When the roadmap for OSI was first being developed in 2015, our original intent was to hold a series of 10 annual meetings beginning in 2016. After the first two meetings, however, it became apparent that the next step in this process should be to pause and have just the summit group meet to formally discuss and plan out what comes next instead of having this complex conversation online (which we had been doing since mid-2017) or amongst a group of several hundred participants. This decision was also necessitated by the lack of a large enough budget to put together another full-group meeting for 2018.
The full OSI summit group currently consists of 35 members appointed by the OSI program director to represent all 18 stakeholder groups by quota (see Annex section for details). Eighteen members of this group met in person at American University in Washington DC on March 12-14, 2018. In attendance were Bryan Alexander, Rick Anderson, Kim Barrett, Nancy Davenport, Joann Delenick (virtual attendee), Mel DeSart, Chris Erdman, Glenn Hampson (ex officio), Patrick Herron, Gemma Hersh, Claudia Holland, Bhanu Neupane, Joyce Ogburn, Eric Olson, Abel Packer, T Scott Plutchak (interim Summit chair), Wim van der Steldt, and John Warren.
The American University was our host for this event, providing meeting space, IT support and catering. Many thanks to American University Librarian Nancy Davenport and her team for coordinating this effort and making this important meeting possible.
The overall goal of this first in-person meeting of the summit group was to discuss and formally approve detailed action plans for the coming months as OSI shifts from an information gathering mode to a more action oriented one. Many fundamental questions were also discussed. This was OSI’s first extended opportunity to really debate perspectives on OSI’s reason for being, what we hope to accomplish, and how. To this point, the answers to these questions have all been debated online or imposed on this group. This was our first opportunity, other than in email conversations, to really dig deeper and wrestle with the realpolitik of what OSI plans to accomplish. Some of the questions covered were:
What is perfectly clear from OSI’s work is that there is a broad diversity of perspectives and solutions. The summit group agreed that to the extent possible, it behooves OSI to embrace all efforts toward open and try to, at minimum, serve as an “honest broker” for these ideas. We also discussed whether working toward international synergy on open policies should be a goal of OSI—whether it’s best to move gradually toward interoperable scholarly communication policies across nations and funders. Institutions and disciplines should still experiment at the local level, but at the macro level it may not be ideal to have some major funders (government and private) mandate one kind of open access and other major funders mandate another.
More questions than answers were raised at this meeting. The questions weren’t necessarily new. The fact that the old answers didn’t entirely suffice is an encouraging sign that group members are now taking ownership of this thinking. That is, OSI has made statements in past reports about what it is doing and how, and these are still accurate, but they may be more aspirational than real. As a group, OSI participants will be weighing the summit group’s questions and perspectives and the OSI effort will adjust language and policies accordingly. Fundamentally, OSI is still in its formative stages and what we’re able to accomplish depends entirely on what OSI participants are willing and able to give, and how this message is received. We will move forward with the action plan approved by the summit group, remain responsible, engaged and flexible as we do so, and do our best to monitor feedback and impacts as this process unfolds over the coming years.
In terms of specific action items, the key proposals covered in the day-and-a-half of summit discussions were OSI issue briefs, the OSI website, OSI structure and governance, regional meetings, official statements and side projects.
OSI will begin writing and publishing a series of short (1200-1500 word) papers that distill the key findings from the OSI conferences and online discussions to date. Our primary reference will be the dozens of conference papers authored to-date by OSI participants, the thousands of emails we’ve exchanged on a wide variety of topics, and the deeper dives we’ve made via Slack and other means. These briefs will all have a similar structure, including a concise statement of the topic, and a summary of previous work done, work that still needs to be done, organizations working on the topic, key stakeholders and policy makers, and strategies for collaboration (see the Annex section for a more detailed description of the issue brief philosophy and format).
