The COAR Notify Initiative is developing and accelerating community adoption of a standard, interoperable, and decentralised approach to linking research outputs hosted in the distributed network of repositories with resources from external services such as overlay-journals and open peer review services. The COAR Notify Protocol, which builds on the established Linked Data Notifications and ActivityStreams2 W3C standards, is a critical component of the initiative. It defines the type of notifications that are exchanged between interacting parties and specifies the content of those messages, and therefore allows Notify-enabled repositories and services to communicate with each other seamlessly.
Since the Arcadia-funded work began in July 2022, we have made significant progress on several fronts. The initiative is currently working with 13 partners in the first phase of implementation, several of which have begun development of their systems to support the protocol. The Notify team has been assisting partners to prepare implementation plans, and is providing ongoing support for the development work. In turn, our partners are supplying scenarios for how they will use the Notify protocol, and helping to develop a stable but flexible implementation that can support a variety of use cases.
To aid with these implementations, the Notify Team is establishing a technical support environment. In particular, a GitHub repository and Slack channels have been established; and a collaborative handbook for implementers, with the aim of sharing good practices across implementing partners, is in the early stages of development. The COAR Notify Protocol Editorial Board is in the process of defining the Notify editorial process, which is important, as it will determine whether a use case fits into the scope of the Notify Initiative and will outline how decisions are made regarding bespoke scenarios.
The Notify team is also having discussions with other interested parties, including some significant preprint repositories and several of the major open source repository platforms.
We have also developed a new logo and have revamped our web presence. There are now two main web resources for the initiative: the COAR website, where you will find an overview of the project and all the latest news; and the COAR Notify Protocol webpages, which contains all the technical documentation and specifications for implementing the protocol.
The COAR Notify Initiative is emerging at exactly the right time, as it will be a critical enabler for advancing a number of important new trends in the research communications landscape, such as preprint sharing and open peer review. The ‘publish then review’ approach is gaining traction, with several recent announcements from publishers that they will only review manuscripts already published as preprints, and will focus their editorial process on producing public reviews to be posted alongside the preprints. Open peer review as an alternative to traditional journals was endorsed by cOALition S in July 2022, announcing that scholarly papers that have been subject to a journal-independent standard peer review process with an implicit or explicit validation are considered to be of equivalent merit as an article published in a traditional journal. The Notify protocol can be used for communications between the author (via a compliant preprint repository), a peer review service, and a publisher to support a wide variety of these scenarios.
The move towards research assessment reform can also be enabled using the Notify protocol. These efforts, such as those being advanced by the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA), aim to reward quality as opposed to the prestige of the publishing venue, along with formal recognition of other valuable research contributions such as research data, code, and so on, in research assessment practices. The Notify protocol can be used to link distributed research outputs with each other, and with various review and endorsement mechanisms, contributing to a diverse, trusted, transparent ecosystem. Indeed, the COAR Notify Protocol provides the technical glue that will enable many of these novel and exciting approaches to scale beyond one-to-one relationships of just a few infrastructures and services.
The COAR Notify initiative has been receiving widespread attention and has been recognized by organisations such as cOAltion S and the International Science Council, among others, who appreciate the benefits it will bring to the ecosystem. We will continue to be visible and present at numerous conferences and events to ensure the widespread awareness of the initiative. And, in a few months, the initiative will be able to demonstrate the Notify protocol working in practice. We will be sure to keep COAR members and the broader community up-to-date with our progress.