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 it 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.

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Karène Sanchez-Summerer

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. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, the second interview is with Karène Sanchez-Summerer:

Karène Sanchez-Summerer, Professor and Chair Middle East Studies, Faculty of Arts at Groningen University. She obtained her PhDs from Leiden University and EPHE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris Sorbonne). Her research considers the interactions between European linguistic and cultural policies and the Arab communities (1860-1948) in Palestine.  Currently, she is the PI of the research project CrossRoads: European cultural diplomacy and Arab Christians in Palestine. A connected history during the formative years of the Middle East (1920-1950) funded by The Netherlands National Research Agency (NWO). Five books by Karène Sanchez-Summerer are included in the OAPEN Library.

Just recently you published a book titled The House of the Priest. An Orthodox Palestinian Life (1885-1954) which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. This book is the result of the CrossRoads project funded by NWO. Could you tell us some more about your motivations for conducting this research project?

This project aims to revisit the relationship between the European cultural agenda and the local identity formation process, and social and religious transformations of Arab Christian communities in Palestine, when the British ruled (1918-1948). When we started, our main questions were: what was the role of culture in European policies regarding the Arabs of Palestine; how did Arab Christians use culture to define their place in the proto-national and religious configuration between 1920 and 1950? Eighteen months after the beginning of the project, we found in Lebanon (Beirut) so far unpublished and untranslated memoirs of Niqula Khoury, a senior member of the Orthodox Church and Arab nationalist in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine. This amazing manuscript discusses the complex relationships between language, religion, diplomacy and identity in the Middle East in the interwar period. We wanted to share an annotated translation of this precious and significant manuscript to explain Khoury’s memoirs and their significance for the social, political and religious histories of twentieth-century Palestine and Arab relations with the Greek Orthodox church. Khoury played a major role in these dynamics as a leading member of the fight for Arab presence in the Greek-dominated clergy, and for an independent Palestine, travelling in 1937 to Eastern Europe and the League of Nations on behalf of the national movement.

This is one of two books, available in the OAPEN Library, from the new peer-reviewed series, Christians and Jews in Muslim Societies, published by Brill. Previously you have also published your work with Springer (now SpringerNature). What was your experience with these publishers?

I’ve published several volumes in OA the last years, with Brill, and, though different with Springer (an extended book proposal is evaluated), the process went rather smoothly. The publishers wanted to know whether the book was going to be open access before starting the editing process. In addition, you can apply for NWO’s Open access books fund only after the book has been accepted for publication by the publisher (which was my case for the House of the Priest). As for the NWO Open books grant is concerned, I thought it was a very easy process, so I recommend it to anyone who would like their book to reach out to a bigger audience. Open access might cause some delay in the publication, but the advantages are worth it. 

Your recent books are published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

First of all, I believe any academic endeavour should be open to the public. Since this book is the result of an NWO project, which was paid for by public funds, open access is now required.  Furthermore, working as a scholar on Middle Eastern studies, I’ve seen various academic settings and open access is essential in regions where many do not have access to print copies, fewer institutions can afford subscriptions.

How do you think academia and society at large can benefit from your book being available open access?

Scholars working on the Middle East can now easily prescribe parts of the book to their students, it gives them an easy access to a source translated from Arabic, all the more relevant that it is a critical edition. They can also prescribe only some of the chapters, so that students get an idea of certain aspects only (for example the Arabs in Europe and their political representation during the interwar period). The fact that institutions/individuals don’t have to purchase the book makes it easier to prescribe only some parts of it. 

It has been a while since you have published these books. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

The creative commons engage audiences beyond the traditional readers, broadening and diversifying the audiences who get access to the book, anyone can access it. We were contacted by various types of readers, in Europe and from the Middle East – we even received a message with photos of the persons mentioned in the manuscripts (1920’s and 1930’s). The book The House of the Priest has been published just before the summer; we are eager to receive more reactions in the future.

Looking at your own publishing journey, have your views on open access book publishing, its benefits or limitations in any way changed over the years?

I was always convinced by the necessity to share widely publications, to make them available to various audiences, and that all students and scholars, all the more so when they are from/in Middle Eastern countries, in my particular case, should easily and immediately access them. Over the years, this opinion was only reinforced.  

