[open-science] “After SSRN: Hallmarks of trust for subject repositories” - OpenAIRE blog post

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Wed May 25 11:48:43 UTC 2016

This is a very important post.
I'm funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation as a Fellow (my project is
contentmine.org) and as a community we frequently discuss how our projects
should be protected to work for public good.

One socio-legal device is to insert legally valid tools into our documents.
We have set up as a UK company limited by Guarantee, and also inserted
specific Open-lock clauses into our articles of association. These locks
can apply to what business we do, how we do it, the labelling.licensing or
outputs, the use of assets and particularly whether we can be sold and if
so what the purchaser would have to commit to legally.

The important aspect is legal. With the best intentions in the world no one
lives for ever. Social-benefit companies often change orientation and
outlook (I think "ten-years " is often a critical period).  With legal
locks in the constitution monopolistic  purchasers will think twice or more
before trying to buy. (Without giving details I have direct evidence of
this in a similar project).

Many (perhaps most) startups in this area see sustainability through the
goal of being bought by a larger company. I have nothing against this in
principle, but clearly SSRN and Mendeley have shown that there are social
problems in many cases. The model of "do something radically new" is great,
but "then sell to Holtzevier" comes close to Microsoft's "embrace, extend,
exterminate". This was bad enough in technology, but where the startup has
a social purpose it becomes unacceptable.

It also raises the question of how a socially-oriented organization can
achieve sustainability without selling to monopolists.

On Wed, May 25, 2016 at 8:55 AM, Ross-Hellauer, Anthony <
ross-hellauer at sub.uni-goettingen.de> wrote:

> Dear list subscribers,
> Just to alert you to a new post on the OpenAIRE blog that might be of
> interest to you, entitled *“After SSRN: Hallmarks of trust for subject
> repositories*”.
> In the aftermath of the recent sale of the social sciences pre-print and
> publishing community platform SSRN to Elsevier, I offer a personal view on
> the nature of trust in community platforms and the need to make clear the
> hallmarks of trust for subject repositories, namely open governance, open
> source, open data.
> Excerpt:
> *The issue here is not that the company has been sold, nor that it has
> been sold to Elsevier specifically (though the fact that the buyer is the
> bête noire of the open access narrative surely doesn’t help). There is of
> course a place for private companies in the scholarly communications
> ecosystem. Running a for-profit is undoubtedly very hard and for many small
> companies, acquisition is their long term exit strategy. **The issue here
> is not public versus private but rather a wider one of trust.* *Services
> like Mendeley or SSRN are ”social” in nature – built to a large extent upon
> the contributions of their communities of users.  **If communities of
> users bring much of the value that fuels services like SSRN, why should
> they be content to take at face value promises which might quickly
> disintegrate once they come into conflict with money-making? Surely these
> communities deserve a stake in deciding what happens to those services.* *Had
> users known that SSRN would eventually sell to Elsevier, many would not
> have joined in the first place. Now that they have, many would like to take
> their community elsewhere – with former users like  Paul Gowder
> <https://medium.com/@PaulGowder/ssrn-has-been-captured-by-the-enemy-of-open-knowledge-b3e5bca6751d#.2hzdw8azh> already
> discussing starting a new open repository for the social sciences, for
> example. **These issues lead naturally to the questions: what does an
> “open repository” look like? How are users to identify one, and upon which
> criteria should librarians and others responsible for recommending such
> services decide whether a service is to be recommended?*
> See: https://blogs.openaire.eu/?p=933
> Apologies if not relevant to you!
> Best to all
> Tony
> Dr. Tony Ross-Hellauer
> OpenAIRE <https://www.openaire.eu/> Scientific Manager
> University of Göttingen
> Email: ross-hellauer at sub.uni-goettingen.de
> Tel: +49 551 39-31818
> Twitter: @tonyR_H <https://twitter.com/tonyR_H>
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Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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