1. What is the OA Switchboard initiative?

The OA Switchboard initiative is a not-for-profit collaboration between funders, institutions and publishers to provide essential infrastructure, standards and back office services to facilitate the fulfilment of open access strategies across business models, policies and agreements. The goal is to achieve a breakthrough in the transformation of the market such that Open Access is supported as the predominant model of publication.


Throughout 2020, a project (overseen by OASPA, funded through a sponsorship model) was run to prepare for the OA Switchboard to go live as an operational solution. Following a successful project, as of January 2021, the OA Switchboard moved to an operational stage with a sustainable governance structure and funding model.

Taking charge of multi-lateral OA publication-level arrangements

 

2. What is the OA Switchboard?

The OA Switchboard is a central information exchange hub, connecting parties and systems, streamlining communication and the neutral exchange of OA related publication-level information, and ensuring a financial settlement can be done.


It is a neutral, independent intermediary, providing essential infrastructure, standards and back office services.

The OA Switchboard provides direct, indirect and community benefits for funders, research institutions and academic publishers:

  • Simplicity & Transparency

  • Collaboration & Inter-operability

  • Efficiency & Cost-effectiveness

  • The eco-system to work better for everyone: learn, adjust and progress

 

3. What problem does the OA Switchboard solve?

The problem for funders, institutions and publishers is that it is complex to implement multi-lateral Open Access publication-level arrangements.

Developments:

  • Open Access (OA) output is growing year-on-year

  • Increasingly, funders and institutions are paying for OA centrally

  • OA business models are becoming more and more diverse, some with or without individual publication fees, some through agreements with publishers, some through sponsorship models

  • Funders and institutions are expanding the requirements about how various research outputs should be published

  • For a specific (pre)publication there may be multiple authors involved, each with multiple institutional affiliations and funder arrangements (multi-lateral publication level arrangements)

Managing the increasingly complex network of agreements between publishers and institutions, along with the rise in number of policies associated with open access publications by academic institutions and funders poses serious implementation challenges, because:

  • A myriad of systems, portals and processes

  • Many-to-many relationships to be maintained between the multitude of stakeholder groups (and their members)

  • Manual and human interaction

  • Inconsistent terminology, lack of (use of) persistent identifiers

  • Lack of oversight and real-time monitoring, thus difficulty in detailed billing and in tracking spend and committed funds

Consequences:

  • Policies are not always effectively implemented and agreements not realised to the full

  • This complexity, and the current administrative burden on institutions, funders and publishers, has also hindered progress in developing new business models to support a broader move to OA

  • From a researchers perspective, this landscape is at best confusing, and at worst impenetrable

 

4. What are the challenges for publishers that the OA Switchboard aims to address?

  1. It takes a lot of manual work to determine if a funder or institution is willing to centrally pay the OA publishing cost of a given publication

  2. As a smaller publisher, there is no way for us to develop OA publishing agreements with funders and institutions

  3. All our workflow systems will need to be updated to accommodate and report on the (transformative) OA deals we’re signing

 

5. What are the challenges for institutions/funders* that the OA Switchboard aims to address?

  1. Administrating our central OA fund is harder than we imagined, since every publisher has their own systems and invoicing processes

  2. There is no way we can possibly sign OA publishing deals with every single publisher

  3. For the (transformative) deals we’ve signed we’re unable to generate reports or monitor compliance across different publishers


* when involved in directly settling publication charges

 

6. What value does the OA Switchboard bring for publishers?

  • Simplicity & Transparency

  • Collaboration & Inter-operability

  • Efficiency & Cost-effectiveness

  • Opportunity for better customer service:

    • for authors/researchers

    • for institutions and funders


In more detail:

  • One communication standard, process and system across multiple institutions and funders

  • No need to maintain operational relationships, nor technical integration/connectors, across multiple institutions and funders

  • No need for contracts with participating funders / institutions to benefit from central OA funds

  • Integration with own (or partners´) systems and (author/researcher-facing) tools to enhance these

  • Support authors in their compliance and relieve them from financial administration and settlement of OA publication charges 

  • Find out if a specific OA publication has the potential to meet the requirements of the authors, how to get the service charges settled, and to enable such financial settlement

  • Locate central OA funds, and get publication charges paid from these funds in an efficient and cost-effective manner

  • Standardised way of verifying eligible authors under a prior agreement

  • No need to revert/correct licenses after publication

  • First time right invoices and financial settlement statements

  • No need for manual work, nor customisation on funder and institutional reports

  • Want correct information/data about their publication options to be available

 

7. What value does the OA Switchboard bring for institutions/funders*?

  • Simplicity & Transparency

  • Collaboration & Inter-operability

  • Efficiency & Cost-effectiveness

  • Opportunity for better researcher service


In more detail:

