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Blog postHow the OA Switchboard fits into the ecosystem (PART 2/THE INSTITUTION)

12 September 2022 by Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director OA Switchboard

Following on from our previous post, here we focus specifically on the relevance of the OA Switchboard to the stakeholder group ‘institutions’.


In our deed of incorporation (and articles of association) we define institutions as ‘establishments founded for doing independent research, like universities, research institutes or research centres’. What do they do to navigate the open access research and publishing maze and how does OA Switchboard practically support them in this?


Curtis Brundy (Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Collections and Communications at Iowa State University Library) is one of our early adopters and valued ambassadors, and he shares his story in an interview and says "OA Switchboard makes OA publishing highly visible in a way it wasn’t in the past."

In a changing world people want data (and information and knowledge...)

​Institutions, their libraries, and consortia, are seeking successful OA strategies. For many this involves driving a sustainable and equitable transition to OA, developing and implementing policies, negotiating agreements with publishers, managing budgets, internal and external reporting, and more.

“This working relationship underscores Jisc’s commitment to driving a sustainable and equitable transition to OA. Crucially, it will enable institutions to have a clearer, automated reporting of OA publications, and it will help foster the inclusion of more publishers in the transition to OA, regardless of size or business model.”

Liam Earney, Jisc

The people behind these institutional OA strategies sit in the library, or elsewhere in the organisation, and at the consortium (if applicable), and are working on:

  • Research & Scholarly Communications Support and Library Acquisitions & Licensing
    They manage paid-for OA publications, assess eligibility for centrally managed OA funds and agreements, evaluate deal ROI, organise cost allocation, and confirm deal compliance.

“We at Iowa State University are seeking new data inputs to help assess our support of Subscribe to Open and Diamond OA initiatives. The publishing data provided via the OA Switchboard will shed light on where our researcher activity intersects with these investments in equitable open access publishing.”

Matthew Goddard, Iowa State University Library

  • Institutional Repositories and Current Research Information Systems (CRIS)
    They support academic staff throughout the process of applying for funding, create and extend records of all researchers’ (OA) publications, and manage full research life cycle information.

“At the University of Kent we register all our researchers' publications in our Institutional Repository. The publication metadata pushed to us via OA Switchboard alert us to publications that didn't pop up via other sources, and enable us to complete existing records.”

Suzanne Duffy, University of Kent

  • Information Management & Reporting
    They monitor publishing activity on a regular basis, turn data into information and knowledge through analysis and visualisation, provide metrics for justifying research strategies and directions, and take care of internal/external reporting.

“We manually download reports from different sources and analyse the data in a custom-made Excel spreadsheet with pivot tables.”

Librarian, UK University

“We use an off the shelf analytics and visualisation tool and use templates to plug and play.”

Librarian, USA University

“For data analysis and visualisation of large data sets I work with Python, for which I program the scripts myself.”

Data Scientist, Japan

Consortium management
Due to the differences in nature of consortia in different countries, people in a consortium organisation can be engaged in a variety of activities, possibly including all of the above. Further, they negotiate and oversee agreements with publishers, monitor uptake and compliance, and allocate cost over their members.​

“Consortium UKB has built a datahub, with an underlying data model, in which reports and data feeds from different sources and systems are loaded. Through tailored interfaces extensive analysis and views are possible.”

Arjan Schalken, Program Manager UKBsis at UKB, The Netherlands

What institutions gain by partnering with the OA Switchboard

Institutions receive publication metadata from publishers in different ways (that also often change) which leads to complex technical integrations and increased manual handling. The OA Switchboard ‘message hub’ simplifies the sharing of information, and delivers data quickly and clearly.

What’s in it for institutions?

  1. Two use cases:

    • Reporting Made Easy

    • Matching Publication Costs with Publication Funds

  2. Consistent data format from multiple publishers

  3. Reduce (manual) efforts and increase efficiency

  4. Because it's the right thing to do...


For the ‘reporting made easy’ use case this means:

  • Structured data (Excel or JSON) and a standardised protocol providing data in a consistent format across publishers. Support the ease of integration with your systems.

  • Authoritative data from source, leveraged with persistent identifiers (PID’s) e.g. DOI’s, ORCID and ROR id’s.

  • Notifications are pushed instantaneously upon publication, via one API, across multiple publishers.

  • A safe space for publication metadata: independently managed, shared infrastructure that allows for the transparent exchange of data.


By using principles of trust, collaboration and efficiency the OA Switchboard is working to fulfil its goals: simplify the sharing of essential information about OA publications - throughout the publication journey. Explore the further power of the OA Switchboard as intermediary via our first blog post in this series.

“Some publishers have their own open access dashboard where you can see what has been published under the various agreements, but many publishers do not and they rely on sending spreadsheets to their customers. We currently have 20 agreements which cover about 20% of Iowa State’s corresponding authored article output. When we get to 100% the reporting and management of the agreements will just become untenable unless we have robust systems in place. That is where the OA Switchboard comes into its own.”

Curtis Brundy, Iowa State University Library

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What do these standardised reports across multiple publishers look like?

