The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship

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2016 has been a big year for FORCE11 with a lot going on, much of it behind the scenes. The success of the Portland FORCE2016 meeting built on the great work of previous conferences to bring hundreds of people from over 30 countries together. The conference was not only a gathering of a vast array of people from different disciplines and nationalities, but also a place to try things out, for instance the Attribution Working Group used OpenVIVO to capture non-traditional outputs contributed to FigShare.  Thanks also to the chairs, sponsors, and supporters, without whom the conference would not be possible.

We’ve had a wide range of active working groups. The Software Citation group published a set of Software Citation Principles and the Data Citation Implementation Pilot (supported by a supplemental grant of the NIH BD2K bioCADDIE project) has been rapidly moving towards defining the implementation of those principles. Meetings hosted by the Scholarly Commons Working Group engaged a diverse group of people, and those discussion continues. Do we actually share principles that define scholarship? What would scholarly communications look like if it could be re-invented today? And how can we bring differing groups – including FORCE11 – together in this challenging and critical conversation. Leaders from the Scholarly Commons project are seeking new funding to support a broad based community-led partnership to encourage further discussion and research on these issues in partnership with FORCE11 and other institutions.

Sustainability has been the central issue for the FORCE11 Board in 2016. Getting the point where we have a solid base is an important part of continuing to develop the organisation and the platform we hope it can be. FORCE11 has been built largely on the contributions of volunteers and is growing fast. We are a very lean organisation, with one part-time person helping manage the day-to-day operations.  With the programs planned for next year we will need to ensure that a stable platform is in place with the necessary staff to support it.

The FORCE2016 conference brought in a surplus and we hope to continue making a modest surplus on the conference and the new Scholarly Communications Institute (more on this below). We’ve made good progress this year in diversifying our funding sources. We still need to do more, and in a few weeks we’ll be rolling out a membership support program asking for your contribution to sustaining the organisation. We’re absolutely committed to not excluding anyone on the basis of cost, but we’re hoping that those of you who can will help by contributing.

FORCE11 in 2017 – Berlin and the new Scholarly Communications Institute

You will have already seen that FORCE2017 will be held 25-27 October (at the end of International Open Access Week) in Berlin at the Karlscheune  The Program Committee is led by Martin Fenner of DataCite. Please send us your ideas on what should be covered, great speakers, important issues, crazy ideas you want to try out, to Berlin is a great city and well worth a visit for that reason alone if you haven’t been before.   If you would like to be involved in the planning you can sign up here.  

But that isn’t all. We are in the early stages of putting together the first FORCE11 Scholarly Communications Institute: a week-long program of courses, technology updates and policy briefings for everyone from undergraduates to faculty deans, researchers, publishers, librarians and technologists. FSCI will run in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego and is designed to fill a gap for training and knowledge exchange between experts in scholarly communication.  

We are now actively looking for people interested in running courses and will be seeking sponsorship to make attendance as inclusive as we can soon. We’re also keen for interested members of the community wanting to contribute through the Program, Communications and Logistics committees.  Sign up for a committee here.  Look for more details early in the New Year.

We expect several working groups to be continuing and refining their work and are expecting a few more to start up as well. We’re looking forward to work on how to support diversity in scholarly communications events and exciting developments on Data Management Planning. We’re also working on refining our support and planning for Groups to help them plan and support their activities. Get in touch if you have ideas for discussion topics and let us help you find or form a group to take those issues forward.

FORCE11 in the Future

And that brings me to the big question. Another issue we’ve been grappling with this year is what exactly is FORCE11 for? We bring people together to work towards making practical changes in scholarly communications. We are a platform that supports these working groups. And we bring an exciting group of people together at our annual conference and soon our training institute.

[The mission of FORCE11 is to improve research practices by supporting innovations in the ways knowledge is created and shared across research disciplines, communities, sectors and timeframes.

We do this through:

  • Connecting the global communities interested in communications in research

  • Building an engaging space for discussion and collaborative work

  • Facilitating the development, demonstration, dissemination and deployment of new approaches and tools for effective digital communications in research.]

There are other groups doing similar work, including the Research Data Alliance, NISO, ICSTI and disciplinary groups like the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, ESIP and others. Are we all just replicating each other’s work? I think that these different groups do different things, and in different ways. What makes FORCE11 unique is three things: a broad scope, a commitment to engaging diverse communities, and a focus on being a platform for those communities to define and discuss issues.

This emerges in a number of ways, but the key to it is really two aspects. One: we are not a single community. We are a platform where individuals from many communities come together to identify where progress can be made. Two: we do not do implementation, rather we provide a platform  for people to organize how to implement. Implementation is something best left to communities themselves and stakeholder organisations in those spaces. FORCE11 has a focus on delivering change, and part of that is getting out of the way when the route forward has been decided.

As a result, we don’t seek to brand outputs. The Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles are just that, not the FORCE11 Principles but a “Joint Declaration” meaning many organizations. CODATA, RDA, Crossref, DataCite and the relevant implementation organisations are now working to support the implementation, guided by the work of the DCIP Group. Similarly with the FAIR Data Principles, which have been adopted and referenced by groups from the G7 to ScienceEurope and the NIH. FORCE11 provided a space that supported their development, and now they belong to the entire community.

Our approach grew organically. It wasn’t planned. But I think it’s been pretty successful. Developing and agreeing on principles, and then working towards consensus on implementation isn’t necessarily the highest profile work (and it sure isn’t the easiest to get funded!) but it is the glue that can help all of our communities work more effectively together. For me this year has been one of refining what FORCE11 can be, and how that can be sustained. It’s reinforced the thoughts that motivated me when I took over as President:

FORCE11 provides a space where the diverse communities that care about scholarly communication can meet, identify issues, and find consensus on how to build a better future.


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