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Blog post - OA Switchboard one year live: Community, collaboration, and delivering on the promise of PIDs

8 December 2021 by Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director OA Switchboard

You may remember us proudly announcing ‘We’re live!’ back in our January 2021 blog post. In this year-end post, we’re delighted to share how, together with our founding partners, launch customers and other stakeholders, we have built a community of like-minded spirits on a mission: a breakthrough in the transformation of the market, enabling OA to be supported as the predominant model of publication.

More on why and how the OA Switchboard came about can be found here. The OA Switchboard supports multiple use cases and business models (watch our video animation on ‘matching publications costs with publication funds’). Our governance and guiding principles are central to the way we operate and to how we are developing the OA Switchboard, and to how we interact with and engage the community - you can read about our self-assessment against the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure here.

Thinking big: How persistent identifiers (PIDs) can be used to reduce friction in the ongoing transition to open research

Day-to-day, the OA Switchboard is enabling the neutral exchange of OA-related publication level information. In terms of developing and maintaining our central information exchange hub as an operational solution, this is all about shared infrastructure, standardised messaging protocol, and integration with existing systems, powered by Persistent Identifiers (PIDs).

The vital contribution that PIDs can make to systemic efficiencies was highlighted in a recent UK Government's policy paper on reducing bureaucratic burdens on research, innovation and higher education. Commissioned by Jisc, the UK PID Consortium published a cost-benefit analysis in June 2021, which identified cost savings associated with rekeying grant, project, and article metadata. Other savings, in the form of automation and aggregation/analysis were reported as likely to be significant. Economic benefits of better data for decision-making by both public and private sector bodies was reported to have even more potential. Other tangible benefits reported included consistency of approach, portability of metadata and workflows, and increased ease of collaboration.

The OA Switchboard is contributing to the potential of PIDs by providing a solution for a real pain point shared by research funders, institutions and publishers: the fulfilment of OA publication-level arrangements (policies, mandates, agreements, etc). To address the use cases via the OA Switchboard community and realise practical solutions via the ‘hub’, PIDs are indispensable. Participants in the OA Switchboard are collaborating to share best practices and implement these existing identifiers in their workflows and systems. This will bring direct, indirect and community benefits that will extend way beyond OA Switchboard supported use cases.

Achievements in 2021

This year we built on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) we delivered in 2020 to support two use cases. The first case is ‘reporting made easy’, which is relevant when there is a direct relationship between article-level publication costs and publication funds (e.g. APCs and transformative agreements), but also when there is an indirect relationship (e.g. subscribe-to-open and non-APC based models like ‘diamond’). The OA Switchboard message-type supporting this use case is the P1-message (Publication Notification).

The second use case is the ‘eligibility enquiry’, which supports both the prior agreement scenario and the no-prior agreement scenario. The applicable E-messages support questions like: Does this meet your requirements? Will you cover the (article-level) publication charges? Do you agree this publication can be charged against our existing deal? Do you agree this publication can be charged against our existing deal and are the (article-level) publication charges acceptable?

Both the P and the E-messages initiate from a publisher and are sent to a research funder and/or institution. The OA Switchboard has the potential to deal with other types of messages, also initiating from others besides publishers, and we already have plenty of ideas for the development roadmap!

In our launch plan we recognised that we’d need adequate time to establish OA Switchboard as a self-sustaining initiative and service. In our 2021/2022 ‘launch phase’ we’ve worked closely with participants and stakeholders to further strengthen the solid basis we had established in 2020, both in terms of functionality and service level, but also in operational adoption of funders, institutions and publishers.

We’re proud to already have grown to 23 publishers and 32 institutions participating in the OA Switchboard (25 through three different national consortia), and to have 6 research funders involved. On our new ‘participants’ page, you can find more details on who those organisations are, statistics (on number of messages sent per month) and use cases.

Together with matching 'pairs' (e.g. publisher A – institution B) we ran various pilots, to test the relevance of the OA Switchboard for them, to inform approaches for implementation, or to identify further required features. With three publishers and three research funders we also did a specific ‘funder pilot’. This pilot was to learn more about where and how funder and grant metadata get captured and stored by publishers, and what research funders would like to see in reports on OA publications, both in terms of data and presentation format.

We claim that connecting to the OA Switchboard is not rocket science. Together with early adopters and our tech partner ELITEX, we have found practical (sometimes intermediate) solutions which were presented by OA Switchboard participants themselves in our March and September webinars (see also the visual here).

Throughout the year we’ve been developing and improving the OA Switchboard technically. In five iterations, we covered the following themes: integration, reporting, administration, consortia, email notification, message structure and auto-cc. Details can be found on our development roadmap.

And during all of this work we’ve engaged the community via our Working Groups, Advisory Group and Client Advisory Board. We’ve communicated progress and details via regular blog posts, at various conferences and events and our own webinars. Resources, like infographics, video animations, and recordings, are available from our dedicated ’resources’ page.

Lessons learned from the first year of our launch phase

The biggest insight was that PIDs in article-level metadata are critical for solving real problems. And, that it is not too late to implement PIDs. The key identifiers for OA Switchboard use cases align with four of the five priority PIDs identified in the UK cost-benefit analysis report mentioned above, namely:

  • Institutional identifiers for authors’ affiliations (GRID, ISNI, Ringgold, ROR)

  • Identifiers for research funders (and grants)

  • ORCID iDs

  • DOIs

Another important insight is that for OA publications there are two relevant and parallel workflow tracks (for such cases where a direct publication funder is relevant):

  1. The linear publication process (submission – peer review – production – publication), and

  2. The process of getting publication charges settled

Importantly, there is a need to exchange metadata between the tracks, currently with lack of sufficient interoperability between relevant systems.

The third take-away is that there is serious tension between providing a great author experience and an ‘ideal process’ (i.e. capturing data as early as possible in the workflow).

What’s next?

The second year of our launch phase will build on the hard work of 2021 in terms of priorities and use cases. It’s no surprise that our overarching focus will continue to be on authoritative data from source, interoperability of existing systems and connecting the dots of existing PIDs. All, in our characteristic, well established, collaborative spirit.

Thank you!

We thank everyone in our community for an amazing year, in which we’ve worked together on making the ecosystem work better for all. Thank you for making your time, expertise and experiences available for the greater good.

Special thanks to our founding partners and launch customers, the members of our Working Groups, Advisory Group and Client Advisory Board, our sponsors, our tech partner ELITEX and our strategic partner OASPA.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2022.

Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director

December 2021


The OA Switchboard is a central information exchange hub for research funders, institutions and publishers to exchange OA-related publication-level OA information. We are a global, not-for-profit, collectively controlled collaboration, where neutrality and independence are preserved by legal structure, governance and articles of incorporation. With roots back in 2018, we’re building everything in accordance with our core principles and honouring the POSI principles to ensure sustainability and preserve the goals of the OA Switchboard into the future.

As an independent intermediary, connecting parties and systems, streamlining communication and the neutral exchange of metadata, OA Switchboard provides direct, indirect and community benefits: simplicity & transparency, collaboration & interoperability, and efficiency & cost-effectiveness.

If you would like to receive regular updates on the OA Switchboard initiative, please sign up for our malinglist.

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