Today the final report of the DOAB User Needs Analysis has been released.
The report addresses user perceptions and needs with respect to:
The DOAB report is intended for the wider academic and publishing community, and advises in the establishment of procedures, criteria and standards for the DOAB platform and services and provides guidelines and recommendations for admissions to DOAB and for its sustainability and further development.
This final evaluation and recommendation report is based on the user experiences, needs, and expectations as they emerged from the data collected as part of the DOAB User Needs Analysis. This report aims to advise in the establishment of procedures, criteria and standards concerning the set-up and functioning of the DOAB platform and service and to devise guidelines and recommendations for admissions to DOAB and for its further development, sustainability and implementation.
The report gives an overview of the main aims and objectives of the user needs analysis, which are summarised in two main research questions:
What are the functional requirements, or needs, which different users have with respect to the platform, the protocols and the procedures that DOAB wants to establish?
What kind of recommendations can we extract from the users’ experiences with the beta-platform and their expectations of a future DOAB service?
The research design has been structured around defining user (librarians, academics, publishers and funders) needs, experiences and expectations with respect to the DOAB platform and system as it is currently set up, paying special attention to users perceptions and needs with respect to Open Access, Open Access books, and a directory of Open Access books; quality and peer review procedures; copyright policies; platform usability; and potential business and funding models both for Open Access books and for DOAB. This study has used a variety of qualitative data collection tools (surveys, online discussion platform and panel discussion) to capture these needs, experiences and expectations.
The findings are divided into 5 themes:
1. Perceptions concerning Open Access and Books.
The awareness of Open Access amongst the participants of our survey is high. Users are on average positive about the influence Open Access has on the values underlying scholarly communication, which is important especially because communication with one’s peers and releasing information to the wider society are seen as the most important motivations for publishing research findings amongst academics.
2. Quality and peer review.
A majority of the users declared the importance of quality control and peer review for Open Access book publishing, to ensure the quality and trustworthiness of Open Access books. Requirements and standards concerning quality control are warmly welcomed, as is more transparency about procedures used, as long as these standards remain flexible and open to a variety of quality control mechanisms, from editorial control to open peer review and post publication review.
There is a big disparity in opinions with respect to which Open Access license should be used and promoted. Nonetheless, it seems that most people are satisfied with the current requirements defined by DOAB. The availability of a wide array of open access licenses must be preferred to enable experiments with different business models and in anticipation of academic insecurities with respect to reuse. To enable experimentation and reuse of content and data and to stay open for future change, DOAB should strive to promote the use of CC-BY licenses as much as possible and should remain open for new forms of licensing.
4. Platform Usability.
DOAB seems to be on the right track with its platform. The feedback is positive and the user needs seem to concur with services that are already available in the DOAB Beta version, except for full-content search and information about the peer review procedures, which would be useful future services for DOAB to explore.
5. Business models.
Although many experiments with Open Access publishing are taking place there is a lot of concern with respect to sustainable funding from reliable, ‘non-controlling’ sources. It remains unclear who should fund Open Access books, and, related to that, who should fund a directory of Open Access books. However, there are possibilities for DOAB to attain funding from publishers, librarians or funders, as there was some willingness amongst these stakeholders to pay a fee either to take part in or to support DOAB.
Based on these findings a number of recommendations have been devised, focusing amongst others on DOAB’s role in establishing standards for peer review and licensing, standards and requirements that should both ensure trust and quality but at the same time should remain flexible and open to change. It was recommended that DOAB:
- Consult regularly with stakeholders to monitor needs and developments in these areas.
- Use a variety of Open Access licenses, although the CC-BY license should be promoted as much as possible.
- Make quality, which is seen as essential, more transparent by using for instance an icon system.
- Remain open to other forms of quality control such as open and post peer review and editorial control, where the focus should be on the outcome, not on the procedure used.
- Improve the information available on the DOAB website.
- Explore the future development of services for which a clear need was felt: full-content search and information about the peer review procedures.
- Try out asking a (voluntary) fee for its services in order to ensure its sustainability and future development.