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Open Access: The Role and Impact of Preprint Servers

NISO on the Road

NFAIS Foresight Event

November 14-15, 2019

Preprint servers and services are actively embraced by a broad range of research communities in North America. Scholarly output in a variety of forms (text, supplemental materials, code, etc.) can be accessed by students and researchers before a final version of record is released. That being the case, there are pragmatic concerns for various constituencies in the information community. Does the feedback that authors receive from those visiting these platforms suffice as a form of peer-review? What accountability exists? Does deposit of a researcher’s preprint automatically qualify as compliance with a funder’s mandate for OA? Additional issues include consistent use of identifiers, the supply of complete and accurate metadata, assurance of long-term preservation and system interoperability. Far from wishing to obstruct this approach to open access, most stakeholders seek to ensure preprint services will be appropriately recognized and integrated into our existing scholarly ecosystem.

The two-day event will enable participants to engage in a cross-sector discussion of how best to integrate preprint services into existing research processes. The objective is to identify potential issues and existing gaps currently impeding the work of those most affected. Scheduled small group discussions will allow attendees to better understand specific community needs and identify mechanisms that will satisfy those needs. What’s working? What’s not? Attend this NISO Foresight event and help the community to further open access just that little bit more!

Currently confirmed speakers include Jessica Polka, Executive Director, ASAPBio, Gerry Grenier, Senior Director, Content Management, IEEEOya Rieger, Senior Advisor, Ithaka S&R, Kent Anderson, Founder, Caldera Publishing Solutions, Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director, COAR, Tyler Walters, Dean of Libraries, Virginia Tech; Angela Cochran, Managing Director and Publisher, ASCE, Thomas Narock, Assistant Professor, Integrative Data Analytics, Goucher College, Kathryn Funk, Scientist, National Institutes of Health, Jeff Beck, Literature Program Head, NCBI, and Gregg Gordon, Managing Director, SSRN.

Event Sessions

Thursday, November 14, 2019: 1:00pm - 1:15pm  Welcome and Statement of Purpose


1:15pm - 2:00pm The Impact and Practical Role of the Preprint in our Current Environment


Preprints are a hot new trend in some areas, a tried-and-true practice in others. This keynote will examine some of the evidence around their utility, potential, and role, as well as reviewing some evidence of their extensibility to other fields, and some of the ways approaches to preprints are being modified as adoption expands. A discussion of various claimed benefits will also be included.

2:00pm - 2:30pm The Unfunded Mandate of Compliance


During the last decade, we’ve witnessed the emergence of public access policies by a range of governmental and private funding agencies to open up scholarly outputs that result from funded research projects. This presentation explores the potential role of preprint services in fulfilling such mandates, and discusses implications from the perspective of stakeholders such as authors, readers, funders, publishers, and libraries. Preprint services aim to ensure the rapid dissemination of research results and facilitate open access for broad and unlimited distribution. How does this vision intersect with emerging public access mandates and requirements? At a global level, funding agencies continue to be uneven in their approaches and policies in regard to publication repositories, technical and metadata standards, and other compliance and enforcement related specifications. Given the evolving nature of the landscape, what are the implications of preprint servers becoming a part of the compliance infrastructure?  What are the consequences from a sustainability perspective?

2:30pm - 3:00pm Networking break

3:00pm - 3:30pm Acceptance and Use of Preprints in Diverse Domains and Disciplines


Tom Narock

Assistant Professor of Data Science
Goucher College

A wide range of disciplines are building preprint services—web-based systems that enable publishing non peer-reviewed scholarly manuscripts before publication in a peer-reviewed journal. We have quantitatively surveyed nine of the largest English language preprint services offered by the Center for Open Science (COS) and available through an Application Programming Interface. Data indicates that all services are growing, but with submission rates below more mature services (e.g., bioRxiv). The trend of the preprint-to-postprint ratio for each service indicates that recent growth is a result of more preprint submissions. The nine domains we investigated host papers that appear in a range of peer-reviewed journals, and many of these publication venues are not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. When comparing the papers submitted to each service, we observe topic overlap measured by keywords self-assigned to each manuscript, indicating that search functionalities would benefit from cutting across the boundaries of a single service. Finally, we will discuss annotation capabilities, which appear to be rarely used by readers of preprints.

