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Towards a global knowledge commons


New COAR members from Costa Rica and El Salvador

COAR is pleased to welcome two new members from Latin America: CONARE, the National Council of Rectors in Costa Rica and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, MINEDUCYT, from El Salvador. This strengthens and expands the Latin American presence in COAR, reflecting the strong support for repositories in that region and is an endorsement of the overall COAR vision of a distributed, global knowledge commons.

Latin America has been a leader in many aspects of open access (OA), recognizing that the widespread sharing of the results of research will contribute to the social, educational, and economic objectives of their countries. Several countries in the region have open access laws and there have been significant investments in national and regional infrastructures to support OA.

CONARE, which is made up of the five public universities of Costa Rica, is responsible for generating about 80% of the country’s intellectual production and is seeking to optimize repository operations in the country. El Salvador, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has been working over the last several years to make their academic production more visible through local journals, open access repositories as well as the development of national regulations. Both organizations, which are also members of LA Referencia, view repositories as essential infrastructure to support open access and open science.

As the international community grapples with the best way forward for open access, it is critical to ensure that the perspectives of countries outside the global north are included in this future. COAR provides a mechanism for organizations in Latin America and elsewhere to contribute their perspectives to international discussions, collaborate with other regions, and ensure global alignment and adoption of best practices.

Read the full announcement in Spanish here.

Report from the African LIBSENSE 3 Workshop

On April 24-26, 2019 the 3rd LIBSENSE workshop took place in Tunis, Tunisia. The workshop was organized by ASREN (Arabic States Research and Education Network), in conjunction with WACREN, COAR and EIFL.

The LIBSENSE initiative is a collaboration between the three African Regional Research and Education Networks (RRENs) and the AfricaConnect2 project. It aims to build a community of practice for repositories in Africa and define a collaborative agenda for libraries and RENs in Africa related open science, repositories and value-added services. COAR, EIFL, and OpenAIRE have also been providing support and expertise to the LIBSENSE project.

The workshop in Tunisia was attended by representatives from the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) and library/university communities from several Arab countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia, with other participants from Nigeria and Senegal. As with the previous two workshops, the aim was to identify opportunities and activities to collaborate across the two communities to support open science in the region.

This highly interactive workshop provided an opportunity for participants to discuss their challenges related to open access and share solutions being applied locally. The ASREN countries are very diverse and there is no universal solution for all countries in the region, however, several valuable shared priorities surfaced during the workshop:

  1. A federated discovery system for the region: A significant amount of research and educational content is produced in the region, but the content is scattered across many systems and countries. A federated discovery system, similar to LA Referencia in Latin America, would bridge access across repositories and other content providers from the region enabling a one-stop search interface. While there are already several national portals and discovery systems, the region would benefit from federating across countries, given the common language and geographic location of the countries. To support this, content needs to be exposed in a common way, leading to greater alignment and harmonization of standards, technologies and policies at the local level, and ensuring best practices are applied to the organizations that wish to share their content through the portal.
  2. Increasing the value of Arabic content: Related to the issue above, participants discussed collective strategies to add value to the Arabic language content produced in the region. Improving the visibility and discoverability of Arabic language will require the adoption of standards and best practices by data providers including clear copyright statements, the proper use of DOIs, metadata in English to support discovery, quality control for digitized materials, and so on. ASREN could act as a mechanism for institutions in the region to work together to support the identification and sharing of best practices and even possibly a collective approach to shared curation of metadata and content.
  3. Shared content hosting platform: Not every institution has the resources and expertise to manage its own repository. At the national level NRENs, or other national institutions can offer repository hosting services to fill in the gaps and ensure that all valuable content produced in the region is made openly available and preserved for the long term. These types of hosting services could also be extended beyond literature repositories to include data repositories and journal platforms, and help advance innovation in scholarly communication by supporting, for example, launching overlay journals on top of the regional content. This would allow cost sharing across institutions, leading significantly lower costs for participating in open science activities.
  4. Advocacy, training, and communities of practice: A cluster of activities related to the social/cultural aspects of open access and open science can also be supported through collaborative activities. As with many regions, the traditional paradigms related to promotion and prestige of the researcher are strong in these countries, leading researchers to prefer publishing in traditional, established publishing venues. The narrative that incorrectly equates open access with low-quality journals acts as a strong disincentive for researchers to publish in open access and these misunderstandings need to be addressed through advocacy with researchers and administrators. In addition, regional collaboration provides an opportunity to support communities of practice, beyond just “one-off” training events for a variety of activities such as federated identity management for libraries, open source software management (DSpace and OJS), as well as sharing and adopting good practices and standards across a range of other services.