International Open Access Week interview: NWO-funded book editor Janneke van Bergen

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. To celebrate Open Access Week, OAPEN asked authors/editors of books arising from NWO-funding to share their experiences and views, kicking off with Janneke van Bergen.

Janneke van Bergen is a landscape architect and PhD researcher at the TU Delft. Over the past decade she worked in the field of water and infrastructure, including Room for the River, the National Coastal Delta Program and Studio Coastal Quality. She currently works for the ShoreScape research, funded by NWO Top Sector Water Program, to investigate Building with Nature and coastal design.

Building with Nature is a concept where nature is used to cope with climate change risks, such as floods, waves, and sea level rise. You have recently published a book on Building with Nature perspectives which is included in the OAPEN Library collection. Could you tell us some more about this concept and your research project?

Within the ShoreScape project we combine research from coastal engineering and landscape architecture to promote Building with Nature (BwN) along urbanized sandy shores. In this research we develop design principles to stimulate dune formation after nourishment and reduce the negative effects of beach urbanization. The collaboration promoted new joint insights on BwN, and gave incentive to a publication on this topic: Building with Nature perspectives. This publication was funded by NWO and DIMI, a fund focusing on interfaculty research.

You published your work in TU Delft Open Publishing which follows a diamond business model. What was your experience with the publisher?

We collaborated with Research in Urbanism Series (RIUS), a scientific journal, that took well care of the publication process within TU Delft Open Publishing.

Your book is published under an open license, CC-BY, making it freely available and granting others a certain level of re-use, what was your motivation for publishing the book openly and under this license?

I think it is important for emerging fields of science, such as Building with Nature, to share scientific perspectives and work towards an overarching agenda, besides more specialist, mono-disciplinary publications. This will help to build new layers of innovative, joint knowledge.

It has been more than a year since you have published this book. Did unrestricted access in any way help you to reach new audiences? In new, unexpected ways or in any way different compared to traditional publishing? If yes, how do you know this?

It was a good way to reach a hybrid audience of both coastal engineers, spatial designers and even social sciences to cross the bridge to other disciplines working on the concept of Building with Nature. It has increased the interest for our ShoreScape publications from both disciplines (documented by ResearchGate), that otherwise would have been limited to our own disciplines only.

This year’s theme for the International Open Access Week is “open for climate justice’’. How do you think society at large can benefit from climate research being openly available, and your book being OA (Open Access)?

Certainly, I think climate adaptation is urgent, therefore is not just an academic, but public matter where all parties should be involved in. It will help academics to open up their specialisms to the social perspective, and the public to making conscious choices for climate-proof evolution.

The OAPEN Dashboard – a new partner service 

During the UKSG 2022 Annual Conference held from May 30th to June 2nd in Telford UK we officially launched the OAPEN Dashboard1 – a new analytics service for our library members, publishers and funder partners to help them gain a deeper understanding of the usage of open access books.  

Over 179 publishers, libraries and funders are using the dashboard today and we expect to welcome more users over the coming months. The dashboard service includes data for the entire OAPEN Library which is home to over 24,000 open access books that see over 1 million COUNTER-conformant downloads per month.  

The OAPEN Dashboard, includes unique features and functionalities that allow its users to gain a better sense of the uptake of open access books globally, regionally and locally. Next to this users can also look at usage by discipline or apply other filters – here we take a closer look at the perspective of a library user.  

Figure 1 – Library dashboard: title view 

As shown in figure 1 – from a library perspective, users can apply filters to change the ‘ending month’ for which they’d like to access the data, filter by specific funders, publishers, or item type (full book or book chapter). This allows library users to gain usage insights and run reports on subsets of the full collection of 24,000+ books.  

Figure 2 – Library dashboard: geolocational usage 

For libraries, the dashboard can be used to gain insights into both institutional usage (based on IP-ranges) and geolocational usage. While libraries are accustomed to measuring usage based on their IP-ranges, insights into geolocational usage offers another unique functionality helpful for understanding the uptake of open access books. Open access books, due to their free nature, do not require users to register and authenticate themselves prior to accessing these books. This enables students, researchers, and readers generally to use these books from home, a local coffee place, or a coworking environment. With this dashboard, a library user can gain insights into the regional usage of open access books, capturing on- and off-campus usage – setting their preferred radius ranging from 20 to 500 kilometres.  

