An Interview with Iowa State University Digital Press on joining OASPA

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IOWA State University Digital Press has recently become a member of OASPA in the small professional publisher category, further enriching the growing community of members. To gain more insight into their recent affiliation with OASPA and to learn more about them, we conducted an interview with Harrison Inefuku and Curtis Brundy.

Q. Tell us a bit about your organisation and the service it provides – and your role within it.

The Iowa State University Digital Press is an open-access scholarly press that publishes original works such as books, textbooks, journals, and conference proceedings. It is a unit of the Iowa State University Library and aims to publish high-quality scholarship in areas reflected in Iowa State’s curricular and research offerings, tell stories of Iowa and the Midwest, and also seeks to diversify the voices in the scholarly record. 

Harrison serves as the Scholarly Publishing Services Librarian and oversees the day-to-day operation of the Press, which includes working directly with authors and editors as well as with platform providers and publishing service providers. Curtis is the Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Communications and Collections and oversees many of the library’s open initiatives, including the Press and the collection and open strategies program.

Q. Why did you decide to join OASPA and what do you hope to get out of your OASPA membership?

We decided to join OASPA because we share its mission to make open access the predominant model of communication for scholarly outputs. The land-grant mission of Iowa State is to share the knowledge it creates to make Iowa and the world better. So we feel a lot of alignment with OASPA’s mission as well as its values as represented in the recent work it has been leading globally around equitable open access. 

There are several positive outcomes we can point to from our membership, but two important ones are the opportunity to connect and collaborate with like-minded publishers at this critical juncture in the open transition. And we would again mention OASPA’s efforts to support equitable open access and the opportunities membership will provide to us in taking part in this work and supporting it.

Q. How is your organization showing its commitment to making globally equitable participation in open scholarly communication a reality?

The Digital Press is a fully open access publisher. We recognize, however, that equitable participation in scholarly communication means more than the ability to read our publications without payment. It is also essential to remove financial barriers to publishing and participation. We have worked with our journals to reduce article processing charges and to increase global representation on their editorial boards. We have also participated in Lyrass’s Open Access Community Investment Program, which connects journals with library sponsors. The press has also recently become a signatory to the SDG Publishers Compact.

In addition, we have been active supporters of a variety of equitable open access initiatives and efforts. Curtis serves on OASPA’s Equity in OA Working Group and helped plan and support its recent global equity workshop series. He also serves on the Coordinating Committee for the Subscribe to Open Community of Practice. Harrison is on the board of the Library Publishing Coalition and is the coalition’s inaugural DEI Officer. He is also LPC’s representative on the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications’ Steering Committee and has published and presented on systemic racism in scholarly publishing.

Q. What do you think are the main challenges for funders and institutions to better incentivise open publishing practices as a positive contribution to career development?

Research assessment is the main challenge we see. The research community would benefit greatly from getting behind reform initiatives like DORA and CoARA. Research should be evaluated based on its impact, not on the journal it happens to get published in. Publishing open access today continues to be a secondary or tertiary consideration for many researchers since career advancement can hinge on the venue of publication. But we know that when scholarly work is published openly and has a global audience, it will be read more. It will be cited more. It will have a broader impact. Journal prestige as a proxy for article quality is a frustrating and long-running problem in the movement toward open access. But with recent funder actions, like the Nelson Memo in the US, we do seem to have some wind at our back, which is exciting and motivating and makes Iowa State’s timing for joining OASPA auspicious.

In the area of open access monographs, additional work is needed to clear up misperceptions around quality and to ensure adequate funding pathways are available. Fortunately, there are a lot of recent success stories in the OA book space, including Opening the Future, MIT Press Direct to Open, Fund to Mission at The University of Michigan Press, Punctum Books, the OpenBook Collective, Luminos Open Access, and Lever Press. As a library as well as a publisher, we have been very active in supporting and encouraging the adoption of open monograph models. But while it has never been easier for an author to publish an open monograph and to benefit from the greater visibility and usage that follows, there is a lot of work left to be done. A priority for our Press in 2024 is to further develop our monograph strategy and begin expanding that side of our operation.

Q. How do you think OASPA can help mitigate those challenges?

OASPA’s multi-stakeholder equity workshop series already surfaced DORA and CoARA as potential partners in its equity work, and, more generally, research assessment reform as a requirement for progress. Follow up on these partnerships and support for reform work by OASPA will be very important. We also believe it will be important for OASPA to continue to convene the community and lead these types of critical discussions. And one last action item from OASPA’s equity workshop series that bears mention is for OASPA to host a symposium on equitable open access. As a new OASPA member, we would be thrilled to support and attend such a gathering.

Q. Is there anything else you wish to share?

Only that we are very excited to be part of OASPA and to join the many other fantastic publishers who share our vision of an equitable open access future for scholarly publishing. We look forward to meeting and working with you all!

Also, we invite anyone who is interested in our publications or services to visit our website or contact us for more information. Thank you for welcoming us to OASPA! 

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