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Blog postHow the OA Switchboard fits into the ecosystem (PART 4/THE FUNDER)

2 November 2022 by Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director OA Switchboard

Following on from our initial post on the ‘intermediary’, the second on the ‘institution’ and the third on the ‘publisher’ in the series, in this post we focus specifically on the relevance of the OA Switchboard to the stakeholder group ‘funders’.


In our deed of incorporation (and articles of association) we define funders as ‘private or public research funding agencies, councils or foundations, operating globally, nationally or for certain scholarly disciplines, or organised otherwise’. What do they do to navigate the open access research and publishing maze and how does OA Switchboard practically support them in this?

"With its growing customer base, the OA Switchboard is demonstrating that it is possible to streamline the management of open access publishing for all parties."

Hannah Hope, Wellcome Trust


On a journey: research available and accessible to all

Open access (OA) is opening research up to the world. Research funders are adjusting their policies and expanding requirements to ensure that research is available and accessible to all.

With bold policies such as Plan S, and the recent ‘Nelson Memo’ from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, funders are demonstrating their commitment to driving open access to research forward as central to the conduct of science or research.


“The OA Switchboard has the potential to deliver a breakthrough in the transformation to open access by lowering the barriers to achieving open access, which is, after all, the model of research publication we aim to achieve for greater research impact.”

Rachel Bruce, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)


They need to assess and demonstrate the extent and impact of their research funding and deliver on their commitment to OA. For this, they need to monitor the outputs of their funded research and compliance of their policies and mandates. There is growing recognition from funders that simple but smart open infrastructures such as OA Switchboard can either complement their own processes or even directly support these activities, relieving the burden and making the process much more manageable, efficient and cost-effective.

Research funders, in their diverse forms, are the foundation on which much of the global scholarly endeavour rests, but they presently have a reliance on a myriad of scholarly communication practices to disseminate the outputs which ultimately arise from their funding budgets. Nevertheless, research funders are serious about supporting policy compliance and development, the fulfilment of OA publication-level arrangements, making OA publishing highly visible, and increasing OA.


They increasingly have the desire to see robust connections between individuals, organisations, research grants, projects, and research outputs. They need more and better metadata, and integration with the increasingly complex open access research and publishing ecosystem. Advantage can be taken of the digital environment, in the tracking and linking of research; in being able to demonstrate value and impact; in improving discoverability and the move to more automated ways of finding outputs; in reducing reporting burdens; enabling smoother transitions to OA, and increasing value for money.


How does the OA Switchboard help

As an intermediary, the OA Switchboard simplifies the sharing of information between publishers, institutions and funders, thereby reducing the transactional cost for stakeholders, and it provides a safe space for publication metadata. With this, OA Switchboard adds to the tools and data sources currently available to funders.

The two use cases the OA Switchboard supports are also (indirectly) relevant for research funders:

  1. Reporting Made Easy

  2. Matching Publication Costs with Publication Funds

20221016_publication journey two use cases_jpg.jpg

Sometimes research funders engage directly in the dealings with publishers and covering publication charges, sometimes this is an indirect relationship (e.g. via institutionally managed block grants).

The value of the OA Switchboard for a funder can be one or more of the following:

  • Direct benefits (e.g. information and data on funded research output)

  • Indirect benefits (e.g. better implementation of OA policies on a publication-level)

  • Community benefits (e.g. the ecosystem works better for everyone)


Supporting broader community benefits

As a community-driven not-for-profit initiative, OA Switchboard provides core stability through open infrastructure and standardisation. These are foundational core functions and services available to all. Collaboration, open API’s and interoperability serve a common purpose of enabling robust connections between research grants, projects, outputs, individuals and organisations. Persistent identifiers are key, and the standardised messaging protocol of OA Switchboard is leveraged with PIDs.


“We are delighted to form this partnership to enable shared infrastructure, bringing transparency, efficiency and cost effectiveness to the OA ecosystem.”

Rachel Bruce, UKRI


In addition to being a technical ‘message hub’, the OA Switchboard is also 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.

Furthermore, OA Switchboard is a mission driven initiative (not a commercial player). It provides a ‘message hub’, that allows different and multiple stakeholders to communicate and action processes between them around OA publication. It is a middleware exchange and is not building a database, and there is no risk of lock-in. There is no involvement in financial transactions, nor in the allocation of money in institutional OA funds. Contracts and roles are clear, throughout the whole chain and are GDPR compliant. Perhaps most importantly, it is built by and for the people who use it.

Consistent data format from multiple publishers

Like research institutions, funders want to connect with their research. 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 have a requirement to report on research activities, outputs and costs and receive reports to monitor research activity, including OA, of those they fund.

For the ‘reporting made easy’ use case this is what OA Switchboard does:

  • Structured data (Excel or JSON) and a standardised protocol providing data in a consistent format across publishers.

  • Authoritative data from source, leveraged with persistent identifiers (PIDs) e.g. DOIs, ORCID and ROR IDs.

  • 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.

To learn more about how the OA Switchboard can help a research funder to support their open access goals, we recently talked to Tom Jakobs, the Head of Data Management & Digital Transformation for the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR). In this interview Tom Jakobs says about OA Switchboard:

“Having a common data standard across publishers is very important and we want to support initiatives that attempt to standardise the sharing and communication of information and data.”

“Ultimately, using the OA Switchboard will speed up the automation of compliance checking which can only benefit research funders... The communications standards, the cleanliness of the data and the API that the OA Switchboard provides all help contribute to a better functioning ecosystem.”

Tom Jakobs, Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR)


If it is research institutions who have the role of managing publication funds on behalf of research funders, the OA Switchboard supports them to do that job more efficiently for the funders due to the standardised messaging protocol and shared infrastructure. With the reporting by institutions to the research funders made easier, this is an indirect value for the research funders.


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, including  reducing the transactional cost for stakeholders, via our first blog post in this series.


Discover other research funders use cases and stories on our ‘for funders’ 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.


“We are excited to support OA Switchboard. As a non-profit, neutral member of the community we know OA Switchboard is best positioned to foster true collaboration across different stakeholder groups and for Open Access to work well we need systems like OA Switchboard to provide transparency & trustworthy reporting in a system that is at best opaque. I encourage publishers & institutions to engage & participate.”

Ashley Farley, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Coming soon: The last post in this series will be about how we work together with other community led foundational (infrastructure and standards) solutions, and innovative services and solutions (both commercial and non-commercial) that are being built on top.

​​​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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