The workshop programme and presentations are available here, and the workshop photo gallery here

The next step for LIBSENSE project will be for countries and regions to develop more concrete plans for addressing and advancing the priorities areas identified through the workshops.

If you are interested in participating in these activities, please get in touch with the LIBSENSE program managers by email to libsense@ren.africa

Revised Plan S and Repositories

cOAlition S has published a revised Plan S Principles and Implementation Guidelines.

cOAlition S is a group of (mainly European) public and private charity research funders who want to accelerate the transition to open access through the adoption of a common strategy, called Plan S, that will require full and immediate Open Access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from the research they fund.

The details of the plan have changed quite a bit in response to a large volume of feedback from the community (including COAR’s input on December 13, 2018 and February 6, 2019). In particular, the start date for Plan S compliance has been moved to January 1, 2021, and several of the compliance requirements for both journals and repositories have been reduced.

COAR is pleased to see that repositories are included in Plan S as equal and legitimate mechanisms for compliance. Furthermore, as was suggested by COAR and others, the implementation requirements for compliant repositories are now much less onerous than in the original draft, and should be fairly manageable for repositories to implement. The requirements mainly focus on the inclusion of appropriate metadata for articles: Persistent identifier, machine-readable licenses, access status, and funder information. Those repositories that have already adopted the OpenAIRE guidelines, or another regional variation, are already close to being Plan S compliant.

We wanted to highlight a couple of other things for you, related to the role of repositories:

  • No embargoes: Publications resulting from research funded by cOAlition S members’ grants under calls published as of 1 January 2021 (or earlier at individual members’ choice), must be published in Open Access venues (journals or platforms) or made openly and immediately available in an Open Access repository (the final published version or the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM)
  • Open licenses: All publications must be published under an open and machine readable license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY)

In addition, other mandatory criteria for repositories are as follows:

  • Registration with OpenDOAR Directory (or in the process of being registered)
  • Use of persistent identifiers for the deposited versions of the publications (DOI -preferable, URN, or Handle)
  • Non-proprietary metadata under a CC0 public domain dedication, which include PIDs, the Open Access status, and the license of the deposited version, and funder information (funder name/ID and grant/project number)
  • Machine readable information on the Open Access status and the license embedded in the article, in standard non-proprietary format.
  • Continuous availability of compliant repositories.
  • Email address for contacting the repository (or more robust help desk functionalities)

There are also several “strongly recommended additional criteria”.

COAR is committed to helping our members and the repository community ensure repositories can adhere with Plan S, and we will be working with other partners, including the open source repository systems, to support compliance.

In addition, we will be reviewing the Plan S requirements in more detail and keep you informed about any other issues of relevance for our community.

WACREN & COAR Partnership Announcement

COAR and WACREN are pleased to announce a new collaboration agreement to advance open access and open science in Africa.

Greater access to the results of research will contribute to improving the visibility and value of research outcomes. However, Africa is a large and very diverse continent and for open science to be adopted widely, services must reflect the variety of national and local priorities and needs in the region.

Through this agreement, COAR and WACREN have committed to working together to strengthen local, national and regional capacity and services for open science and open access. The agreement builds on the previous year’s work of the LIBSENSE project. This project, led by WACREN, with support from EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) and COAR, convened the high-speed networks (NRENs) and library communities in Africa in a series of workshops that helped to identify collaborative activities related to open science.

