The Case for PubPub · Elephant in the Lab

“I want to make the case for PubPub, a flexible web-based platform hosted by a nonprofit, Knowledge Futures Group (KFG). The software is the brainchild of Travis Rich, who wrote his 2017 MIT dissertation on PubPub and then co-founded KFG, first within MIT and then as an independent nonprofit. The program he helped build is, in its way, a complete rethink of scholarly publishing—digital first, yes, but unconventional across the board. The design ingenuity is matched by a robust commitment to an academy-led publishing ecosystem. “In our vision of the future,” reads the group’s mission statement, “knowledge communities play a lead role in building and maintaining our knowledge systems, reclaiming territory that was ceded to proprietary solutions.” In a thousand small but important ways, PubPub is the nonprofit David to, say, the profit-hoarding, data-hoovering Goliath that is Elsevier’s ScienceDirect.Still, PubPub’s not for everyone, particularly if you’re wedded to the PDF, or prefer to roll your own server. But many of us want to dethrone the PDF, and for us the prospect of handing off server maintenance is more relief than limitation. It’s telling that the Simon Fraser team, when they set out to publish their report, selected PubPub….”

User Satisfaction Survey | PubPub

We’d like to understand who our users are, how they value PubPub, and and how we can better service publishing communities. If you can, please fill out the following survey. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete, and can be filled out anonymously, or you can leave your email address if you’d like us to follow up with you. Your individual survey responses will not be shared with anyone outside of Knowledge Futures, Inc. We may use non-personalized, aggregated survey data to publish public reports about our users and communities.

Social cost · Gabe Stein

“At first glance, the staid academic publishing industry seems like a perfect fit for disruption in the form of an enterprising startup. Its total addressable market, or TAM, (~$19b revenue/year) is more than big enough to support a unicorn or two. It relies on centuries-old processes based in the limitations of print that have been proven to be ineffective and inequitable. It is dominated by a few large mega-corporation incumbents who, like the newspaper industry before them, have become used to extracting enormous profit-margins for activities that produce questionable value….

So, an enterprising startup should be able to succeed by raising enough money to build a slick new publishing platform and pay to subsidize researcher usage of it until their institutions are forced to recognize their contributions and pay to support the platform. Thanks to the rise of a new generation of private labs like Arcadia Science, a KFGundefined member and partner, and Focused Research Organizations (FROs), the job actually appears to be less complex than ever, because a lot of the initial bootstrapping of the platform can be cross-subsidized by a new type of institution without the constraints of universities, rather than paid for directly by the startup.

In theory, I think this should work. And to be clear, I think private labs and FROs are a key part of the solution, because they can help reduce the risk of adopting new forms of publishing by proving the models outside the status quo. But in practice, what we’ve learned building KFG over the last 7 years is that the startup approach to building disruptive academic publishing technology is often doomed by a failure to understand the complexity of the market….

With the caveat that I’m incredibly biased by my employer, I believe the solution, as I wrote above, lies in creating a new type of knowledge institution that combines the best of startups, non-profits, and expert consultants. These institutions must be capable of producing innovative, trusted technology that allows anyone to experiment with new approaches to publishing. But that’s not enough. They must also be able to reduce switching costs by combining those tools with services that help users maintain the right ties to the status quo that give them the credit and credibility in the current system without reinforcing the worst parts of it. And they must find a way to become sustainable on their own merits so that they’re not reliant on grants, of which there simply aren’t enough to support technology organizations over the long term. KFG won’t be the only one of these institutions, and our approach won’t be the only one that works (if it does). But until we acknowledge the complexities of this market, and the challenges new entrants face, we’re going to see a lot of startups come up empty in their attempts to disrupt anything except their own bank accounts.”

