ASAPbio is iteratively seeking community feedback on a draft model for a Central Preprint Service. We will integrate community and stakeholder feedback into a proposal, containing several model variants, to funders this fall. Please leave your feedback on utility of the Central Service, its features, and the model described in the Summary in the comment section at the bottom of the page, or email it privately to jessica.polka at gmail.com. More comments are posted on hypothes.is (follow this link and expand the menu at right)
Central Service model documents
- Summary: Background and a draft model
- Appendix 1: Rationale for a Central Service
- Appendix 2: Current feedback on Central Service features
At the ASAPbio Funders’ Workshop (May 24, 2016, NIH), representatives from 16 funding agencies requested that ASAPbio “develop a proposal describing the governance, infrastructure and standards desired for a preprint service that represents the views of the broadest number of stakeholders.” We are now holding a Technical Workshop to advise on the infrastructure and standards for a Central Service (CS) for preprints. ASAPbio will integrate the output of the meeting and community and stakeholder feedback into a proposal to funding agencies this fall. The funders may issue a formal RFA to which any interested parties could apply for funding. More details on this process are found at the end of Appendix 2.
The preprint ecosystem in biology is already diverse; major players include bioRxiv, PeerJ Preprints, the q-bio section of arXiv, and others. In addition, platforms such as F1000Research and Wellcome Open Research are producing increasing volumes of pre-peer reviewed content. PLOS has a stated commitment to exploring posting of manuscripts before peer review, and other services may be developed in the future.
Increasing the number of intake mechanisms for the dissemination of pre-peer reviewed manuscripts has several advantages, for example: 1) generating more choices for scientists, 2) promoting innovative author services, and 3) increasing the overall volume of manuscripts, thus helping to establish a system of scientist-driven disclosure of their research. However, an increasing number of intake mechanisms also may lead to confusion and difficulty in finding preprints, heterogenous standards of ethical disclosure, duplication of effort in creation of infrastructure, and uncertainty of long-term preservation. (See a more complete discussion of why we think it is essential to aggregate content in Appendix 1.)
Based upon funder interest from the May 24th Workshop, ASAPbio will propose that funding agencies support the creation of a Central Service (CS) that will aggregate preprint content from multiple entities. This service will have features of PubMed (indexing/search) and PubMed Central (collection, storage, and output of manuscripts and other data).
The advantages of this system for the scientific community would be:
- Oversight by a Governance Body. The content, performances, and services of the CS would be overseen by a Governance Body composed of highly respected scientists and technical experts. The formation of Governance Body, which will have international representation and be transparent in its operation, will be addressed by a separate ASAPbio task force and will not be discussed in the Technical Workshop. The connection between the CS and a community-led Governance Body will ensure that preprints continue to serve the public good and develop in ways that benefit the scientific community, beyond the needs of individual publishers and servers. This formation of a central, well-functioning Governance Body has been repeatedly described by funders and scientists as an essential element in gaining respectability for preprints and guiding the system in the future.
- Guaranteed stable preservation. Archiving content through a CS better assures permanence of the scientific record, even if a preprint server/publisher decides to discontinue their services.This is a key feature for both scientists and funders.
- Greater discoverability and visibility for scientists. The CS would become the location for scientists to search for all new pre-peer reviewed content. Lessons from arXiv indicate that a highly visible, highly respected single site for searching for new findings is essential for the scientific community.
- Clarity on what qualifies as a respected preprint. Scientists want their preprint to “count” for hiring, promotions, and grant applications. However, universities and funding agencies are concerned about quality control for preprints and how they can guide their scientists and reviewers on what qualifies as a credible preprint or preprint server. The CS/Governance Body will work with universities and funders to apply uniform standards of author identity, checks for plagiarism, moderation of problems, and create ethical guidelines for research and disclosure. Thus, content on the CS, coming from several sources, will meet uniform guidelines acceptable to funders and universities.
- Better services for scientists. Scientists, as consumers, want better ways of viewing content. They want to read manuscripts in an xml format on the web or as a PDF download, more easily link to references, and more easily view figures and movies. The CS would perform document conversion to ease viewing and searching for material, thereby accelerating new discoveries. The CS would have an API to enable innovative reuse by other parties to provides services that could be valuable for scientists beyond the scope of the CS (e.g. evaluations of work, journal clubs, additional search engines).
- Reduced overall cost. The central service can efficiently provide services (such as archiving, automated screening, and document conversion) that otherwise would be provided redundantly by each intake server/publisher.
We discussed various models for the CS with stakeholders (see Appendix 2 for types of models and the feedback that we received). This document describes the current iteration of the model, which is still in draft form. We will present several variations to funders this fall, based on feedback received, including the comments here. If you prefer, you may email comments privately to jessica.polka at gmail.com.
The CS would undertake several functions including centralized document conversion, accrediting (via setting guidelines for intake), archiving, search, and an API for third-party use. We are currently considering that the CS would not display full-text, but instead would send back the converted full-text to the intake server for display.
In this draft model:
- Servers would facilitate the submission of a .doc or .tex file and a standardized set of metadata (e.g. authors names, potentially ORCID numbers, etc) to the CS. From this file, the CS could extract an html or xml file (possibly including links to references, figures, etc).
- If this file passes CS screening (including plagiarism detection, and potentially human moderation etc), it would be admitted into the central database, assigned a unique ID, and be sent back to the intake provider for display.
- The CS would archive the original .doc file and other associated files, and also make these available via an API; as reference extraction technology improves, etc, new html/xml derivatives can be prepared. The CS would reserve the right to display content if the intake provider is not able to do so or if required by the funders or governance body.
- Readers could search for preprints (or receive alerts) through CS-hosted tools that would display metadata (including abstracts); readers would be sent to the intake server for full-text display of preprints.
- All aspects of the central service would be under the control of a governing body, which would have international representation from the scientific community and could develop over time.
The Technical Workshop will discuss the features, mechanisms, existing infrastructure, potential concerns and challenges, and timelines for implementation for the elements in orange on the diagram below.
ASAPbio will continue to modify the model before and after the Technical Workshop before presenting several variations to funders in the fall.
Below: possible early-stage implementation