Findable, Citable, Usable, Sustainable: A Checklist for Rigorous Digital Publishing

This is the fourth in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2018, and their projects. This one was submitted by Monica McCormick.

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What risk is your project trying to overcome?

The risks involved in digital scholarly publishing are manifold. Scholars fear their work that is inherently digital will not be assessed on the same level as the more traditional outputs of their colleagues, or that promotion and tenure committees will not know how to evaluate such work. Libraries and IT departments risk the long-term commitment of labor to create and maintain often bespoke digital publishing projects, which may be vulnerable to obsolescence or eventual disinterest by the original creators. Readers around the globe may be unable to find digital scholarship (because there is no reliable aggregator or index) or unable to access them (because they lack the technological infrastructure or bandwidth required). Taken together, these risks create significant barriers to scholars who wish to undertake novel digital work; to the organizations and institutions that seek to support this work; and to the full audience that may have interest in or benefit from the work. By identifying a broad set of criteria for digital scholarly projects, and articulating how those criteria may be implemented, we aim to support the creation of impactful, robust, and rigorous networked scholarship, readable by both humans and machines, that can be effectively sustained and reused, to enable more such scholarship in diverse settings that may answer questions not yet asked.

What is your project?

We believe that a rigorous, accessible, standards-based framework for digital scholarly publishing could mitigate these risks, yet no such framework exists. Working in our separate organizations with specific goals and constraints, we’ve each experienced the great difficulty in considering the many elements of a good digital publishing project or collection and the even greater challenge of implementing them. Drawing on our experiences and others’ in our communities, our Triangle SCI project is to identify the criteria for robust, impactful digital scholarly publishing and to transform that into a checklist, with standards, recommendations, best practices, and alternatives for each element. We will debate and document the criteria and standards that will constitute a flexible, robust framework, and to enable its widespread institutional adoption. We aim to lower the risks of digital publishing for libraries, presses, and scholars alike and to empower ourselves to create digital publishing (including digital humanities) projects that are more visible, more usable, universally accessible, and sustainable.

What are your goals for the project and your work at Triangle SCI 2018?

We want to create a useful tool for many kinds of projects, one that helps creators avoid common oversights and supports the development of impactful scholarship.

The outcome of our work together will be a detailed checklist that enables creators and collaborators to design and build their projects while bearing in mind all the elements they may want to consider. The checklist will also enable digital publishers to select platforms and identify tools that support or enable these criteria. Ideally, it will serve as a guide for platform developers, indicating desired elements and features that their tools should provide.

We anticipate that the checklist will address the following elements:

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  • Use of digital identifiers (URIs, handles, DOIs, ORCIDs, ARKs, etc.)
  • Rights (e.g., author’s rights, assets rights) and licenses (e.g.,, Creative Commons licenses)
  • Platforms (open source and proprietary; usability, migration, and preservation issues)
  • Genres/Project Types (typologies of digital publishing, ongoing vs. sunsetting)
  • Peer review (open, blind, other methods; indicators that peer review occurred)
  • Accessibility (availability, usability, disability)
  • Preservation (technical infrastructures, metadata guidelines, preservation strategy)
  • Discovery (in various discovery systems, for both humans and machines)
  • Metrics of use, engagement, and impact
  • Citation (identifying citable units, integration with citation tools)
  • Annotation (networked interaction with published projects)
  • Reuse (in terms of rights and of technical re-use via APIs, zipped files, etc.)

Our team will be working in advance of Triangle SCI to research existing standards and practices for each element, so that during our time together we can build out the checklist with consciousness of how these elements work together. We aim to produce a detailed draft that can then be shared, tested, and refined by the community.

Who are you, and how will your perspectives support the goals of the project?

We are a team of digital humanists, library and university press publishers, and digital scholarship librarians. We built our team to with an eye toward bringing critical stakeholders into the conversation: digital scholars, technologists, librarians, publishers, and other scholarly communication practitioners. We want our project to benefit from and reflect diverse experiences–diverse technologies, languages, geography, and training–to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive set of tools.