To view the OAPEN Dashboard in action, have a look at one of these two-minute demonstration videos for publishers, funders or libraries

Share your thoughts on the dashboard and next steps 

Throughout this year, we will be presenting the OAPEN Dashboard service at conferences around the world. We invite our stakeholders to provide feedback and to learn more about how insights into open access book usage may help them. Next to this, we are excited to start working with colleagues at Educopia and Curtin University on the recently introduced Book Analytics Dashboard project, with more news on this becoming available soon. 

To learn more about the OAPEN Dashboard service please contact Ronald Snijder (r.snijder[@]oapen.org). 

  1. Developed by Trilobiet (https://www.trilobiet.nl/)  

Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – global reach and national preferences for open access books

To many the internationalisation of academic publishing may mean: a strong focus on global issues, written in English only. However, many academic books are written in other languages than English. We tend to link non-English publications to regional issues, so there is a tension between English as the ‘lingua franca’ enabling a global reach, versus local languages that provide a better cultural ‘fit’.

M. Adiputra, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now from theory to practice: if you give a global audience free access to (nearly) 20,000 freely accessible books and chapters in several languages, spanning many subjects, will they all choose books in English?

In a newly published paper, we have systematically researched the preferences of readers originating from one hundred countries. By looking at the ten most downloaded books from each country, we can measure the focus on regional topics by counting the books written in languages other than English.

Books, popular in multiple countries

The outcomes of this study do not fit in a story of English language publications as the only or the main source of scholarly communication. There is a demand for regionally focused titles, countering the narrative of the dominance of English as the language of scholarly communication. Instead, this study supports the value of bibliodiversity.

Read the paper here:

Snijder, Ronald. 2022. “Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – Global Reach and National Preferences for Open Access Books”. Insights 35: 11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.580

Tour de Bibliothèque: The OAPEN Library SCOAP³ for Books collection

The OAPEN Library is a growing virtual library of open access books. Researchers and curious readers find their way to the OAPEN Library via a number of entrances. As they browse, land upon or virtually stroll through the OAPEN Library, what unique books may one discover on its bookshelves? Today we’ll take a tour through the high energy physics section, where we’ll find the latest collection added to the OAPEN Library: the SCOAP³ for Books collection.

Open access books in high energy physics

The SCOAP³ for Books collection currently includes over 20 open access books in high energy physics and will, as part of this pilot initiative, grow to include a set of over 100 important texts within the discipline. 

This collection includes titles such as “The Standard Model and Beyond’’ written by Paul Langacker, part of the High Energy Physics, Cosmology, and Gravitation series published by Taylor and Francis (2017). This open access book provides an advanced introduction to the physics and formalism of the standard model and other non-abelian gauge theories. It provides a solid background for understanding supersymmetry, string theory, extra dimensions, dynamical symmetry breaking, and cosmology.

Next to this readers may encounter the open access book Challenges And Goals For Accelerators In The XXI Century’’, edited by Stephen Myers & Oliver Brüning and published by World Scientific Publishing Company (2016). This book describes the past 100 years of accelerator development with a special focus on the technological advancements in the field, the connection of the various accelerator projects to key developments and discoveries in the Standard Model, how accelerator technologies open the door to other applications in medicine and industry, and finally presents an outlook of future accelerator projects for the coming decades.

The role of books for SCOAP³ 

These open access books are made available thanks to the work of SCOAP³ – the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics. SCOAP³ enables open dissemination of global research outputs in high energy physics and was first introduced in 2012, with the support of the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN).

So what is the role of the academic book for SCOAP³ and within high energy physics more generally?

The overall objective for SCOAP3 is to enable global, equitable open access for research in the discipline of high energy physics. Having successfully converted the majority of the journal literature in the discipline to open, the Consortium decided to expand the scope of the initiative to include academic books in high energy physics and related disciplines (such as accelerator physics and instrumentation).

