Next Steps Scholarly Commons Nov 2016 - Jan 2017

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After three workshops (Madrid, Portland and San Diego) and an initial survey of existing principles and charters, we have a lot of valuable outcomes and materials from which to build. However, more work is needed to turn these building blocks into something actionable, and significant questions and issues need to be addressed.

We asked the SCWG and all workshop participants for their feedback on how to move forward with the principles. Some people answered this question directly, while many focused on broader aspects. All contributions provided the steering committee with valuable information, and drove our thinking about next steps. There were differences of opinion within the working group about the viability of the principles, and the impact of previous actions on the principles’ potential to inclusively improve scholarly communication in the digital age. Ultimately, we chose to acknowledge and explore these divergent perspectives in our plan of work for the coming months, which is outlined below.

We also had to make choices in light of the time left in the current grant period; and, therefore, we did not at this point act on all of the suggestions made in the contributions we received.

The SCWG steering committee is committed to furthering the work outlined in our original proposal funded by the Helmsley Foundation.  In addition to the activities described below, we are in the process of preparing applications for support to continue work on ideas that arose from our research and the Scholarly Commons workshops, including an application for an SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (contact daniel.odonnell [at] for information on how to participate).
We invite everyone interested in working on these goals to contact one of the coordinators of these “work packages”.  We would love your help.

1) A thorough critique of and recommendations for addressing the work of the Scholarly Commons in relationship to the knowledge creation, dissemination, and access needs, practices, and goals of underrepresented and marginalized communities [Helmsley goal: assess common ground].  JOIN WORK GROUP WP1: Self Critique

Coordinated by Robin Champieux, with leadership provided by community members.

Summary of potential activities, to be discussed and finalized by community members:

  • Analysis, possibly in the form of a white paper, of the ways in which the structure and activities of the Scholarly Commons excluded perspectives and realities that were then absent from or deprioritized in the draft principles.  This analysis, which might be approached in phases, could and likely should be expanded to examine not just the work of the Scholarly Commons project, but also FORCE11 and other communities and initiatives working to improve scholarly communication.  Ideally, this work would be partnered with complementary activities already envisioned for assessing and improving FORCE11’s structure and behavior in this regard, such as the workgroup proposed at the San Diego Scholarly Commons workshop.
  • A systematic scan of existing scholarly communication declarations for their inclusion of diverse knowledge creation, dissemination, and access needs, practices, and goals.  

2) A next (draft) version of the principles, which can be used as input for follow-up projects [Helmsley goal: principles].  JOIN WORK GROUP WP2: Principles

Coordinated by Jeroen Bosman, Daniel O'Donnell & Bianca Kramer

Summary of proposed activities:

  • Adapt current 18 principles based on San Diego comments. Restrict this to minor changes/improvements. This will ensure that this input is not lost and any major reworking of the principles can start from a comprehensive, up-to-date version of the current 18 principles. This is expected to take half a day.
  • Lay foundations for working towards a consistent, strong, attractive and instrumental set of principles for the Scholarly Commons:
    • Explore whether we can have Mertonian theory suggested at the San Diego workshop as framing for a set of principles
    • Explore whether the set of principles put forward by Daniel O’Donnell can function as a more concise set of principles of the Scholarly Commons. Do they cover everything? Do they solve the controversies in the 18? Can they be used for assessing compliance of practices and tools?
    • Explore whether, in that case, (some of) the current 18 principles and their annotations can function as rules, implications and guidelines for implementation. Will that combination be strong in outreach and instrumental in assessing compliance?

We need to describe these questions precisely and make an overview of the possibilities. This will take at least a full day of a few people. We are also looking for people willing to give detailed feedback on a draft where we address the issues above. At this stage, we intend to confine work to the material on the principles we have gathered so far.

The subsequent work might (partly) be carried out under the future SSHRC Development grant, if awarded.

3) A process for developing decision trees for selected research objects and processes [Helmsley goal: (landscape) visualization, dissemination]  JOIN WORKGROUP WP3: Decision Trees

Coordinated by Fiona Murphy & Maryann Martone

Summary of proposed activities:

  • Set up a matrix of digital research objects and processes to map the landscape of scholarly communications. Identify 1-3 for development.
  • Develop an actionable framework/decision tree for conducting commons-compliant (or as near as we can get) research for the selected entities/processes. This includes testing tools, best practice recommendations and other relevant resources.
  • Practice the process in as commons-compliant a way as possible. Select a set of draft principles that we feel provide the necessary conceptual guidance for conducting this exercise, e.g., open by default, FAIR, attributing contributions, documenting processes, e.g. using CRediT taxonomy.
  • Produce a report to record not only the decision-trees (results) but also to retain the insights resulting from practising the process.
  • Continue the work of the San Diego workshop to define a "Minimal Viable Product" of the Commons.

These activities fit what was set out in the Helmsley proposal: “to make it easier to understand the Scholarly Commons, find, and use these materials, we will create a conceptual overview of the Commons, supported by a clarifying visualization. The landscape visualization will serve as an overview and index of standards, principles and practices that inform the different aspects of the Commons.  It will also provide an overview of individuals, tools, projects and organizations that work within a particular area, showing where they work and their unique contributions. The visualization also aids in branding the idea of the Scholarly Commons as something tangible in ways that a simple catalog will not.”