The first brief will describe the meaning of “open” in the context of scholarly communication. A draft will be reviewed by mid-April 2018 and approved for publication by early May. The format and tone of this work (as well as the review process, described below) will serve as a template for future briefs. Some of the possible paper topics (all of which have been covered at some point by OSI listserv conversations or by OSI conference papers) include:
An OSI editorial team led by Claudia Holland will manage this list of topics and ensure they are shepherded through the writing, review, publishing and marketing process. Different OSI experts will be identified (or will volunteer) to take the lead on writing these briefs, with work scheduled such that a constant stream of briefs will be produced over the next few years (about 1-2 per month at minimum). Two review processes will be used to produce and vet the final product—one open forum within OSI over a limited time period to collect feedback and comments, and another forum outside OSI to identify other relevant work being done. The first iteration of the inside-OSI forum will be led by David Mellor from the Center for Open Science, and the first iteration of the outside-OSI forum will be led by Eric Olson from ORCID. Both David and Eric have experience conducting these forums for their organizations.
Some of these briefs will be more policy-oriented than others. For one, some of the issues being addressed lend themselves better to policy positions. Second, there are a number of issues on which OSI participants have no consensus position (or at least, for which we haven’t attempted to accurately assess a consensus). In cases where it may be important to assert a policy position but where we cannot speak for everyone in OSI, issue briefs will contain a “dissent” section where those in OSI who disagree with the proposed policy can state their objections for the record (all papers will also carry a standard disclaimer that the views expressed are those of the authors and not all OSI participants). In general, Claudia’s team recommends that the authority OSI carries to create policy papers is no different from other organizations representing their constituents’ wishes through proclamations. OSI should be bold in sharing the work that has been produced by participants, and should do so publicly and widely. The briefs will serve to notify interested parties (including funders) throughout the world about what we’ve accomplished and draw attention to the longer reports by the conference groups.
Once prepared, OSI briefs will be formally published by Mason Press (which also published the OSI2016 and OSI2017 conference papers). The papers will also be posted on the OSI website, promoted on social media, and circulated to key policy makers and institutions we’d like to reach.
Measuring the impact of these briefs will be harder, not unlike measuring the impact of OSI itself. Google Analytics will track download stats on the OSI website, and Altmetric will track other stats with regard to social media, mentions, and so on, but whether the ideas contained in these briefs gain traction is almost impossible to measure quantitatively. What we have noticed in OSI over the past few years is that what we discuss here has often appeared in papers and keynote addresses by OSI participants. Whether we started this thought process, cultivated it, or were just tapping into an existing sentiment doesn’t really matter. Participants who acknowledge the complexity of the issues we’re working on are validating our approach and effort, whether attribution credit is explicitly tied to OSI or even owing. Perhaps because of this dialogue (or again, even if in spite of it), it’s becoming increasingly common to hear people in scholarly communications talk about how open isn’t necessarily clearly defined and how open solutions aren’t necessarily a no-brainer. When OSI first started airing these kinds of perspectives back in 2014, such talk was almost heretical—the blowback we received from a number of key leaders in scholcomm was significant (and often personal). Now, however, three-plus years down the road, these kinds of concerns are expressed fairly widely. This isn’t necessarily an OSI impact, but OSI may have had a limited role in helping make these conversations more allowable. The next step is to figure out what to do, of course—hand-wringing over the current state of affairs is not a stopping point.
OSI2016 and OSI2017 delegates agreed that reforming the culture of communication in academia should be this group’s highest priority (other than funding studies to fill in the gaps in our understanding of the scholarly communication landscape). This group’s conversations in the Summer and Fall of 2017 led to the development of an entity called “RSComm” to address this challenge. RSComm stands for the “research and scholarly communication”—two distinct branches of communication (the former dealing with peer-to-peer communication in research and the latter dealing with broader communication issues and practices in research). It was thought that developing a new field of RSComm, complete with a listserv and RSComm website, could serve as the point of the spear in OSI’s reform effort (see the RSComm website schematic in the Annex section of this report). However, the summit group wasn’t convinced of this approach during their March 2018 conversations, and advised instead to focus on revamping the OSI website.
