Almost exactly three years ago, The Scholarly Kitchen posted a podcast with Peter Brantley about the then relatively new start-up, Hypothes.is. Find out what the organization is up to now, and why they believe in the power of annotation as a form of peer review, in this Peer Review Week interview with Maryann Martone, Director of Biosciences and Scholarly Communications.
Please tell us about Hypothes.is — what do you do and why do you do it?
Hypothes.is is a nonprofit technology company that is bringing an open, interoperable annotation layer to the web. We believe this new layer should be able to be brought to any document, in any format within any environment, and that that anyone should be able to be a provider or consumer of annotations.
Publishers tend to associate peer review with journal articles and books, but of course annotation is also an important form of review. When and why do you think it’s most valuable?
Annotation is a means of providing feedback at all stages of the publication process. We are already familiar with annotations and commenting during the writing process. We also do something similar during peer review. Many of us are familiar with writing and reading long form reviews for journal articles, but these new digital annotations have characteristics that are superior for peer review, during and after publication.
Annotations are precise. Because annotations are at the location they describe, it’s always clear what an annotation is talking about. Of course, overall long form responses that refer to a whole article can also be made with annotations, so they represent a superset of these two paradigms. It’s quicker to annotate. Because you don’t have to cut and paste the context of the article into your long form review, or cite page numbers and paragraphs, annotations have an easy immediacy to them. They lend themselves to a wider range of observations. Reviewers may be more likely to remark on smaller things, like copyedits and other suggestions that can benefit the paper. The interoperable nature of annotations and their coming adoption in a wide range of workflows means that an annotated review is much more likely to be associated with an account where you can continue to access and refer back to notes that you’ve made, to use the same tags that you do elsewhere, and to search through them as part of a complete corpus of your scholarly notes.
Annotations can easily facilitate a variety of review paradigms, like open reviews, and can enable new kinds of workflows where reviewers, authors and editors can participate in conversations with each other right on the document itself – potentially even subsequently exposing those conversations publicly as a permanent record post-publication.
How and why did Hypothes.is get involved in the community working group led by CASRAI, F1000 Research, and ORCID to create a standard set of terms to enable peer review citation?
Scholarly work takes many forms and scholars themselves perform many roles. Currently, we give credit to only one form: papers, and only one role: author. The other activities are lumped into service: we have to do it, but we get no formal recognition for it. But those of us active in advancing scholarly communications all believe that the full range of scholarly activity, e.g., peer review, editing, curation, commenting, and annotating should be credited. The community effort to define and expand the roles that are credited is an essential piece of the puzzle.
The group was established in part to enable better recognition for all forms of peer review – do you think it will help annotation to be more widely recognized?
Yes. Annotation is a form of peer review. But annotation is also a means to add value to an existing work, e.g., by adding additional knowledge. Annotation is also an expression of interest in a work, so we think that annotations should be counted as an altmetric.
What other barriers are there to ensuring that researchers get recognized for annotation and how can they be overcome?
There are a few things that can help annotations become more recognized.
- More annotations. The more annotations are used for the full range of scholarly activities, the more people will become accustomed to them, and to recognize the importance of their role.
- Being able to get DOIs for annotations. If annotations can be cited as scholarly objects, then people will be more comfortable creating them, because they’ll know they can cite them.
- And, of course, making sure that annotations are tied to ORCIDs and other identifiers for researchers, so that they are discoverable and relevant to scholars as a permanent part of their record.
What’s on the horizon for Hypothes.is – where do you want to be five years from now?
Our vision is to jump start conversations across many sectors, from scholars and researchers to educators, civil servants, journalists and others. We think this flexible, open, standard layer can serve a wide spectrum of use cases. In the next five years, we hope that can make good progress in these different domains. Within the scholarly community, a goal is that all scholarly works will be “shipped” with an open, interoperable web-based annotation capability. This is the objective of the Annotating All Knowledge Coalition. But it’s the transformational potential of this capability in facilitating new kinds of review, collaborative research and note-taking, journal clubs, personal notes, as well as machine generated annotations that is the higher prize. Ultimately, we believe this can help accelerate the scientific process, address issues such as reproducibility, and create a durable long lasting and permanent record of insights, critique, review, citation and more.