Matt McKay makes the case for collaboration to enhance scholarly sharing
Scholarly sharing is not a new concept. Whilst technology has markedly improved the speed and ease of sharing, the practice dates back to when the very first scholarly journal was created 350 years ago.
Research is, by its very nature, a collaborative process with scholars sharing expertise, skills, and facilities to advance our understanding and collective knowledge. However, whilst technological advances have improved the speed and simplicity of sharing, they have also created an ecosystem which is inconsistent, inefficient and oft-times legally uncertain. Only if the entire global community comes together to work collaboratively can article sharing truly become simple and seamless.
For the past two years, The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) has been working across the scholarly community to facilitate sharing which benefits researchers, institutions and society as a whole. Following a wide consultation, STM published Voluntary principles for article sharing on scholarly collaboration networks a manifesto for working collaboratively to achieve the goal of an improved article sharing experience for all. To date, over 50 organisations, from collaboration networks, institutes, university press and publishers and signed up to endorse these principles.
Moving from the principles to real life practice is equally important. Publishers (such as Wiley, Springer Nature and Elsevier) have already started to simplify and align their sharing policies to reduce confusion. Publishers are also directly working with scholarly collaboration networks (SCNs) to improve sharing in technical ways. For example, platforms have asked publishers to help them identify document types more easily, so several publishers have been developing new ‘tags’ in their documents to recognise final published articles, author manuscripts, or other types of versions.
Publishers are also looking at what has worked in the past. For example, the broadly adopted and standardised Creative Commons license types have helped researchers, platforms, and publishers to harmonise open access sharing. This has inspired publishers and platforms to work together with CrossRef to create simplify sharing policies and develop these into a set of standardised terms. The first pilots for this tagging project are underway.
In the summer of 2016, STM launched ‘How Can I Share It?’ a new website dedicated to all aspects of scholarly sharing. The site includes practical information and tools to ensure articles can be shared quickly, easily and consistently. A DOI look-up tool provides researchers with an easy way to check where a journal article can be shared in line with its access and usage rights. To date, seven leading publishers have added their policies into this tool and STM is currently working to expand its breadth further. A section outlining publisher policies provides assistance to visitors by linking to the latest versions of a publisher’s license information – many of which have been recently updated to provide additional clarity around the sharing of scholarly articles.
Alongside the voluntary principles themselves (offered in seven different languages) STM has also included a detailed FAQ and visualisation to further clarify how, where and what content should be shared using scholarly collaboration networks. The ‘Share it Here’ section of the site offers a wide selection of recommended SCN sites where researchers can share their articles, as well as a compilation of sharing resources. The latest addition to the site is ‘A shared Journey’ - an interactive visualisation which follows a paper from conception through to publication to demonstrate how ideas go on to become peer reviewed articles. It highlights how research might be shared along the journey and the value which publishers add to the various stages of the publication and dissemination process.
It is now a year since the launch of How Can I Share It?, and whilst well visited (over 8,000 users and nearly 1,000 uses of the DOI tool each month) there is still much work to be done. STM continues to reach out to the scholarly community to gain further adoption of the voluntary principles and importantly, to ensure that publishers policies are adapted to be concise and easy to understand.
The association is also holding discussions on ways to improve sharing for researchers with a new cross-publisher initiative to enable wider sharing of content through links. We’ll be providing an update on this important project in the future.
Matt McKay is director of communication and events at the International Association of STM Publishers