The experiment begins: Arcadia publishing 1.0 · Reimagining scientific publishing

“In thinking about how to share Arcadia’s research, we wanted to keep features of traditional publishing that have been honed over centuries, but improve upon what hasn’t quite adapted to the nature of modern science and technology. We have a unique opportunity to use our own research to develop mechanisms of sharing and quality control that can be more agile and adaptable. Our initial attempt is outlined here and we will continue to iterate upon it, always keeping the advancement of knowledge as our guiding principle when making decisions on what to try next….

We are reimagining scientific publishing — sharing our work early and often, maximizing utility and reusability, and improving our science on the basis of public feedback.

This is our first draft. We have ambitious goals and we’re committed to replicable long-term solutions, but we also know that “perfection is the enemy of good.” We’re using this platform to release findings now rather than hiding them until we’ve gotten everything exactly how we want it. Readers can think of the pubs on this platform as drafts that will evolve over time, shaped by public feedback. The same goes for the platform itself! We’re treating our publishing project like an experiment — we’re not sure where we will land, but we can only learn if we try. In this pub, we’re sharing our strategy and the reasoning behind some of our key decisions, highlighting features we’re excited about and areas for improvement. …

Charting our Pathway to Sustainability | KFG Notes

Knowledge Futures Group is a non-profit technology organization that builds infrastructure for a more effective, equitable, and sustainable knowledge economy. We have two primary open-source products: PubPub for publishing documents and Underlay for producing datasets. Our work empowers communities with tools to publish knowledge and collaborate with their community members.

[…]

Call for Papers: The Global Transition to Open: Structuring Library Sustainability Toward a More Equitable Knowledge Ecosystem | Commonplace

We invite contributions to a series that explores how libraries are realigning their collections spending with their values around Open. We ask that abstracts of 300 words or fewer be submitted by Monday, September 13, 2021 (please see key details below). 

Libraries face a dizzying and growing array of open access investment opportunities. These range from open infrastructure to new open access publisher agreements. Although libraries can be motivated by altruism when investing in open initiatives, many are trying to embed “openness” into their collections strategies. This is much easier said than done when emerging open access models rarely mimic the legacy subscription or one-time purchase models upon which the library community has grown accustomed. This series seeks to examine the challenges and efforts underway at academic libraries as they make their way forward in this new environment. 

An article published in the Commonplace in June 2021 titled “Balancing Investments in Open Access: Sustainability and Innovation” inspired this upcoming series. In this article, Annie Johnson raises questions that many in the library community are starting to ask: 

“So how can we ensure that our support for open does not become unsustainable in the face of continued cuts to our collections budget? And perhaps more importantly, how can we make informed, strategic decisions about which initiatives to support (and which not to support) when each agreement takes so much time to evaluate, and staff are already spread so thin?”[undefined]

These are critical questions that all academic libraries are facing. We believe sharing our stories and learnings at this important juncture will help us to collectively navigate the challenges ahead and, critically, to create a more equitable and just scholarly communication system.

We seek proposals that will address topics or questions, such as:

What guiding goals and principles can help libraries make decisions and measure the efficacy of their spending?

How is “transformative” defined? What are we transforming?

How are libraries balancing local reading and publishing needs with the desire to transform global scholarly communications?

How do we bridge the organizational divide between collections and scholarly communications?

Who are the key stakeholders and how do we secure their buy-in?

When should we go it alone and when do we partner?

How do we align open knowledge practices and spending with issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice?

How can libraries talk to each other and/or across campus about these topics? 

What new top-down models encourage new, sustainable, and open frameworks (rather than just operate within the existing, legacy structure)? Who has implemented them, and how?

Describe strategies for libraries that do not have a Press at their university, that can still support local open scholarly publishing efforts.

Anything you think we’ve missed!

Business of Knowing: Bringing about [infra]structural change to Knowledge Communication – a summer 2021 series | Commonplace

This Commonplace series comprises essays in response to a call for submissions that itself was a response to channel community conversation prompted by the essay “Clarivate, ProQuest, and our Resistance to Commercializing Knowledge.”

