By Jeroen Sondervan, open access publishing consultant at Utrecht University Library.
On February the 4th and 5th, 2022, the Paris Open Science Conference (OSEC) took place in the context of the French Presidency of the European Union. On day one of the conference, an entire session was organised on the ‘future of academic publishing’. In this session, many speakers raised awareness for the need for diamond open access (i.e., free-to-read, free-to-publish) publishing models and infrastructure.
Two months earlier, on December the 2nd, 2021, together with SPARC Europe, I co-organized a webinar that showcased a handful of some of Europe’s well-organised regional and national open access publishing, in all cases diamond platforms, namely: Raco from Catalonia, Spain, Hrçak from Croatia, Journal.fi from Finland, OpenEditions.org from France and Openjournals.nl from the Netherlands. Over 90 participants attended the meeting and heard from the project leads about why the platforms had been founded and how. A panel discussion touched upon some of the opportunities and challenges the platforms have encountered in the process of setting themselves up. The webinar’s goal was to showcase different ways of approaching setting up and running open access publishing platforms and exchange good practices in the European context.
Over the past two decades, a vibrant ecosystem of national and regional publishing platforms has emerged in Europe. This phenomenon does not only concern Europe; there are many other leading and often older, national or regional coordinated platforms in other parts of the world like in South America (e.g. Scielo, Amelica) and, for example, Japan (J-stage). In the last two decades, the growth of available open source software and tools (1) has brought about more opportunities for underlying technical (open and interoperable) publishing platform infrastructure. This enables academic communities to build capacity and establish and maintain academic journals professionally. Established examples like Open Journal Systems (OJS) and the more recently launched Janeway directly come to mind.
These journal platforms often play a particular role in their respective country or region. They can offer a platform for smaller journal communities to professionalize their publishing activities by offering low threshold (technical) solutions. This is especially interesting for those academic disciplines that have difficulties transforming to a full open access environment. They might face challenges like, e.g., high costs when moving from print to digital; depending on researchers with limited access to funds, or simply because of the lack of technological expertise to do it themselves. These platforms are also responsible for publishing in native languages and therefore supporting multilingualism (2). In some cases, they act as a counterbalance to the massification and uniformisation of big publishers and as such they bring bibliodiversity (3). And last but not least, as an alternative to some for-profit academic publishing, these platforms often provide an alternative to paid-for-articles (Article Processing Charges) business models by offering more equitable models. There is a growing consensus that the APC-model is not sustainable and only increases the inequalities between the rich and poor authors, institutions, countries, and regions (4).
Raising awareness of regional and national approaches
As part of the ongoing open access transformation in Europe, open and community-owned infrastructures have become increasingly important as the recent reports from SPARC Europe’ Scoping Open Science Infrastructures’ and the cOAltion S commissioned ‘OA Diamond Journals Study’ show. The latter recognizes the potential importance of diamond open access and offers a unique and extensive overview of the diamond journal landscape. It also addresses the challenges these journals and platforms encounter. One of the key findings of the cOAlition S study is that diamond open access journals (and platforms) is ‘an economy that largely depends on volunteers, universities and government'(5). During the webinar it became clear that this applies, in some way or another, not only to platforms but also to journals that make use of the offered services. Creating more awareness of such open access diamond platforms and sharing lessons learnt from the challenges and best practices might start to help in the efforts to collectively advance to a more sustainable open access diamond platform ecosystem.
Differences and Commonalities
During the talks, it became clear that how these platforms are organised, governed, and funded can significantly differ. Some have (initially) received direct funding from the government (e.g. OpenEdition) or their national research council (e.g. Openjournals.nl). Others are run by one organisation taking full (financial) responsibility (e.g. Hrçak) or are governed by multiple stakeholders (e.g. RACO, Journals.fi).
