The shape of a JoRD policy bank service?

We have established that researchers would certainly use a JoRD service, and publishers, repository managers, librarians would all find their own uses for the service. It has already been blogged that an ideal service that contains every item requested by stakeholders would be an expensive and extensive project, so what sort of service could be offered. Four options were devised and market tested on an assortment of stakeholders, academic librarians, publishers, repository managers, researchers, funders and representatives from similar data initiatives. The options were as follows:

  • Basic – an online searchable database of journal data policies, similar in approach to RoMEO
  • Enhanced  – an online searchable database of journal data policies with additional data integration such as funder policies, lists of recommended  repositories, or institutional policies
  • Advisory – as Basic and Enhanced services with the addition of research and advisory services, for example guides and instructions , best practice, model policy,and language, updates
  • Database with Application Programming Interface  (API) – as Basic and Enhanced but with no or minimal web interface but with and API which would allow third-parties to use data and develop applications

Most of the people interviewed thought that the basic option was option they would use.  Here is a table to show that  Possible value propositions. However, it was thought too basic to generate any income and some groups considered that it had limited value on its own. The enhanced service seems to be favoured by publishers, for example the inclusion of funder policies would be more valuable than other publisher’s journal data policies. The Advisory service was the option that most people thought would be the greater value for money, but participants cited other advisory services that could provide the same function as that aspect of JoRD. Finally, the high quality database with API and strong invitation for third party Apps was thought of as being a practical way to create an enhanced service. Unfortunately, none of the options emerged from the consultation as the optimum service which would generate its own income.

So, the shape of a JoRD service is still unknown and the method of funding is still unknown, but what has been achieved is that now there are no unknown, unknowns.

 

What is linked data?

The fact that data comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes has already been blogged about, but what is the concern about adding data into online journals? after all, printed journals have included data in the shape of graphs or tables for a great many years. The problem is now that the journal article and its corresponding data is no longer in the flat two dimensional world of a piece of paper, but is part of the multi-dimensional world of the internet, the data is linked to something else. Linked data, according to Bizer, Heath and Berners-Lee (http;//linkeddatte.org/docs/ijwis-special-issue) is the method by which data is connected, structured and published on the web resulting in a “web of data”. Linked data “refers to data published on the web in such a way that it is machine readable, its meaning is is explicitly defined, it is linked to other external data sets and can in turn be linked to from external data sets”.

Before the data is published and linked, it has to be put somewhere. Most of our research participants said that they store their data in a personal storage system, either their own work or home computer, or on a portable storage device. While, of course, such spaces may be linked to the internet, it is rather like keeping the data in a filing cabinet, although anyone can go and find the data, they have to search very hard or ask the data keeper to give it to them. Data therefore has to be uploaded to a space that is openly accessible, which could be a university repository, a subject repository, a web page, or even onto the publishers own servers.

Again this is not as simple as it seems, first you have to choose your repository and ensure that it will accept your sort of data. Once safely held in a repository, the data must be permanently linked and archived. As digital repositories are relatively new things, there is the question of what if the repository you have chosen has to close? where will the data go? If the data is uploaded onto the publisher’s server, do they have the capacity to hold all the data for all the journals that they publish, as well as all the articles? Suddenly the storage needs of a single article can become top heavy. At the moment there are not very clear answers to these concerns, therefore there needs to be some guidelines and methods of best practice resolved before all data can be truly linked.

What to put in an ideal JoRD service

The Feasibility Study has been asking researchers, representatives of Publishing Houses, repository staff and librarians about their image of an ideal JoRD service to give some sort of indication of how to build a resource that will be useful. So far, the most ideal service which would achieve the desires of all the stakeholders would not only include a database to contain all the details of every journal data sharing policy, cross-matched with funders requirements and lists of suitable repositories but also employ a team of human staff to constantly update the data base, provide customer service and advice about best practice and give educational workshops and seminars. This would be ideal, but expensive, and ideals cannot always be reached, at least not initially.

So, who wants what out of the service? These are the service requirements each stakeholder group suggested.

Researchers would like the service to:

  • Have a clear, visual user friendly website with technical support, and information about the service and its scope
  • Include summaries of policies, RCUK baseline policies, compliance statistics
  • Include the URL of journal policy
  • Provide contact details of researchers

Researchers told us that they would use the service to find the journal which is right for their data and funder’s requirements, find appropriate repositories and to look for openly accessed data.