“Through the support of members of the consortium and partnerships with key publishers, we are making important texts in our domain completely free for students, faculty and researchers around the world. The COVID19 pandemic demonstrated how important it is for content to be widely and seamlessly accessible, and we are committed to a future where research and academic texts are available openly to anyone who might need them.”  – Dr. Kamran Naim, Head of Open Science, CERN

OAPEN Library collection services 

Thanks to the partnership between SCOAP³ for Books and the OAPEN Library, the SCOAP³ for Books collection benefits from the various OAPEN Library collection services. These include hosting, digital preservation, dissemination and usage reporting.

The OAPEN Library includes these books as part of its metadata feeds, API schema and OAI-PMH harvesting protocol. This enables a wide range of organisations such as academic libraries, library intermediaries, research institutions, and discovery services (including Google Scholar) to provide visibility for these open access books around the world.

In the course of the next few months, more titles can be expected to be added to this unique collection of open access books.

The OAPEN Library and the origin of downloads – libraries & academic institutions

On a regular basis, we look at the download data of the OAPEN Library and where it comes from. While examining the data from January to August 2021, we focused on the usage originating from libraries and academic institutions. Happily, we found that more than 1,100 academic institutions and libraries have used the OAPEN Library.

Of course, we do not actively track individual users. Instead we use a more general approach: we look at the website from which the download from the OAPEN Library originated. How does that work? For instance, when someone in the library of the University of Leipzig clicks on the download link of a book in the OAPEN library, two things happen: first, the book is directly available on the computer that person is working on, and second, the OAPEN server notes the ‘return address’: https://katalog.ub.uni-leipzig.de/. We have no way of knowing who the person is that started the download, we just know the request originated from the Leipzig University Library. Furthermore, some organisations choose to suppress sending their ‘return address’, making them anonymous.

What is helpful to us, is the fact that aggregators such as ExLibris, EBSCO or SerialSolutions use a specific return address. Examples are “west-sydney-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com” – pointing to the library of the Western Sydney University – or “sfx.unibo.it”– coming from the library of the Università di Bologna. And in this way, many academic libraries can also be identified from their web address. Some academic institutions only display their ‘general’ address.

Academic libraries and institutions, sorted by type
Academic libraries and institutions

As mentioned before, our analysis delivered over 1,100 – 1,121 to be exact – different addresses. The chart displays those addresses divided by type, and we see that many academic libraries not just rely on aggregators such as ExLibris, but also directly give access to the OAPEN Library through their catalogs. The metadata of the OAPEN Library is freely available under a CC0 license, and can be downloaded as a MARCXML file to ensure easy library integration.

Which libraries and institutions are the biggest users of the OAPEN Library according to this data? The most downloads come from MediaLibraryOnLine, the first Italian network of public, academic and scholastic libraries for digital lending; the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford; and Universidad Peruana de Ciencas Aplicados.

We are happy to see that our collection is finding its way to libraries and academic institutions all over the world!

Finding relevant books without sacrificing your privacy

Web retailers such as Amazon.com are able to find just the right book for you. This is a great feature, but it comes at a cost: its recommendations work because it is storing information about you. The better it knows you, the better its recommendations.

At OAPEN, we do not track people. Instead, we used the full text of the open access books and chapters in our collection. In an experiment – based on over 10,000 titles – we took the complete text of a book, cut it up in blocks of three consecutive words (called trigrams) and filtered out all the common phrases. This leaves you with a small group of terms that are unique for that particular book. The next phase is finding other titles that share the same terms. The more terms they share, the more they are connected.

Using this algorithm helps to find books that are very similar: if you are interested in a certain book, you should also download these books as well. However, it can also find books that are a little less similar: you might use this to expand your research, or to create a collection of books. Surprisingly enough, this algorithm can also find translations; it even works across languages.

Finding related titles in this way does not have to be confined to the OAPEN Library. The same method can be applied to other collections of open access books or even open access journal articles.