However, many commonalities exist. To give one example: several of these platforms use OJS on a technical level. All those present in the webinar that are using this software have recently migrated to the latest software version (i.e. release 3.x). They encounter the same issues regarding software upgrading, technical maintenance or implementing new features. Although not part of the panel discussion, the idea of setting up a community network, aiming at sharing knowledge and expertise, for example about these technical issues, seems interesting to explore further.
The main goal of this first webinar was to share best practices about e.g., financial and governing models, technical solutions, and initiate interactions with user communities. The meeting should be seen as a prelude to hopefully more in-depth sessions where we want to explore further several topics related to national and regional open access publishing platforms. We held a poll during the meeting to explore topics of interest to the people attending, and the two topics that received by far the most votes went to: 1) interoperability and 2) funding/governance.
The first is often approached as a technical issue. Still, it also deserves good coordination with various stakeholders inside and outside the network of involved partners of the infrastructure, and perhaps also between the platforms themselves, if steps are ever taken in the exchange of e.g. metadata (of citation data) between the platforms.
The second is also addressed as a concern by the studies from SPARC Europe and cOAlition S. Open access diamond platforms often operate at low costs, but in many cases, strongly depend on (public) funding, which is often temporary. In many cases, their choice of business models (i.e. focus on non-APC) relies on these funding streams. Questions arise on how to sustain those platforms financially. Who should take responsibility? Also, can we think of more collaboration between these platforms, such as sharing technical expertise and resources to reduce costs?
Much remains to be done to gain more insight into the field of open access platforms. A recently published preprint by Laakso and Multas shows a new inventory of European scholarly open access journals from small- and mid-size publishers; it also takes these platforms into account (6). But it also calls for more information about (collective) funding mechanisms for further research. During the OSEC session, it became clear that many of these non-APC open access publishing (i.e. journals and platforms) activities are run by institutions and academics and therefore heavily rely on public funding.
What also became clear during the OSEC conference, is that in 2022 we will see an increased attention for diamond open access. France, for example, has integrated diamond open access in their second version of the National Plan Open Science (7). As well as in the Netherlands, it is proposed that support for diamond open access is part of the open access strategy in the context of its National Open Science Programme ambitions (8). And in the wake of the cOAlition S study on diamond open access, being one of the building blocks to further the discussion, we will probably see more follow-up in that area. Hopefully the community of open access publishing platforms can help with this and ultimately benefit from it.
See the recording of the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtGIl3us7G8
See the slide deck here: https://zenodo.org/record/5776490
There are more European open access journal platforms, to name a few others:
Tidsskrift.dk: founded 2008. 181 journals
Publicera: founded 2021. 3 journals
- Suggested reading: John W Maxwell et. al. (2019). ‘Mind the Gap: A Landscape Analysis of Open Source Publishing Tools and Platforms’ https://mindthegap.pubpub.org/
- See: Helsinki Initiative on Multilingualism. https://www.helsinki-initiative.org/en
- Jussieu Call for Open science and bibliodiversity. 2017 [accessed on 27 January 2022]. Available at: https://jussieucall.org/jussieu-call/#call
- See for example: Nobes A and Harris S. Open Access in low- and middle-income countries: attitudes and experiences of researchers. Emerald Open Res 2019, 1:17. https://doi.org/10.35241/emeraldopenres.13325.1 and Debat H, Babini D. 2019. Plan S in Latin America: A precautionary note. PeerJ Preprints 7:e27834v2 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.27834v2.
- Bosman, Jeroen, Frantsvåg, Jan Erik, Kramer, Bianca, Langlais, Pierre-Carl, & Proudman, Vanessa. (2021). OA Diamond Journals Study. Part 1: Findings. p.8. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4558704
- Mikael Laakso, & Anna-Maija Multas. (2022). European scholarly journals from small- and mid-size publishers in times of Open Access: Mapping journals and public funding mechanisms (Version 1). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5909512
- NPOS (2022). Open Science 2030 in the Netherlands: NPOS 2030 Ambition Document. p.19. https://www.openscience.nl/files/openscience/2022-01/Open%20Science%202030%20in%20the%20Netherlands.pdf