The OSI website (osinitiative.org) is currently focused on explaining what OSI is about, and making all OSI conference records transparent (reports, funding, participants, and so on). The idea adopted by the summit group was to transform this site into the same sort of resource hub that RSComm was going to be, except more focused on just the issues directly related to what OSI has been discussing. The issue briefs mentioned earlier in this report would comprise a large part of the content included in this site. A draft version of the new OSI site will be developed by the OSI marketing communications team (Glenn Hampson, Rob Johnson, Eric Olson and Bryan Alexander) and submitted to the summit group for review by late May and then to the full OSI group for review and comment. A revised OSI website (probably under a new domain name, such as osiglobal.org) will be launched and promoted by early Summer 2018. RSComm will be handed over to the Science Communication Institute for continued development under the SCI umbrella (it will not be part of OSI, but will run parallel to it as a separate SCI project).
Issue briefs will only be one focus of the new OSI website. Non-brief content in the new site will emphasize the dimensions of culture of communication in academia writ large, such as:
The new OSI site will also better articulate and simplify OSI’s description—perhaps something along the lines of “Improve open, advance research, shape tomorrow.” Currently, our quick and memorable description isn’t so much an elevator pitch as a long car ride pitch (see the Annex section for a general idea of where we might be heading with messaging):
The Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) is a global, UN-supported, multi-stakeholder effort working to: (1) correct a broad range of research and scholarly communication deficiencies and inefficiencies, (2) advance the openness of research and scholarly outputs, (3) lower the barriers for researchers and scholars everywhere to engage in the global research community, and (4) increase opportunities for all countries and peoples to benefit from this engagement. Since its inception two years ago, OSI has attracted a diverse and global group of experts who have thoughtfully constructed the framework for action. This group is now ready to start implementing reform efforts. OSI’s first actions will be to clarify and simplify the messaging with regard to open access and scholarship (in order to reduce confusion and increase buy-in), and also create a resource hub for best practices, lessons of experience, and stories of reach, engagement and impact. As part of this effort, OSI will begin to leverage change through partnerships and collaborations, and catalyze an environment that gets people and institutions out of their silos to work together on reform. By working together, OSI participants and partners can build a better system of global research and scholarly communication that can provide enormous gains in access, contribution, and impact.
Importantly, summit members agree on the big questions of who we are and why we are here (OSI that is). Even though our interests are broad, they’re all connected to “open” and this is the theme that unifies and motivates us all. It’s okay if we tackle related issues like impact factors even though they aren’t covered by our name—it’s okay if names don’t expand with the agenda—or if we try to link together thinking in open data, open education, open access, and other open scholarship efforts. We are striving to develop real and thoughtful open solutions, taking fully into account researcher concerns, priorities and perspectives. A rush to judgement that all open is good all the time and that there are one-size-fits-all solutions is not what we want—more so an effort to “do open right.”
OSI Structure & Governance
A governance structure for OSI was developed in the Fall of 2016 and circulated to the full OSI group for review and comment. A final version of this proposal was discussed at the OSI2017 meeting in April of 2017. Delegates to this meeting voted to table consideration of the governance plan until a later date.
When it was discussed at the March 2018 OSI summit meeting, delegates again voted to table consideration of a formal governance plan and instead keep OSI an informally organized group. In place of a formal plan, the OSI program director (Glenn Hampson) and summit group chair (Scott Plutchak) have agreed to abide by the terms of the proposed governing arrangement until it is approved (or modified). More generally, the director and chair have agreed that the simplest description of OSI governance is that of a typical organization with a board. In this case, OSI’s program director serves as the executive director of OSI and the summit chair serves as chairman of the board. The executive director manages day-to-day operations and most other functions without consulting the board, while the board provides strategic guidance and stakeholder representation and also holds the executive accountable.
The current summit group and chair have been appointed by the OSI program director. Five to eight additional summit members are currently being nominated by summit group to replace those who are leaving the group. Until determined otherwise (by both the summit group and the full OSI membership), the summit group will continue to develop OSI’s action plans and will report regularly to the full OSI list to solicit feedback, ideas and volunteers to work on projects. Virtual summit meetings (via Zoom) will continue to be held monthly (two back-to-back calls per month in order to maximize participation from non-US based members).
