Q&A with the OPERAS coordinators

The distributed research infrastructure OPERAS (open access in the European research area through scholarly communication) aims to develop open scholarly communication in Europe, particularly in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). OPERAS has been coordinated by Pierre Mounier, Associate Director at OpenEdition, from January 2017 until the end of May 2018. From June 2018 onwards, the coordination is split equally between Pierre Mounier and Suzanne Dumouchel, International Coordination Officer at Huma-Num and Program Implementation Officer for DARIAH-EU. Elisabeth Heinemann, Digital Humanities Officer at the Max Weber Foundation and OPERAS Communication Officer, talked to both of them about the new coordination of OPERAS.

Pierre Mounier, OPERAS Coordinator; OpenEdition

Pierre Mounier is Deputy Director of OpenEdition, the French national infrastructure for open scholarly communication in the SSH. He teaches digital humanities at the EHESS in Paris. He has published several books about the social and political impact of ICT, digital publishing, and digital humanities.

Suzanne Dumouchel, OPERAS Coordinator; Huma-Num and DARIAH-EU

Suzanne Dumouchel, PhD in French Literature, works at the TGIR Huma-Num (CNRS) as International Coordination Officer in charge of European Infrastructures. She is part of the Coordination Office of DARIAH-EU in charge of external partnerships and networking with European Infrastructures, especially in the SSH.

Pierre, you announced the decision to share the management of OPERAS with Suzanne at the OPERAS Conference in Athens. How will the coordination be shared among the two of you?

Pierre Mounier. The coordination will be shared according to our two specializations that reflect the two galaxies that OPERAS finds itself in. We have the OPERAS partners who are dedicated to changing the landscape of open scholarly communication on the one hand and the research infrastructures, e-infrastructures, and the EOSC on the other hand. As a future research infrastructure that is not only focused on one discipline but on the whole of the SSH, it is an important mission to coordinate our community with other infrastructures and the EOSC. It also is impossible for a single person to specialize in everything and we need a highly specialized coordination of OPERAS.  As a result of this, I will continue being the contact point for the OPERAS partners as well as potential new partners and Suzanne will coordinate with other infrastructures on a European and international level.

Suzanne, besides your work as International Coordination Officer at Huma-Num, you are also a Program Implementation Officer for DARIAH-EU. What does your work involve?

Suzanne Dumouchel. At DARIAH-EU, I’m working on establishing new external partnerships with research infrastructures and e-infrastructures especially in the context of the EOSC and of Open Science at large. We all know that, sometimes, the SSH voice needs to be heard – as a single voice! Moreover, I hope that my involvement in both, DARIAH-EU and OPERAS, will further deepen the link between both infrastructures which already have many things in common.

“We all know that, sometimes, the SSH voice needs to be heard – as a single voice!”

How will you ensure that the coordination of OPERAS will be equally split from now on?

Pierre Mounier. It is indeed a new challenge for the coordination office to share the responsibility of coordinating. But we are starting from a very strong basis of mutual trust between us and we share the same values. Our specific characteristics and way of working is different of course but I see this rather as a strength than as a weakness. Suzanne is very strong on communication and we constantly keep different channels open between us. I think this prevents us from going into different directions and I’m sure that the coordination will work effectively. Suzanne is very open to opportunities without being limited by artificial boundaries.

Suzanne Dumouchel. Well, in fact, my aim is to shut down boundaries!

How do you envision OPERAS’ future governance?

Pierre Mounier. One of our first aims in developing OPERAS is to make sure that there is a democratic governance structure where everyone can have a say and make his or her voice heard. Decisions in OPERAS are made collectively and not individually.

“Decisions in OPERAS are made collectively and not individually.”

Suzanne Dumouchel. I am very interested in agile governance, not only for the upcoming discovery platform that I am coordinating for OPERAS but for the whole OPERAS consortium. An innovative agile governance structure should ensure that everybody is involved in the decision-making process and also can say no to a decision. I am involved in a research project that I’ve launched with other colleagues on European research infrastructures, especially in the SSH, regarding the governance model and their needs in terms of engagement of communities.

Which services are most urgently needed in the SSH community and what is OPERAS doing to serve these needs?

Pierre Mounier. My first choice in terms of importance and urgency is a discovery platform for SSH researchers. The SSH communities are highly fragmented at all levels and there is no single discovery point for SSH resources yet, sometimes not even at the level of a single country. SSH researchers are currently using Google as a tool to fill this gap! We therefore have to quickly deliver an integrated discovery service for all SSH disciplines, particularly at European level.

