Blog post - How the OA Switchboard fits into the ecosystem (PART 5)
9 December 2022 by Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director OA Switchboard
Following on from our initial post on the ‘intermediary’, the second on the ‘institution’, the third on the ‘publisher’ and the fourth on the ‘funder’ in the series, in this last post in this series we cover 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, and also how our tech partner (ELITEX), and their Dutch branch (Appetence), fit into all this.
In 2018, a group of stakeholders representing research funding organizations, academic libraries, scholarly publishers, and open infrastructure providers met to discuss a proposal for addressing the growing set of challenges in the implementation of institutional and funder policies and the increasingly complex network of agreements between publishers and institutions. Stakeholders then were already challenged by a myriad of systems and processes, inconsistent terminology, and lack of (use of) persistent identifiers.
For a breakthrough in the transformation of the market, a joint challenge had to be addressed. The OA Switchboard was therefore born as a cross-stakeholder, not-for-profit initiative, with a mission-driven community and a practical tool (central metadata exchange hub), providing a standardised messaging protocol and shared infrastructure, built by and for the people who use it, and leveraged with existing PIDs.
Do you want to know how neutrality and independence are preserved by legal structure, governance and deed of incorporation (and articles of association)?
Read how our objectives are described, and how we aim to realise them, and what the legal entity 'stichting' is all about.
Community driven not-for-profit initiatives provide core stability through open infrastructure
For human knowledge to advance, we need a functioning research ecosystem. For human knowledge to advance optimally - at speed and with diverse collaboration - we need a well-functioning research ecosystem.
Over time, the community has organised itself to develop a foundational layer consisting of building blocks and organisations fulfilling a core function. These open, community-led initiatives and standards have been created in order to provide essential core services to all entities in the global scholarly research system, commercial and non-commercial entities alike.
Persistent identifiers such as DOIs, ORCIDs, and RORs as well, as initiatives such as COUNTER, Crossref, DataCite, DOAJ, and the OA Switchboard, share the common purpose of enabling robust connections between research grants, projects, research outputs, organisations, and individuals. Open APIs and interoperability are key to this end. All these open infrastructure initiatives collaborate rather than compete with one another because they serve as the collective basis for innovation by both non-commercial and commercial entities.
This opens the door for services fulfilling a specific need, to be built on top. There, as opposed to the foundational layer, competition and commercial solutions are likely to drive innovation and bring cost down.
OA Switchboard is designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems
One of the implementation challenges for funders, institutions and publishers, on the radar screen of the founders of OA Switchboard, was the need for trusted (meta)data exchange between them, and to populate and use in their (commercial) vendor support systems. The OA Switchboard contributes to the solution as a neutral, independent intermediary, providing shared infrastructure, standards and back office services. It is a tool that can be called on when needed, or integrated in stakeholders’ own systems and workflows to achieve automation and scalability.
With that, the OA Switchboard simplifies many-to-many relationships. That is the power of an intermediary: efficiency and cost savings. It is complementary and supportive to the vendor systems on the market. It is designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems.
We’ve been working with various providers of services and solutions to both publishers and institutions:
Workflow solutions for publishers (e.g. for the management of agreements, and the collection of publication charges).
Workflow solutions for institutions and consortia (e.g. for workflow support, journal selection, compliance management, payment of publication charges, and the management of consortia and agreements).
Analytics and visualisation tools (both industry specific and generic), for publishers as well as institutions and consortia.
OA Switchboard tech partner ELITEX, with their Dutch branch Appetence for publisher solutions
Following an RFI (Request for Information) for the OA Switchboard MVP in 2020, we chose to partner with ELITEX for the development during the project phase (2020). We continued this successful partnership throughout the launch phase (2021-2022), and are committed to the collaboration also for 2023. ELITEX best met our immediate requirements and had the relevant experience in the scholarly information / solutions space, and evidence of competency in developing and delivering open source solutions.
ELITEX is a boutique IT company based in Lviv, Ukraine with sales and local project management offices in both the UK and the Netherlands. Their main expertise is in building dedicated development teams for businesses and startups.
In the early days of OA Switchboard, we learned that connecting to the OA Switchboard is not rocket science for publishers, but it is hard work. Together with early adopters, we found practical (sometimes intermediate) solutions for them to connect to the standard OA Switchboard API. It started with the concept of a ‘custom connector’, to source the required P1-message metadata from multiple systems and data feeds at the publishers’ end. This was presented back in 2021 at various webinars by OA Switchboard participants themselves.
It was the Dutch branch Appetence who entered into contracts and a working relationship with publishers directly to develop and service this, as a dedicated solution provider to publishers, helping them to integrate with the OA Switchboard. When more systems and data feeds got into the equation, for instance to deal with article-level financial information, the concept developed further to include a ‘private datastore’, to deal with asynchronous data and to build article life cycle metadata:
The next infographic illustrates how participating publishers can connect to OA Switchboard via API integration, and how OA Switchboard, ELITEX and Appetence work together to support that. Publishers can choose to connect to the API using their own tech team and/or vendor, and OA Switchboard and its tech partner ELITEX will support them in that. If a publisher prefers the custom connector, that solution part will come from Appetence as a service provider to the publisher, either contractually via OA Switchboard (option 3) or directly (option 4).
There are various reasons why OA Switchboard is developed open source, amongst others:
By design: open source software licenses promote collaboration and sharing.
By mechanism: open source is an essential mechanism for building transparency and (therefore) trust. Open source ensures that all parties can validate that there are neutral and ‘accurate’ assessment algorithms, providing a guarantee that the OA Switchboard can be validated as the neutral host and facilitator it aspires to be.
One great example is the re-use of the ‘smart matching’ tool outside OA Switchboard. For application within the OA Switchboard, and as part of the OA Switchboard, ELITEX have developed for us an open source ‘smart matching’ module. This tool helps to go from author affiliation data lacking PID’s to ROR for all authors’ affiliation(s). This tool can also be applied by publishers in their own systems and workflows upstream. This was presented at the ROR Community Meeting (February 2022). Watch the full presentation here. Open source code is here.
Why you should join us
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. We're well aware that signing up participants to the OA Switchboard and building our community has the risk of being a classic ‘prisoner’s dilemma’.
However, we are growing all the time and are very grateful for the trust and collaboration of our launch customers and founding partners who believe in the concept and the potential. They are part of our pioneering community, who got involved early and who tell the same story about the central information exchange hub growing stronger with every participant, becoming a better tool for all. They are like-minded spirits who believe in incremental improvement, where sharing best practices and lessons learned is an integral part of the initiative.
We know, and have proven, that partial take-up already delivers substantial benefits for every participant and benefits multiply with each new joiner. Contact us today to understand how joining the OA Switchboard can both serve your organisation and drive open access.
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.