More information can be found in this article:

Snijder, R. (2021). Words Algorithm Collection—Finding  closely related open access books using text mining techniques. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1). https://liberquarterly.eu/article/view/10938

The Holy Grail does not exist: OPERAS-P and OASPA’s workshops for publishers on innovative business models for books

The Holy Grail does not exist: OPERAS-P and OASPA’s workshops for publishers on innovative business models for books

workshop 1 business models

By Agata Morka & Tom Mosterd

In May 2021, together with the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), OPERAS hosted a series of three European workshops on business models for open access books targeted specifically at small and medium-sized academic book publishers1. As part of the OPERAS-P project work package 6 (Innovation) OPERAS was looking into innovative, non-BPC business models. The feedback gathered in the course of these three workshops informed a report The Future of scholarly communications, published at the end of June 2021 as an OPERAS-P project deliverable.

We have heard you

The first workshop in the mini-series was informative in nature, not only for the audience, but also for us, as organizers. Participants had a chance to familiarize themselves with six different models for OA books, ranging from these based on BPCs, national subsidies, to those relying on collaborative funding from libraries (see a short report on the first session here). From the organizers perspective, the event gave us a chance to understand which of the presented models were of particular interest for the gathered participants. The following two workshops were therefore shaped by what we heard in this first one. It became clear that the community sought to explore non-BPC approaches, these based on collaborative funding in particular, in more depth.

Following this desire, we invited Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, from Punctum books (see his presentation here) and Rupert Gatti from Open Book Publishers to talk about mixed collaborative funding models for the first session. Martin Paul Eve and Tom Grady graced the second one (see their presentation here) discussing their Opening the Future idea (now nominated for the ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing). In these focused workshops thirty small and medium-sized academic book publishers came together to ask questions, express their doubts, and discuss challenges they encounter when it comes to OA books.

The Holy Grail of OA book publishing

Recent studies on OA book business models has shown that there is no one model that will suit all cases. Both the OPERAS white paper from 2018, and the 2020 COPIM report came to this conclusion and our workshops further proved it. Publishers in both workshops stressed the importance of circumstances in which every single one of them operates: different approaches might apply for OA born publishers than to those seeking a full or partial transition to OA. Regional context, with existing publishing traditions, also comes into play as a factor affecting the choice of the pursued model: while publishers from Germany were less reluctant about applying BPC-based models given the fact that their researchers are used to paying for publication under traditional models, others found OBP and Punctum’s approaches more appealing.

University presses looking into transitioning towards OA expressed interest in applying the Opening the Future model, although some doubts about its scalability were also voiced. The discussion showed that while the Holy Grail of OA book publishing does not exist, what does exist however, is a strong will to experiment with various approaches, spearheaded by small and medium sized academic book publishers.

Do you speak digital?

Among challenges raised by the workshop participants two stood out as the most common: these of production and distribution processes. Some publishers expressed a certain anxiety when it comes to dealing with “all things digital”, starting from offering formats other than PDF, to assigning DOIs and creating high quality metadata. A certain lack of technical expertise was found troubling and, in some cases, resulted in production and distribution parts of the publishing process being outsourced or simply neglected. Distribution of digital copies proved to be somewhat of a terra incognita, and navigating between the DOAB, Google Books and Amazon proved to be no trivial endeavor, especially for non-OA born publishers. Some participants found learning digital intimidating and saw it as a substantial hurdle to overcome. It became clear that strong support is needed in this area. In this context COPIM-originated Thoth, an open bibliographic metadata management and dissemination system, gained a lot of interest among the participants. Discussion about its features dominated the second workshop with Rupert Gatti and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, both engaged in the development of this project.

Let’s collaborate on collaboration

One of the most important takeaways of the two workshops was perhaps the realization that events of this type are found truly helpful by the community. We received several emails following the workshops stressing their relevance and usefulness. The opportunity to discuss a particular model with colleagues who are practicing it, in the spirit of openness and sharing, might be a powerful tool to encourage a larger uptake in OA book publishing initiatives. We would like to continue this best practice exchange to enable interested publishers to pick and choose from existing models and create their own, tailored solutions that would be most suitable for their needs. As the first step in this direction, we will be launching a publishers’ database with case studies of different models, open to everyone to use and contribute their own cases. We are looking forward to officially launch the project in the autumn 2021. For now, mark the database link and stay tuned for further developments.

