ACRL/SPARC Forum: Collective Reinvestment in Open Infrastructure (ACRL)

Libraries are increasingly considering scaling back their subscriptions or cancelling big deals altogether. Yet, the question of how and where to reinvest the resources that become available is both far from settled and increasingly pressing. As we start to move away from the subscription model, we should be intentional about crafting the vision for open research communication we strive to build and how we intend to build it. 

This forum, “If I Had A Million Dollars: Collective Reinvestment in Open Infrastructure,” will invite active participation throughout the session in a facilitated discussion with experts representing both libraries and research funders. …”

ScholarLed to Pilot Major International OA Publishing Project

ScholarLed – comprising Mattering Pressmeson pressOpen Book PublishersOpen Humanities Press, and punctum books – was founded in 2018 as a collective of non-profit, open access book publishers in the Humanities and Social Sciences who share a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and working collaboratively rather than in competition. This includes developing systems and practices that allow presses to provide each other with forms of mutual support, ranging from pooled expertise to shared on- and offline infrastructures. Collectively, we are seeking powerful, practical ways for small-scale, scholar-led open access presses to grow and flourish in a publishing landscape that is changing rapidly. We believe publicly-funded research should be openly available to a global readership, without technical or economic barriers. ScholarLed is concerned to build infrastructure for smaller-scale OA book publishers that would prioritise the needs of the creative research community and the values of public research institutions against those for-profit entities who seek to privatise (and also homogenize) knowledge….”

Research England awards £2.2m to project to improve and increase open access publishing – Research England

A new Research England funded project is set to help universities, researchers, libraries and publishers to make more, and better, use of open access book publishing. It will enable greater access to world-leading research and increase its impact.

Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) is a partnership led by Coventry University and also consisting of:

  • Birkbeck, University of London, Lancaster University and Trinity College, Cambridge
     
  • The ScholarLed consortium of established open access presses (Open Book Publishers, punctum books, Open Humanities Press, Mattering Press, and meson press)
     
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library and Loughborough University Library
     
  • Infrastructure providers the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) and Jisc, and international membership organisation The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)….”

Birkbeck to play leading role in project to transform open access academic publishing — Birkbeck, University of London

“Birkbeck, University of London is to play a leading role in the transformation of the academic book-publishing environment, thanks to over two million pounds worth of funding from Research England.

The Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project partners Birkbeck with Coventry University, who led on the bid, Lancaster University, the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library, Loughborough University Library, and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as forging external links with ScholarLed (Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, punctum books), Jisc Collections, The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), The British Library, and The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC).

The project will put in place the currently missing but requisite infrastructures, business models, governance procedures, re-use strategies, preservation structures, and outreach programmes for the proposed mandate for open access books in the anticipated Third Research Excellence Framework. Birkbeck, in particular, will be seeking to work with external publishing partners to transform their business models….”

Invest in Open Infrastructure: An Interview with Dan Whaley – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Dan Whaley from the Invest in Open initiative answers questions about what IOI is doing, and sets a broad context for the global effort….

Open infrastructure is the solution to all this.  For me, open infrastructure is simply shorthand for technology in which the incentives to collaborate and work together are built in by design. That includes elements like open source software, open APIs, open data and open standards, but more fundamentally it’s a mindset in which your reward — either personal or organizational — comes from working together as a community for the benefit of all.  

As someone who is product focused, a question I always try to ask is what is the best user experience, regardless of who owns which piece? Does what we’re implementing actually make it easier for people to accomplish their goals? Closed systems often make decisions simply for the sake of preventing or restricting access that create terrible experiences and result in lower utility. Open systems do this too sometimes, but at least the inherent motivations are more likely to be aligned….”

A Statement from ScholarLed on Knowledge Unlatched’s “Open Research Library”

“On May 16th, Knowledge Unlatched (KU) announced a new initiative to develop and launch the Open Research Library (ORL), which they envision as a “a one-stop hub” for “all available [OA] book content under one search and hosting interface” that will also provide “corresponding catalogue data…to library systems.” It is KU’s claim that they are responding to the wishes of researchers and librarians who have expressed to them a desire for “all” Open Access (OA) book content to be accessible “in one place, for easy discovery and user-friendly navigation as well as further dissemination into third party systems.” KU further claims that the ORL is a collaboration “with publishers and libraries worldwide.” Claiming to be working in partnership with publishing and library communities, they are asking libraries to help fund the ORL at a rate of $1,200/year (at a 3-year lock-in), for which they will receive “a set of [value-added] exclusive services,”such as micro-branded library sites, COUNTER statistics, catalog records, and the like. This raises the worrisome question of whether or not the ORL engages in the business practices of “openwrapping” and “openwashing” (monetizing services, engagement, and infrastructural support around openly licensed content). KU has long positioned itself as a values-driven, community-minded initiative that shares a mission with research libraries to make knowledge accessible to the world, without barriers, although it has not been forthcoming, nor publicly transparent, about its transition in 2016 from a Community Interest Corporation (CIC) registered in the UK under Frances Pinter’s leadership, to a for-profit (GmbH) company registered in Germany under Sven Fund’s managing directorship. In a news update issued in March 2016, KU presented this transition as an “expansion” into a “new branch,” when in fact Fund, under the auspices of his for-profit, “strategic investments” firm fullstopp, was acquiring and transferring the majority of KU’s “assets” to his own for-profit portfolio of publishing services, leaving behind in the UK a completely separate research and analysis group focused on ecosystems for OA monographs, KU Research, which operates independently of KU.[1]