“African countries need to determine their own paths towards sustainable open access and open science”, says Boubakar Barry, Chief Executive Officer, WACREN, “We appreciate the expertise and input from COAR as we define our ‘made in Africa’ solutions”.

This agreement will see WACREN and COAR continue to collaborate through the LIBSENSE Initiative. COAR will contribute knowledge about global trends and technologies, provide expertise related to repositories and other open science services, and ensure WACREN is engaged at the international level. WACREN will provide its African perspectives to the international discussions convened by COAR.

“I very much look forward to building on the already productive relationship with WACREN”, says Kathleen Shearer, COAR Executive Director, “and to contributing to a strong African presence as open science progresses around the world.”

For more information, please contact Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director, COAR and Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer, WACREN

COAR (Confederation of Open Access Repositories) is an international association with over 140 members and partners from around the world representing libraries, universities, research institutions, government funders and others. COAR brings together the repository community and major repository networks in order to build capacity, align policies and practices, and act as a global voice for the repository community.

WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network) is a non-profit organisation registered in Ghana, with a mission to build and operate world-class network infrastructure, develop state of the art services, promote collaboration among national, regional, international research and education communities and build the capacity of the REN community.

Report from the COAR Annual Meeting 2019

The 10th COAR Annual Meeting took place last week in Lyon, France. This was the most well-attended COAR meeting to date, with about 110 participants from over 40 countries. The meeting was an opportunity to take stock of progress related to several of COAR’s major strategic objectives including aligning repository networks, next generation repositories and interoperability between repositories and publishing services.

There were several pre-meeting workshops, including a technical meeting at which repository networks and aggregators shared techniques and technologies. While different aggregator services have different users and varying objectives and scopes (e.g. some are regional and national, while others are international), they tend to use common technologies and methods. The workshop enabled networks to share their challenges and solutions with each other. Because the quality of these services is built on metadata, the quality of metadata remains an issue. A workshop specifically focussing on metadata discussed how we can achieve the balance of interoperability related to metadata, while still supporting the needs of different communities, and yet another workshop explored strategies for increasing researcher engagement with local services.

Collaboration across networks is critical for building the global knowledge commons, and there was a session exploring the evolving relationships between regional networks (Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea and Latin America). It is clear that successful collaborations, which include technology transfer, sharing expertise and data exchange, require a certain level of trust, and that personalities are important for forging close ties across different languages and cultures.

There was a session addressing how to bridge domain and institutional communities. Domain repositories talk of a major challenge related to funding their services, while institutional repositories speak to the challenge of researcher engagement. Can we forge models that bring together the strengths of each community to address these issues and develop sustainable services that are well used by the research community?

There was also a session focusing on the use case of layering peer review on top of repositories. This use case is extremely important from COAR’s perspective, as it has the potential to significantly change the role of repositories and disrupt the current traditional publishing paradigm. Several demonstration projects were presented, including an overlay journal at Queens University, the Episciences initiative in France, and a new project being launched at the University of Amsterdam, called University Journals. The PubFAIR conceptual model, which grew out of the COAR next generation repository work, offering various dissemination channels (think spotify) on top of participating repositories was also described.

The General Assembly provided an overview of COAR’s work in the previous year, and some new strategic opportunities for 2019-2020. COAR members were also invited at the meeting to contribute their opinions to several draft logos developed by a design company. This input was very valuable as COAR is refreshing its website and branding in the summer of 2019.

There was an interactive session about research data management and the FAIR principles. The aim was to discuss the relevance of these principles for repositories. Given the strong promotional efforts related to FAIR, it was not surprising that most audience members had heard of the FAIR principles. Indeed, for our community, FAIR is just a new term for something many repositories have already been working on for years: improving the quality and comprehensiveness of metadata. The session also explored the relationship between NGR, which focuses on technologies and FAIR, which focuses on metadata. COAR will provide more information about this to members soon.

There were presentations illustrating several projects in different regions that have adopted the COAR next generation repository protocols and technologies and it was good to see that there are real cases we can point to that have implemented the COAR recommendations. Additionally, the preliminary results of an international survey on open access services undertaken by OCLC were presented, along with work to support repositories in adopting ORCID IDs.

