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Sharing knowledge in COPIM and beyond

Some thoughts on the challenges of publicising and integrating the work of all the COPIM work packages

Published onSep 17, 2020
Sharing knowledge in COPIM and beyond

COPIM divides its work across six interlinked work packages (WPs), ranging from developing consortial and institutional funding systems, examining production workflows and monograph metadata, through to looking at experimental publishing and open access (OA) book archiving. The work package that we are running (WP3), is dedicated to sharing knowledge as part of the project’s core commitment to dissemination. Part of this involves showcasing COPIM’s work externally so that others, including other book publishers, can use the infrastructures that the project produces.

One of the central planks of WP3 is to help at least two non-OA publishers to transition their business models to new OA versions. Working with these publishers, WP3 will assist them in migrating their economic models to open-access equivalents, while documenting the process and sharing this publicly.

Undertaking these activities requires our work package to enter into contractual arrangements with third-party publishers -- and we wish to be transparent about the nature of these arrangements. These non-exclusive contracts, which specify that we will dedicate some of our project resources to helping presses establish their own OA models, may also include non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). While, without care, NDAs can be used to stifle dissemination, we use non-disclosure agreements solely so that presses can disclose otherwise confidential documents to us, without compromising (for example) personal and personnel information. We won’t use an NDA to tie anyone into a platform, or funding model, or into a way of working — it’s there to give space for frank conversations.

Harmonising the work packages

This work package also has the challenge of harmonising with Work Package 2 (WP2). WP2 is dedicated to building a revenue infrastructure for OA models and to piloting this with the ScholarLed presses. WP2 has spent the first year of its life building a community of libraries and garnering stakeholder consensus around what such a model might look like. One of the challenges for WP3 is how to avoid coming into conflict with WP2’s ongoing work. For example, when working with other presses, it may appear that we are building a competing model to that being developed in WP2. The reality is that we are, in several senses, essentially running a small-scale trial for how small- to medium-sized presses could convert to an OA model. WP3 is, in the description of WP2, ‘a pilot to be tested’. We hope that, in time, once we have documented models for university presses and similar publishers to move to OA, the WP2 infrastructure will become the place where these models are centralised. Hence, while our outreach activities will take place in parallel to the development of WP2’s infrastructure, we share an end goal: to build an open ecosystem, a site of experimentation, where presses can develop and showcase their open models, processes, and practices to libraries, researchers, and the general public, and we see a wide-scale transition to open access as the new norm.

Integrating the ecosystem

WP3 is also interested in highlighting and integrating the work of the other COPIM work packages. Report after report shows that presses face many of the same difficulties when they publish OA books. There are the recurrent issues of discovery, metadata provision, digital preservation, organisational governance, and so on. Over the coming months, WP3 will begin to ramp up its role as an interface between these work packages and the wider world, hopefully sharing our experiences and infrastructures in order to create a more open ecosystem of academic publishers. This will consist of a knowledgebase/toolkit for new presses and libraries, with pre-recorded video resources, and several live workshops or Q&A sessions.

Finally, as the Work Package 3 team, we wanted to close this post by reflexively noting the challenges — but also excitements — of working on a project that has so many moving parts. There are huge challenges for WP3 to work with traditional presses to build new OA models, while colleagues in WP2 are, at the same time, building a revenue platform. How do we make it clear to libraries what is COPIM and what isn’t? How do we avoid “membership fatigue” under the COPIM banner? Certainly we don’t want to approach the same group of libraries who always support OA, with many many different offers, all “from COPIM”. This is because, in truth, there is no single “COPIM offer” in any centralised sense; our philosophy of “scaling small” is one of disaggregation and plurality, with platformising infrastructures to help bridge these initiatives. And, in fact, a single offer is not what we are pitching. WP3 — working with presses — is here to help them to help themselves.

Another part of answering these questions lies in posts such as this. Being transparent about our relationships with presses, third-parties, and laying out the internal project structure should, we hope, go some way to helping to communicate our intent.

Martin Paul Eve & Tom Grady

Work Package 3

Image credit: Neurons in the brain. Dr Jonathan Clarke, Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0


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