We share the concerns of our fellow ScholarLed consortium member Open Book Publishers (OBP) regarding KU’s under-publicized acquisition by fullstopp, and also question KU’s moves since 2016 into what increasingly looks like OA platform capitalism and rent-seeking, whereby those businesses, such as Facebook and Google, that are claiming to be “neutral arbiters and spaces of informational exchange” are, in fact, “siphoning value from socio-cultural activity,” and “rather than producing new value,” they “simply coordinate virtual properties and charge for their use.” Most worryingly, these platforms confuse “capital-flow and social form, rearranging the relationship of profit to community (and therefore class), and of intelligence to organization.”[2] We are witnessing an important moment in history where platforms are emerging as a “third institutional form, along with states and markets.”[3] ScholarLed was formed by a collective of OA books presses (Mattering Pressmeson pressOpen Book PublishersOpen Humanities Press, and punctum books), who share a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, to resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and to working col

In support of open infrastructures: A statement from OPERAS in response to the ‘Open Research Library’, a new initiative from Knowledge Unlatched

On May 16, Knowledge Unlatched (KU) launched a new hosting platform for Open Access monographs, the Open Research Library (ORL). Notwithstanding its name, we do not consider the Open Research Library to qualify as an open infrastructure.

Open and Shut?: The OA interviews: Arianna Becerril-García, Chair of AmeliCA

“A professor in the School of Political and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM), Arianna Becerril-García is also the Executive Director of Redalyc, the Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America and the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal. Redalyc is a regional open access portal for the social sciences and humanities that indexes 1,305 local journals and hosts the full texts of more than 650,000 articles. …

In addition, Becerril-García is the Chair of a new project called AmeliCA (Open Knowledge for Latin America and the Global South). AmeliCA’s goal is to propagate the Redalyc model to the more than 15,000 journals in the region and elsewhere in the Global South.

As Chair of AmeliCA, Becerril-García has become a vocal critic of Plan S – the European OA initiative announced last year by a group of funders that call themselves cOAlition S. While AmeliCA shares cOAlition S’s goal of achieving universal open access, says Becerril-García, it fears that, as currently conceived, Plan S would disenfranchise researchers in the Global South and exclude them further from the international scholarly publishing system….”

In support of open infrastructures: A statement from OPERAS in response to the ‘Open Research Library’, a new initiative from Knowledge Unlatched – OPERAS

On May 16, Knowledge Unlatched (KU) launched a new hosting platform for Open Access monographs, the Open Research Library (ORL). Notwithstanding its name, we do not consider the Open Research Library to qualify as an open infrastructure.

The statement from KU opens as follows:

“Free access to scientific content is often limited due to the fragile technical infrastructure around it: content is stored in a variety of versions at various locations and without any uniform search functionalities. The Open Access initiative Knowledge Unlatched has addressed this growing problem and is now launching the Open Research Library together with several international partners. Its goal is to unite all Open Access (OA) book content over the coming months. To this end the Open Research Library is working with publishers and libraries worldwide and is open to all providers and users of quality-assured research content.”

While we can agree with the observation that ‘free access to scientific content is often limited due to the fragile infrastructure around it’, we do not think this initiative is helpful in strengthening the Open Access infrastructure for monographs.

OPERAS, the European Research Infrastructure dedicated to open scholarly communication in the Social Sciences and Humanities, supports the Principles for Open Scholarly Infrastructures: infrastructures should be open, transparent, sustainable, and community-governed. OPERAS is dedicated to develop a distributed research infrastructure in close collaboration with the scholarly community, in accordance with these principles. OPERAS has demonstrated its support of these principles in various projects:

  • the HIRMEOS project, a collaborative project of five European book publishing platforms to develop a shared set of added value services, in order to make these available to the scholarly community and enable integration with the open science ecosystem;
  • the development of the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) as a central platform to improve transparency and quality assurance around Open Access monographs;
  • the upcoming, recently funded project TRIPLE, an innovative discovery service aimed at increasing the discovery, access, reuse and societal impact of Social Sciences and Humanities artefacts (data, publications and projects).

In our opinion, the ORL does not meet the criteria for open infrastructures. On the contrary, based on the statement from KU and the early release of the ORL, the approach of this platform closely resembles well-known internet strategies to quickly achieve a dominant position by aggregating all available content and offering a free service to the community, while aiming for a lock-in of users and stakeholders. The ORL is neither open nor transparent, in particular regarding its governance.

While we are not against commercial ventures or market competition, we strongly believe that vital infrastructures supporting Open Science should not fall in the hands of commercial operators. These infrastructures should be a collective responsibility of stakeholders in scholarly communication. We see SCOSS and the recent launch of the IOI initiative as positive signs that this collective responsibility can become a reality. With this in mind, we think that the ORL is not helpful, and could well be harmful, on the road to establishing a distributed, open and sustainable infrastructure for Open Access monographs.


This statement is the outcome of an open consultation with the OPERAS Core Group. 20 May 2019.

Open access book publishing should be community-focused and aim to let diversity thrive, not be driven by a free market paradigm | Impact of Social Sciences

“The whole reasoning around open access for books is now aligned to a commercial agenda, where authors invest in openness with the prospect of greater downloads, citations, and impact in return. Marcel Knöchelmann argues that the free market paradigm is particularly ill-suited to humanities and social sciences book publishing and its many diverse scholarly communities. Equitable foundations for open scholarship should mean having shared infrastructures that support openness, without openness being for sale. We need to radically rethink collaborative efforts to preserve diversity and refocus the intentions of openness on scholarship – requiring a new, community-focused approach….”