TAKE 5 With PALOMERA partners: OAPEN
The “Take 5 with PALOMERA partners” is a blog series featuring the members of the PALOMERA project; you can get to know them in 5 questions and a quick read!
The PALOMERA project is dedicated to understand why so few open access funder policies include books, and to provide actionable recommendations to change this situation. PALOMERA is funded for two years under the Horizon Europe: Reforming and enhancing the European R&I System .
For the debut of the series, we talked to Niels Stern, from the OAPEN Foundation.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as an organisation and your role in it?
I represent the OAPEN Foundation, which is a not-for-profit organisation providing open infrastructure services for scholarly books. Together with OpenEdition we also operate the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), which is an index of over 70,000 peer-reviewed open access books. Whereas DOAB is an index, OAPEN hosts the books (full-text) on our open source DSpace platform.
It all began as a project among a handful of university presses 15 years ago. Today there are more than 30,000 books from several hundred publishers in the OAPEN Library.
Recently we had this article published about the evolution of OAPEN. I think it’s a fascinating story that I’m fortunate to be part of, firstly as a project partner back in 2007 and for the past couple of years as its director. As the momentum for open access (OA) books is growing, I see OAPEN as a longstanding, very much used and fully open infrastructure centrally positioned in a fast-evolving landscape. This spring we published our POSI self-audit (Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure) to share how we work and how we strive to comply with these important principles. Being transparent about our operations, finances, and governance is important to us and to our main stakeholders, the libraries. We are very pleased that thousands of libraries integrate the OAPEN Library and DOAB in their discovery systems and that over two hundred of those also support us financially through our library support programme. We are greatly thankful for that. Without this support, we could not operate. Four years ago, we were selected by SCOSS which helped our library support campaigning efforts immensely.
2. Why do you think the PALOMERA project is relevant and timely?
With a few exceptions, books have been left on the side of OA policymaking for many years. This is unfortunate because policies are important drivers of change. As mentioned, we now see a momentum for OA books and a lot of interest. However, we don’t have a proper overview of the landscape. PALOMERA will help us to develop that, at least in part, by investigating the European Research Area. Furthermore, the project will analyse all the data that we are busy gathering which can give us a better understanding of challenges and bottlenecks preventing policies from emerging.
Such understanding will enable us to better help funders and institutions who want to implement new or improve existing OA policies for books.
The project has also given us the opportunity to convene research funders and policymakers in what we have called a Funder Forum focussed on OA books. Our first meeting in that forum saw representation from over 20 countries, which I think shows the increasing level of interest. We look forward to our next meeting on 20 November – maybe more will join.
Two years ago I was co-organising an OA Books Network event called ‘Voices from the OA books community’ which saw a lot of engagement from actors across the board of scholarly communication. Around 450 people participated in the five events that were held. In PALOMERA we want to build on that engagement. We have therefore just issued a survey (https://bit.ly/3QODjA0), we are performing interviews, and importantly we have planned what we call validation exercise events. Those are inclusive events with the purpose of getting feedback on our work from anyone who’s interested in open access books. It is essential that our scope remains broad because funder policies and institutional strategies for open access books affect all who are engaged in scholarly book publishing.
3. What is your role within the project?
I am the scientific coordinator of the project. So, I drafted the first pages of the application, coordinated the application process and chair our Executive Committee/WPL meetings. However, this is of course a collective effort of highly skilled and very friendly people from 16 different organisations across Europe plus an excellent international advisory board. I guess the central role was given to OAPEN because we have years of experience working closely with research funders, including DFG, FWF, SNSF, NWO, ERC and Wellcome. Using the OAPEN infrastructure we can provide these funders with a number of services that they ask for. I also hope PALOMERA will give us a better understanding of how we should develop these services and see more funders making use of them.
4. In your opinion, what is the biggest impact PALOMERA will have within the scholarly communication sphere?
I hope our study of policies and related documents in 39 countries that we are investigating, and the community validation thereof will give us an increased and generally accepted understanding of the landscape. The analysis of our vast data collection will help us structure all this data and get a fuller picture of the challenges in OA book policy making. Currently the picture is a bit scattered; we need this overview. The data and the analyses will be stored in our knowledge base and made publicly available for everyone to make use of. Once we get towards the end of the project, we will issue recommendations that should be helpful to funders and institutions – whether they have policies in place or not.
All in all, I think the impact of the project will be an increased focus on open access to books in scholarly communication, raising the general level of knowledge in the area, and providing insights that can be used as points of reference in future conversations and studies.
The knowledge base will be maintained by OAPEN after the project ends as part of the OAPEN OA Books Toolkit. We also plan to continue the Funders Forum in some form after the end of the project. So, it is my hope and our ambition that the impact will be enduring.
5. How do you see things evolving after the project finishes?
As mentioned above, we plan to sustain the main project results like the knowledge base (containing the data, analysis, and recommendations) and the Funder Forum. These will all be essential components of something like a future capacity centre or an information hub for OA books. We draw inspiration from the ongoing EC-funded project DIAMAS which aims to create a federated capacity centre for Diamond OA journals. What a future capacity centre for OA books should look like, I am not really sure about at this moment. I think that would require another project to figure out. But I am excited about the idea, and I think PALOMERA is the perfect stepping-stone to get us there.
To get to know more about the PALOMERA project: visit the project’s page.
This series is produced by the Work Package 5 team from the PALOMERA project. Stay tuned for the next posts coming soon!