. So for creating impact, open access seems a fantastic way to go. As to the CC-BY licence: this was entirely the publisher’s choice.

In the acknowledgements of World of Patterns, you mention various funding sources. Could you elaborate on your experience in gathering funding for an open access version?

My previous funding sources, such as NWO Vici and NWO Gravitation, did not involve funding for open access. But in the recent past I did ask for funding to make our book series The Making of the Humanities open access(three volumes published together with Jaap Maat and Thijs Weststeijn by Amsterdam University Press, 2010, 2012, 2014). We obtained small amounts of funding from different foundations, including the J.E. Jurriaanse Foundation and the Dr. C. Louise Thijssen-Schoute Foundation. This involved quite some work, as it meant that we had to apply several times for small amounts of funding for each volume.

Did unrestricted access help you to reach new audiences compared to traditional publishing?

Definitely, I noticed that I have several readers from the Global South who might not have been able to read my book if they had to pay for it.

What is your view in general on open access academic book publishing, its benefits, or limitations?

I am generally positive and I believe NWO should use its open access fund also for books that are not the product of one of its funded project (my book was in fact the result of an NWO Open Competition project). It would be fantastic if many more scholars can publish their books open access, as it would increase accessibility which may be especially important for other parts of the world. Sure, there are also some disadvantages: it becomes very easy to re-use just a chapter or even a smaller part of the book without taking into account its context. People can simply copy and paste. But of course these are the consequences of our digital world. So far, I haven’t seen any misuse or abuse of my book, so perhaps the risks are not that high.

In World of Patterns you examined where our knowledge of the world began and how it developed. What is your perspective on the direction of knowledge development in the future?

That’s the hardest question to tackle. It appears that all knowledge will continue to be based on patterns (regularities, laws), principles (deeper generalizations, deterministic or statistical) and the relations between these two (inductive, deductive, abductive). I noticed in my historical research that there can also be patterns in the relations between patterns and principles, and even more: principles underlying these patterns in the relations. Now I realize this gets terribly abstract, but if we look at a variety of disciplines, such as artificial intelligence, digital history, medical information science and forensic science, then we find the re-use of successful derivations between patterns and principles all the time. It seems that this might be a promising way for future knowledge development.

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