  1. While these three workshops focus on innovative business models and approaches used within Europe, we would like to emphasise similar innovative business models have been implemented outside of Europe too. []

It’s the system that counts

You would expect it to be simple: when somebody downloads a book from the OAPEN Library, the system adds one to the total number of downloads. After a while you put the numbers in a report, and share it with the world. Sadly, the reality is more complex. All the books and chapters can be downloaded by everybody, including automated processes (bots). Also, if you think as downloads as a measure of impact, it becomes tempting to inflate it by downloading a certain book again and again.

So, the raw download numbers need to be filtered, in order to give a more realistic indication of the true impact. Many libraries use the COUNTER Code of Practice as standard, which enables them to compare the data from different sources. However, many online platforms measure their visitors using Google Analytics. The OAPEN Library uses both (but we only report the COUNTER data). Together with the migration to a new platform, a new version of the COUNTER reporting (Release 5) was introduced. A good moment to compare Google Analytics (GA) with COUNTER Release 5 (R5).

Comparing the amounts of monthly downloads is simple: where GA reports over 1 million downloads per month, R5 stricter filter lets it report around 400,000 downloads. Again, when we look at the details, the reality is more complex. For instance, comparing the number of downloads per country shows large differences for the USA, France, China and Russia. In contrast, the numbers for Australia, Canada and Austria are virtually the same. When we compare the usage data of each title, the differences are even less simple to explain. You would expect that both GA an R5 more or less agree about the order of books: which book was downloaded the most, which one comes after that etc. But that is very much not the case.

GA and R5 have made their own choices on what is reported and what not. One metric is not better than the other, but we should be open about the choices made. After all, open access book metrics are complicated and we can only benefit from clarity.

More details about usage data and the two systems can be found in:

Ronald Snijder, “Open access book usage data – how close is COUNTER to the other kind?,” Insights 34 (1): 9. (2021), https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.539.
Submitted on 11 November 2020 and published by UKSG in association with Ubiquity Press on 28 April 2021

You might also be interested in the OAeBU DataTrust Pilot or this OBP blog. Things get even more complex when you try to compare different platforms…

Crowd-funding the Open Science and Open Access Infrastructure: Reports from the Field 2/2

As part of the 2020 Charleston Conference we participated in a, virtual, Lively Discussion organised by SCOSS and moderated by Vanessa Proudman (SCOSS). During this session, Eelco Ferwerda (DOAB / OAPEN) together with Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ), Kevin Stranack (PKP) and Silvio Peroni (OpenCitations) shared their reports from the field forming the basis for an exciting conversation around the crowd-funding of Open Science and Open Access infrastructure.

This blog post is a short summary of this session, the reports, discussion and some of the questions asked. It is split in two parts, this being the second part including the lively discussions and some of the questions. Part one can be found here.

Questions

 

SCOSS: What particular risk does your service face if it is not sufficiently funded and how would it affect the open science community?

PKP: I think we really face two primary risks. The first being that, without sufficient funding, the pace of our development and level of innovation slows down. This’d be concerning since this would mean we’d fall behind with the commercial sector in terms of development of features and general levels of innovation.

Second, we give away a lot of free support, free documentation, free online support and learning how to use our services. Having to cut back in this area could result in a downward spiral as we can offer less help to the community which can impact the adoption of our tools and services.

OpenCitations: We need manpower to manage the technical infrastructure, such as the server, and also developers who maintain and develop new services, e.g. to allow for new data queries via the REST API. We need people to work on that, to make these services a reality and make sure they are used by the Open Science community.

DOAB & OAPEN: We’re not publicly funded, or part of an institution. So if we cannot fund our activities we are faced with the risk that we may have to shut down. So we do rely on support from the community to provide our services.

 

SCOSS: Has your not-for-profit status made any difference compared to the commercial players with your users, members or clients?

PKP: our independence has really allowed us to be led by the community and not by shareholders. It has allowed us to translate our software into 40 languages, and give away the software and everything around it for free in multiple languages. Enabling those around the world to really make use of the software.

OpenCitations: Our independence allowed us to serve the community without an ulterior motive. We follow Open Science principles, our data is completely freely available. Since there is no commercial interest, we can make everything available without limiting users to earn revenue.

DOAB/OAPEN: The mission is essential to what we do. Commercial considerations would have probably prevented us from starting such an infrastructure at all.

 

Questions from the floor

 

Do you have any efforts underway to reach beyond libraries to reach richer funders to support these wonderful services? As libraries are, especially in these times, under budget pressure and our coffers are slim.

