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

Ross-Hellauer, Anthony ross-hellauer at sub.uni-goettingen.de
Fri May 27 07:34:43 UTC 2016

Hi Peter, all

I agree with all of this. I think we must take this discussion further now – before heat over SSRN dies down again.

This is a vital issue. I gave a Webinar yesterday on OpenAIRE RDM services and one of the first questions was “how long until Zenodo is sold to Elsevier?” Users confidence has been damaged in such services – even those that are community-led or publicly-funded! We need a clear way of explaining to researchers and others what kinds of services they are using and guaranteeing they will have a stake in deciding the future of those services.

With this in mind, I am interested in getting together an informal task group to:

1.      Formalise/extend the list of the “hallmarks of trust” for repositories/community platforms. My idea is that if we come up with a more comprehensive list then we could publish it and ask users and others recommending such services (like librarians) to sign up. This would be a good way of furthering awareness of this issue.

2.      Audit key community scholarly infrastructures to see how they match up to these “hallmarks” (we might be surprised).

3.      Linked to this, but perhaps a separate task, would be to more closely discuss – perhaps with a view towards writing a paper? – open governance and sustainability models for repositories/community platforms (including legal locks, but also alternative models like the “platform cooperativism” Heather Morrison has pointed us to).

If anyone is interested in working on these questions together, please respond either via the list or directly. It’d be great to hear from you!

With best wishes, Tony

Von: peter.murray.rust at googlemail.com [mailto:peter.murray.rust at googlemail.com] Im Auftrag von Peter Murray-Rust
Gesendet: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 1:49 PM
An: Ross-Hellauer, Anthony
Cc: open-science
Betreff: Re: [open-science] “After SSRN: Hallmarks of trust for subject repositories” - OpenAIRE blog post

This is a very important post.
I'm funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation as a Fellow (my project is contentmine.org<http://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<mailto: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.


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


Dr. Tony Ross-Hellauer

OpenAIRE<https://www.openaire.eu/> Scientific Manager
University of Göttingen
Email: ross-hellauer at sub.uni-goettingen.de<mailto:ross-hellauer at sub.uni-goettingen.de>
Tel: +49 551 39-31818<tel:%2B49%20551%2039-31818>
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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