Continuing our occasional series on perspectives on open-access publishing, we invited OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) to answer some questions on its role, why standards are so important to researchers, editors, and everyone involved in OA, and the role that they play in this. As a member of OASPA, Taylor & Francis adheres to its standards and is engaged with the association on driving best practice in OA publishing, across all our journals, whether hybrid or pure OA titles. Claire Redhead, OASPA’s Membership and Communications Manager, answered our questions, including looking into her crystal ball to see where OASPA (and OA) might be by 2020. Find out what she said.
Can you tell me more about OASPA, and your aims?
OASPA was founded in 2008 and the core of the mission statement is to “represent the interests of Open Access (OA) journal and book publishers globally in all scientific, technical and scholarly disciplines.” OASPA is working to promote good quality open access in a number of ways. This might be through providing advice on policy, working on projects with other organizations to improve technology or metrics, encouraging innovation or helping with educational projects – around licensing, for example, which is often a source of confusion. A lot of work is also done on setting and improving standards, particularly working with small organizations at the application stage, providing guidance where needed.
Why do you think an organization such as OASPA is needed?
There are many different approaches to open access, and many different viewpoints, depending on whether you are a publisher, a librarian, a funding organization, a policy maker, and so on. Even within publishing there are those that started out as open access from day one, those in transition or with a hybrid approach, library presses, and small volunteer-led journals. One of the ways OASPA can help is by encouraging the sharing of ideas and discussion. The annual conference is an ideal opportunity for people in this field to get together and find out about all of those different perspectives. It’s an international discussion and we are very aware of that – we held a meeting in Asia last year which saw a different audience and different challenges. It’s something we feel we can do more of, particularly as far as helping to set standards is concerned. OASPA is in a position to bring people together and mediate discussions, and also to highlight those organizations which are already showing best practice in open-access publishing.
Who is on your board, and who are OASPA’s members?
The OASPA Board currently reflects our members very well. We have representatives from well-known open-access publishers (Hindawi, BMC, PLOS), from smaller publishers (Co-Action, eLife, and PeerJ), from the well-established traditional publishers (Oxford University Press and Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan) and then the DOAJ and DOAB are also represented – so the board covers Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, journals and monographs. And, as the list on our website shows, the membership is a similar broad mix of organisations.
Open access is of importance to these groups for different reasons and that really comes across when the board get together in their regular meetings – there is a lot to take into account to make sure all of the voices are heard.
Board Members serve three years so the team is constantly in flux, but OASPA’s bylaws set out that over half of the board members must be from organizations that obtain at least 50% of their revenue from open-access publishing, which ensures that overall the organization will stay true to its mission, and also distinct from other publishing associations.
What standards do you expect OASPA’s members to adhere to?
When organisations apply for membership of OASPA we carry out an in-depth review of their business and publications, and we check that they meet our membership criteria. Once they are approved as members we expect organisations to demonstrate high standards at all times and to adhere to OASPA’s Code of Conduct. This applies to any scholarly publications, not just those that are open access. Last year we collaborated with the DOAJ, COPE and WAME and made a joint statement with them to guide publishers in maintaining best practices – this and the membership criteria are reviewed on a continual basis.
What do OASPA consider to be the biggest issues facing open access at the moment?
There are a lot of challenges to be overcome, but probably the key talking point – and the most damaging – is that there is often a question mark around the quality of open-access publications and researchers need to know which publishers they can trust. OASPA is aware of this and it’s the reason we invest so much in reviewing membership applications and ensuring that standards are high within our membership. We are working on a project which we think has the potential to be very significant in helping education in this area.
What role does OASPA play in tackling those issues?
If a publisher is a member of OASPA then at the application stage we have taken a really thorough look at the way they are operating, but of course some information has to be taken at face value. There have been occasions where we have been made aware of incidents when members have not kept to the standards we expect and we have a set procedure for carrying out investigations should that happen. We always publish the results of any such investigations on our blog.
What activities do you have planned this year?
We have our annual conference in September which this year is being held in Amsterdam at KNAW, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It will be from 15 –17 September and we’ll be adding information to our website about the program as soon as it is available. All of the recordings from previous conferences are available too.
How do people keep up-to-date with OASPA?
The best way is to visit our website and here you can sign up for news and announcements on our homepage. You can also follow us on twitter @OASPA.
Where do you see OASPA in 2020?
Obviously it is hard to predict, but the volume of open-access material published is growing every year so it's fair to expect that in ten years’ time open-access publications are going to be playing a very significant role in the publishing ecosystem. I think OASPA will be even more relevant to the publishing community as time goes on and will be well positioned to set standards and drive good practice on a much wider scale.