OA Switchboard initiative: progress report March 2020

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The OA Switchboard initiative is a collaboration between funders, institutions and with the aim to facilitate the fulfilment of OA strategies across business models, policies and agreements, whilst providing a better experience for researchers/authors. The 2020 OA Switchboard project, as announced in our January progress report, explores how we can build an operational solution to tackle the shared problems together and investigates a sustainable governance and funding set-up for a shared initiative such as this.

The project is well underway and we are really encouraged by the work of our Advisory Group who met (virtually) in February and March and who are supporting the Steering Committee by providing their expertise and time to make the OA Switchboard become a reality. As part of this group we also have three Technical Advisors. The Advisory Group names can be found here. Through individual interviews and group deep-dives, the Advisory Group actively contributed to the detailed ‘needs’ analysis and product definition. More than 70 conversations, across ten countries, have ensured that the outputs are truly collaborative efforts!

This work enabled the Steering Committee to sign off on the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach and scope earlier this month, as well as on the RFI process and documentation. The RFI (Request For Information) was issued by OASPA on 18 March and aims to select a third party software development provider for the OA Switchboard. We are looking for parties with experience in the scholarly information or solutions space, and evidence of competency in developing and delivering open source solutions. The deadline to confirm participation in the RFI (in writing) was 25 March 2020, and the deadline for responses (in writing) to the questionnaire in the RFI is 1 April 2020.

With the selected tech partner we will build and deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), i.e. the smallest feasible product. This means that this viable product will add value for stakeholders when delivered and operational. It is not a prototype. The aim is to have the MVP operational at the beginning of August. 

We will follow this later in 2020 with one or two more continuous improvement cycles. The MVP is to be developed in close collaboration with a small number of primary stakeholders: 1-2 funders (with a central OA fund), 1-2 institutions (with a central OA fund), and 1-2 . When the MVP is ‘live’, we will do a short Pilot to ‘measure’ and ‘learn’, and the aforementioned stakeholders will be the Pilot Users. After a successful Pilot we will ‘scale’ (add more users).

Funders, institutions and with an interest to participate as Pilot Users over summer are welcome to make themselves known to the OA Switchboard Project Manager. This can be on their own or with their professional partner (e.g. manuscript submission/peer review, payment solution provider).

In parallel to all the work on an operational solution (further described on the OA Switchboard website), research is also being done to ensure that we are prepared with a sustainable governance and funding set-up when the OA Switchboard moves to an operational stage (aimed for 2021). We want to benefit from lessons learned from other industry-wide initiatives and make sure the independent/neutral, collaborative, not-for-profit nature of the initiative is secured, in the short term as well as the long term. Explorative meetings are being held with experts inside and outside of our industry. The structural governance and funding model will supersede the organisation and governance of the 2020 project, and the sponsorship model.

In terms of 2020 project sponsoring, we are very pleased with the growing list of sponsors: Aries Systems, Copyright Clearance Center, EDP Sciences, eLife, Hindawi, JMIR Publications, Imperial College London, and Wiley. In order to keep our pace and ambition, we do still require ongoing financial support. Understandably, this may prove a challenge for some in these uncertain times, but we urge those organisations who are in a position to support the initiative to get in touch – enabling open access to scholarship has never been more pressing. Also, suggestions and introductions to organisations who want to invest in open source infrastructure that will enable transformational change to open access to scholarship are very much appreciated.

For more information on the OA Switchboard please visit www.oaswitchboard.org

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