For the ‘reporting made easy’ use case, publishers participating in OA Switchboard automatically send alerts when an article is published. These direct alerts can come by e-mail, be fed into a desktop system, or switched off at the institution’s request.


OA Switchboard messages contain standardized sets of metadata for the Version of Record. The recipients are not only the affiliated institution of the corresponding author, but ideally also all affiliated institutions of all authors, and the research funders acknowledged in the publication. So each institution receives the information about all its authors' OA publications - no matter how many publishers are sending it - in the one format..


Reports can be pulled in Excel and JSON format. The handy Excel is for basic analysis only, and the standardisation across publishers is immediately visible:


In this example Excel report, each article published. each ‘message’ is in one row. The report contains four sections:

20220913_four sections.png

The JSON export provides the full standardised ‘messaging’ protocol. It contains rich and granular data, and includes all data fields and relationships, for instance for the author section (section 2): author listing number, corresponding author flag, ORCID id, affiliation as listed in the VoR, standardised naming convention and ROR id (as per ROR registry), current address, and much more (depending on the data supplied by the publisher).


The JSON can be fed automatically into an institution’s own or third party systems or data hubs for further analysis, data visualisation, and reporting.

20220913_3rd party feed.jpg


Unexpected benefits

Participating institutions share the view that OA Switchboard brings unexpected benefits. Curtis Brundy, in his interview, talks about being able to see open access research output from faculty members which is not tied to any open access agreements, or getting notifications for OA articles that hadn’t come through the library, or were part of non-APC conditional models. “It’s basically like magic and it’s very powerful. This has been great for our communications back to faculty and will also help us negotiate future open access deals.”

“It’s great to see an Exeter author has benefited from OA publishing through Berghahn Anthro Open – we would not have known about this article if it was not for the OA Switchboard notification!”

Librarian, University of Exeter

Why you should join us

The OA Switchboard is for those research institutions, libraries and consortia who want to connect with their research and simplify their workflows.

The OA Switchboard can be used to enhance your workflows, enable fulfilment of OA publication-level arrangements, make OA publishing highly visible, and more. Participation in the OA Switchboard will lead to enhancements in OA publication metadata and integration with the increased complex open access research and publishing ecosystem. As an intermediary, the OA Switchboard simplifies the sharing of information between publishers, institutions and funders.


Why do we also say that it's the right thing to do? OA Switchboard is a community led, not-for-profit, mission driven initiative (not a commercial player). It provides a ‘message hub’, and is not building a database, and there is no risk for lock-in. There is no involvement in the financial transactions, nor in the allocation of money in institutional OA funds. Contracts and roles are clear, throughout the whole chain (GDPR-proof). Last but not least, it is built by and for the people who use it.


Sometimes people wonder how the OA Switchboard as a community-led initiative is complementary to the vendor systems offered to institutions. The answer is that OA Switchboard is the shared and foundational infrastructure that commercial or community services can be built upon. From day 1 and as part of its mission, it is designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems. Data security and privacy is ensured via contracts and technology when vendor solutions are involved. Read more in questions 18-20 in our FAQ’s.

Matthew Goddard, who oversees OA agreement implementation at Iowa State, illustrates this nicely via a comparison with SWIFT: “The OA Switchboard is like the SWIFT of the open access research world – it provides a mechanism for sharing crucial data in a standardised manner. To extend the analogy further, banks provide their own services but all of them will use SWIFT as the underlying communication mechanism. Anyone who is providing services in this area would benefit from working alongside the OA Switchboard.”

Sometimes people say that they will watch and wait for others to join, or question how well the OA Switchboard will work before all research institutions, funders and publishers have joined. Read more about our chicken & egg challenge in our last blog post.

We’re live and operational with 19 publishers (and growing…) sending publication notification messages and reporting via OA Switchboard, and 190,000 messages sent by them to date! We have proven that even partial take-up delivers substantial benefits for every participant - and the benefits multiply with each new joiner. By participating in OA Switchboard, you join a pioneering community of like-minded spirits who work together to share best practices and learn important lessons. The incremental improvements we make are integral to the initiative and we can help break the prisoner’s dilemma!

Discover other participants’ use cases and stories on our ‘for institutions’ landing page or request a trial and see for yourself.

Contact us today to understand how joining the OA Switchboard can both serve your organisation and drive open access.

“I believe it to be a crucial element of the scholarly publishing infrastructure. Even if you can’t see an immediate application for it because you do not have enough OA deals, you may be surprised at the amount of open access publishing your researchers are producing. And the OA Switchboard levels the playing field for smaller publishers, which I know is of interest to equity minded librarians.”

Curtis Brundy, Iowa State University Library

Coming soon: The publisher and research funder point of view on their participation in OA Switchboard, and how we work together with other community led foundational (infrastructure and standards) solutions.



About us:
The OA Switchboard is a mission-driven, community led initiative designed to simplify the sharing of information between stakeholders about open access publications throughout the whole publication journey. It provides a standardised messaging protocol and shared infrastructure that is designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems, and can help with these challenges above. It is built by and for the people who use it, and is leveraged with existing PID’s.

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