List of Contributions:

Ahearn, Catherine, and Sarah Kearns. 2021. ‘The Business of Knowing: Bringing about [Infra]Structural Change to Knowledge Communication’. Commonplace, June. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.ec94434e.

Ayers, Phoebe, and Samuel J. Klein. 2021. ‘The Invisible Citation Commons’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.5af8c64c.

Brundy, Curtis, and Ginny Steel. 2021. ‘Subscribe to Progress: Advancing Equity Through Openness’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.20811f1e.

Chan, Joel. 2021. ‘Sustainable Authorship Models for a Discourse-Based Scholarly Communication Infrastructure’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.8b4aad0c.

Cressman, Colleen. 2021. ‘Trust in Infrastructure’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.ae158f91.

Kaufman, Peter B. 2021. ‘Video and Knowledge Communication’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.22ccbe45.

Kearns, Sarah, and Catherine Ahearn. 2021. ‘It’s All of Our Business’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.70cc6804.

Kraker, Peter. 2021. ‘Now Is the Time to Fund Open Infrastructures’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.a1d2856b.

Martin, Shawn J. 2021. ‘Historical Choices and Knowledge Production’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.5ebdd587.

Pooley, Jefferson. 2021. ‘Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.250139da.

Rudmann, Dan, Kayshini Holbourne, and Elli Gerakopoulou. 2021. ‘Hire Everyone: Scholarly Publishing and Cooperative Sustainability’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.72cb6467.

Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing | Commonplace

by Jefferson Pooley

The open access movement has dropped barriers to readers only to erect them for authors. The reason is the article processing charge (APC), which typically runs $3,000 to $5,000. The APC model, with its tolled access to authorship, is the subscription model seen through a camera obscura: author paywalls in place of reading paywalls.

Most scholars cannot afford the steep fees, a fact masked by the privileged segment who can: scientists in the rich industrialized world, and scholars in a handful of wealthy European countries and North American universities. The fees are often paid via so-called “read-and-publish” deals, which fold APCs into the subscription contracts that libraries negotiate with publishers.

The emerging APC regime is also re-anointing the commercial oligopolists—the same five firms that fleece universities through usurious subscription charges. Springer Nature, Elsevier, and their peers are, with every read-and-publish deal, transitioning their enormous profit margins from tolled to open—and capturing the lion’s share of library spending in the process. Librarians continue to fund the tolled system, while also—at the richer institutions—picking up the tab for their faculty’s author fees. The result is an incumbent-publisher spending lockdown, one that ratifies the APC regime.

Any alternative to the prevailing scholarly communication system must be built atop a different funding model, one that excludes neither readers nor authors. In broad strokes, that model will center on direct support for publishing, drawn from funds currently allotted to subscription and APC spending. The same funders who finance the tolled-and-APC system—libraries but also foundations and government agencies—will, on this approach, redirect budgets to underwrite a diverse, community-led publishing ecosystem. Call it the collective funding model, predicated on open access for both readers and authors.

[…]

Knowledge Futures Group has a new website

New website!

Knowledge Futures Group builds infrastructure for a more effective, equitable, and sustainable knowledge economy.

 

Knowledge Futures Group is an independent nonprofit organization powered by academic, industry, and advocacy groups. Together we build and support products and protocols to make knowledge open and accessible to all.

Founded in 2018 as a partnership between the MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab, Knowledge Futures Group was created to build sustainable tools and technologies for libraries, presses, museums, activist organizations, researchers, and others whose knowledge work seeks to serve collective understanding and the public. What began as a handful of grad students working on publishing tools grew to an organization focused on addressing the systemic challenges faced by public-oriented groups beholden to infrastructure that is designed with misaligned incentives and unjust power dynamics.