  • One communication standard, process and system across multiple publishers

  • No need to maintain operational relationships, across multiple publishers, nor technical integration/connectors, across multiple publishers

  • No need to negotiate special arrangements and contracts with participating publishers

  • Integration with own (or partners´) systems and (author/researcher-facing) tools to enhance these

  • Support authors in their compliance and relieve them from financial administration and settlement of OA publication charges

  • Upfront assessment if and how a certain OA publication meets the requirements

  • Automatic alerts and tracking of publications and all their details

  • Automatic feed of these data into local systems

  • Linking invoices to publication data

  • Standardised reporting and intelligence

  • Monitor compliance across deals

  • Demonstrate impact and account for how funds are spent

  • Administer funds, monitor and track committed spending/sponsorship


* when involved in directly settling publication charges

 

8. What value does the OA Switchboard bring for funders?

The value of the OA Switchboard for a funder can be one, or a combination of two or more of the below:

  • Direct benefits (when involved in directly settling publication charges) - see Question 7

  • Indirect benefits (when not directly involved in settling publication charges)

  • Community benefits

 

9. Where can I find technical details?

The repository and documentation can be found here: https://bitbucket.org/oaswitchboard/api/.


In the root there is a readme with the documentation. Here is a direct link: https://bitbucket.org/oaswitchboard/api/src/master/README.md.

An explanation of the data fields in the message structure can be found here:

https://bitbucket.org/oaswitchboard/api/src/master/messages/

 

10. Why open source?

The reasons we choose open source:

  • 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.

  • No vendor lock-in, guaranteed exit scenario.

  • Cost: free license model.

  • It brings future security because others can build on our work.

 

11. What parts in the OA Switchboard are open source?

The parts that are developed for us by our tech partner are open source. This is:

  • Core (message hub & data store): Open source code, fully transparent.

  • Connectors (to API): Open source code and (where possible) part of an open source project like Pubsweet, OJS, etc. The possibility to contribute via community owned/shared/joint development; contributions made available to the community for use and further development.

  • Web application (with User Interface): Developed and released as part of the open source Pubsweet framework. Possibility to contribute via community owned/shared/joint development; contributions made available to the community for use and further development.


Notes:

  • All tools offered by AWS as Platform-as-a-Service, are obviously not open source (e.g. API gateway, VPC, server environments, serverless runtime, Database-as-a-Service). All source code produced by our tech partner for us, that runs on top of AWS PaaS, is delivered to OA Switchboard organisation as open source.

  • SQS/SNS/SES (specific messaging micro-services) in the Core are not open source, which creates a dependency with AWS.

  • PostgreSQL is an open source database.

 

12. How is scalability ensured?

The core message hub is highly scalable, especially due to the use of AWS (Amazon Web Services) micro services. AWS is by far the largest cloud provider (hosting almost all large sites in the world), and is scalable and secure. That is exactly the reason why we decided (in coordination with our Tech Advisors and Steering Committee) to not develop this piece ourselves. The above visual shows the message lifecycle for sending a message through the OA Switchboard. The AWS API gateway is linked to a serverless – Lambda validation function that invokes an SQS queue. This is what AWS says about this:

  • By default, SQS support up to 300 messages per second.

  • Lambda functions with an Amazon SQS trigger can scale up 60 additional instances per minute to a maximum of 1,000 concurrent invocations.


That is over 1 million messages per hour. And that is the default. If more volume and guarantees are required then an SLA is available, however we don’t expect to need it.

 

13. How is security and privacy ensured? Part 1: Via technology

Right from the start in the MVP we’ve ensured security and privacy in the OA Switchboard:

  • One user (one account) per participant. Authorisation is required, always.

  • The Sandbox is for testing purposes. The PRODuction will be made available later.

  • We store message header (all) and message body (optional).

  • If a participant integrates directly onto the API AND stores their own messages, there is no need to store them at OA Switchboard. *)

  • If a participant uses the User Interface OR does not store their own messages, the OA Switchboard will store them. *)

  • Only participants sending & receiving a message can retrieve the message body. OA Switchboard staff cannot access a participant’s message body. Unauthorized access is logged.


*) Note that if stakeholder 1 sends a message to stakeholder 2, and for stakeholder 1 point 4 is applicable, and for stakeholder 2 point 5 is applicable, the messages sent by stakeholder 1 are stored in the OA Switchboard.

 

14. How is security and privacy ensured? Part 2: Via contracts

 

15. What is a ‘certified integrator’?

A ‘certified integrator’ is a party that, on behalf of a primary stakeholder (a funder, an institution, or a publisher) integrates with the OA Switchboard API in the standard message structure. A party can request to be awarded the ‘certificate’, after which a formal assessment and check will be done, and a decision taken. Certified partners when approved will be listed on the website.

