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Blog post 

Mid-summer reflections on our five years’ journey…

It's been almost five years since the idea for the OA Switchboard was born. A good moment for some reflections on where we are today versus where we were aiming to go.

28 July 2023 by Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director OA Switchboard

Visionary founders in 2018


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 supporting open access publication. They envisioned a scholarly ecosystem where knowledge is advanced through streamlined communication between stakeholders about the dissemination and open publication of research output.

Where did we get our inspiration from?

​The inspiration back in 2018 for the proposed solution came from other examples of community-governed scholarly infrastructure, namely the Crossref DOI registry and ORCID, which had successfully brought together a large and diverse community of stakeholders to address complex challenges.​ For the actual development of the OA Switchboard ‘message hub’, we have been inspired by SWIFT, the global provider of secure financial messaging services.

Where are we today?

OA Switchboard has made great strides in bringing the whole community together to agree and adopt standardised exchange of metadata about open access publications throughout the publication journey, and to build and operate the supporting shared open infrastructure.

OA Switchboard has been live as operational solution since 1 January 2021 (17 consortia and multi-site participants, 154 institutions, 31 publishers, more than 5,100 ‘organisations’, over half a million ‘messages’), supporting two use cases for journal article publications and a variety of business models, including non-APC based models. It operates a sustainable governance and funding model via Stichting (‘foundation’) OA Switchboard, founded by OASPA in October 2020. Security and privacy is ensured via technology and contracts. All participants in OA Switchboard sign the same Service Agreement that the General Terms & Conditions are an integral part of.


Six principles underpin everything we do as OA Switchboard community


Critical to our early success has been that there is no self-interest - the OA Switchboard is really built for and by the people who use it - and that the principles we defined early on serve as our guiding star for everything we do. We articulated early on why this is all important.

How are we doing?

OA Switchboard has indeed been developed and run in accordance with our core principles, as evidence shows in our development roadmap, blog posts and news, for example the recently announced project for a solution to support OA Books and Diamond and S2O publishers participating.

An exciting result has also been that the participants experience it as a real community, where information is shared (e.g. 2022 joint research project), joint pilots are undertaken (e.g. the 2023 funder pilot), and collaboration is fostered in areas where it is allowed and makes sense (e.g. standardisation and the NISO Working Group).


How the OA Switchboard fits into the ecosystem


The challenges the stakeholders were, and are, faced with are in no way unique to the open access publishing landscape. In fact, they are relatively common in marketplaces that have an increasingly complex web of interactions between buyers and sellers. For the OA Switchboard we chose the concept of an intermediary for information about publications themselves, but made the deliberate decision not to serve as an intermediary for publication payments. It is designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems.

Who are these stakeholders, and how do we fit into the overall open access publishing ecosystem?

In a series of blog posts in 2022, we elaborated on the concept of OA Switchboard as ‘intermediary’, and the relevance of the OA Switchboard to the stakeholder groups ‘institutions’, ‘publishers’ and ‘funders’. Separately, we covered how we work together with other stakeholders (community led foundational infrastructure and standards solutions, and innovative services and solutions) and our tech partner ELITEX. In case a primary stakeholder needs help to connect with the OA Switchboard, they can work with an OA Switchboard ‘certified integrator’. This is a party that, on behalf of a primary stakeholder (a funder, an institution, or a publisher) technically integrates with the OA Switchboard API in the standard message structure.

Community driven not-for-profit initiatives provide core stability through open infrastructure

Over time, the community has organised itself to develop a foundational layer consisting of building blocks and organisations fulfilling a core function towards a well-functioning research ecosystem. 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.

Further increasing scale and sustainability and resolving the original problem


What we really have seen happening in practice over the last couple of years is that collaborative effort truly pays off to drive metadata quality, standardisation and efficiency in communication.

Delivering on the promise of the intermediary

Generally, all participants see that as an intermediary, the OA Switchboard is already delivering on its promise: it 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.

To significantly deliver on efficiencies and bring down transactional cost, wider adoption and usage is needed. That’s why focusing on growing the community is our key priority.

How far are we with adoption?

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’. We have proven that partial take-up already delivers substantial benefits for every participant, and that the benefits multiply with each new joiner.

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.

In summary…

(also available in a 1-minute video animation in 6 languages):

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.

Trust: The independently managed, shared infrastructure provides a safe space for publication metadata, including author details (and their affiliations), research funding information, and publication licenses.


Collaboration: The standardised protocol allows for the transparent exchange of data about open access publications, designed to operate and integrate with all stakeholder systems.

Efficiency: It eases the administrative burden of maintaining many-to-many relationships, and managing open access compliance. It also reduces the sheer volume of manual information exchange.


We are very excited to invite new partners to join us.  The central information exchange hub grows stronger with every participant, becoming a better tool for all.

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

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