As we are about to start a new calendar and fiscal year, it is helpful to reflect on how we’ve done in the past year. Reflection is a helpful tool to celebrate achievements and to give feedback to ourselves, maybe even identify patterns we cannot see in the moment.
2022 was a big year for us at Liberate Science! We’ve achieved a lot with a small team.
Let us review some of the things we achieved in 2022 as a community achieved.
One of the biggest steps we took this year was the launch of our own open access publishing platform ResearchEquals. On this platform, researchers publish their process instead of just their outcomes.
After we made the tough decision in the summer of 2021 that rebuilding our publishing platform was necessary, we gave ourselves six months to do so. We wanted to launch on February 1st 2022 with a new platform that not only provided a reliable publishing experience for researchers, but also introduced us to creating DOIs and running a modern web application. In hindsight it is obvious that we succeeded in doing so on time — and within budget.
Since February 1st 2022, ResearchEquals has become home to over 230 people and over 100 research modules!
We are encouraged by this growth as a result of doing eight seminars throughout the year (e.g., at RIOT Science Club, FORRT, Max Planck Institute), the informal conversations we had, and the experimental marketing we did. There was no communications strategy to this growth (point of improvement!).
In order to put those numbers into perspective, we compared them to one of the projects with a longer track record: the Open Science Framework (OSF). In their first year (2012), 371 people registered on the OSF and published 38 study registrations (average publishing rate of 10%). Comparing that to our 2022 numbers, fewer people registered on the platform, but they published more (average publishing rate of 41%). Of course the platforms aren’t the same, but this is still helpful information.
Note that the OSF inspired ResearchEquals in many ways and we look up to the work they’ve done over the past decade. Measuring ourselves based on their growth trajectory allows us to understand what we might be capable of, not to see whether we are outperforming them. We celebrate the OSF for surpassing a 100,000 published registrations and 500,000 registered people after a decade of hard work. Our comparison merely allows us to understand whether dreaming of similar numbers for ResearchEquals is realistic!
Late into 2022, we launched ResearchEquals Collections. This is a one-click way of creating overlay journals (or any other kind of curated collection of research objects with a DOI). In the eight weeks since launching Collections, people have already created twelve collections! We feel this is indicative that the idea of curated collections is resonating with people, and that we can carry this idea forward. People want to become their own editor, it seems. We look forward to providing more use cases in 2023 to showcase how Collections help make all the curation work you do more visible.
We also want to celebrate the fact that we have been running ResearchEquals as a reliable service since launch - we had no major outages whatsoever thanks to our quality assurance procedures. You can view our uptime at any time on our status page.
Another big effort this year was the Open Update podcast.
We ended our first season after 52 episodes of weekly updates to move on to a more intensely produced second season. In the second season we interviewed ten guests about the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.
These seasons helped us provide running tabs on what was happening in the research landscape, plus help provide perspectives on ongoing issues. The main goal, in hindsight, of the Open Update is to create conversations around research labor and the power structures in research. We will carry that forward into 2023 (season 3 is in the works!).
Spotify provided us with a nice overview of how the podcast has grown this year.
Theory of change
Halfway through 2022, we introduced our theory of change this year, which we summarise as follows:
The details go a bit deeper and the main difference with other theories of change is that we include the power dynamics into the analysis.
We focus on making research work visible and harness the idea that there is no meritocratic, level playing field. Whether the causes come from individuals or systems, conscious or unconscious behaviour, they are in effect and important to take into account as we strive to make an impact on improving research as a whole.
With ResearchEquals we realised the tools to make visible the research steps that remain unpublished in journals. With ResearchEquals Collections we realised the tools to make visible the curation of research that already happens by researchers in a variety of forms. These relate to two of our aims that we want to realise in the next 2 years - the question for 2023 remains how to build on that. The technological infrastructure means nothing without the human infrastructure to support it.
While we did set ourselves several goals for 2022 in the theory of change, we realised upon reflecting whether we achieved those that they were not specific enough (view the details here). Our activities for 2023 will be better to evaluate against, and we will be sharing an initial set shortly.
In 2022, we grew the business' revenue every quarter, reaching ~25% of our spend in the final quarter (denoted #9 below). We have generated income primarily from our consulting activities (>90%) and some from our products on ResearchEquals.
For product income, we introduced three business models in ResearchEquals. We introduced...
- ...the Pay to Close model with the launch of ResearchEquals, but did not market this. It was never intended to make us money, as we are in this business to create open research.
- ...the Pay-What-You-Want model, which on average 30% of publishing authors used since its introduction (on average paying €15). We consider these as showcases of support — everytime we get one of these, we do a little dance! 🕺🏻💃🏽
- ...the paid Collections, which have been driving some revenue since introduction in November.
Overall, we see that the business is still heavily dependent on consulting income, but product income is growing. In 2023, we will have to take this into account.
Finally, we have also been institutionalising the values of our manifesto and open scholarship more broadly into our organisation. For example, some of our highlights:
- We signed on to the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure
- We set up policies that embed equity in our organisational culture (like our Event Policy)
- We estimated our 2021 carbon emissions (-30% from 2020)
- 1% of our payments processed through Stripe are committed to permanent carbon removal projects
In conclusion, 2022 was a year full of exciting developments. This work was made possible by many people, so thanks to our supporting members, our contractors, our core team, and all community contributors!
We look forward to sharing our 2023 plans in the not too distant future with you!