In September 2019 we formally organized as an independent 501c3 nonprofit. Today, we are committed to building a full-stack of technology protocols and products that demonstrate an effective, equitable, and sustainable knowledge economy is possible. We work with partners to design for interoperability and to catalyze a distributed ecosystem of development.

Software Engineer, the Underlay Project · KFG Notes

“The Knowledge Futures Group is hiring a software developer to help us build the Underlay, a distributed public knowledge graph. We’re looking for someone with strong full-stack web development skills and an interest in semantic web and decentralized web technologies. You’ll get to work with experimental technologies, make significant contributions to product direction, and help shepherd a research project into the real world. We will pay you competitively with startups, let you work from wherever you want, and take you and your ideas seriously. Join us!…”

Knowledge Infrastructure and the Role of the University · Commonplace

“As open access to research information grows and publisher business models adapt accordingly, knowledge infrastructure has become the new frontier for advocates of open science. This paper argues that the time has come for universities and other knowledge institutions to assume a larger role in mitigating the risks that arise from ongoing consolidation in research infrastructure, including the privatization of community platforms, commercial control of analytics solutions, and other market-driven trends in scientific and scholarly publishing….

The research community is rightfully celebrating more open access and open data, yet there is growing recognition in the academic community that pay-to-publish open access is not the panacea people were hoping for when it comes to affordable, sustainable scholarly and scientific publishing. Publication is, after all, only one step in a flow of research communication activities that starts with the collection and analysis of research data and ends with assessment of research impact. Open science is the movement towards open methods, data, and software, to enhance reproducibility, fairness, and distributed collaboration in science. The construct covers such diverse elements as the use of open source software, the sharing of data sets, open and transparent peer review processes, open repositories for the long-term storage and availability of both data and articles, as well as the availability of open protocols and methodologies that ensure the reproducibility and overall quality of research. How these trends can be reconciled with the economic interests of the publishing industry as it is currently organized remains to be seen, but the time is ripe for greater multi-stakeholder coordination and institutional investment in building and maintaining a diversified open infrastructure pipeline.”

KFG Announces Four New Programs · KFG Notes

“KFG will use its resources intentionally and in partnership with others (you!) to ask: how do we enable just and inclusive life cycles of knowledge? How do we build trustworthy information environments to support a better-informed society? How do we meaningfully measure impact? How do we ensure universal access to knowledge? With the help of partners, we will explore the cultural and technological answers to these questions through four new programs:

Knowledge Ecosystems: We examine how knowledge ecosystems exist today, develop playbooks to improve them, and facilitate new knowledge life cycles accelerated through multi-institution collaboration.

Community Publishing: We build infrastructure to enable community-driven publishing toward more thorough, trustworthy, and inclusive models for publishing platforms and tools.

Universal Data: We research and develop tools for discovery, provenance, and interoperability of data, to ensure transparent and universal access to public knowledge.

Measuring Knowledge: We craft and deliver new analytics that aligns with the growth, learning, and empowerment afforded by modern knowledge ecosystems to redefine impact and success….”

KFG Announces Four New Programs · KFG Notes

“KFG will use its resources intentionally and in partnership with others (you!) to ask: how do we enable just and inclusive life cycles of knowledge? How do we build trustworthy information environments to support a better-informed society? How do we meaningfully measure impact? How do we ensure universal access to knowledge? With the help of partners, we will explore the cultural and technological answers to these questions through four new programs:

Knowledge Ecosystems: We examine how knowledge ecosystems exist today, develop playbooks to improve them, and facilitate new knowledge life cycles accelerated through multi-institution collaboration.

Community Publishing: We build infrastructure to enable community-driven publishing toward more thorough, trustworthy, and inclusive models for publishing platforms and tools.

Universal Data: We research and develop tools for discovery, provenance, and interoperability of data, to ensure transparent and universal access to public knowledge.

Measuring Knowledge: We craft and deliver new analytics that aligns with the growth, learning, and empowerment afforded by modern knowledge ecosystems to redefine impact and success….”