The OPERAS Discovery Platform will improve the accessibility and dissemination of research output in the SSH through a single point of entry. It will provide a multilingual environment in the SSH for data, publications, researcher profiles, and research projects. This will be achieved through the development of new thesauri and a translation of the platform and its documentation. It will also integrate different types of visualization of the data by creating different interfaces. One of the innovative goals is to connect the platform with other societal stakeholders to enable them to take part in research projects.

What are the main challenges that OPERAS needs to focus on in the near future?

Suzanne Dumouchel. An immediate challenge that we need to address is the structuring of the SSH field at a European level.

Isn’t this rather a long-term goal?

Suzanne Dumouchel. No! If we want the SSH to really have an impact at the governance and implementation level of the EOSC, we need to start right now. We need to speak about the EOSC with researchers even though they are not directly involved with it. OPERAS has to help them to understand the developments at European level.

“If we want the SSH to really have an impact at the governance and implementation level of the EOSC, we need to start right now.”

If you had to choose a single aspect of scholarly communication that needs to be addressed most urgently, what would it be?

Pierre Mounier. Bibliodiversity is the most important aspect of scholarly communication. We need to ensure that the scholarly communication system is not dominated by a few actors but reflects the diversity in terms of disciplines, but also cultures and practices, of the different communities.

“Bibliodiversity is the most important aspect of scholarly communication.”

Suzanne Dumouchel. I agree with Pierre, but would also include that scholarly communication needs to be open to the society. Scholarly communication needs to be open and accessible for everybody and we should not forget the citizen science perspective.

“Scholarly communication needs to be open and accessible for everybody and we should not forget the citizen science perspective.”

The OPERAS Science for Society Platform will allow exploring new forms of scientific communication and transferring knowledge and know-how between researchers and other socio-economic actors. It will be fully integrated into the Open Science paradigm. The platform will provide three main services:

1) community management and linking professionals (matching service);

2) access to funding sources (international call for proposals database, international network of funders, crowdfunding tool);

3) collaborative project management (management of user rights and profiles, connection to databases and data repositories, interoperability with other work environments, collaboration tools on text and multimedia data).

What will be the most important change that is going to take place in the world of scholarly publishing when OPERAS’ activities will be successfully carried out?

Pierre Mounier. The most important change will be the ability of the research community to reclaim the publication landscape, rather than delegating this to dominant commercial publishers. From the end of the Second World War on, there was a strong externalization of these communication functions in the publication sector to commercial companies. The history of scholarly publishing is closely linked to the rise of those companies, which in the beginning provided useful and effective services that they profited from. This however resulted in a strong dependency. The aim of OPERAS is to help the academic community to reclaim the academic publication ecosystem by providing an effective infrastructure. We are now at a point where the whole academic community is conscious of this tragic mistake of the past years and is trying to find practical and effective solutions to change the situation. They however don’t yet have global solutions that can change the landscape, but only local or specific ones that cannot be aggregated. It is one of the aims of OPERAS to gather these initiatives, strengthen and coordinate them to provide an efficient catalogue of services to the European researchers.

“The aim of OPERAS is to help the academic community to reclaim the academic publication ecosystem by providing an effective infrastructure.”

How will OPERAS ensure that it is inclusive of the whole of Europe and not dominated by France?

Suzanne Dumouchel. Pierre and I, we both strongly believe in Europe– we are not putting our efforts into OPERAS for France but because we are convinced Europeans. Even though the OPERAS coordination is French, the members of the core group come from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal and also the United Kingdom.

Pierre Mounier. I agree with Suzanne: the coordination is a technical coordination that makes sure that things work. The sovereignty of OPERAS, however, is in the core group which is our “parliament”. This is where the strategic decisions are made. We are here to serve the core group, to support the decision-making process and to ensure that its decisions are applied.

Thank you for the interview, Suzanne and Pierre! Anything you would like to add?

Suzanne Dumouchel. I’m really excited by this new challenge and very pleased to closely work with Pierre and the core group on OPERAS.

Pierre Mounier. Suzanne will bring her energy, enthusiasm and above all, her expertise, to OPERAS. I am convinced the whole network will benefit a lot from her commitment to the project. For that reason, I thank her sincerely to have accepted to join the coordination office.


Cite this article as: Elisabeth Heinemann, "Q&A with the OPERAS coordinators," in OPERAS, 18/06/2018, https://operas.hypotheses.org/1485.

Elisabeth Heinemann

Digital Humanities Officer at Max Weber Stiftung (MWS) and Communication Officer for OPERAS

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