OpenAIRE alternative funding for non-author fee publishing platforms: SciPost

*guest post by Jean-Sébastien Caux*
The aim of this blog post is to provide a very short summary of what we have been able to achieve using the support that OpenAIRE has given us as part of its Second call for Proposals for Alternative Funding Mechanisms for non-Author Fee based Open Access Publishing, which we used in the period January-June 2018. SciPost is extremely grateful to have been able to benefit from this extra support.

To put things in perspective, it’s useful to start with a few reminders of what SciPost is, and what it aims to achieve. SciPost is a complete publication portal conceived, implemented and run by professional scientists. It follows the Genuine Open Access principles (see https://scipost.org/about), summarized as community ownership, open infrastructure, copyright to authors, open access, open citations, fee free, non profit, open finances and academic editing. SciPost’s main ambition is to reclaim scientific publishing for science and scientists. SciPost’s initial implementation phase focuses on the general field of Physics (see the note below concerning expansion to other fields).
SciPost is about to celebrate its second anniversary of publishing (the first paper came out in September 2016). Since then, we have published 128 papers in two journals. Our flagship journal SciPost Physics is rapidly becoming a recognized top-quality venue in the field, is listed in standard metrics engines, and has received the Seal of the Directory of Open Access Journals. We have been extremely successful at attracting top-quality submissions from internationally-acclaimed authors. Some of the papers we published are already extremely well cited despite the fact that our initiative is so recent.
Our OpenAIRE grant was focused on four activities:
– Activity 1: Consolidation of the SciPost Supporting Partners Board
– Activity 2: Consolidation of the SciPost Editorial College (Physics)
– Activity 3: Promotion of SciPost among active scientists
– Activity 4: Groundwork for expansion into areas beyond Physics.
The grant enabled us, among other things, to assemble a competent team of officers to assist SciPost’s core team in implementing these.
As part of our activities, in the second half of May we launched our Expansion and Sustainability Drive 2018 (https://scipost.org/ExpSustDrive2018). The pillars of this effort are directly related to Activites 1, 2 and 3 above. To accompany this drive, we have produced a short introduction video to explain the main aspects of SciPost to the relevant audience.

We have also initiated a petition for scientists to sign (https://scipost.org/petitions/join-SPB) and given our contributors email templates to forward to their institutions and funding agencies, to encourage them to become SciPost Supporting Partners. It is our experience that nothing is more efficient at convincing an institution to support us than to have its scientists explicitly campaign for it.
As part of Activity 1, we also improved and expanded our online facilities to handle our Supporting Partners Board. These facilities now include various necessary administrative layers, together with a whole subsection enabling us to identify and approach Prospective Partners, namely institutions which are potentially willing to support our activities. At this time, we have around 350 such potential partners listed in our database, including contact details of relevant persons, and have made a strong headway in contacting these promising leads. During the implementation of the OpenAIRE grant, the number of Partners we have managed to sign has increased from 6 to 16, and we are currently actively negotiating with a dozen more. This number is admittedly increasing much more slowly than we would wish, and this remains the single biggest limiting factor in our growth rate. We hope that institutions and funding agencies will better learn to recognize the value that our activities bring, and be more forthcoming with their support; to help with this, we have also implemented a funders page (https://scipost.org/funders/) which lists the funders (namely: those that are listed in the FundRef database) which have been acknowledged in SciPost publications. Clicking on a funder’s name lists all such publications. We urge all funders who are not yet supporting us to take a look!
For Activity 4, we have pushed forward with what we internally call our “grand agnostification project” of making all of SciPost’s infrastructure specialty-blind and easily extensible to fields beyond Physics. Although we essentially are already in a technical position to achieve this expansion to other areas, we are currently compelled to wait for additional support before we are able to launch such extensions in a sustainable manner.
A final comment here is inspired by the OpenAIRE call’s wording, for “Alternative Funding Mechanisms for non-Author Fee based Open Access Publishing”. We are very proud that SciPost is pushing hard for reform of questionable business practices in scientific publishing. Despite many challenges and some missed opportunities (see https://jscaux.org/blog/post/2018/04/02/ectender/ and https://jscaux.org/blog/post/2018/04/27/ECTenderInterview/), we end this OpenAIRE support period with renewed determination at fulfilling our mission to provide a cost-slashing, quality-enhancing alternative for the current publishing infrastructure. We are once again extremely grateful to OpenAIRE for having given us much-needed support in this critical growth phase we are going through, and hope that this points to a healthy future for this crucial part of the scientific activity that is publishing.

Gwen Franck

Open Access Programme Coordinator at EIFL - Electronic Information for Libraries / Open Access Project Officer at LIBER - Association of European Research Libraries

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