 

16. How does the OA Switchboard work?

The OA Switchboard enables funders – institutions – publishers to send and receive (via API, User Interface or e-mail) a pre-defined set of standardised messages between them (automated, integrated, scalable).

Or, via their dedicated partner’s system, if applicable.

20201027_how does it work_w.jpg
 

17. How does the OA Switchboard MVP work?

The OA Switchboard MVP enables publishers to send two types of pre-defined standardised messages to funders and institutions (via API, User Interface or e-mail), and enables funders and institutions to receive and respond to them. The two types of messages in the MVP are:

  • Eligibility Enquiry

  • Publication/Payment Settlement Notification

Or, via their dedicated partner’s system, if applicable.

20201027_how it works mvp 1_w.jpg
 

18. How does the OA Switchboard MVP work for publishers sending messages?

Details on messages as sent by a publisher:

  • Eligibility Enquiry

  • Publication/Payment Settlement Notification

20201123_MVP send visual.jpg
 

19. How does the OA Switchboard MVP work for funders/institutions responding to messages?

Details on messages as sent by a funder or institution, in response to a publisher's:

  • Eligibility Enquiry

  • Publication/Payment Settlement Notification

20201123_MVP response visual.jpg
 

20. Where in the publishing process would messages initiate in the MVP?

Depending on publishers' policies, workflow systems and preferences, messages can be initiated at various points in time, as illustrated below.

20201027_how it works mvp 4_w.jpg
 

21. What did the 2020 MVP deliver?

1. Communication:

  • Compose Eligibility Enquiry (prior-agreement & no-prior-agreement scenario, with or without article-level charges specified)

  • Compose Publication/Payment Settlement Notification

  • Receive, read and respond

  • Resend messages and compose messages from existing messages (pre-populated)

  • Routing messages, auto-suggest recipients and undelivered messages

  • Custom validation and auto-reject, based on master data central OA fund terms


​2. Insight and overview:

Monitoring and reporting (real-time, export, API) on predicted/committed OA spend, publication numbers and details

3. Open API:

  • Feed information into local solutions and systems

  • Enable interlinking with funders, institutions, and publishers’ own author and researcher facing tools


 

22. Why is 2021/2022 regarded as the ‘launch phase’? And what does that mean?

2021/2022 is regarded as the ‘launch phase’ in which we’ll closely work with customers and stakeholders to further build a solid basis, both in terms of functionality and service level, but also in operational adoption of funders, institutions and publishers. We all recognise that we'll need time to to achieve wide adoption, and to allow for (technical) integration and implementation, and for continuous improvements. We're in this together to further develop the OA Switchboard and make it a success. Together with matching 'pairs' (e.g. publisher A – institution B) we are defining specific pilots/use cases to get started with. 

Some use cases we're working on:

  • As a publisher, I have a submission on my desk, and want to know if there is central funding available to cover the publication charges; and how to make use of it (‘getting my invoice right first time’).

    • Publisher using the User Interface for creating and sending E1 messages to locate central OA funds and get publication charges paid from these funds in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

    • Category: E1/E2, no-prior-agreement, article-level-charges-specified

  • As a publisher, I have published the article, and want to inform the party who picks up the publication charges about the publication details and how the charges are being settled. (Plus, inform other research funder(s) about the publication details)

    • Category: P1, no-prior-agreement, article-level-charges-specified

  • As publisher, and as institution with a central OA fund, I want to avoid to have an author/researcher with an invoice in their hand, and without money to pay for it.

    • Institution, using the UI for responding to an E1 message from a publisher, to indicate if the publication charges can be covered by the university’s central OA fund. Ahead of publication, and ahead of the invoice being issued.

    • Category: E1/E2, no-prior-agreement, article-level-charges-specified

  • As a publisher, I have a P&R deal with institution X, and want to report on articles published by their researchers/authors who are covered under the P&R deal.

    • Using P1 messages to automate P&R deal reporting. At acceptance, the P1 messages are automatically generated by a ‘custom connector’. Clients with an OA Switchboard account get alerts and can run own reports. For all P&R institutions: Publisher could run an export from the OA Switchboard per client, and send the reports to clients.

    • Category: P1, prior-agreement, no-article-level-charges-specified

  • As a publisher, I have an agreement with institution Y with a monthly billing scheme, and want to enable my client to get my invoices processed in their systems, by including their PO number on it.

    • Using (automatically generated) E1 messages to obtain PO-numbers from Institution Y, ahead of monthly invoicing. Institution Y to respond/confirm via E2.

    • Category: E1/E2, prior-agreement, no-article-level-charges-specified

  • As an institution, I have an agreement with a publisher to cover publication charges for authors affiliated with my institution, and I want to be sure our authors act as ‘corresponding author’ throughout the editorial process

    • Receiving E1 messages from publisher to validate authors during the editorial process as ‘corresponding author’. Confirming/responding via E2.