Nicky Agate is Assistant Director, Scholarly Communication & Projects at Columbia University, where her team works on a library publishing platform, the institutional repository, and digital humanities programming—and wishes that the proposed framework already existed. She has previously worked with digital humanists and others on issues of risk in scholarly communication:  digital identity, recognition for digital projects, and expanding the remit of scholarly communication to include research expressed in experimental and digital formats. The research she has conducted through HuMetricsHSS, an initiative seeking to establish a framework for values-based assessment and evaluation in the humanities and social sciences, will inform this team’s approach to indicating the impact and success of digital publication projects.

Cheryl E. Ball is Director of the Digital Publishing Collaborative at Wayne State University Libraries, after 14 years as a professor of rhetoric, writing, and publishing. Ball is editor of the longest continuously running, scholarly multimedia journal, Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, from which much of her published research on editorial workflows and digital publishing infrastructures has come. She is the Project Director for Vega, an open-access multimedia academic publishing platform and serves as the executive director of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. Through work with CELJ, Kairos, and consulting with other journals and presses, she has helped create best practices for e-journals and for accessibility in digital publishing, topics which she also teaches through KairosCamp.

Allison Belan is Associate Director for Digital Strategy and Publishing Systems at Duke University Press. After many years of managing Duke’s journals production workflow, and seeing the transition from a print-centric workflow to a format-flexible one, Belan assumed a role tasked with setting and aligning digital content practices across the press’s book and journal operations. She now works to align all aspects of the press’s digital publishing strategy and operations to build a digital presence that connects scholars and thinkers to press publications in ways that speed Duke UP’s scholarship to the world.

Monica McCormick is Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Publishing and Research at the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press. After 16 years in university press publishing, primarily as an acquisitions editor at the University of California Press, she moved into libraries, spending the past ten years leading digital publishing projects and services at NYU Libraries and NYU Press, where she served as the managing editor of  MediaCommons, and project manager of a study into methods and tools for Open Peer Review and another to develop infrastructure for networked monograph publishing. Now at the University of Delaware, she leads a new division in the library that includes the University of Delaware Press and service teams for digitization, digital scholarship, repositories, research data, and copyright. She brings to the team deep knowledge of both traditional print and digital publishing, and a wide range of experience with scholars, technologists, and librarians.

Joshua Neds-Fox is Coordinator for Digital Publishing at Wayne State University Libraries. He helps guide the development and direction of the Libraries’ digital collections infrastructure and institutional repository, and collaborates with Wayne State UP to house their online journals. He serves on the Library Publishing Coalition Board of Directors, and is user-testing the LPC publishing curriculum modules created through an IMLS grant this past year.

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What are your plans for continuing the work of the project and spreading the word after Triangle SCI 2018?

To share this work after the institute, we plan on the following outreach efforts:

  • Publish our framework to an open-review platform, such as Humanities Commons, Comment Press, or simply Google Docs, and invite comments from practitioners around the world to see whether it addresses real needs effectively.
  • Present the framework for feedback at venues such as Library Publishing Forum, Association of University Presses, Society for Scholarly Publishing, Coalition for Networked Information, Modern Language Association, American Historical Association, Open Repositories, International Digital Curation Conference, KairosCamp.
  • Identify areas that need deeper development and make iterative improvements.
  • Develop a plan to test and pilot the framework at institutions of varying sizes and global locations to further refine it before making it more widely available.

[ Photos by Frederic Köberl, Ciprian Boiciuc, and Hitoshi Suzuki, used under Unsplash free license. ]
[Post edited on 28 August to adjust team composition, as one participant listed earlier is no longer able to attend.]

2 thoughts on “Findable, Citable, Usable, Sustainable: A Checklist for Rigorous Digital Publishing

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