Helping science succeed
Helping science succeed

OSI Overview

10-year effort

OSI started in the Fall of 2014. Several full-group conferences were held in 2016 and 2017 to hear perspectives and develop recommendations. These recommendations are currently evolving into action plans on multiple fronts, including studies, spin-off projects, outreach programs, policy initiatives, partnerships and more. 

Stakeholder involvement

High-level participants from every scholarly communication stakeholder group are invited to be part of OSI. These participants have a wide variety of beliefs, expertise and experiences. Most are interested in working together to improve the scholarly communication ecosystem.

Global scope

Scholarly publishing reform is a global issue with global perspectives and impacts. Stakeholder representatives from around the world are part of this effort, with support from UNESCO and other global partners. OSI has been engaged in the global effort to create better open policies.

The Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) is a diverse, inclusive, global network of high level experts and stakeholder representatives working together in partnership with UNESCO to develop broadly accepted, comprehensive, sustainable solutions to the future of open scholarship that work for everyone everywhere.

OSI has proudly served as part of UNESCO's Network for Open Access to Scientific Information and Research (NOASIR). In this capacity, OSI has helped connect international stakeholders, support and cultivate a greater international understanding of open issues, and defend access to scientific journals in developing countries. OSI also helped UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Directorate develop a UN-wide approach to the future of open science at the ministerial level.

Expert Analysis

OSI brings together leading experts from around the world to talk about scholarly communication issues and solutions. No other group does this at such a high level and in so many different ways—from individual outreach to the OSI listserv, global conferences, workgroups, studies, and more. Our goal is to produce expert, workable solutions that can be implemented globally and in collaboration with other existing groups.

Valuable Resource

OSI monitors a wide variety of key issues and conversations in scholarly communication through the OSI listserv, and also by keeping tabs on the continuous work and insight of OSI participants and other experts in the research communication space. Drawing from this expansive and diverse pool of knowledge, OSI pulls together observations and synthesizes recommendations for UNESCO and other policy agencies on what the future of open should look like, both via written reports and in speeches. These observations and recommendations are not based in ideology, but in evidence, knowledge and experience. OSI is unique in this sense, not driving toward predetermined solutions for the future of open solutions like APCs or CC-BY, but instead taking a more neutral and scientific approach toward better understanding how we can improve the future of science communication by following the evidence and working together.

The Case for Cooperation

Working together is perhaps the single most important and unique feature of OSI. After all, who speaks for scholarly communication reform today? Is it the researchers (and if so, in what discipline or even institution)? Governments (which ones)? Universities or university libraries? Open access advocates? Publishers (new or old, big or small, subscription or open, north or south, scholarly societies or university presses)? Ask anyone from any of these groups what scholarly communication means and where it’s headed and you’ll hear plenty of ideas and opinions but no clear answers.

Indeed, if you stay in your bubble in scholarly communication you’re bound to be more misinformed than informed: You’ll believe that universal open access is just around the corner, that green repositories are on the cusp of success, that a global flip to APCs will fix all problems, that a myriad of small changes in the system are serving everyone’s needs just fine, and so on. There is no shortage of hope, which is great. But hope doesn’t make it so.

Everyone acknowledges that the promise of open has enormous potential and people are pushing from many different directions to make this happen. But the reality is that the path to rapid, widely adopted and sustainable open solutions is strewn with obstacles. Creating a truly effective and sustainable future of open scholarship will require input and cooperation from the entire global ecosystem of research and scholarly communication—scientists, university administrators, non-university research institutions, libraries and library groups, repository managers, publishers, government policymakers, funders (private and government), educational policy groups and more, and from all parts of the world.

The last 15 or so years of open access reform has raised our awareness of the open issue and the challenges it faces. But we are quite far from succeeding and no one wants to wait another 15-20 years before moving the ball another short distance down the field. The broad goals of open can be realized more quickly and effectively if all proponents of open work together—if we find common ground, embrace the big picture, collaborate and coordinate our efforts, and make it easier for institutions and governments to work together on rapid and sustainable open solutions. To this end, OSI’s approach involves not only discussing solutions that work across stakeholder groups and countries but also building a stronger foundational case for open that all stakeholders agree with and support.

Why is collaboration needed? What proof is there that collaboration will succeed, and what of criticisms that any effort like this is just co-opting or watering down existing open goals? For one, it’s clear to many people who have followed the changes happening in scholarly communication over the years that an incredible amount tension and uncertainty exists in the system. People want to know what to do and how, but they aren’t sure who to follow and why, who’s leading and who’s following, what the long-term implications of change will be for faculty and researchers (not to mention the difficulty of pushing change at a university), how much change needs to be made and how quickly, who will pay for this progress and how, and a whole slew of other critical questions that don’t have simple black and white answers or even a workable playbook for making change happen (if it was even clear what change was needed). Having a forum where these issues can be discussed across stakeholder groups is critical to making more rapid progress on this issue.

It’s also clear that no one actor can affect change in this very diverse and interconnected space. Only by working together will be able to achieve open goals. In addition, it has become increasingly clear to the OSI community that we need to work harder to ensure that what we’re doing is for the benefit of researchers first and foremost—that we involve more researchers in these conversations, listen to their concerns, and design solutions that work for their disciplines and institutions. This really isn’t being done anywhere on a global and interdisciplinary scale. A one-size-fits-all approach to open hasn’t worked over the past 15 years, and it won’t work over the next 15.

What Has OSI Decided?

What does common ground look like? Between 2014 and 2018, OSI participants identified and agreed on four main pillars:

  1. Science and society will benefit from open done right (not just any kind of open policies)
  2. Successful solutions will require broad collaboration across stakeholder groups, fields, and regions of the world
  3. Connected issues also need to be addressed in order for open solutions to work—issues like impact factors, peer review, and the culture of communication in academia, and
  4. Open isn’t a single outcome but a spectrum of outcomes (as defined in OSI’s DART spectrum).

Since 2018, OSI has delivered policy reports, conference presentations and speeches that identify three additional pillars. While OSI hasn’t voted on these three ideas, they have been open for global feedback, and the feedback we’ve received to-date has been entirely positive.

  1. Our global open policy solutions must be equitable
  2. Open should not be treated as goal unto itself, but as one tool among many that can help researchers succeed. To this end, our common ground policy foundations should be built on what we can do together to help research succeed, pulling in common elements of open ideas along the way.
  3. Our global open policies must be built on evidence rather than ideology—evidence like understanding what kinds of open solutions exist, which of these solutions work best for which purposes, which solutions researchers want and need the most, and a clear and unbiased evaluation of how our current open policy efforts are falling short and even making access and equity worse.