The conference was book-ended by two inspiring speakers: John Willinsky, from the Public Knowledge Project, who talked about what we really mean by open infrastructure? He presented 5 principles of open infrastructure, which align very well with COAR’s approach to building the knowledge commons: open, interoperable, community-based, sustainable, and smart. The closing keynote, delivered by Marin Dacos, Frances Open Science Advisor, ended the meeting on an optimistic note, by pointing out the need for “bibliodiversity” and underscopring that there is no “one size fits all” solution for open access. Repositories should and will continue to play an important role in the ecosystem.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we had a special cake at the gala dinner along with some nice words from Paolo Budroni from University of Vienna characterizing COAR as a global “family”. COAR was launched in 2009 with a membership of 28 organizations and has come a long way since then, growing by 500% and consolidating its place as an important strategic organization.

Big thanks again to our sponsors, University of Alberta Libraries and SPARC, the local hosts from CCSD and Carla Marques and Ilkay Holt from COAR who made sure everything ran smoothly.

And last but not least, it was announced that the next COAR Annual Meeting will take place on April 22-24, 2020 in Lima, Peru. I really hope to see you there.

COAR Repository Toolkit

COAR Repository Toolkit is now updated with new resources. We invite you to visit the Toolkit to access the best practices and educational resources including websites, guides, videos, infographics and others.

The Repository Toolkit was launched in the fall of 2018. The aim is to provide repository managers with best practices and educational resources to support interoperability, discoverability and the development of value added services. The toolkit provides access to resources related to the role of repositories, discovery and interoperability, next generation repositories, and contains links to the technical information for implementing and managing repository platforms.

Wherever possible, we have made an effort to include resources in languages other than English. Please contact us at office[at]coar-repositories.org with any valuable resources which are not yet included here. You can also contribute to the toolkit by commenting through hypothesis or on the GitHub repository by creating an issue.

Africa Libsense workshop – building library/NREN collaborations for open science

On March 11-12, 2019, COAR also participated in the second Libsense workshop organized by WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network). The program was developed by WACREN, EIFL and COAR, with support from OpenAIRE and the National Institutes for Informatics (NII) in Japan.

The LIBSENSE initiative aims to nurture and develop collaborations between Libraries and Research and Education Networks (RENs) in Africa to support open science activities. The idea is that the sustainability and effectiveness of open science services in African countries, such as repositories, can be improved if stakeholders can adopt a shared approach.

This second workshop focused on finalizing and endorsing a template Terms of Reference (ToRs) for collaborative activities between library or library associations with national or regional RENs, which outlines four areas: social change, infrastructure, capacity building, and value added services. Participants in the workshop, who mainly came from west and central african countries, broke out into national groups and discussed how the terms of reference could be implemented in each of their countries, and identified their local priorities.

One concrete outcome that has already resulted from this initiative is the intention of WACREN to develop a shared hosting service for repositories in that region. This service is modeled on the approach of NII in Japan that is currently hosting over 700 university repositories. Other shared activities that were prioritized by the participants were: capacity building and training, policy templates and development, and repository harvesting and discovery, and amplifying success stories. In addition, adoption of a harvester to provide a discovery service for African research outputs, a shared publication platform, and looking at the models for next generation repositories that might be appropriate in the African context.

Thanks to Omo Oaiya and Dr Boubakar Barry from WACREN, Iryna Kuchma from EIFL, and our local Ghanaian hosts, especially Peter Kaba Adaliwe. The next workshop will take place in April in Tunis, Tunisia in conjunction with the ASREN Conference (Arab States Education and Research Network).

Asia OA 2019 Meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh

On March 6-7, 2019, we had the COAR Asia 2019 meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The meeting was hosted by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and was well attended by government representatives, national open access advocates, local researchers and librarians, as well as several members of the Bangladesh parliament. The event was covered by the local media – in the national newspaper and on broadcast on national television.

As in previous years, the meeting was an opportunity to focus on open access activities in the Asian region and exchange information about strategies, infrastructure and policies, as well as provide the community with an update about COAR’s next generation repositories and aligning repository networks work.

