Report on the OPERAS workshop “How to fill the information gap: Open Access for the social sciences and humanities”

You can find the full report here: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4293340


Introduction and survey results

The OPERAS workshop “How to fill the information gap: Open Access for the social sciences and humanities” (https://doi.org/10.7557/5.5624 ) took place on 17 November 2020 as part of the 15th Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing 2020. Participants were asked to fill in a survey prior to the workshop, detailing answers to the following questions:

  1. Please rank the most common issues that researchers may encounter due to not actively seeking or receiving information about Open Access. (1 = most common issue, 5 or lower = least common issue)
    • Unclear rationale behind Open Access. Many researchers do not realise that access is provided by their institutions in exchange for highly priced subscription fees and that their peers at lesser funded institutions, as well as individuals outside of academia only have restricted access to scholarly literature. Consequently, for some researchers (early career researchers as well as established scholars), the motivations behind Open Access may seem unclear.
    • Lacking understanding of author rights. Due to a lack of information, especially concerning intellectual property rights (e.g., the distinction between copyright and licence) and the possibility to uniquely identify their publications (e.g., Crossref DOIs), researchers may be afraid to lose the rights to or control over their work when publishing Open Access.
    • Lacking understanding of the chances and advantages of Open Access publishing (e.g. better findability, better reuse of material, etc.).
    • Funders do not communicate their Open Access requirements clearly.
    • It is untransparent which, or if, APC discounts have been negotiated by the research organization/university.
    • Missing some overview over Open Access publishing possibilities in the different disciplines.
    • Fear of losing reputation.
    • Other. Please specify.
  2. What is your research organization, university, or Open Access office doing to counteract these issues? Please tick as relevant and specify.
    • Information and support channels.
    • Targeted advocacy to funders to clearly state their Open Access requirements
    • Research and advocacy measures to show that Open Access and Open Science have become one of the leading ways of conducting scientific research and that the landscape is evolving quickly, increasing the possibilities of scientific research, not limiting them.
    • Other. Please specify.
  3. Please enter any ideas on concrete actions that could be taken to tackle the issue of lacking information on Open Access.
  4. What, in your opinion, is the single greatest benefit of Open Access?

The following charts display the evaluation of the questionnaire:

Most common issues researchers encounter

Concrete actions

More concrete ideas

What in your opinion is the single greates benefit of Open Access?

The following graph shows some conclusions drawn from the survey:

After presenting a summary of the survey and giving a brief introduction to the topic of communication, advocacy, and lobbying, we asked participants to vote for three topics to discuss during the workshop. They ranked as follows:

  1. Missing some overview over Open Access publishing possibilities in the different disciplines (9 votes)
  2. Fear of losing reputation (5 votes)
  3. Lack of understanding of the process within the institution (such as institutional repositories), and the options beyond Open Access publication (such as pre-prints, on repositories or on personal websites) (5 votes)
  4. Funders do not communicate their Open Access requirements clearly (4 votes)
  5. It is untransparent which, or if, APC discounts have been negotiated by the research organization/university (4 votes)
  6. Lacking understanding of author rights (3 votes)
  7. Lacking understanding of the chances and advantages of Open Access publishing (1 vote)
  8. Unclear rationale behind Open Access (0 votes)

We present the notes participants took during and after the discussion in the following and close with a short conclusion. Participants’ notes have been modified to enhance readability and do not always represent the original comments made.

Missing some overview over Open Access publishing possibilities in the different disciplines

What is the current situation and what are some of the problems?

  • Regional differences:
  • Other approaches towards overviews:
    • cOAlition S has started to develop the “journal checker tool”, which will be available soon and provides an overview of Open Access publishing possibilities across different disciplines (release of the beta version on 18th of November 2020: https://journalcheckertool.org/).
    • DOAJ and such are good services to check.
  • Other problems:
    • Research evaluation and the impact factor are problematic. The incentive system needs to be changed.
    • Reputation seems to be more important than Open Access, but DOAJ and such are good services to check (but as I’ve always been in Open Access research area, I don’t know whether I would know this otherwise). 
    • In some research areas it is not important enough yet to publish Open Access.
    • Open Access and indexing is important.
    • EU projects demand Open Access publishing, but overview about options is often missing.

