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Towards a global knowledge commons


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.

COAR’s response to draft implementation requirements in Plan S

The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) reiterates our 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.

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. We would like to stress the importance of repositories as complementary mechanisms for advancing innovation in research communications, as outlined in the COAR Next Generation Repositories report and ensure that their role is adequately reflected in Plan S.

In general, COAR supports the implementation guidelines outlined in Plan S and therefore we will focus our comments on the requirements for repositories. COAR and others in the repository community have significant 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.

The full response is available here: COAR response to implementation of Plan S

Engaging the research community with repository services

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a repository is to raise the visibility of repository services in order to ensure researchers are contributing their research outputs. In our recent survey of COAR members, “engaging with the research community” was rated as the top major challenge for respondents.

To address this issue, COAR will be undertaking a number of activities to document effective practices for repository services in engaging with the research communities. As a start, COAR organized a webinar yesterday with three presenters who shared their different experiences.

Here is a summary of my major takeaways from the presentations:

There are no easy answers, but a multidimensional approach, working on several levels, is most effective including some or all of the following:

  • Adopt institutional requirements or policies (e.g. For research assessment, you articles must be in the repository)
  • Provide incentives for researchers (e.g. If you deposit, you can then have access to the APC fund)
  • Include the repository in a suite of other services that are offered to researchers (e.g. We can help you with publishing, or with managing your data)
  • Develop promotional material targeted at the research community
  • Create more user friendly tools and interfaces (e.g. Improve the deposit interface)

And, perhaps most important:

  • Nurture strong relationships with researchers and research departments at the institution

The video of the presentations is available on YouTube

Thanks to our three presenters:

  • Isabel Bernal, Spanish National Research Council | DIGITAL.CSIC: Services to Engage institutional Users.
  • Tuija Korhonen, Helsinki University Library | Data Support Services at the University of Helsinki
  • Edit Görögh, University of Debrecen & University of Göttingen | Researcher Engagement at the University of Debrecen

Results of COAR membership survey

In July/August 2018, COAR conducted a survey to better understand the value of the organization and identify priority activities for members in the coming years. This report provides the results of the survey, which will be shared with members and considered carefully by COAR as we revise and update the COAR Strategic Plan 2019-2021 and Work Plan 2019.

Map of respondents: the survey had 59 respondents from 23 countries
(respondents location shown in light green in the map above)

Key Takeaways

  • The three biggest challenges related to repositories are (1) user engagement and getting content deposited, (2) awareness and visibility of repository, and (3) research data management.
  • Members most value COAR for (1) staying up to date with current practices for repositories and (2) strengthening the role of repositories in the scholarly communication/research landscape.
  • Top three COAR activities are (1) next generation repositories, (2) research data management, and (3) interoperability and alignment.
  • 66% of respondents are not involved directly in any COAR activities/working groups.
  • 68% of respondents are satisfied with their levels of interaction with COAR, while 27% would like to be more involved.
  • Members want COAR to continue working at the strategic level, but would also like to have more engagement and pragmatic support for repository operations.
  • Members appreciate and derive significant value from COAR’s regional outreach efforts.

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