Setting out the relationship between Copim and Open Book Futures, our aims and ambitions for our new project, and our ongoing commitment to community over commercialisation.
The Copim team talks with Amanda Ramalho about her experience joining the Board of Stewards of the Open Book Collective and Thoth as a Latin American Representative.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you join the Copim community? How’s your experience been at your position?
In 2009, I began my career in the academic field as an intern at the SciELO/FAPESP Program, working within the production and publication unit for scientific articles and journals. During my internship, I utilized the SGML language to markup articles for indexing and interoperability. A few months later, I transitioned to the role of a library technician, where my responsibilities extended beyond markup to include teaching courses to journal teams. By the end of 2010, the SciELO Books project was already in development in Brazil, and I became part of the project team, contributing to the preparation and publication of books for the platform's launch in 2012. In 2014, I took on the role of strategic and operational coordinator for the SciELO Books collection. In 2017, the collection expanded to include other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Ecuador. My career has provided me with the opportunity to build an extensive network within the university and academic publishing community, as well as with publishing associations in Brazil and Latin America. This exposure allowed me to gain insights into the specific needs and challenges encountered by publishers and editors in this region. These experiences motivated me to pursue a Master's degree at the University of São Paulo, where my research focused on developing evaluation criteria for databases that index books. This research deepened my interest in the field of open access for books and the interoperability of book metadata formats for both national and international databases.
In 2021, I received an invitation to join the COPIM Project's Advisory Committee, at which point I got to know and follow Copim's work. In 2022, I also joined the Board of Stewards of the Open Book Collective. And now, in 2023, I'm also part of the THOTH team as the Latin American Representative.
These two years participating in Copim have enabled me to get to know a vast and complex universe of institutions and projects focused on books in Europe and the region, and whenever possible I have the opportunity to mention them at events and meetings I attend.
How do you interpret the theme "Community over Commercialisation" in the context of Open Access Week 2023 and your work, and why is it important for the field of open scholarship?
The theme is a call to promote open access to knowledge and research in alignment with the principles of open science, rather than pursuing purely commercial or restrictive approaches. This theme underscores the fundamental principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, which are at the forefront of important current events and discussions. It contributes to a broad reflection on building networks and how the community can actively engage and benefit from this movement, which prioritizes access and accessibility.
The significance of this theme permeates the entire research ecosystem. Funding agencies are now beginning to discuss the requirement for research to be made available on open platforms. Authors express a growing interest in publishing with open-access publishers. Publishers themselves are engaging in discussions about editorial policies with their institutions. Furthermore, the theme extends to the publication and indexing of research on national and international platforms and databases.
In your opinion, what are the key challenges and drawbacks when commercial interests take precedence in knowledge production, as opposed to prioritizing researchers and the public?
I'll emphasize a few key terms here: self-sustainability, barriers, limitations, and low quality. The self-sustainability of publishing houses remains a significant challenge, as many of them still rely on revenue from sales to sustain their operations and facilitate the publication of new books. This reliance inevitably leads to access barriers, as research becomes restricted to those who can afford to purchase these works or access databases that are only available to institutions that subscribe to their services. Consequently, this results in limitations in the widespread dissemination of research.
Moreover, when commercial interests also involve authors, challenges related to the integrity of research emerge. This can manifest as the withholding of critical data or information to grant the author a certain level of exclusivity in their research.
Is there a scenario where commercialization can be aligned with the public interest in the field of open scholarship? If so, what might that look like?
Certainly, there are a few hybrid models that are already widely adopted by publishers. The first involves publishing a book in open access digital format while retaining the commercial availability of the printed version. Publishers argue that this model allows research to have extensive exposure through open access book platforms and presence in international databases, which facilitates the discovery of the research. If readers are interested in the printed version, they can obtain it directly from the publisher. In other words, publishing in open access has not led to a decrease in sales; quite the opposite.
The second model is to publish the book in digital open access format and offer a print-on-demand version, where the only cost involved is the printing.
The third model, which is currently in operation by SciELO Books, includes more than 63 percent of the collection in open access. Many publishers with books in commercial access use the revenue from sales to support the publication of other books in open access.
How can we encourage a shift toward using community-minded options in knowledge sharing systems as the default choice, and what are the practical steps that can be taken to achieve this shift?
Change can be achieved through a series of coordinated efforts aimed at raising awareness of these options, taking multilingualism into account. For example, many websites, platforms and tools still do not offer the option of selecting a language on the interface, which creates barriers to accessing information, even with the use of increasingly effective translators.
Another strategy involves implementing institutional, academic and funding policies that support publishing on open platforms. This could include the establishment of exclusive funding lines for the publication of open access content, as well as the development of metrics and evaluation systems that give higher scores to research published on open platforms. In addition, events such as Open Access Week play a crucial role in promoting this joint movement, encouraging, raising awareness and informing the entire academic community.
Can you share any success stories or initiatives where community control of knowledge sharing systems has had a positive impact on research accessibility and collaboration?
It is impossible not to highlight the impact of the SciELO model, which originated in Brazil in 1998 with the aim of increasing the visibility and accessibility of Brazilian research published in national journals. Over the years, the SciELO model has been adopted by more than 15 countries and has consolidated itself as an expanding network of nations that collaborate and support open access research. This network stands out for its commitment to professionalisation, quality and international collaboration.
Based on the successful SciELO model, SciELO Books was launched in 2012 with similar objectives, but with a special focus on academic and scientific books. SciELO Books stands out as a collaborative network between publishers, united to create a reliable database of peer-reviewed books.
In addition, SciELO, in partnership with the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), has developed the Open Preprint Systems (OPS). In April 2020, SciELO Preprints was launched, marking the introduction of the first preprint server in Latin America.
These initiatives are notable examples of how community control in knowledge sharing systems can strengthen accessibility and collaboration in research, contributing to the progress of open scholarship and open access.
How can individuals, institutions, and organizations actively participate in Open Access Week 2023 and contribute to the theme of "Community over Commercialisation" in their local contexts?
The contribution can be made in various ways, including: sharing posts and news on institutional social networks, republishing articles of local interest with translations on their own blogs, promoting thematic seminars and webinars; round table discussions between regional editors to share challenges and progress and stimulate dialogues with their institutions to establish institutional policies for funding and encouraging open access.