Publishers asked for:

  • A simple attractive web page
  • An authoritative resource
  • Compliance monitoring and sanction information
  • Technical error reporting
  • Guidance about best practice, current issues, changes and trends and a model policy
  • A policy grading system
  • Levels of membership

Publishers said that they would use the service to gather competitor intelligence, a source of advice and as a central resource to get information about funder’s requirements and accredited repositories.

Both researchers and publishers wanted:

  • Guidelines about data submission,  such as copyright, use licensing, ethical clearance, restrictions and embargoes and file format
  • URLs of places where data can be archived and retrieved

As far as other stakeholders are concerned, librarians  considered that the service could give publication and funding compliance guidance for researchers as well as support research data management policies. Funders thought that the  service could track the development of Journal data policies and influence the data sharing behaviour of researchers. Representatives of repositories thought that a central data policy bank would be a resource where they could check consistency and compliance of journal data policies and possibly identify partner journals. It seems that a JoRD Policy Bank Service would have something to offer for everyone in the research industry. The quest now, as in all research activity, is finding someone who will pay, so that the ideal service will not be such a distant dream.

Barriers to sharing data

There is a stereo-typical image of a covetous academic, dedicated to their work and who hoards the data for their research, so that no-one else will achieve the acclaim for their life’s work. Presumable this stereo-type arose from such stories as Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz having a major dispute over which of them first discovered Calculus. In hindsight, both of them discovered it independently and both deserved acclaim. Charles Darwin kept his data on the “Origin of the Species” for very many years, before being persuaded to publish what turned out to be a popular science book of its day.

But we are not in the 17th or 19th Centuries, we are in the age of Information, Internet and global networks where collaboration has become respected. Teams of scientists are now rewarded, for example the Manchester University Physicists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov who won the Nobel Prize for Physics with their invention of Graphene. The Royal Society report “Science as an Open Enterprise” (http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/sape/2012-06-20-SAOE.pdf) describes how an outbreak of e-coli which originated in Hamburg was contained by the work of scientists in four continents who posted their analysis of the virus onto open source sites.  The genetic sequencing of the virus was completed by scientists in Hamburg and China, which was then posted onto an open source site with an open data license. In July of last year the European Commission published a press release outlining the measures that they will take to improve open access to scientific information that is produced in Europe, because the Commission feels that open access to data will improve Research and Development,and increase knowledge and  competitiveness in Europe (“Scientific data: open access to research results will boost Europe’s innovation capacity” http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-790_en.htm).

Such openness and swift communication is expected by today’s researcher. However, an EU study found that only 25% of researchers openly share their data.  The researchers that participated in our study expressed the desire to share their data, some were already sharing, but others found that although they wanted to share it was not easy to achieve. Many felt that there were barriers put in their way, one of which involved the old stereotype, they were not expected to share. For example, funding bodies may well be encouraging researchers to give open access to data that was paid for from public funds, but researchers believe that they will not get funding from using the data that someone else has collected although it would be an efficient and economical way of  carrying out research. Researchers also reported that universities attract funding for new projects, not for re-use of data, and there is more interest in publishing new research rather than replication studies.

Practical reasons were also mentioned, for instance personal barriers to sharing data were listed as:

  • Not knowing  where to deposit data
  • Lack of time and resources to undertake the deposit of data
  • Confidentiality and sensitivity of data, restrictions from funding body or breaking trust with research participants

Barriers in the wider scientific environment were reported as the difficulty in accessing data repositories because of lack of standardisation, and a poorly supported data sharing environment. It would seem that there are two main barriers to be crossed before the open sharing of data is completely commonplace. First the stereotype of the data hugging scientist must disappear from the minds of  researchers, funders, Higher Educational Institutions and publishing houses. Secondly, the infra-structure of  data deposit sites, how, when and where to deposit data, has to be fully resolved, publicised and implemented. Once again, it would appear that a JoRD Policy Bank Service would be of great value to researchers because it would supply a central resource of how, when and where to share data,  contribute to improving the data-depositing infra-structure and remove one barrier to the open access of data.