OPERAS’ Assembly of the Commons

In classical governance schemes, there is a separation of powers that leads funders and policy-making authorities to discuss and make decisions on their side with no or just indirect consultation of the community. We, at OPERAS, did not want that. The OPERAS AISBL governance scheme traverses the different layers of the organization, such as management, strategy, policy, and support. Furthermore, it establishes the levels of engagement of the different types of stakeholders in the development of the OPERAS Research Infrastructure. 

The Assembly of the Commons (AoC) is one of OPERAS’ governance bodies and it gathers all Ordinary Members of the infrastructure. It is convened at least once a year and the OPERAS’ second Assembly of the Commons took place virtually on May 11th, 2022 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM CET. It had a double objective of discussing the work completed in the Special Interest Groups over the course of the previous year and electing the two representatives of the OPERAS community: Vanessa Proudman and Mark Huskisson.

You can find more information about the meeting, the vision and the representatives below.

Participants of the Assembly of the Commons (May 11, 2022)

Pierre Mounier, OPERAS’ coordinator, opened the Assembly of the Commons by giving a short overview of the meaning of the AoC and its place in the governance of OPERAS.

As a multi-stakeholder organization, OPERAS is governed through several assemblies that represent the diversity of stakeholders engaged in their development. The Executive Assembly (EA) gathers the core members of OPERAS. These are the organizations that are more committed than others to the development of the infrastructure, and they are responsible for (1) organizing their national communities, (2) leading the Special Interest Groups, and (3) taking the decisions related to OPERAS on a monthly basis. The General Assembly (GA) gathers the national authorities such as the ministries and research communities and the supporting members. It convenes once a year and approves the budget and global strategy of the infrastructure. The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) advises us on scientific matters. The Coordination Team (OCT) manages the infrastructure on a daily basis.

The Assembly of the Commons (AoC) represents the community in its entirety and gathers all Ordinary Members. At the same time, the AoC is the addition of all the Special Interest Groups and their participants. We named the AoC as such in reference to the theory of Elinor Oström. According to her, goods are better governed collectively by a community than individually as private property. Those goods that are better governed as commons are some material goods such as forests, fisheries, and grazing lands, but also immaterial goods such as knowledge and its infrastructure. Therefore, we see the AoC as the assembly of all those people who take care of the tools, services, and platforms, and have the know-how that enables product sharing and knowledge dissemination.

After this highlight on the importance of the Commons for the infrastructure, the participants of the meeting had the opportunity to choose their delegates. The two candidates, Vanessa Proudman and Mark Huskisson, introduced themselves and engaged in a debate with the participants.

Vanessa Proudman is Director of SPARC Europe with 20 years of program management experience in facilitating access to knowledge in Europe and advocating for change to increase more equitable access to knowledge. 

Over the years her focus has been on Open Access, Open Science, Open Culture, and Open Education working with many leading universities and libraries worldwide. Research and knowledge exchange are her vehicles to inform, connect and advocate for change in these areas. Her focus has been to increase Open international, national and regional policy-making and practice in Higher Education in Europe. She has extensive experience in setting policy with a view to put this into action whilst connecting the specificities of policymaking with OS practitioners and vice versa to ensure effective OS implementation. Creating a more level-playing field in Europe to enable more equal opportunities to engage in Open Science and Open Education is also key to her work. By gaining an understanding of the needs of the research and OS support community through research activities and knowledge exchange, Vanessa Proudman will seek to ensure that an evidence-based approach is used to support the SSH community on its road to making open the default. 

Mark Huskisson is responsible for Business Development at the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), the developer and stewards of OJS, OMP, and OPS. PKP develops open-source software systems that manage the complete scholarly publishing workflow for journals, monographs, and preprints, and conducting scholarly communication research on questions of open access and open science.

Having worked in academic and scholarly publishing for thirty years, Mark Huskisson has developed and nurtured a collaborative and supportive network in commercial publishing houses, libraries, learned societies, and the rapidly growing scholarly communication technology ecosystem. Working at the nexus of the huge PKP community gives insight into the challenges and huge opportunities available to the open community if successful collaboration and sustainable pathways can be identified and secured. This new post offers a strategic benefit for learning and knowledge exchange between the OPERAS network and global OJS community.

During the debate, the candidates answered some questions from the community:

How do you see OPERAS in the open access landscape? (Pierre Mounier, OPERAS)

What is really unique about OPERAS is that it is a comprehensive and interconnected infrastructure community for the SSH, which does not exist in such a form for other subject domains. This is a great strength. OPERAS can and needs to inform the broader OA community and its decision-makers about the importance of the SSH domain so that we don’t dance to the tune of STEM and larger commercial publishers. There’s a lot of diversity and innovation in scholarly communications going on in this domain. And OPERAS can concretely demonstrate this to the whole community by presenting the work done by its various Special Interest Groups.

