Increasing equity in open access: what will OASPA do next?

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This year OASPA has run four multi-stakeholder workshops bringing together over 100 participants from 32 different countries to look at how we can deliver open access (OA) more equitably. Our four workshop topics and links to outputs from each session appear at the end of this post covering where we are going next. 

Not wishing to act unilaterally, OASPA gathered inputs on six suggestions resulting from our ‘Equity in OA’ workshop series in a feedback session* in September 2023 during OASPA’s annual conference

This post summarises our results from polling our conference attendees about proposed next steps to increase equity in OA. We also want to hear from you, and ensure we are covering as many views as possible, so feel free to comment at the end of this post or email us with any  feedback before 14 November 2023. 

*You can watch this recording of our feedback session but please note that polls are no longer active, and audience responses were not shared during the presentation. 

Views on what we should do first

Six activities that harmonise to a high degree with OASPA’s ethos and mission emerged following the conclusion of OASPA’s ‘Equity in OA’ workshop series of 2023. These were presented to 112 attendees at our feedback session in September 2023 where we asked attendees to rank, in order of importance/priority, what OASPA could do next. We had 73 responses / 65% of  ~112 participants, with resulting preferences as follows:

What is OASPA missing?

In response to our question about what OASPA might have missed in work carried out to date, 32% of participants suggested we pay attention to:

  • Direct or indirect engagement with authors about OA (~19%)
  • Engagement with funders / payers beyond institutional libraries (~19%)
  • Prioritization of non-commercial & ‘South’-based publishing and infrastructure (14%)
  • Researcher/ career/ research evaluation reform (14%)

Besides the above points which touch on things that we are already aware of through our OA market work and other projects, there were additional and useful individual suggestions for OASPA to consider. 

What should OASPA avoid?

We had a ~27% response rate giving us a mixture of pro- and anti-commercial sentiments. The main thrust was that OASPA should maintain balance and not be partisan. We should bring everyone along, stay focused on this topic, and keep up the conversation about how to reduce inequity in OA while remaining balanced.

We also heard, in more ways than one, that we needed to involve funders to a much greater extent in our conversations about equity in OA. 

Who should we work with? 

OASPA suggested a list of potential collaborators in future work involving increasing equity in OA. This list was drawn up deliberately excluding our own members and other publishing organizations – groups we would always want to work with as our primary stakeholders. Our starting list for others to work with includes:

  • DORA & CoARA, because equity, diversity and inclusion in OA requires reform in researcher-assessment in order to alleviate perverse incentives in scholarly communications and remove pressures on scholars to publish exclusively in certain formats, journals and languages.

  • ‘Jisc + Plan S + PLOS multi-stakeholder’ group which is currently looking at moving away from APCs.

  • The White House OSTP (and related US-federal agencies), which, together, have a focus on public access and equity
  • Research4Life/WHO, INASP & EIFL as organizations focused on broadening participation from those most often excluded by the current system (see more at R4L, INASP and EIFL).

Besides these, we asked which two other organizations (not publishers) we should collaborate with. Considering the 60 distinct suggestions in answer to this question, the UN & UNESCO came up as the clear front runner. This resonates well with the suggestion we heard in workshop #4 to build on the strength of the UN Recommendations for Open Science that OASPA co-developed.

Besides the UN, most mentions went to the Public Knowledge Project/PKP, Redalyc, OPERAS and other infrastructure service providers. University umbrella groups like ALLEA (Europe), ARUA (Africa) and CAS (China), as well as consortia and library groups such as ICOLC and IFLA also featured as suggestions for collaboration.

OASPA’s top priorities

Based on all we heard, and also based on early discussions with OASPA’s Equity in OA working group  members, OASPA has two priorities:

Image credit: Gerd Altmann

1. Amplify (more) equitable routes to OA

This was an extremely popular suggested stream of work emerging from the equity in OA workshop series. OASPA will therefore amplify where and how more equitable OA is being achieved across routes that take a different approach to per-article payments as well as rou

tes that involve no researcher-facing fees to read or to publish.

The idea is for OASPA to help spotlight and expose more details around what is already happening across the sector to improve inclusion and participation in OA publishing.

We hope this might inspire ne

w thinking, provide practical input and help organizations navigate and find their own way towards more equitable OA.

We are interested to hear about member and non-member organisations’ efforts to widen participation and increase equity in OA publishing that we might feature as part of this effort. We are particularly interested where there are no researcher-facing fees involved, as this is something we heard in the workshop series is “essential to deliver global equity” in OA.

2. Develop a set of more equitable OA practices – particularly (but not exclusively) linked with APCs & waivers 

We have the opportunity to set some new norms and recommend some practices in order to alleviate payment and waiver-related pain points in the per-article payments/APC system while also increasing trust and transparency in OA publishing in general.

