Last week I attended the COAR (@COAR_eV) 2016 annual meeting hosted by the University of Vienna. I was invited by COAR’s executive director Kathleen Shearer to give a talk on peer review on top of repository networks and to participate in a working group that will discuss and provide recommendations for “Next Generation Repositories”.
The working group’s kickoff meeting was held one day before the inauguration of the conference and was chaired by Eloy Rodrigues from the University of Minho with a wide international representation from the repository and research communities, including institutions and consortia like CINECA (Italy), La Referencia (Latin America), CNR (Italy), CERN (Europe), NRF (South Africa), EDINA (UK), NII (Japan), Duraspace (Canada), LANL (US), Cornell University (US), University of Bielefeld (Germany), University of Notre Dame (US), COAR, and Open Scholar (UK).
There was a widespread feeling among all the members of the group that the time is ripe for a new collective effort to put open access repositories and researchers at the center of the scholarly communication landscape. Specific ideas were discussed that will be soon made public in a concept paper, while more detailed technical recommendations should be expected before the end of the year. My contribution in these preliminary discussions was to ensure that the future generation of OA repositories will implement —among other services designed to add value to research works— an author reward system based on peer reviews provided openly and transparently directly at the repository level. It was exciting to see how these ideas resonated with the vision shared by the rest of the group for the future of scholarly communication. It was acknowledged that one of our foremost challenges will be to develop an efficient quality control and quantitative evaluation system that will add value to all types of preprint material.
My presentation the following day (slides at the end of this post) focused on the problems of the current journal-based validation and evaluation system, and presented Open Scholar’s two flagship projects: the Self-Journal of Science and the Open Peer Review Module for repositories. Right before my talk, Herbert Van de Sompel from Los Alamos, gave a presentation on repository interoperability mentioning specific developments and available tools whose adoption will significantly facilitate the transition to an interconnected network of local institutional repositories with content mirrored by a Global Open Archive, as described in the model put forward by our Natural Selection of Academic Papers article, and similar to the distributed service approach advocated by Herbert himself in the article Rethinking Scholarly Communication, published back in 2004.
In the discussions that ensued in the following days, I was glad to realise that journal-independent open peer review is now on everyone’s agenda. Ideas that only two years ago were received with skepticism or even resistance are now included in the strategic planning of influential organisations like COAR (read COAR’s startegy and work plan for 2016–2018 here: https://www.coar-repositories.org/files/COAR-Strategy-2016-2018-Final.pdf), OpenAIRE and SPARC. I had extensive conversations with high-level representatives from all three organisations and have been able to confirm that moving to the “next generation repositories” that will give back to researchers the responsibility for the validation and evaluation of their own work is now a top priority issue, and one that is meant to dramatically change the future of scholarly communication.