 

SCOSS: SCOSS is starting to talk to funders but at the same time we are talking to libraries and with COVID this is particularly challenging. However, even if it is just 500 dollars that can be contributed, or a similar small amount, this all contributes to the greater good of open infrastructure. After all, the consequences of not supporting these infrastructures might lead to these infrastructures disappearing, and as a consequence this might mean that you face having to develop and offer this service at a higher cost yourself or alternatively a commercial party takes over with a prospect of vendor locked in.

 

DOAJ: In DOAJ we have more or less a policy not to apply for grant funding. So far we have managed. To rely on crowd-funding from many individual institutions has brought us a lot of good things, it is as well a channel to listen and learn from the community. While COVID has brought many bad things, as a former Librarian, it has also meant less traveling and conferences saving some budgets, and this might be an option, though perhaps not for all. But we have to be creative these days and small contributions help us a lot.

 

PKP: We’ve also been able to count on some additional areas of funding, such as paid services on top of our free offerings. Everything we do we give away for free. Now if a library wants to use our software but doesn’t have the technical ability to host it themselves they can pay us to host these services. So I think all of these projects we are all looking at innovative ways to sustain ourselves in addition to the crowd-funding, but the crowd-funding has proven extremely helpful because it allows us to focus and spend directly on our operations. Grants often have strings attached, but typically don’t pay the day-to-day operations.

 

One of the big things that libraries have justifying to University administration is investing in crowd-funding initiatives that are freely available. What is the return on investment for that crowd-funding investment? And also, how do we choose between different investment opportunities?

 

SCOSS: SCOSS helps take the pain out of the infrastructure funding selection process since we vet infrastructure in need of immediate funding on an annual basis on your behalf; recommending 2-3 infrastructure (after rigorous evaluation) in need of funding on an annual basis.

 

PKP: I think this is the core question. Part of it is having this conversation about the values of these projects and what are some of the problems library budgets have found themselves in because of the commercial dominance within traditional publishing. We’ve seen the cost of publishing gone up and up.  And then there are some infrastructures here, some communities and some librarians that got together and are showing an alternative way. Though it is still early days, things are changing and we can think about how we want to be part of this change. I think all of the projects here offer benefits so it is not just writing a check.

 

How does membership and support of these excellent organizations translate into annual communication about annual achievements so we can use these to convince the others?

SCOSS: For all the SCOSS infrastructures on the call today, they have completed the thorough application process including what their plans are and what they plan to do with their fundraising target. The infrastructures also have to enter into a contract with SCOSS which includes obligation to report what they have achieved from the work plan at the end of the year. SCOSS also publishes these reports , so you, as a contributor, know where the funding is going.

 

End of part 2.

Help sustain the SCOSS infrastructures. More information here.

Crowd-funding the Open Science and Open Access Infrastructure: Reports from the Field 1/2

As part of the 2020 Charleston Conference we participated in a, virtual, Lively Discussion organised by SCOSS and moderated by Vanessa Proudman (SCOSS). During this session, Eelco Ferwerda (DOAB / OAPEN) together with Lars Bjørnshauge (DOAJ), Kevin Stranack (PKP) and Silvio Peroni (OpenCitations) shared their reports from the field forming the basis for an exciting conversation around the crowd-funding of Open Science and Open Access infrastructure.

This blog post is a short summary of this session, the reports, discussion and some of the questions asked. It is split in two parts, this being the first part including background information on SCOSS and the field reports from the various infrastructures. Part two, which you can find here covers the discussion and some of the questions part of the discussion.

What is SCOSS?

Vanessa Proudman: SCOSS, which stands for the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science, is an initiative formed in 2017. So what problem is SCOSS trying to solve?

Over the last fifteen years, we have seen critical non-for-profit open science and open access support services develop and we have come to depend on many of these, with our services, or policies that have been developed. Many of these services initially starting out as projects or receiving initial funding have grown and developed but now some of them are on somewhat unstable footing. What happens to those services that have served us well over time but are struggling now to operationally continue and further develop? Will the community step up now to sustain these services and encourage diversity and equity in the scholarly communications ecosystem? The SCOSS mission is to provide a new coordinated cost-framework to help ensure not-for-profit open science infrastructure are sustained.

