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.