Discussion is ongoing about what tools our group should use to better engage and facilitate discussion among all OSI participants. We currently use several listservs as our main conversation tool, and a Slack site for archiving milestones and to-do lists. As we move forward, some of the other communication reform ideas under consideration include:
Regional & Local Meetings
Regional and local meetings will play an important role in OSI’s work over the next several years. These meetings will:
At present, OSI is working with SciELO to develop a special session for their upcoming 20th Anniversary program in September in Sao Paolo. OSI or UNESCO will provide travel funding for the delegates who should attend this meeting on behalf of OSI. In addition, UNESCO is organizing an “International Congress on Knowledge Economy” in China this October or November and will provide funding for 50 OSI representatives to attend. The agenda for our work in China is still under development. OSI participants will be offered these engagement opportunities first, but we will also continue to reach out to broader audiences. Supplementing OSI delegates should be local experts and officials who will be able to sign on to agreements and implement recommendations—university provosts, ministry officials and the like. The structure of each meeting will depend on the nature of challenge—whether we’re simply presenting a solution for local discussion and adoption, collecting information for consideration by OSI, and so on. To-date, between 120 and 190 participants have been at each OSI meeting.
UNESCO is interested in officially endorsing all briefs that OSI publishes, and also endorsing a statement that OSI produces about the future of scholarly communication. This “Statement 2020” wouldn’t be binding—it’s just an aspirational rallying point for where OSI (and UNESCO) are headed in this this effort.
The OSI Slack channel is archiving the group’s progress on a number of side projects. These are issues that the full group has decided are important enough to warrant further consideration off-list. The listserv isn’t a good tool for digging into issues in great depth—just for raising issues for consideration and framing the outlines of debate. Unfortunately, Slack has so-far not proven to be the right tool for this group to continue developing these topics. Mostly, this is just a question of bandwidth. Until OSI is better resourced, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to pursue all these ideas to fruition. Here are the current projects under consideration (listed alphabetically by their Slack channel name):
A website that pulls in data on APCs for easy comparison or where publishers can self-post pricing info (granted there would be lots of caveats) would be a valuable resource for this community.
Should a new blacklist be developed? A whitelist? Some other solution? Various ideas have been discussed at length both on and off list and in a side group but a final decision hasn’t been reached yet.
What are the cash incentives to publish in academia? There is anecdotal evidence from some parts of the world that this is a significant and corrosive phenomenon.
Coordination and collaboration efforts are a top priority for 2017-18.
Reforming the culture of communication in academia was identified as the highest priority task by OSI2016 and OSI2017 participants.
Would an iTunes model work for scholarly journals? Would providing a-la-carte access to journal articles at 99 cents apiece be attractive to scholars and publishers?
This channel houses links to various articles and studies we discuss in OSI (other relevant article links are also welcome)
What funding is available for OA work? What are the possibilities for increasing funding (e.g., setting up a group-funded pot for developing prototypes, conducting studies, etc.)?
Is there a role OSI should play in the open data conversation? There is much overlap on the core challenges facing the open access and open data movements. Sharing insights and collaborating on efforts might be helpful to both.
Follow-up on a listserv conversation regarding a hotly-disputed report on open impacts (circulated to the list in February) by restarting this conversation with one of the report’s authors included.
Open study protocols is an important and under-researched area. There are a few open protocol sites but none for major clinical work. What are the challenges? Is this a solvable problem?
Outreach, marketing and advocacy efforts are the top priority for 2017-18, first for the top issues noted in the 2017 report, and then spreading to other issues as time and resources permit.
Develop OSI 2-3 page policy papers
The profit margins of commercial publishers has long been cited in debates about scholarly communication reform. Facts, however, are in short supply. A group of industry leaders and analysts is willing to pull together an authoritative on this topic.
Identify existing relevant standards, evaluate areas of overlap or perhaps conflict, which can be used to foster increased collaboration, and areas where relevant standards do not yet exist, which can be used to focus future effort
A wide variety of studies has been recommended by OSI participants, including embargo and global flip studies. What’s the complete list, what are the priorities, and how can we start doing these (grant applications, more funding, partnerships, etc.)?
OSI planning and development work has continued year-round since November 2014. Here is a timeline for OSI’s work between the end of OSI2017 (April 2017) and early 2019:
OSI has a lot on its plate for the next several months and beyond. We look forward to moving into this next phase of our work and beginning to deliver on the enormous promise of OSI.