SCOSS is a community-led and governed initiative. Mainly consisting of networks of academic libraries including ARL and CARL among others. SCOSS forms a consolidated voice that vets open science infrastructure before recommending anything to you, the community. Furthermore, SCOSS encourages good governance in anything they promote.

SCOSS is not a subscription or payment agency and thus do not collect any funds, these funds go directly to the individual infrastructure. Encouraging potential funders, libraries, to build direct relationships with these infrastructure service providers.

Thus far 2.35 million dollar has been committed to Open Science infrastructures.

Reports from the field

 

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Lars Bjørnshauge: The SCOSS program has made a real difference for the DOAJ. Thanks to the SCOSS program many new supporters joined and existing supporters were willing to grow their commitment in order to help sustain the DOAJ. Thanks to support received due to the SCOSS recommendation significant improvements have been made in technical improvements, reducing the backlog, creating more efficient processes, for instance for handling applications, and many other improvements to the DOAJ platform.

Our mission is global, to help publishers to do a better job and see to that open access journals are made as visible as possible. We operate in over 60 languages, and have been able to put together a brilliant team thanks to the funding support we have received from libraries through SCOSS. It has been a pleasure for us to participate in SCOSS and I’m very fond of it as it is one of these initiatives that is getting things done as we speak.

While for individual libraries, the level of support may just be the equivalent of 1 or 2 article-processing-charges (APCs), it means a lot to us and thanks to the crowd-funding effect makes a real difference for us.

Public Knowledge Project (PKP)

Kevin Stranack: The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is a non-profit started on the principles of openness with the goal of increasing the quality, access and diversity of the voices heard in scholarly publishing. We’ve developed Open Journal System (OJS), which anyone can use and modify to run their own high quality journal as what we often refer to as WordPress for journals.

With over 10,000 journals being published from almost every country in the world. Library publishing has taken of internationally, many of the journals using Open Journal Systems are in the DOAJ and we actually work closely with the DOAJ team on helping journals apply and assist the DOAJ staff in any way we can.

Translated OJS in over 40 languages, thanks to which we think uptake has been so great. Volunteers contribute code, write documentation, and donate financially. We’ve developed a community based governance structure and a technical committee to advice on our future software directions.

Supporting an international community of this size really requires financial support. We give everything away for free so we must rely on these funding sources for maintaining and further developing the infrastructure.

Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) & OAPEN

Eelco Ferwerda: The DOAB and OAPEN are two interconnected services dedicated to open access for academic books. Both operate globablly, OAPEN launched 10 years ago, and works with publsiehrs and research funders to hosts books. By contrast, the DOAB only hosts metadata for books and provides links to the freely available open access edition on the publisher website.

Both platforms make the metadata freely available in various formats for download and integration into library systems and third-party aggregator systems. DOAB became its own independent non-profit entity in 2019 governed by OAPEN and OpenEdition. It currently host over 32,000 open access books and chapters from over 400 publishers around the world.

 

DOAB has become a global hub for open access books and it must recognize the diversity and publishing practices around the world. This connects with efforts around quality assurance which is essential to achieve trust. Currently, the DOAB is developing a certification services for peer-review practices to improve quality assurance and transparency for open access books.

OpenCitations

Silvio Peroni: OpenCitations has been established as a fully free and open infrastructure to provide access to global scholarly bibliographic and citation data and to have quality coverage of data to rival proprietary services in this area. OpenCitations is not-for-profit and all our services are free though we have costs to maintain and keep this available for free.

We provide data containing more than 700 million citations that the community can use and re-use for any purpose. Such data can be crucial as a vehicle for making national and international research evaluation excellence exercises and to make such activities more transparent and reproducible compared to other proprietary services. As a librarian, you can use our citation data through the to enhance or develop new tools that can support your authors, students or institutional administrators. For instance, by providing metrics or new discoverability tools.

The community is directly involved in the governance. One can become a member of opencitations, or support us through a one-off financial donation. Through this you can become involved and play a part in the OpenCitations governance structure.

 

End of part 1

Help sustain the SCOSS infrastructures. More information here.

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