Discussing this point that emerged as a top priority within OASPA’s Equity in OA working group, it is proposed that a next blog with recommendations on practice be released iterating on what we heard both in workshop 3 and across the whole workshop series. This will be put out to the community for wider feedback. A working group of libraries and publishers can also be convened as appropriate to finalise the practices we intend to foster in order to increase equity in OA. Going about things in this way will, we hope, ensure that we have a community element to the revision and creation of desirable practices and new norms. 

To record adoption and adherence we propose to make these ‘opt-in’ recommendations for OASPA member publishing organizations. Members will then have the opportunity to confirm adoption by a certain date. This will give OASPA a consistent way for identifying those publishing organizations that have adopted these new practices.

We will include feedback on members’ opt-in status in future rounds of OASPA’s annual data collection and reporting.

Brief words on other things we could do:

  • An OA-symposium/series for researchers & librarians: OASPA could engage directly with researchers (or researchers and librarians) on the topic of OA. The idea would be to address the issues we heard through the workshop series regarding mistrust of OA and also to hear thoughts on OA and on barriers to equity in OA first hand from researchers and librarians. Perhaps through this dialogue, OASPA could also bust some myths (e.g., about creative commons licensing and authors’ rights) and explain how to find trusted OA venues including via Think. Check. Submit.  

  • An OASPA special-interest group for non-APC based OA: OASPA would, through the running of any such group, give those already achieving OA without reading or publishing fees a way and a place to collaborate, convene, drive efficiencies and swap notes. This group could perhaps also be opened to those aspiring to move towards OA without using APCs. We are cognizant of other groups such as the S2O community of practice, and would aim to collaborate and make sure not to reinvent wheels or duplicate effort.

  • Measuring & monitoring diversity in OA publishing: Our premise has been that achieving equity in OA will assure a diversity of researchers/participants (gender, affiliation, country of residence, career-stage), and also more diversity (in scholarly publishing) when it comes to formats of outputs and languages. We will reflect further on our role and the level of involvement from OASPA that would be appropriate and feasible in measuring and monitoring diversity in OA publishing.

  • Direct engagement and conversation with funders about equity in OA came up in our feedback session as something we should do more of, and our Equity in OA working group will consider this at its next meeting.

  • The lowest level of interest (per our ‘ranking’ question) was in the concept of OASPA serving as a clearing-house to provide a ‘matching up’ function to connect or introduce (vetted) OA publishing with funding sources in order to support OA delivered without researcher-facing fees. We did receive interest in this suggestion, with 10 separate voters selecting it as either the topmost or second-most helpful thing for OASPA to do. But, on balance, it received less enthusiastic support compared with the other points and so does not feature in our list of top priorities.

Taken together, all of the points listed above are under further consideration at OASPA and by OASPA’s Equity in OA working group.

We are conscious that we should avoid duplication, and OASPA does not intend to undertake work that takes place at cross purposes with other constructive efforts across the sector. Please let us know if you know of ongoing work that directly covers any intended work that we have outlined in this post. This will help OASPA remain collaborative and supplementary in our efforts to increase equity in OA as well as make best use of our resources. 

What to expect next? 

OASPA will work to build up a network of practice supporting more equitable OA. In due course, we will also release details about routes that deliver OA publishing in ways that are inclusive and equitable. Please stay tuned (and opt in if you have not yet) to hear more about these efforts.

Our thanks to all who have provided us with feedback and to all who have been part of our journey with the Equity in OA workshop series. 

We want to hear from you. Please send any feedback or comments about our proposed next steps to or add a comment on this post before November 14 2023.


OASPA Equity in OA workshops 2023: OASPA’s four workshops on increasing Equity in OA in 2023 were facilitated by Information Power and were made possible thanks to the input of more than 100 attendees across 32 different countries. Workshop reports linked below were authored by Information Power.

  • Workshop 1 – held 7 March 2023, covered why equity is important and global challenges to equity in OA.
  • Workshop 2 – held 28 March 2023, covered ways to increase equity in two categories of OA models: volume-based, where transactions are per-article, and non-volume-based. approaches. This workshop also discussed issues around credibility of OA.
  • Workshop 3 – held 6 June 2023, focussed on actions to help make the Article Processing Charge (APC) and transformative agreements system more equitable in the here and now. 
  • Workshop 4 – held 22 June 2023 covered problems of prestige & perception in OA as well as covering pathways to funding streams in order to sustain a more equitable form of full OA.

OASPA’s own reflections arising from each workshop have also been shared and published over the last few months:


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