In February, the STM Association announced the appointment of Dr. Hylke Koers as Chief Information Officer of its new initiative STM Solutions, which launched officially on April 1. STM Solutions has been established to develop and manage forward-thinking shared infrastructures and collaborative services to support the scholarly communications community.
Hylke joins STM from SURF, a cooperative association of Dutch educational and research institutions that supports collaborative information technology solutions for its members, where he held the position of Team Lead and Senior Consultant for Research Data Management. Over the past several years, Hylke has led development of Scholix, the linking protocol for research data and publications and has been actively involved in FAIRsFAIR, the Research Data Alliance and served on the EOSC Architecture Working Group. Prior to joining SURF, Hylke was Product Director of Research Communities at Elsevier.
I sat down virtually with Hylke and Ian Moss, the CEO of STM, to discuss the vision for STM Solutions and to discover what the role of STM Solutions will be within wider community efforts moving forward. If you would like to get in touch with Hylke to discuss potential projects, he can be reached via the STM website.
What is the rationale and vision for STM Solutions?
We see that there are a growing number of challenges within our sector that can only be solved by working collaboratively to adopt common solutions and best practices – not only for reasons of efficiency but also to accelerate the pace and to better realize positive outcomes for the wider scholarly community. Highlighting one important example, some STM members are working on solutions to expand access to content, but these initiatives will achieve far stronger results if they are pushed forward collectively and adopted by all members of our community.
There is always a lot to do – and STM Solutions is envisaged as a place where stakeholders from across the scholarly ecosystem can coalesce around current and future challenges and craft solutions through collaboration. There is also a need to find a permanent home for some projects that are maturing and need to be run effectively, while also incubating and supporting new activities.
How will traditional STM efforts like the STEC Committee or the Future Labs engage with STM Solutions?
STEC is a core component of STM’s work and will continue to be a forum for engagement and strategic direction. With STM Solutions established, there is now a solid foundation to advance the ideas generated by STEC or piloted by others across the community. STM Solutions will take the pipeline of ideas and bring them to life by giving them an operational structure. It will be a place where ideas grow and where resources can be brought together to help organize and expand upon those initial ideas by testing them for real. In the past, STEC might have incubated an idea to a point and then would say “now what?”. With STM Solutions we can advance these projects into operational, production-level shared services. STM can then continue to take these efforts forward, either on its own or with others.
What will be the interaction between STM Solutions and projects like Seamless Access and GetFTR?
Seamless Access has been run as a collaborative with GEANT, providing programming resources and hosting along with SURF, and with NISO and Internet2 engaged within their various communities to support the project. Those partnerships will continue as they are at present. Development of Seamless Access will continue to focus on building a collaborative non-profit structure. At a practical level, STM Solutions will take on the publishing-related aspects of the functioning and management of Seamless Access. With STM Solutions we want to create a more efficient space for the publisher involvement in Seamless Access and GetFTR in collaboration with other partners. We didn’t undertake STM Solutions to in-house Seamless Access or GetFTR or to run servers and infrastructure or take over every responsibility.
There’s no way that publishers alone can run and manage all the efforts ongoing within our sector and similarly it would be unwise for us to be the only place where all of this thinking can be done. STM Solutions will be a forum for many multi-stakeholder initiatives. We hope that where there is publisher involvement it can be coordinated, across people, technology, and funding. For some initiatives, STM Solutions might be the right conduit and it may be STM Solutions that takes on the entire project. Others may be collaborative efforts with other sectors. It depends on the goals and the different engagement level of each particular project.
How will STM Solutions be funded?
STM has been providing funding, via its members, for a number of projects for many years. In the short term this model will continue and projects will be funded through volunteer commitments. Specific projects will only be funded if there is member buy-in, which as a mechanism also safeguards that we remain focused on our members’ priorities. For those projects currently underway, we expect these to continue to be funded in aggregate at the same level. Over time, we expect there are efficiencies to be made because STM Solutions will remove the need to have separate management structures for different projects.
STM Solutions will also establish an incubator program with a clear stage-gating and maturity model for its development process. To prime the pump, early innovation and incubation work may be supported by matching funds from the industry. From there, projects will only go into beta only if there is sufficient uptake, support and funding within STM’s membership. Throughout the process, there will be clear steps and decisions whether a certain project will move to a next step towards becoming an ongoing activity. For those innovation concepts that make it into an operational service, there will be discussions about how it will be funded, longer-term, in a sustainable way – funds that, of course, would be offset by cost savings for publishers and other parties benefitting from a shared service or common solution rather than having to develop and maintain their own.
What are some ways that you envision building greater efficiency for the community?
STM Solutions is building its model around a clustered approach, allowing for a common view on fundamental challenges across the community – and then making better allocations of resources to overcome these challenges. It also allows us to bring in the right people from across the community to work together on the right projects. Another benefit of the cluster approach is that in many cases we’re working with a common set of the same people drawn from across the industry. Managing their time effectively is also a challenge, so a cluster approach can help reduce the engagement burden for those organizations and their staff.
The cluster with highest initial priority will be around access, given that this is such an important and central challenge for the whole research and scholarly communications industry. And, of course, STM already has a long-standing investment in initiatives to improve access such as Seamless Access and GetFTR.
What sort of other challenges do you see STM Solutions addressing in the future?
We recognize there are many challenges within our community that will only be solved by collaborative solutions, in particular in areas of Open Science as well as research integrity, quality, and trust. These extend across all publishers and well outside of the publishing space. For example, there are enormous, shared interests in the better detection of plagiarism and image manipulation, as well as addressing the challenges of having the same paper submitted to multiple journals – all of which are also good examples of how a common approach will not only be more efficient but also lead to better results.
Each area of potential effort will be examined on its own merits and on the business case for solving that problem. There will need to be clear reasons why it should be an STM Solutions approach. And, of course, we know that some projects wouldn’t work – or would not work as well as they could – if they were run only by STM Solutions or solely by any party in the scholarly community. In those areas, we will actively seek collaboration with other partners.
Any last thoughts you’d like to convey?
Finally, throughout this establishment process, we have tried to be open and collaborative in the creation of STM Solutions. We want to support greater engagement among the variety of players within our scholarly communications space. And we want STM Solutions to become a trusted partner that adds value to the scholarly ecosystem. We’d welcome additional input and involvement and are excited to see where this new initiative will lead us and the wider scholarly communications community.