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Towards a global knowledge commons


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.

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).

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