    • Category: E1/E2, prior-agreement, no-article-level-charges-specified

  • As an institution, I have multiple deals, and want one communication standard, process and system across multiple publishers, automatic alerts for researchers’ publications and all their details, linking invoices to publication data and standardised reporting.

    • Receiving P1 messages to enable monitoring and reporting, P1 messages are (automatically) generated by publishers. This institution with an OA Switchboard account gets alerts and can run own reports.

    • Category: P1/P2, prior-agreements, (no-)article-level-charges-specified

 

23. Who have already signed up to the OA Switchboard?

Following close involvement with many organisations during the project phase to explore a range of use cases, we are delighted that the following organisations have already confirmed their support by signing up as early adopters, launching customers or founding partners starting 1 January 2021:

  • Publishers: AboutScience, American Physiological Society, Berghahn Books, EDP SCiences, eLife, Hindawi, John Benjamins Publishing Company, JMIR Publications, MDPI, Microbiology Society, PLOS, and The Royal Society

  • Institutions/consortia: BNL National Library of Luxembourg, California Digital Library, CERN, Iowa State, Jisc, Max Planck Digital Library, and VSNU/UKB

  • Funders: Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dutch Research Council (NWO), FNR Luxembourg National Research Fund, UKRI and Wellcome Trust

  • Launching sponsor: Aries systems

 

24. Who can get an account in the OA Switchboard?

Funders, institutions and publishers with a contract.

 

25. Do I have to be an OASPA member to become a customer of the OA Switchboard?

No. However, a screening (led by OASPA), to ensure we preserve the integrity of scholarship, will be part of the process.

The screening process involves elements of the OASPA membership application process, however if a publisher does not yet meet all of the OASPA criteria it will not necessarily mean exclusion from becoming an OA Switchboard customer and obtaining an account. Reasons for failing the screening for the OA Switchboard could be related to concerns about editorial process, and publishing ethics or behaviour. Ultimately, it is an OASPA decision, and the reasons in case of rejection will be clearly communicated to the party concerned only.

 

26. Why do I need to sign a contract to get an account?

To secure privacy and security. See questions above.

 

27. What does it cost?

There is an annual fixed (tiered) subscription fee, plus a transactional fee (per article - regardless the number of messages sent per article). Contracts are from January-December only (though, first time start can be any time), and invoicing takes place in January of the year concerned.

Tech support is provided for free, for those integrating with the OA Switchboard API in the standard message structure.

2021 LIST PRICES (excl. VAT)

PUBLISHERS

  • Very small: EUR 50 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Small: EUR 1,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Medium: EUR 2,500 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Large: EUR 5,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Very large: EUR 10,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

Size of publisher is determined by total annual publishing revenue (Small = below  €500,000;  Medium = between €500,000 and €5,000,000;  Large = between €5,000,000 and €100,000,000; Very large = above €100,000,000).

INSTITUTIONS

  • Small: EUR 500 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Medium: EUR 1,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Large: EUR 2,500 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Very large: EUR 10,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

Size of institution is determined by total research output (Very large = above 5% of global research output).

CONSORTIA/COUNTRY DEALS

Pricing for institutional consortia and/or all institutions in one country is based on research output (number of OA articles published per annum), as a percentage of global research output.

FUNDERS*

  • Small: EUR 1,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Medium: EUR 2,500 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Large: EUR 5,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

  • Very large: EUR 10,000 (fixed subscription fee) plus EUR 1 per article (transactional fee)

Size of funder is determined by total research output (Very large = above 5% of global research output).

* This will only be relevant for those funders who want to have an account in the OA Switchboard


Note: We appreciate that our stakeholders may encounter additional internal cost (e.g. new data fields in author/researcher-facing and internal systems, and/or system integration with the OA Switchboard). In the 2020 pilot, various low-cost options for realising automation and API integration have been identified.

 
20201102_5Nov%20OASPA%20webinar_edited.jpg

28. How is sustainability ensured?

For 2021 and beyond we are building everything in accordance with our core principles, and operating with a governance structure and funding model that will ensure sustainability and preserve the goals of the OA Switchboard into the future:


  • Neutrality and independence are preserved (separation of control and economic interest, no shareholders)

  • We operate a lightweight not-for-profit collaboration between funders, institutions and publishers, whereby the entity is ‘collectively controlled’ and the cost structure is transparent

  • Industry-wide representation and collaboration in developing open source solutions and services

  • We operate on a self-sustaining economic/business model, whereby the operational and development cost are supported by service fees (with transparent pricing) for participating funders, institutions and funders.

  • We support all OA business models, policies and types of scholarly output (provided they preserve the integrity of scholarship)

  • We are an intermediary, and observe the researcher (author) proposition and interaction of funders, institutions and publishers