3:30pm - 4:00pm Preprints, the Institutional Repository and the Impact on the Research Institution


Tyler Walters

Dean, University Libraries and Professor
Virginia Tech

The presentation will review the purpose and practices of preprint servers and institutional repositories, specifically looking at peer review support, content recruitment, notification services, content types, and issues of institutional alignment. The impact of preprint and preprint servers on research institutions will be discussed, with particular attention paid to tenure review, faculty time commitments, and university reputation. Other significant issues will be discussed such as the “unfunded mandate problem” and the reallocation of resources to steward scholarship within the institution.

4:00pm - 4:30pm The Impact of Preprints on Scholarly Societies: Business Models and Workflows


Angela Cochran

Managing Director and Publisher
American Society of Civil Engineers

Preprint servers have grown in popularity across multiple disciplines as a way for authors to share early versions of research outputs that may eventually become journal articles. Scholarly society publishers seem to have responded in one of three ways: Wait-and-see, Get-out-in-front, or quietly acquiesce. The session will briefly introduce the challenges to society publishers and review how some societies have accepted (or not) the use of preprints.

4:30pm - 5:00pm The Long and Winding Road


Gregg Gordon

President and CEO
Social Science Research Network (SSRN)

SSRN started in 1994 and was acquired by Elsevier in 2016. This talk will share the ups and downs of early stage research over the past twenty five years and provide perspective on the responsibilities required for success, including the quality and quantity of content and measurements for success.

5:00pm - 6:30 pm Networking Reception

Friday, November 15, 2019: 8:30am - 9:15am Continental Breakfast

9:15am - 9:30am Restatement of Previous Day's Discussions: What Concerns Emerge

9:30am - 10:00am Building TechRxiv -- A Preprint Server for Engineering, Computer Science and Related Technologies


IEEE recently launched a preprint server aimed at the engineering, computer science and related technologies. This talk will present the story of the launch, including features, build platform, and operational processes.

10:00am - 10:30am Next Generation Repositories: Developing a Distributed Architecture to Support Widespread Sharing and Review of Preprints


Kathleen Shearer

Executive Director
COAR - Confederation of Open Access Repositories

This session will cover the following talking points:

--Revisiting the original vision for pre-prints
--Leveraging institutional repository infrastructure for greater sustainability
--Profiling and pilot projects

10:30am - 11:00am Networking Break

11:00am - 11:30am Driving Use: Identifiers and Enhanced Metadata


NIH recognizes preprints as a way for authors to disseminate their work quickly, establish priority of their discoveries, and obtain timely feedback. To that end, NIH asks authors and repositories to ensure preprints are findable through DOIs and open metadata and encourages authors to adopt a license that supports liberal re-use (e.g. Creative Common Attribution licenses). The discoverability and use of preprints is dependent on the application and distribution of consistent metadata as well as the tracking and linking of subsequent versions through permanent identifiers. In this presentation, we will outline the key metadata elements that should be included for preprints to facilitate citation and re-use, best practices for version maintenance, and how to leverage these elements to ensure the integrity and transparency of the scholarly record.

11:30am - 12:00 Noon Case Study: Systems and Interoperability

12:00 Noon - 12:15 Small Group Organization & Break-Out

12:15pm - 1:15pm Working Lunch (Provided) & Small Group Discussion

1:15pm - 1:45pm Small Groups Report Back

1:45pm - 2:15pm Closing Keynote


This talk will summarize and comment upon key issues raised by speakers and other participants throughout the meeting.

2:15pm - 3:00pm Small Groups Reconvene; respond to or evaluate emerging vision and identify next steps for practical outcomes

3:00pm - 3:15pm Small Groups Report Back

3:15pm - 3:30pm Moderator Wrap-Up and Adjourn