A history of the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable

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T Scott Plutchak

Mar 12, 2022, 1:42:43 PMMar 12
to The Open Scholarship Initiative

Some of you may recall that in the early days of OSI, in particular at the 2017 conference (if I’m remembering correctly) there was some mention of the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable and how its approach of bringing people with very divergent opinions together to try to develop consensus recommendations prefigured what Glenn hoped to do with OSI. The Roundtable’s report, delivered to Congress and the White House in January 2010, had a direct and significant impact on the guidance provided by OSTP for making versions of grant supported articles publicly available.  It remains, in my highly biased opinion, a unique success in influencing US government policy in this area.  The story of the Roundtable, how it came to be, and what followed, is told in the article “Public Access Policy in the United States: Impact of the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable” (written by myself and three other members) that’s just out this week in Learned Publishing.  I think the success of the Roundtable and, more importantly, the reasons for that success, have important lessons for anyone who cares about these issues.  You can find the published version here: https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1452  If you don’t have access to the journal, I’ve uploaded the accepted manuscript to my blog and you can get to that one here: https://tscott.typepad.com/tsp/2022/03/the-scholarly-publishing-roundtable.html


T Scott Plutchak
Birmingham, Alabama

Glenn Hampson

Mar 13, 2022, 3:21:10 PMMar 13
to T Scott Plutchak, The Open Scholarship Initiative

Thanks for sharing this Scott,


Great read. Your work (and the work of other OSIers on the Roundtable) stands out as a unique success in this policy arena---a truly collaborative effort that was able to move from ideation to policy in a reasonably short period of time.


What you did for US policy, OSI has been trying to do for global policy---also with your help (for those new to the list, Scott chaired our 2018 summit meeting, where representatives from each OSI stakeholder group met in DC to map out our pathway to policy). Reading through your paper, Scott, what really strikes me is that in 2008-2012, US lawmakers and policy officials were driving the bus---they were motivated to get something done and were coordinating Roundtable meetings and soliciting the Roundtable’s advice. In the global policy arena, there is no such coordination. Plan S development was far from inclusive; UNESCO’s open science plan was heavily influenced by EU delegates; and OSI is far too under-resourced to pull any policy levers on its own without the blessing of UNESCO, its ostensible policy partner, or other government agencies.


Also complicating matters, the diversity of perspectives and interests you experienced on the national policy level are impossibly magnified at the global level. Does this mean a workable global policy is unachievable? Not at all. I think OSI’ intense work between 2015 and 2019 clearly identified a way forward, as spelled out in our several reports issued in 2020 and 2021. What’s needed now is for the global researcher community writ large to “sanity check” these plans and add sufficient detail for the plans to be actionable---more than just aspirational sentiments about how open is good and something to be strived for, but less than mandates prescribing exactly what open means for everyone and exactly how is must be achieved and by what stakeholders and mechanisms.


The catch with this approach is that, as you may have experienced in 2010, researchers themselves are a very diverse group, and also mostly disinterested in this topic, and largely unmotivated to help. They don’t want unrealistic mandates, but they also don’t want to help develop more realistic policies. Getting “enough” input from researchers has been something we’ve struggled with in OSI from the outset---not to minimize the contributions of our researcher colleagues, but just to acknowledge that as the central stakeholder group in the room, we’ve heard much less from researchers over the years than we’d prefer. Every nugget of insight has been precious (Susan Fitzpatrick, Jack Schultz, Kim Barrett, Joann Delenick, et al---thank you).


In the meantime, the clock is ticking. Rising global tensions are going to put a damper on the willingness of governments to willingly share information. But sharing information is as important as ever in addressing the existential challenges we face today with climate change, global health pandemics, energy, food security, and more.


I have been trying to get US policymakers more engaged in this effort (starting with the NAS), but their portal for engagement may end up being the Open Research Funders Group (ORFG)---NAS has already hosted several roundtables with ORFG. I respect the passion of this group but it is being led by SPARC and Arcadia---two lobbying groups whose idea of open begins and ends with the mantra that publishers are evil. The reforms being pushed by this group are aligned with Plan S, and the bulk of funders joining this group are giving it a veneer of legitimacy and respectability that, I think, is not merited by the rigor with which they have examined the open solutions landscape. So, quite opposite to the careful and thoughtful approach employed by the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable and OSI, this ORFG approach is a trojan horse---something that looks like it has broad stakeholder input and consensus but is actually just funders and lobbyists deciding between themselves what the future of open should look like.


We have an interesting future ahead as the world stumbles toward global policies for open solutions---probably every bit as contentious as what we you saw in 2008.


Thanks again for sharing your paper Scott---good hearing from you again.


Best regards,



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