In 2022, we did our first self-evaluation according to the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI). In this blog, we take stock ~1 year later, based on POSI v1.1, and reevaluate how we're doing and where there's still room for improvement.
💚 = aligned; 💛 = less aligned; ❤️ = not aligned
|💚||💚||Coverage across the research enterprise||Governance|
|💛||❤️||Formal incentives to fulfil mission & wind-down|
|💚||💚||Time-limited funds are used only for time-limited activities||Sustainability|
|💚||💚||Goal to generate surplus|
|💚||💚||Goal to create contingency fund to support operations for 12 months|
|💚||💚||Mission-consistent revenue generation|
|💚||💚||Revenue based on services, not data|
|💚||💛||Open data (within constraints of privacy laws)|
|💚||❤️||Available data (within constraints of privacy laws)|
Since our last evaluation, POSI evolved with slight alterations to the principles. More information on those changes can be found on Upstream. We incorporate these most recent changes, and where answers stay the same we indicate this by using
. Also, given that the GHG assessments have not been incorporated into POSI, we're dropping them from our self-evaluation but will be back soon with our 2022 assessment regardless.
💚 Coverage across the research enterprise – research transcends disciplines, geography, institutions, and stakeholders. Organisations and the infrastructure they run need to reflect this.
 Any practicing researcher can use the ResearchEquals platform. This ranges from academic researchers to industry researchers, amateur to professional researchers. Any researcher can join and publish, regardless of domain, paradigm, and in a language of their choosing. We recognize that research is pluralist and there’s multiple ways of knowing, which is why ResearchEquals is non-normative in who and what can be published.
💚 Stakeholder Governed – a board-governed organisation drawn from the stakeholder community builds confidence that the organisation will take decisions driven by community consensus and a balance of interests.
We convened our supporting member community twelve times (quarterly since December 2020). In 2023, we revamped and restarted our supporting member strategy. At this point we have seven supporters, including two institutions. There is no named board, as the entire community shares equal voting rights (1 per member) on decision items.
💚 Non-discriminatory participation or membership – we see the best option as an “opt-in” approach with principles of non-discrimination and inclusivity where any stakeholder group may express an interest and should be welcome. Representation in governance must reflect the character of the community or membership.
Any legal person can become a supporting member and participate in our governance procedures. The only barrier is payment of membership dues, although we have sponsored memberships available, courtesy of institutions. Membership may be rejected as a result of code of conduct violations to safeguard the community.
💚 Transparent governance – to achieve trust, the processes and policies for selecting representatives to governance groups should be transparent (within the constraints of privacy laws).
 Our supporting members get information about our operations every quarter. They also get the option to petition us for additional information if they wish - similar to freedom of information requests.
As we currently have limited staff, if we are invited or actively participate in other governance groups, the community gets to participate on an ad hoc basis. This means that questions are put to the supporting community for input as they come up.
💚 Cannot lobby – infrastructure organisations should not lobby for regulatory change to cement their own positions or narrow self-interest. However, an infrastructure organisation’s role is to support its community, and this can include advocating for policy changes.
If invited to advocate the position of ResearchEquals, that opportunity will be shared with the supporting member community on an ad hoc basis (see also “Transparent governance”). The supporter community is a source of input for the positions we advocate for.
💛 Living will – a powerful way to create trust is to publicly describe a plan addressing the conditions under which an organisation or service would be wound down. It should include how this would happen and how any assets could be archived and preserved when passed to a successor organisation or service. Any such organisation or service must adopt POSI and honour the POSI principles.
Over the past year, we designed our immediate archive strategy and implemented it. This helps ensure content stays available and DOIs resolve properly even if the organization suddenly has to be wound down. We are working on further improving this in the next year and are currently in the first steps together with the Internet Archive to expand our preservation efforts.
Moreover, we introduced our poison-pill agreement to further ensure that ownership of the business will not change hands without consent from the supporting members.
💛 Formal incentives to fulfil mission & wind-down – infrastructures exist for a specific purpose, and that purpose can be radically simplified or even rendered unnecessary by technological or social change. Organisations and services should regularly review community support and the need for their activities. If it is possible, the organisation or service (and staff) should have direct incentives to deliver on the mission and wind down.
We are planning for continuity with our archival efforts. A wind down of ResearchEquals will then be seamless and with minimal effort.
We operate ResearchEquals for as long as it makes sense to do so, but do not have hard evaluation criteria what that means. If we serve a niche of researchers publishing modules, that can be sufficient to keep things running.