Agricultural research is a key priority and strength for Bangladesh, and open access to the results of this research is important as it can support the development of new services and innovations and have direct benefits for the local farmers.

The challenges faced in Bangladesh to implementing widespread open access are familiar to many of us: lack of incentives and awareness by the research community, insufficient resources to support “pay to publish” models, and gaps in expertise and staffing. However, to address this, the Bangladesh community has already begun working together to develop shared strategies and resources across the major research institutions.

Participants discussed the unique opportunities in the country that could be leveraged to move things forward, in particular the strong push by the federal government for “Digital Bangladesh”, a strategy to modernize and provide digital and open access to government services, data and information. At this meeting, we were able to articulate how open science fits into the broader concept of open government, and discuss how Bangladesh can both support local priorities, while still participating in international research activities.

Big thanks to Dr. Susmita Das, Dr. M. Baktear, and all the colleagues at BARC for co-organizing and hosting this event.

COAR Updated Feedback on the Guidance on Implementation of Plan S

February 6, 2019 – This is a slightly updated version of the COAR initial feedback published on December 13, 2018.

The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) reiterates our strong support for the goal of Plan S to achieve “immediate Open Access to all scholarly publications from research” and we appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on the guidance on the implementation of the Plan.

COAR is an international association with members from over 140 organizations on 5 continents. COAR promotes global interoperability of repositories, helps to build capacity across regions, and offers an international perspective related to repositories, open access and open science with the aim of creating a global ecosystem for research dissemination.

General comments

COAR agrees with many of implementation guidelines outlined in Plan S, but has some concerns that the technical requirements are too high and will result in only large, well-funded publishers and repositories to become compliant. The unintended consequence is that Plan S would further entrench the position and control of a small number of players in the scholarly communication system, hampering innovation and our ability to control costs.

10. Deposition of Scholarly Content in Open Access Repositories

We recognize and agree with the aim of transforming the publishing industry, however to truly improve and transform the system there needs to be a multipronged approach, with a number of actions undertaken concurrently.

Repositories are important mechanisms for advancing innovation in research communications, as detailed in the COAR Next Generation Repositories report, and should be considered on equal footing in terms of their role in providing open access, while also recognized for their contribution towards a more sustainable system that can support management and access to a variety of research outputs.

To avoid further enclosure by a small number of large publishers and the negative consequences that would come with this (cost inflation, misaligned incentives, and publication barriers), we recommend that Plan S actively foster and explicitly acknowledge the importance of a diversity of publication models and non-APC based service, such as the vision outlined in the COAR next generation repository work. This model offers a sustainable alternative to traditional publishing by building peer review layers on top of the global repository network, distributing the services and costs across institutions.

Specific comments related to implementation guidance

10.2 Requirements for Plan S compliant Open Access repositories:

COAR and others in the repository community have concerns related to several of the requirements for repositories, a number of which we argue are not necessary and will create artificial barriers to the participation of universities and other research organizations in the scholarly communication system.

While some of these recommendations may be ‘nice to have’, they are not prerequisites for robust and interoperable repository services. Instead they could result in driving repository functionality in the wrong direction, create too high of a bar for less resourced institutions, and further centralize research infrastructures and services because they cannot be adopted, leading to a replication of the existing inequalities in the scholarly communication system.

We urge authors of Plan S to remove or reword some of the requirements, and move others into a “Recommended additional criteria” section, and establish a transition period for repositories to become compliant with some of the requirements.

Below you will find COAR’s detailed feedback related to the “Requirements for Plan S compliant Open Access repositories”. These recommendations are based on widespread expertise of the COAR community and input from the COAR Next Generation Repositories Editorial Group, representing some of the foremost experts in repository technologies. The technical recommendations are based on a 1.5 year in-depth examination of the future behaviours and functionalities required for repositories undertaken by COAR and the Next Generation Repositories Working Group. We would be happy to explain these comments further and would be pleased to work with cOAlition S to finalize the recommendations. This will ensure that the implementation of Plan S for repositories is achievable and supports our common goal of accelerating open access.