Vanessa Proudman

How do you see the European landscape? (Pierre Mounier, OPERAS)

There are a number of challenges across the continent and one is that there is not a single Europe in terms of access and ability to participate in academic publishing due to a number of barriers that the OPERAS Interest Groups are tackling. With large publishers dictating the narrative toward profit and focusing primarily on the wealthier, more powerful economies, the commercial STM sector has often defined models and development within the community despite the needs and demands – and often to the detriment – of SSH researchers and longform research outputs. So, to identify sustainable pathways in SSH across Europe, we need a more coordinated response to the OA challenge that is specific and tailored to research and publishing in the humanities and social sciences. And whilst there has been a huge development of open access and open science initiatives across the continent, they are often undertaken in national, regional, or commercial contexts. OPERAS offers a way to connect and coalesce the energy and drive of these initiatives, continually informed by the working groups (SIGs) to potential enormous effect.

Mark Huskisson

Regarding the multilingual dimensions of SSH, how might we defend and promote this dimension in OPERAS? (Olivier Bouin, RFIEA)

I have an international background and personally do not value any language over another. I believe that it is important to ensure that we share our knowledge in different languages particularly to embrace and respect the wide cultural and multilingual offering in Europe . In SPARC Europe, we created a tool that was translated into 16 languages by the community. Within OPERAS, perhaps we could create such multilingual resources, too.

Vanessa Proudman

What’s your vision about OA books in the global landscape? (Agata Morka, Sparc Europe)

I spent many years working with monographs in publishing and with leading libraries around the world and – as we transitioned from print to electronic media – the expereinces learned with Journals transitioning more easily and rapidly to digital influenced and determined the conversation around books. Even though the cases and contexts were not entirely analogous. And this has slowed the ability to foster and nurture a succesful and flourishing OA book ecosystem. One core challenge, which OPERAS members are solving and improving, is discovery and it is important for SSH in Europe and beyond that we share learning and solutions for the community and society as a whole. To bring a cohesive solution for different organizations that deal with OA books.

Mark Huskisson

The election counted with the participation of 23 organizations-member. Each organization voted once and anonymously. They could vote for both candidates, for one of them or for neither. With 83.33% and 54.17% of votes, respectively, Vanessa Proudman and Mark Huskisson became co-chairs of OPERAS’ Assembly of the Commons. Besides chairing the AoC during their 2-year mandate, the representatives shall also participate in the General Assembly once a year to represent the voice of the community. Otherwise, the General Assembly is composed of representatives of national councils and ministries of the European Countries and supporting members.

During the second part of the AoC, the leaders of the different Special Interest Groups presented the work done and some perspectives for the future.

  • Advocacy

Sona Arasteh (MWS), leader of this SIG, explained the meaning of advocacy, focusing on how it is a broader concept than lobbying. This SIG works as a kind of mediator, advocating for other SIGs. Currently, the group is advocating for the Tools and Platforms SIG.

  • Best Practices

The Best Practices SIG, led by Jadranka Stojanovski Zadar University), is currently working on a White Paper that will focus on the following topics: diamond journals, repositories altering scholarly publishing (preprints), research data in SSH, editorial and publishing policies, peer review, metadata quality, rights and licensing, research assessment, accessibility, and usability.

  • Common Standards and FAIR Principles

Iraklis Katsaloulisfocus (EKT), leader of this SIG along with Haris Georgiadis (EKT), explained that focusing on Common Standards & FAIR Principles is important as it offers a framework for collaboration, convergence, and integration towards enabling interoperability in SSH. Regarding future perspectives, this SIG intends to act as a bridge between the technical and procedural aspects of open science.

  • Multilingualism  

Delfim Leão (University of Coimbra), leader of the Multilingualism SIG, focused on some challenges regarding this topic: perceive multilingualism as a strong manifestation of bibliodiversity in SSH; avoid the risk of turning English, broadly used as a lingua franca, into lingua unica in terms of scientific and scholarly communication; enhance balanced multilingualism in innovative solutions. On the horizon, this SIG plans to achieve a full design and feasibility study to support the development of a translation service for OPERAS.

  • Open Access books Network

OABN is a new OPERAS SIG coordinated by Agata Morka (Sparc Europe), Lucy Barnes (Open Book Publishers), and Tom Mosterd (OAPEN/DOAB). The SIG advocates for open access book publishing, collates news, views, and developments specifically relevant to OA books, and connects a global community in the form of blogs, events, workshops, and other activities.

  • Open Access Business Models

 Graham Stones (Jisc) and Frank Manista (Jsic) lead this SIG that is currently working on focusing on collaborative models in OA book publishing. The previous White Paper (2021) presented an initial analysis and early observations of the study. The next step is to produce an in-depth analysis (a new version of the White Paper). Future questions to be explored include a better understanding of the publishers who do not take part in collaborative funding models and identifying the recommendations for OPERAS and other stakeholders.

