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Making OA Monographs Discoverable – Response to the COPIM Report

Given that it was Open Access Week last week, I’m a little late to the party. But what I did do last week, was participate in a panel organised by EBSCO that explored Open Reliable Access to Trustworthy OA Resources. Some of the points made in that panel on OA monograph discovery will resurface in this post; but more specifically I’d like to flag up and respond to some recent work done by the COPIM project.

If you haven’t seen it already, colleagues working on COPIM have published a very useful and insightful report entitled ‘Building an Open Dissemination System‘. It looks quite daunting at 70 pages but in fact the recommendations (all 61 of them!) are delivered by page 40 so it’s more digestible than it seems at first glance. One of the central points of the report is that it is difficult for OA publishers to productively engage with existing print and ebook distribution channels and this has the effect of making OA scholarship less visible, not only to researchers and learners but also to librarians, whose job it is to facilitate discovery and to promote a diversity of published output.

One key area of difficulty for OA publishers is how to create and disseminate effective descriptive metadata for their publications. The report sets out a number of ways that this can be problematic:

      • there are multiple formats in use across the publishing ecosystem
      • multiple submissions are required for different dissemination channels
      • there is a lack of consistency or consensus around what a ‘good’ all-purpose bibliographic record should consist of
      • book retail systems have difficulty coping with zero pricing for OA materials
      • library staff are very time and resource-constrained and often rely on a limited number of established sources for acquisition

So, for all these reasons (and a number of other areas not related specifically to metadata) it is clear that there is a lot of work still to be done to get traction and visibility for OA books. Focusing momentarily on what steps the Jisc Library Hub team has already taken to try and support this area, Library Hub Discover is ingesting the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) as a data source; and we have tweaked the display of search results to ensure that OA resources are clearly flagged and appear prominently in the listings. We are aware, however, that there is more to do.

The second recommendation in the report talks about, “developing a set of formal links with OPERAS and NBK/Library Hub in order for a two-way exchange of information and metadata.” OPERAS is an EU Horizon 2020 funded initiative to support European research infrastructures for the social sciences and humanities and we are happy to adopt that recommendation and work with colleagues across Europe to further develop joined-up infrastructure that promotes open scholarly communication.

One area of the report which the NBK/Library Hub team are looking at through a slightly different lens to colleagues on the COPIM project is the topic of metadata licensing. The report states:
“Openness and transparency regarding metadata licences was something that it was thought COPIM should look at in order to break the system of reselling metadata.” (p.25)

In the course of conversations we have had in relation to what has been referred to as ‘Plan M‘, we have had to steer a careful path between those in the library community who might happily endorse calls to “break the system of reselling metadata”; and others who will vocally acknowledge their reliance on commercially acquired metadata because they are not resourced to create it all themselves. So whilst Jisc is looking to engage constructively with data creators and infrastructure providers to acknowledge where they are adding value and compensate them for it; COPIM is calling for a focus on licensing metadata as CC0. To reconcile these two positions, it is important to factor in scale. A search (in Library Hub Discover) for all items listed by the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) returns 27,810 items. The current total number of deduplicated records in the system is 46,130,230. Whilst that is not indicative of the proportions of books being published right now that are – or aren’t – OA, it does highlight the validity of taking different approaches to creating and acquiring metadata at different scales.

Where our perspectives converge is the call in the report for there to be a closer focus on the part of the library data supply chain to look carefully at what may be getting lost in terms of data workflows (see p.17). Anecdotal evidence suggests that OA (and commercial) publishers are creating high quality metadata to accompany their publications but by the time it appears in library discovery systems, the quality has significantly degraded. So there’s an issue we can surely all get behind. Wherever someone is going to some trouble to create accurate and detailed metadata, the last thing we want to do is lose that valuable effort!

Anyway … thanks to colleagues on the COPIM project (particularly Graham Stone) for sharing the report and for engaging with us on these issues. The NBK/Library Hub team will continue to work with stakeholders and actively look at ways to enhance the visibility and impact of OA books.

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By Neil Grindley

Director of Content & Discovery Services at Jisc. With oversight of Jisc's library and archival discovery services and content solutions for HE and FE.

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