Building CHORUS note by note

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27 April 2015

Collaborations between organizations are built by a series of small steps. These relationships work best when the parties work together on a sequence of joint activities that help build trust and understanding of each party’s perspective. Starting out with relatively simple and defined tasks and then moving on to more complex elements helps the collaboration grow in strength and confidence. 

When one partner organization is a major federal agency with a 60+ year legacy of funding and promoting science and the other partner is a small, nonprofit start-up with big ambitions, the need for a step-by-step engagement becomes even more important. Such is the backdrop for last Monday’s (April 20) announcement of the signing of the Participation Agreement between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the CHORUS organization—a budding member organization of publishers and publishing services providers whose mission is to develop and implement pragmatic methods for providing access to scholarly articles that report on publically funded research.

DOE made note of their planned partnership with CHORUS when this agency announced its public access plan last August and since then have been working out the details of the agreement. Essentially, CHORUS infrastructure will help support DOE’s PAGES public access portal, whereby users can view accessible articles on publishers’ platforms. DOE was the first agency to announce a plan for making the results of this agency’s research funding, including research reports, publications, and data, available to the public. Since the DOE plan was announced, other US federal agencies have announced their plans, and several more are expected this spring. This column noted the announcement of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) public access plan last month. NSF coordinated its plan with DOE because it intends to use both DOE and CHORUS technical infrastructure.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) public access directive and the congressional language which laid the legislative framework for the directive (the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010) encouraged agencies to develop partnerships with the private sector so that “the interoperability between public and private platforms” could be optimized with minimal impact on federal research investments. That is exactly what you see happening with the DOE partnership with CHORUS. The groundwork started shortly after the COMPETES Act became law in early 2011, with DOE playing a lead role along with representatives from NSF, NASA, and the Wellcome Trust to assist the CrossRef organization’s FundRef service. This project provides a straightforward means for authors to supply standardized funding information at the time of submission of their manuscripts, thus enabling the identification of research funding behind published works.

The CHORUS organization grew out of a collaboration of publishers who were already working with agencies to expand public access. The first expression of the partnership was the development of CrossRef’s FundRef, followed by the ability to link to articles on publishers’ sites.

In advance of DOE’s releasing its plan, CHORUS ran a targeted pilot program to demonstrate how the system would work and deliver a user-friendly experience. Just as DOE released its public access plan last summer, CHORUS moved into the production phase. As of this writing CHORUS has records for over 87,000 articles tagged to US agency funding and approximately 25,000 of these articles are publically accessible.

Over the past several months, DOE and CHORUS have worked out the details of their partnership, which will enable both parties to realize their objectives. The formal agreement signed last week describes how both parties will work together for promoting open standards for identifying researchers (such as ORCID) and agency-tagged articles (through FundRef), for providing a comprehensive index of all DOE-tagged articles, for exploring methods of sharing article usage statistics, and for linking from PAGES to the publically available articles on publisher sites. CHORUS offers and continues to develop additional services and capabilities to offer agency partners and publisher members.

Jeffrey Salmon, Deputy Director for Resource Management of DOE’s Office of Science, has led the development of DOE’s public access plan. He noted in his April 20 blog post that the partnership is showing a joint benefit from his standpoint. My CHORUS colleagues and I agree, as indicated in our concurrent posting. We are confident of a long and fruitful partnership based on the achievement of this signature agreement.