  • Tools and Platforms

Formerly called Tools Research and Development, this SIG is coordinated by Céline Bartonat (CNRS) and Arnauld Gingold (CNRS). The SIG has focused on defining tools according to their functions, users, and nature. It deals with challenging issues such as a variety of functions and usage, the diversity of contexts and users, and its dynamic and chaotic environment.

Following this presentation, the participants joined breakout sessions for each of the Special Interest Groups.


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Announcing Creative Commons’ New CEO, Catherine Stihler

I’m delighted to announce that Creative Commons has selected Catherine Stihler to be its next CEO. Catherine has been a champion for openness as both a legislator and practitioner for more than 20 years. She currently serves as CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, an organization whose work is fully aligned with the values and … Read More “Announcing Creative Commons’ New CEO, Catherine Stihler”
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A simple definition for open access: a proposal to open the discussion

This post proposes a shift from the detailed BBB definition of open access to Peter Suber’s brief definition, as follows: Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (from Suber’s Open Access Overview).  

Rationale

In my dissertation, I map and analyze the relationship of open access and various Creative Commons licenses and conclude that OA and CC licenses, despite superficial similarities, simply do not map, and that attempting to equate OA with a particular CC license such as CC-BY is highly problematic for scholarship.

For a journal, I argue that the best way to express a journal’s open access status may well be the default Open Journal Systems (OJS) statement, which reads: this journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.

This is an open definition in a very important sense: it leaves room for scholars to consider, and experiment with, exactly what open access can or should mean, or do for scholarship. We should be articulating the commons – engaging in thinking about what a knowledge commons might mean – not jumping to a quick technical solution such as a particular CC license (acknowledging that the CC licenses, all of them, are valuable tools for scholars). Some of the elements that we should consider in articulating the commons include:

  •  the traditional concept of reciprocity that is an expectation with gift-giving in many various societies, as reported by Mauss;
  • developing a sustainable knowledge commons could benefit from the research of Ostrom, for example the importance of developing community expectations and sanctions in sustaining a commons; and,
  • expanding the limitations of western concepts of ownership through incorporating concepts from traditional knowledges.  

Why not CC-BY?

The Creative Commons Attribution Only (CC-BY) license superficially looks exactly like the BOAI definition of open access: works that are free online and free for re-use. However, a careful examination of the legal code, discussion with the Creative Commons community, and analysis of scholarly works and how businesses could interact with scholarly works licensed under Creative Commons, demonstrates that it is not wise to equate open access with CC-BY. To help make the shift, the following dispels a few myths about CC-BY.  

Myth: Creative Commons licenses are for works that are free of charge to users, just like open access is meant to be.  

Fact: Creative Commons licenses are not specific to works that are free of charge; they can also be used for works that are toll access.  

Myth: CC-BY is needed so that we can do text and data-mining.

 Fact: CC-BY is not necessary, sufficient, or desirable for text and data-mining.

Why CC-BY is not necessary for text or data mining: any work that is posted on the web without technical or licensing restrictions preventing mining (such as the use of norobots.txt or locked-down PDF files) can be used for text or data mining. This is how search engines work!

Why CC-BY is not sufficient for text or data mining: a CC-BY license can be used for a work that is technically not fit for text or data mining. There is nothing in the CC-BY license that says the licensor cannot use norobots.txt on the same webpage, for example. A CC-BY license can be used with image files that are useless for text or data mining.

Why CC-BY is not desirable for text or data mining: the attribution element is problematic for data and text-mining involving large numbers of files. Public domain – or perhaps no CC license at all, just relying on fair use – may be better.

Myth: once a work is released under a CC-BY license, it will remain open access for all time.

Fact: it is correct that a CC-BY licensed copy will remain CC-BY licensed, even if the licensor changes the license downstream. However, this is only useful for scholarship if the CC-BY licensed copy is retained in a location where future scholars can access it, such as an open access archive. Otherwise, a CC-BY licensed copy may be on someone’s computer somewhere, but for someone who does not have access, this is not helpful. An open access publisher can change their mind and change all of their works from open to toll access, with no notice requirement. This could easily happen if one publishing company is sold to another.  

Myth: there is an emerging consensus on the adoption of CC-BY.  

Fact: as of summer 2012, only 28% of journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals used any kind of CC license, and only 11% used CC-BY (Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter 164). Outside of the fully open access journals listed in DOAJ, CC-BY is even less common. All faculty OA permissions policies specify that works are not to be sold for a profit, strongly suggesting that faculty themselves do not support giving away their work for others to sell, as CC-BY licenses do.

This post is a very brief summary of select points from my dissertation Freedom for scholarship in in the internet age section, Open Access and Creative Commons, downloadable from here – see p. 49 – 63. 

This post is part of the Creative Commons and open access critique series

Respectful comments and questions are welcome and encouraged.