Supporting members can propose at any time that it's time to shut things down at an assembly (e.g., if people feel like we're dwelling upon a pipedream that's never going to happen).
💚 Time-limited funds are used only for time-limited activities – operations are supported by sustainable revenue sources - whereas time-limited funds are used only for time-limited activities. Depending on grants to fund ongoing and/or long-term infrastructure operations fully makes them fragile and distracts from building core infrastructure.
We run on our own revenue and are financially sustainable for ~6 months at this time. Increasingly, institutions are ready to support the project, which provide time unlimited funds assuming the majority of them renew their membership year over year (with attrition and new members joining taken into account). However, the majority of our revenue comes from time-limited funds provided by consulting efforts - we consider this a transitional phase.
💚 Goal to generate surplus – organisations (or services) that define sustainability based merely on recovering costs are brittle and stagnant. It is not enough to merely survive; organisations and services have to be able to adapt and change. To weather economic, social and technological volatility, they need financial resources beyond immediate operating costs.
ResearchEquals is run by Liberate Science GmbH - a for-profit organisation. We aim to be financially sustainable and generate surplus that we can then use to pay it forward into other projects, together with the supporter community. Part of those profits will also be used to create a reserve fund that can help make the project more resilient (see next point).
💚 Goal to create financial reserves – a high priority should be having ring-fenced financial reserves, separate from operating funds, that can support implementing living will plans, including a complete, orderly wind down or transition to a successor organisation, or major unexpected events.
All operational aspects of ResearchEquals can be transitioned at a moments notice to provide longevity of published content. This limits our need for financial reserves.
We currently have no dedicated reserves but are able to operate for ~6 months into the future without further income, which would more than suffice to wind down the project in an orderly fashion. We do not make any false promises about maintaining full operation for X amount of time - our goal at the moment is to ensure longevity of produced content while in operation.
💚 Mission-consistent revenue generation – revenue sources should be evaluated against the infrastructure’s mission and not run counter to the aims of the organisation or service.
Our revenue generating devices are continuously shared and discussed in our assemblies. Entire new business models are proposed before implemented, to ensure our community consents to the direction we're taking.
 In Liberate Science‘s manifesto and theory of change, we outlined why and how we want to change research. The core of ResearchEquals has to be in line with these values. For instance, we encourage free access to knowledge production. The Pay to Close model was inspired by this value, flipping the „pay to publish“ Open Access model on its head.
Instead of seeing our mission as a limitation for revenue generation, we see it as a catalyst for ideas.
💚 Revenue based on services, not data – data related to the running of the scholarly infrastructure should be community property. Appropriate revenue sources might include value-added services, consulting, API Service Level Agreements or membership fees.
Our current revenue comes from:
- Supporting memberships (institutional and individual)
- Pay what you want
- Pay to Close
We do not have any data based services.
💚 Open source – All software and assets required to run the infrastructure should be available under an open-source licence. This does not include other software that may be involved with running the organisation.
 That’s easy - view our >3,700 commits on GitHub. Fork and let fork! 🍴
💚 Open data (within constraints of privacy laws) – For an infrastructure to be forked (reproduced), it will be necessary to replicate all relevant data. The CC0 waiver is the best practice in making data openly and legally available. Privacy and data protection laws will limit the extent to which this is possible.
Because of our immediate archive, which is updated every night, anybody can get all the metadata and data that is important to replicate the service, at any time. Additionally, we deposit all metadata for research modules with CrossRef. This includes all citations and abstracts, and whatever other information we can deposit there.
💚 Available data (within constraints of privacy laws) – It is not enough that the data be “open” if there is no practical way to obtain it. Underlying data should be made easily available via periodic open data dumps.
All information gets dumped on a nightly basis in our immediate archive. Although done, there's refinements that are possible in the future.
💚 Patent non-assertion – The organisation should commit to a patent non-assertion policy or covenant. The organisation may obtain patents to protect its own operations, but not use them to prevent the community from replicating the infrastructure.
We recommit that we do not patent, nor do we want to.
We show our commitment to continuously share our work publicly, creating prior art on an ongoing basis, reducing the chances of us even being able to patent.
Overall, we score 5/7 on governance, 5/5 on sustainability, and 4/4 on insurance. We're also now semi-aligned on everything, with no red hearts left in our evaluation.
Thank you for being on this journey with us. If you have thoughts on how we can improve, please feel encouraged to send us an email at email@example.com.