Automated manuscript ingest facility

Apart from the SWORD protocol and a few regional router services, very few repositories currently have an automated ingest process for manuscripts. Indeed, most repositories employ a human-mediated deposit approach which involves librarians and/or repository managers recruiting and depositing content into the repository on behalf of researchers. This approach ensures there is some quality control of metadata and that the appropriate version of the article is being deposited. We do not believe that an automated manuscript ingest functionality is needed for repositories to comply with the intent of Plan S, which is to provide immediate access to the Author’s Accepted Manuscript. Furthermore, there are numerous different ways which “automated ingest” could be interpreted and implemented by different repositories. Unless there is a common, standardized mechanism required by all repositories, this requirement will not be effective in aiding with automated population of repositories. With further explanation and specificity, this functionality could be included in a “recommended additional criteria” section.

Full text stored in XML in JATS standard (or equivalent)

The adoption of XML is extremely resource intensive. While we agree that full text articles need to be available for TDM, this does not equate to full text needing to be pre-processed through XML-JATS. This requirement supposes that text mining is part of the repository system, but the  preferred approach to TDM for repository content is that external services aggregate and convert resources into text-minable format. It is sufficient to require that the content in repositories are available/open for automated discovery of full text (e.g. pdf or word). To that end, Plan S should recommend the Signposting protocol as the standard convention for making full text easily discoverable and retrievable by external services and processes.

Quality assured metadata in standard interoperable format, including information on the DOI of the original publication, on the version deposited (AAM/VoR), on the open access status and the license of the deposited version.

We agree with this requirement and have nothing to add.

Open API to allow others (including machines) to access the content

We agree that repositories should have an open API, however with hundreds of different open APIs, it is important to specify which APIs should be adopted in order to ensure machine interoperability and that service providers can develop cross-repository services. Plan S should recommend and eventually require, after a transition period, the adoption of Resource Sync as an API. ResourceSync is a modern successor to OAI-PMH. It is a specification based on Sitemaps that can be used by repository managers to provide information that allows third-party systems to remain in sync with the resources in their repository as they evolve, i.e. are created, updated, deleted. ResourceSync has been found to improve aggregation services, is scalable and is being adopted by service providers.

QA process to integrate full text with core abstract and indexing services

Many repositories are already connected and indexed through regional, international or national harvesting services (e.g. OpenAIRE, BASE, CORE, LA Referencia, etc.) We recommend that the requirement that repositories integrate into abstract and indexing services be replaced by a requirement that repositories be harvested by a national, regional or international aggregator.

Continuous availability

We agree with this requirement and have nothing to add.

Helpdesk

The aim of this requirement is to ensure that the repository service is contactable and will respond to issues or queries from users. However, this seems unnecessarily onerous for the repositories. Many complex websites and services do not have helpdesks. We recommend that instead of a helpdesk, Plan S require a mechanism for users to get help or support for using the repository, which could be as simple as an email address or a simple online form. This is in line with existing practice for mainstream web services.

We would be pleased to provide further explanation, and happy to work with cOAlition S members to ensure Plan S can be successfully implemented. For more information, please contact Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director: kathleen.shearer@coar-repositories.org

Download a pdf version of the response.

 

Good Practice Principles for Scholarly Communication Services

January 29, 2019 – Science and scholarship are critical to improving our lives and solving the world’s most intractable problems. The communication of research, a vital step in the research process, should be efficient, effective and fulfill the core values of scholarship. There is growing concern about the increasing concentration of control of research communication functions in the hands of a small number of players, whose objectives do not reflect the interests of scholarship.

In September 2017, COAR and SPARC published a joint statement related to this issue and pledged to collaborate with others on actions that will ensure research communication services are better aligned with the aims of research. Accordingly, COAR and SPARC have developed seven good practice principles for scholarly communication services. The aim is to ensure that services are transparent, open, and support the aims of scholarship.

Principles are also available on our Building a Sustainable Knowledge Commons webpage.

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