Evaluation of the Coordinator (OpenEdition)


Evaluation of OpenEdition – An analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to Inform OpenEdition’s future strategy. Report commissioned by: Aix-Marseille University, on behalf of the stakeholders in Cléo.

Report authors: Rob Johnson, Mattia Fosci, Andrea Chiarelli www.research-consulting.com

Contact: rob.johnson@research-consulting.com Report dated: July 2017

Download the full OPERAS Design Study here: OPERAS Design Study

doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1009544


OpenEdition brings together four platforms dedicated to electronic resources in  the  humanities and social sciences, including OpenEdition books, with over 4,000 titles, and Revues.org, with almost 500 journals. In order to inform its future development and strategy, the University of Aix- Marseille commissioned an evaluation of OpenEdition on behalf of its four partners. The evaluation was undertaken by Research Consulting, a UK consultancy specialising in the management and dissemination of research, and provides an external perspective on OpenEdition’s development over the next 5–10 years.


The evaluation of OpenEdition was approached through four steps:

  • Review of usage, performance, and operating model: We reviewed the relevant operational data and processes used at OpenEdition by meeting key staff members and other We also discussed the Lodel publishing platform.
  • Review of the competitive landscape: We reviewed the relevant literature on the landscape where OpenEdition operates, considering both the French and the European open access policies. We also studied competitors and comparator services, which were then validated through a discussion with Cléo
  • Stakeholder consultation: We interviewed nineteen international stakeholders and then coded their comments to build a SWOT analysis to inform OpenEdition’s future
  • Feedback and reporting: We gathered our findings in the present report and then discussed with OpenEdition staff for We then finalised our report based on all feedback received.


  • OpenEdition is a major player in the international open access (OA) landscape. Despite strong year-on-year growth, the OA book market is still less than 1% of all scholarly and professional e-book publishing: according to some estimates there were only around 10,000 titles in 2016, with humanities and social sciences (HSS) accounting for almost three quarters of all OA books published. Within this market, OpenEdition has cemented a leading position with a catalogue of over 4,100 e-books, most of which are open access. Competitor platforms in the HSS have much smaller catalogues, ranging from a few hundred to just over 2,000.
  • Similarly, with 461 journals and over 100,000 articles, OpenEdition is almost unique as publicly- funded platform delivering a high volume of open access journal content within the social sciences and humanities. Large digital libraries in HSS, such as JSTOR, only publish a small proportion of their large catalogues in open access. By contrast, pure open access platforms typically have much smaller catalogues of HSS content, ranging from Hrcak’s 200 titles to the Open Library of Humanities’ 16 journal
  • Comparative data is more difficult to locate for Hypotheses and Calenda, but we are not aware of any other academic blogging platform which comes close to the 2,000+ blogs hosted by OpenEdition.


Drawing on the outcomes of our stakeholder consultation, we have prepared an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Key strengths included:

  • OpenEdition’s technical capability
  • The freemium model
  • The increased visibility OpenEdition offers to small publishers
  • A strong ‘niche’ offer

The most significant weaknesses were:

  • Poor communication of editorial quality to the international market
  • Weak international profile
  • A perceived lack of interoperability for librarians
  • Poor usability for publishers


  • Our consultation highlighted a wide range of opportunities and threats for OpenEdition. The importance of the English-language market is widely acknowledged, and increasing English content is highly desirable, but likely to be difficult in practice. Most stakeholders instead saw greater opportunities for expansion in Germany and/or Eastern and Southern Europe. We also note the existence of opportunities to source content from Latin America and Africa, but these regions were not within the scope of our With regard to disciplines, there may be scope for limited expansion, but this should not compromise OpenEdition’s primary identity as a platform for social science and humanities.
  • Finally, there are clear opportunities for OpenEdition to play a leading role in the harmonisation of metadata, development of open source software, and establishment of European OA infrastructure. The OPERAS project, which is led by OpenEdition/Cléo, represents an important step in this OpenEdition is highly regarded by the other project partners, and its involvement in the project should help to consolidate its position as a provider of critical Research Infrastructure, in partnership with other European players.


OpenEdition’s future development is limited by three main factors:

  1. Low levels of awareness outside France
  2. Predominance of francophone content
  3. Focus on the social science and humanities

The consensus view from our work is that addressing the first two of these should be a priority, and that this is best achieved by:

  • Developing OpenEdition’s identity as a European multilingual platform for the social sciences and humanities.
  • Promoting the OpenEdition brand as a clear badge of quality for content on the
  • Redefining OpenEdition as one platform with four inter-related
  • There may also be scope for some expansion of content into interdisciplinary areas, but it would be inadvisable to pursue international expansion, an increased range of languages and additional disciplines
  • Finally, we note that OpenEdition occupies a unique position in the publishing landscape, being aligned neither with the dominant Anglo-Saxon publishing world, nor the Global South. There may be opportunities for OpenEdition to capitalise on this position in order to play an important bridging role between these two


We recommend that OpenEdition’s management and Steering Committee consider the value of the following actions to improve its operational activities:

  1. Communicate quality – Take steps to communicate the quality of its content and editorial controls more effectively to an international audience
  2. Increase efficiency – Conduct a business process mapping and redesign exercise to identify and address delays and inefficiencies in the publishing process
  3. Improve usability – Improve usability and support for the Lodel tool for existing publishers, potentially as part of the ongoing ‘Lodel 2’ development
  4. Adopt a modular approach – Explore opportunities to extend and scale the platform via a modular approach to new features and services (for example ‘OpenEdition sources’)
  5. Open up metadata for discovery – Improve distribution of metadata and uptake of the freemium model by libraries via a three-step process: a) Deliver metadata to library discovery tools/library catalogues at no cost to facilitate discovery of OpenEdition’s content; b) Capture IP address information to allow identification and tracking of usage (potentially on a free trial basis); c) Promote adoption of the freemium model
  6. Pursue partnerships – Explore partnerships with other European OA publishers and platforms, to present a collective proposition to North American/Northern European libraries
  7. Gather feedback – Review and enhance processes for obtaining structured feedback from publishers and libraries of the platform, in order to monitor quality of service and relationships.
  8. Improve transparency – Improve transparency around the freemium model, and take steps to articulate its value to publishers more clearly
  9. Extend international reach – Evaluate possible mechanisms to obtain ongoing input from international stakeholders, for example via an international advisory board and/or the development of  ‘OpenEdition Ambassadors’.
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