At the end of October week Rachel Bruce and Neil Jacobs met the teams behind two of the leading US initiatives in scholarly and research communication, SHARE and CHORUS. Here, we outline what we found and what it might mean for UK universities and the Jisc projects and services that relate to these areas.
SHARE and CHORUS are often uttered in the same sentence, and usually that sentence also makes reference to the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) so, to understand them it is probably worth saying a little about the US policy environment. In 2013, the OSTP issued a memo requiring all significant federal agencies that support research to produce plans for how they will implement the more open sharing of research outputs, covering both publications and research data. These plans were to be submitted to the OSTP later that year, approved and then implemented. The plans have been submitted and, we understand, discussions are ongoing with respect to the next steps.
While SHARE and CHORUS were in some ways born out of this policy context, as responses respectively by the library and the publisher communities, they both in some ways transcend that context and have implications, for example, in UK higher education.
SHARE stands for “SHared Access Research Ecosystem”, and is a project not only of the Association of Research Libraries in North America, but also the two associations representing the senior leadership of US public universities. Its vision sees the infrastructure developed within the university sector, comprising largely of repositories of various kinds, as the backbone of a new working environment that produces and enables work on a digital record of North American research. It does this through four envisaged components: a notification service, that listens for and then propagates news of events in the research lifecycle, such as when a research publication or dataset becomes available; a registry that collates these notifications into a coherent record of events around identified resources; and discovery and aggregation services that offer specific functionality to users.
It was quite clear from the discussions we had with the SHARE team that there is a great deal of common ground between SHARE and particular Jisc activities, namely the research data discovery service (or as some call it registry), the data management plan online service and the proposed registry that we’re considering, Jisc Monitor, the Jisc Publications Router, CORE and the RIOXX metadata profile. To the extent that these are all concerned with how to transmit information about research between systems and people, then there is a common interest in working with SHARE to:
• reduce duplication of effort;
• make sure the US and UK do not propose incompatible solutions;
• combine our strengths in pushing for the creation and adoption of technical standards where these reduce friction in the system as a whole.
We’ve identified some specific points of contact under these broad headings, and the next step is to bring together the technical leads for the Jisc and SHARE activities, to delve into the detail of how we’ll achieve these benefits.
Jisc is likely to have a slightly different relationship with CHORUS. CHORUS stands for Clearninghouse for the Open Research of the United States, and is a publisher-led initiative in direct response to parts of the OSTP memo, that is those parts concerned with Open Access to research publications. It is based largely on CrossRef, which is the service that creates digital identifiers for published research articles. The metadata prescribed by CrossRef serves as the basis for a portal and dashboards that enable researchers, universities and agencies to discover and report on Open Access publications held on publisher websites.
To achieve its aims, CHORUS will need to encourage publishers to improve the metadata they provide to CrossRef in particular ways, and to adopt other practices that make information about Open Access publications more visible. This is extremely useful in a UK context, quite apart from its value to CHORUS. For example, because many UK research funders encourage publishing on Open Access terms in academic journals, there is a real need to monitor what is published in this way. At present, this is not always easy because journals record and display this kind of information in many different ways. If CHORUS can encourage journals to converge around more standardised approaches, then Jisc, librarians and research managers will be able to use this to, for example, build better discovery services for researchers, and ease the reporting burden relating to funders’ Open Access policies.
In this post we have not said very much about the differences between CHORUS and SHARE. They do have different visions of the future of scholarly communication, one centred on the role of publishers, the other on the role of universities. How this plays out in the US will be instructive for the UK experience, but it would be a mistake to overlook the quite significant differences between the US and the UK that would make it unlikely that CHORUS could be directly transposed into a UK context. SHARE, on the other hand, does seem an initiative with which the thrust of UK and Jisc infrastructure is broadly aligned. It is too early to say whether it will lead the way – indeed, the UK is ahead at present – but it does suggest fascinating possibilities and opportunities that we’d be foolish to ignore.