Open Access Tage 2021: valuable insights from the libraries in the German-speaking region 

On September 27, OpenCitations’ director Silvio Peroni, together with Niels Stern (DOAB/OAPEN) and James MacGregor (PKP), held the online workshop “How Open Infrastructure Benefits Libraries” during the Open Access Tage 2021. Open-Access-Tage (Open Access Days) are the annual central platform for the steadily growing Open Access and Open Science community from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and are aimed at all those involved with the possibilities, conditions and perspectives of scientific publishing.  

The workshop gathered three of the SCOSS-supported infrastructures to discuss how Open Infrastructures (OIs) could encourage the engagement of university libraries, and how they could be beneficial game-changing alternative to commercial infrastructures. This theme, which was also been presented during the last LIBER conference, was here discussed under a new perspective, by involving the specific case of the libraries from the German-speaking region. Their point of view particularly emerged during the second part of the workshop, during which the participants were divided into two breakout rooms to discuss two questions each. These are the answers and comments that emerged from the discussions.  

1. What would prevent or encourage libraries in the German-speaking region to support open infrastructures? 

The three main concepts held to be crucial in this field were transparency, promotion and governance.  

Transparency: German libraries and public institutions often deal with strict funding limitations relating to donations. It is therefore crucial for OIs (a) to present in a clear way how libraries can get involved and the money needed, (b) to communicate what they do and how they can add value to libraries compared to other services, and (c) to clarify the direct return and benefits on investments. These points would make it easier to recommend OIs internally, especially when people from subject-specific institutions are interested in subject-independent OIs. Point (b) leads to the Promotion issue: Open Infrastructures should promote themselves non only on a global level, by communicating their impact in the open research movement as against non-transparent propitiatory services, but also at a local level, by providing information about the usage (and the value) of their services at an institutional and/or national level. This case-by-case narration (with attention to the specific benefits) would make it easier for the institutions to evaluate the sustainability of the investment. An incentive to donate is being actively involved in the community governance, i.e.through a board membership.  

Nevertheless, is also necessary for libraries to “take courage” when investing in such OIs, and, when possible, to overcome administrative boundaries by forming consortia. Finally, of particular note was a desire to see locally-managed sub-communities that could speak specifically to the German (or whichever) language environment, much as ORCID arranges itself.  

2. Community Governance. What kind of involvement do you want to see, how do you want to be involved? 

Some common problems which prevent the institutions from being involved are (a) a general concern about the fact that negotiations with publishers are typically the main focus of OA discussions – leaving little time to focus on OIs and other open initiatives, and (b) a lack of time, or of guidelines, for evaluating the different infrastructures to invest in. This is why SCOSS was appreciated as an intermediary in the decision process, because of its own rigorous evaluation and selection mechanismThe community-funding approach proposed by SCOSS thus seems to be the preferred way by which to support OIs.  

Regarding community governance, one idea could be to involve interested scholars in the governance of the open infrastructures (with the library acting as an interface between the open infrastructure and the scholars) rather than only involving library staff – although this idea was argued against in the second group, as researchers are often percieved as too busy to be functional in operational infrastructure groups. What also emerged from this second question is an interest in community involvement on different levels, for example as a community of practices or through discussion boards, mailing lists, periodic meet-ups, workshops, newsletters, etc. The community could also be articulated into local sub-communities, as in the successful case of ORCID and ORCID_DE.  

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