Open questions

  • Is DOAJ not good enough for this purpose?
  • What about monographs?
  • Maybe the publishing culture is a problem rather than the impact factor and other things?

Concrete actions that could be taken

  • Clear and approachable contact persons:
    • For universities: Open Access advisors.
    • Open Access ambassadors. These ambassadors should be researchers with a good reputation in the field and should communicate peer-to-peer. This seems to be more efficient, because they are aware of the needs, challenges and concerns of researchers.
  • Success stories should be communicated, so that researchers see the benefits of publishing Open Access.
  • Internal workflows:
    • University (library) administration should work on creating better workflows, so that it is easier for researchers to navigate the possibilities and obligations (publishing fund, read-and-publish agreements on national and institutional level, self-archiving, various policies).
    • Workflows regarding Open Access within institutions should be transparent to researchers.

Fear of losing reputation

What is the current situation and what are some of the problems?

  • Anybody who knows Open Access knows that Open Access does not mean loss of credibility.
  • Open Access is often related to lack of quality, this seems to apply more in some research fields that are less into Open Access.
  • This might change with time or might have already changed.
  • We are forgetting about green Open Access when we talk about Open Access.
  • Risk of getting hooked by a convincing predatory journal, or rather, Open Access being associated with predatory journals.
  • Transformative process is going on with funders requesting Open Access (policies).

Open questions

  • Is there really a fear of losing reputation in all social sciences and humanities fields? Is Open Access publication always connected to loss of reputation?

Concrete actions that could be taken

  • Make Open Access more understood.
  • Certification of Open Access (already happening for Open Access peer review with the DOAB/OPERAS Certification Service: https://marketplace.eosc-portal.eu/services/operas-certification-doab).
  • Have Open Access ambassadors in each faculty.
  • We need to activate Open Science communities.
  • Make workflows smooth for researchers to make it easy for them to navigate the Open Access world.
  • Instead of talking about the why’s, talk about the how’s!
  • A publication’s impact should go beyond when it is published and see a broader community of readers.
  • There are already good initiatives like ReproducibiliTEA and the RIOT Science club network.

Lack of understanding of the process within the institution and the options beyond Open Access publication

What is the current situation and what are some of the problems?

  • Repository options are not much supported or advised.

Open questions

  • Why are repository options not much supported or advised? Because of certification issues?

Concrete actions that could be taken

  • Offer institutional support for green Open Access etc. We need clear practical tips.
  • Make existing projects for enhancing digital skills more visible.
  • Country websites for more information are needed.
  • We need go-to portals for each country or on a European scale.

Conclusion

The discussion showed that overviews over Open Access publishing possibilities, especially for journals, have been strongly evolved and are already of good quality in many countries. Yet, this is not true for all European countries and particularly so for Open Access publishing of monographs and books. The problem that researchers are afraid of losing reputation seems to not be a prevailing issue and, indeed, in some disciplines and for journal articles not the case anymore. The situation for books has not been discussed during the workshop. Many participants criticized that repository publishing options are often not much advised and that green Open Access is not part of the debate.

During the discussion it became clear that the community-debate should not be–and often already is not–focusing on transforming Open Access anymore. Rather, it should be about building the “house” for Open Access.

The “Why’s” are dead – long life the “How’s”!


workshop coordinators

  • Elisabeth Ernst, OPERAS, Max Weber Stiftung (MWS)
  • Marlen Töpfer, OPERAS-GER, Max Weber Stiftung (MWS)

workshop participants

  • Niels Cadée, Munin repository, University Library at UiT
  • Danielle Carter, freelance academic copyeditor
  • Aysa Ekanger, UiT
  • Igor Goncharenko, UiA
  • Samir Hachani , Algiers University
  • Robert Isaksen, UiT
  • Judith Körte, EMBL
  • Margreet Nieborg, University of Groningen
  • Judith Schossboeck, Research Fellow, Danube University Krems
  • Joke Verwaard, BI Norwegian Business School

Elisabeth Ernst

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

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