CHORUS (Clearinghouse for Open Research for the United States) comes from a coalition of scholarly journal publishers and is meant to steward a partnership with federal agencies to provide public access to papers emanating from research they fund. A recent series of presentations from CHORUS offered a progress report and a better sense of what the proposed technologies offer.
We’re now nearly a month past the six month deadline called for in the initial Office of Science & Technology memorandum on Expanding Public Access. By now the first draft plans from funding agencies describing their strategies for providing free public access to funded research papers after an embargo period should have been turned in. There has been little word from the White House on these plans, but as was noted at this past summer’s SSP Meeting, these were meant to be initial drafts, and may not be publicly divulged until they are further refined.
The three main routes publicly discussed in response to the memo are an expansion of PubMed Central (PMC) to all US government funding agencies, the Association of Research Libraries’ SHARE proposal to build a series of interlinked institutional repositories, and CHORUS, a technology-based solution put together by a cross section of publishers. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has provided startup funds for the project, but CHORUS is an independent project that will not be directly tied to the AAP.
The “PubFed Central” approach offers something of a known commodity to funders, and PMC is seen as a tremendously successful endeavor in broadening public access to research. The downside is the apparent cost, reported at the recent ALPSP meeting to be a $100,000 startup fee to each agency and a $75 charge per paper deposited. SHARE has recently formed a steering committee, but little detail has emerged as to how development and ongoing maintenance costs will be funded.
CHORUS remains something of an unknown quantity with much to prove, but it does offer the upside of being funded by publishers, which leaves research funding to be spent where it should be — funding research. New details have recently been released by CHORUS’ Director of Development, Howard Ratner, giving a better picture of how the service will work, and how it proposes to meet the assurances that federal agencies require for compliance and archiving.
Essentially, articles will be tagged as they’re submitted by authors to identify the funding agencies behind the research. These metadata tags, powered through FundRef, will drive a series of functions for agencies, publishers and others, shown in the slide from below (a pdf version of the full slide set is here). First, the tagged article will automatically become freely available on the journal’s website after the embargo period specified by the funding agency.
As the paper is published, the tag will trigger an upload of the paper to an archive. These archives will likely include CLOCKSS, Portico, and other archives, either government built and maintained or approved. These are to be “dark” archives, and the papers won’t be made publicly available through them, except in the case of a “trigger event,” such as the paper no longer being freely publicly available on the journal’s website.
This can be monitored and enforced through a CHORUS dashboard available to each funding agency (see slide below). The planned dashboard would show the number of papers that have been deposited for each funding agency, and the status of when they’ll become publicly available. The dashboard also has an audit functionality, allowing the agency to be certain that papers that should be available are available. If a paper cannot be publicly accessed, it sets into motion a chain of actions where the publisher is given a chance to correct the error, and if this is not done, the formerly dark archived version comes to light, and links to the paper are redirected to the archive version.
These are important aspects of CHORUS vital to its acceptance. There is seemingly little trust for publishers among the funding agencies, so it is necessary that archives of the papers exist that are in the control of the agencies, that compliance by publishers is assured through licensing agreements, and that tools exist to continuously monitor that compliance. These safeguards will hopefully set to rest many of the concerns about control that initially greeted the CHORUS proposal.
CHORUS will provide open APIs allowing anyone to build portals showing federal funding and availability of research papers, as well as tapping into the data provided to drive other discovery tools.
The final piece of the puzzle, as called for in the OSTP memo, is to “maximize the potential for interoperability between public and private platforms and creative reuse to enhance value to all stakeholders.” Most have taken this sentence to mean making the content as available as possible for text- and data-mining purposes. This is a much more complex set of functionalities as one has to deal with a wide variety of licensing terms for availability, as well as providing the actual access for these sorts of analyses. CHORUS proposes to address the questions through CrossRef’s Prospect and LicenseRef projects.
Prospect is meant to provide a common API for researchers to access the full text of content identified by DOIs across publisher sites regardless of their business models. LicenseRef will offer a license registry for publishers to transparently show what terms apply and offer clickthrough license agreements if necessary (Edit: See correction and link to further information from Ed Pentz below). Details are in the slides below.
All of this is encouraging — CHORUS has evolved significantly from its original announcement and appears to be making great progress in answering initial critiques and better meeting the needs of funding agencies. The proof will, of course, be in the pudding and this burden still lies with CHORUS. Launches of pilot versions are due in the next few months which should give a good indication of where things stand.
If delivered as promised, CHORUS seems the lowest cost solution for funding agencies that at the same time requires the lowest amount of time and effort on behalf of the researchers in order to attain compliance. Funding agencies will still need a plan to allow compliance for any publishers unwilling to join CHORUS. One other interesting aspect of CHORUS is the open architecture of the system. If it proves successful for the US, it seems readily adaptable to meet the Green OA needs of other funding bodies worldwide.
(Full disclosure: my employer, Oxford University Press, is on the steering committee for CHORUS though I am not directly involved. The opinions expressed above represent my take on things, not OUP’s)