Today, a group of publishers and publishing associations announced an initiative to address the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) public access memorandum.
The initiative, called CHORUS, for the ClearingHouse for the Open Research of the United Status, provides what the memorandum requires in a way that saves the US government and its agencies time and money; gives the public access to publicly funded scientific findings via embargoed access to publishers’ final approved, edited, and formatted papers; creates a smart and useful set of discovery pathways by leveraging emergent digital infrastructure elements; and allows publishers to retain the traffic and customer relationships they depend on to survive in the digital age.
The steering group represents publishers and organizations covering a range of scientific domains:
- Pat Kelly, Vice Chair of the PSP-AAP Executive Council, Publishing Director, John Wiley and Sons
- Fred Dylla, CEO, American Institute of Physics
- Susan King, American Chemical Society
- Niko Pfund, President, Academic Publisher, Oxford University Press
- Thane Kerner, CEO, Silverchair Information System
- Ed Pentz, Executive Director, CrossRef
- Joe Serene, Publisher/Treasurer, American Physical Society
- John Tagler, Executive Director, PSP-AAP
- David Weinreich, Government Affairs, PSP-AAP
- Alicia Wise, Director of Universal Access, Elsevier
- Fran Zappulla, Senior Director, IEEE Publishing Operations
Agency seats are set aside in the CHORUS governance framework. These will be filled at a later date.
The list of signatory organizations has been growing consistently, and it probably already exceeds those listed below (disclosure — I am a signatory on behalf of my organization):
- Acoustical Society of America, David L. Bradley, President
- American Association for the Advancement of Science, Beth Rosner, Publisher
- American Association for Cancer Research, Kathleen Case, Interim Publisher
- American Association of Physicists in Medicine, John D. Hazle, Ph.D., President
- American Association of Physics Teachers, Beth A. Cunningham, Executive Officer
- American Astronomical Society, Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer
- American Crystallographic Association, Inc., William L. Duax, Chief Executive Officer
- American Geophysical Union, Christine McEntee, Executive Director/CEO
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Dr. Sandy Magnus, Executive Director
- American Institute of Physics, Fred Dylla, Ph.D., Executive Director
- American Mathematical Society, Donald E. McClure, Ph.D., Executive Director
- American Medical Association, Thomas J. Easley, Senior Vice President & Publisher
- American Meteorological Society, Keith Seitter, Executive Director
- American Nuclear Society Robert C. Fine, JD, CAE, Executive Director
- American Physical Society, Kate P. Kirby, Ph.D., Executive Officer
- American Physiological Society, Martin Frank, Ph.D., Executive Director
- American Psychological Association, Susan J. A. Harris, Senior Director, APA Journals
- American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers, Darrin Drollinger, Executive Director
- American Society of Civil Engineers, Patrick Natale, Executive Director
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Arlene Pietranton, Chief Executive Officer
- AVS: Science & Technology of Materials, Interfaces and Processing, Susan B. Sinnott, President
- Biophysical Society, Rosalba Kampman, Executive Director
- Columbia University Press, Jennifer Crewe, Associate Director/Editorial Director
- Elsevier, Alicia Wise, Ph.D., Director, Universal Access
- Entomological Society of America, C. David Gammel, CAE, Executive Director
- Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International, Edward Youdell, President and CEO
- Genetics Society of America, Adam P. Fagen, Ph.D., Executive Director
- Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Lynn Strother, Executive Director
- IEEE, Fran Zappulla, Staff Director, IEEE Publishing Operations
- Institute of Physics Publishing, Steven Hall, Managing Director
- Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Kent Anderson, CEO/Publisher
- Materials Research Society, Todd Osman, Ph.D., Executive Director
- McGraw-Hill, Scott Grillo, Vice President, Publisher Mc-Graw-Hill Professional
- New England Journal of Medicine, Christopher Lynch, Vice President, Publishing
- The Optical Society, Elizabeth A. Rogan, Chief Executive Officer
- Oxford University Press, Niko Pfund, Academic Publisher
- Silverchair Science+Communications, Inc., Thane Kerner, President & CEO
- Society for the Advancement of Materials on Process Engineering, Gregg Balko, Executive Director
- Springer Science+Business Media LLC, William F. Curtis, President
- Thieme Publishers, Brian Scanlan, President
- University of Chicago Press, Garrett P. Kiely, Director
- Wolters Kluwer Medical Research, Sami Hero, Vice President, Marketing
CHORUS is, to me, a much more modern and sensible response to the demand for access to published papers after a reasonable embargo period, as it doesn’t require an expensive and duplicative secondary repository like PubMed Central. Instead, it uses networked technologies in the way they were intended to be used, leveraging the Internet and the infrastructure of scientific publishing without diverting taxpayer dollars from research budgets.
The infrastructure is described visually in the figure below:
The solution proposed by CHORUS is simple:
- Publishers create and support a new domain, CHORUS.gov, with agency input
- Publishers deposit metadata via CrossRef and FundRef for papers with relevant funding
- Users can search and discover papers directly from CHORUS.gov or via any integrated agency site
- Users retrieve paper directly from the publishers’ sites using the version of record
The timeline for development and deployment is rapid, which underscores the fact that much of what is being brought to bear already exists:
- High-level System Architecture — Friday, June 14
- Technical Specifications — Friday, July 26
- Initial Proof-of-Concept — Friday, August 30
The redundant expenses this approach spares the government from incurring are significant, as publishers have spent years deploying proven solutions to issues like cross-domain discoverability, DOI accession indices, preservation and archiving protocols, and uptime and availability monitoring services.
In addition to CrossRef and FundRef, technologies contemplated in the CHORUS infrastructure include CLOCKSS, LOCKSS, and Portico for archival storage and retrieval. But there’s a more basic benefit to the CHORUS approach and architecture — namely, nobody has to handle the XML and PDF of the article again, as PubMed Central currently must. Estimates put the cost of this handling at $50-60 per article, which includes translation protocols, QA and QC, loading, and storage. These costs are unnecessary and redundant, and shouldn’t be part of an efficient government solution, as they force taxpayers to shift money away from researchers.
It’s good to see publishers being proactive about the OSTP public access memorandum. Earlier mandates left publishers in a defensive role. This time, the publishers seem to know they can’t win the talking points and PR game, so they have to ensure that the solution shows what publishers are capable of doing and how their involvement helps all stakeholders. CHORUS demonstrates in concrete terms that involving publishers in publishing actually makes the most sense financially and economically.
An alternative scenario that has been actively promoted among some of the agencies contemplating the OSTP public access memorandum has been to expand PubMed Central to become the US government’s repository for all scientific papers resulting from government funding. Comparatively, CHORUS seems far superior to this path. CHORUS saves the government money. And, by not reducing publisher revenues by decreasing direct traffic, as PMC does, the government isn’t caught in a win-lose scenario for the US economy and US taxpayers.
CHORUS also signals the possibility that scientific publishers and governmental agencies might be able to restore the public-private partnership that is more typical and admirable than the recent years of wedge-driven discord. Publishers provide objective, third-party validation and specialized technologies and expertise in content management and development, which benefits the government. CHORUS is a great example of how these same strengths can be exhibited in the digital age, all while saving the government money and trouble.
I think everyone involved should sing its praises.