A PEER of the research publishing realm

Nancy Elkington and I were involved – with Stephen Pinfield at Nottingham, and others – in drafting the bid to JISC for the SHERPA Project in the UK, back in 2002. The acronym was my invention, which I mention only because it is rarely given in its uncontracted form: Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access. It is fairly indigestible, I will admit, but the ‘hybrid environment’ we envisaged was one in which libraries and publishers collaborated over research publication, by means of mechanisms we could not yet foresee, within a terrain which featured freely available institutional repositories as well as commercially produced published journals. SHERPA’s aim was to kick-start these repositories.

PEER is a new, pioneering collaboration between publishers, repositories and the research community, funded by the European Commission, which has just published invitations to tender for two of three important studies to be undertaken over the next few years. PEER will make an important contribution to the debate over whether the sort of hybrid environment envisaged by SHERPA is achievable, by gathering the evidence in the form of an Observatory which will sit at the heart of these studies. In the news release email, Chris Armbruster of the Max Planck Digital Library, who will lead the Observatory, emphasises that the starting point is one of openness among the players:

Significant about the PEER project is the cooperation of the various stakeholders in the scholarly publishing cycle without prejudice.

Participating publishers have agreed to make available at least 16,000 peer reviewed manuscripts destined to become journal articles in ISI-ranked journals for archiving every year for three years. The work will focus on what the project documentation calls ‘stage-two’ research outputs – i.e. the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscript, not the unrefereed preprint (‘stage one’) nor the final published version (‘stage three’). The December news release, posted to various lists, states that

The aim is to investigate the effects of the large-scale deposit (so called Green Open Access) on user access, author visibility, and journal viability.

At the heart of the project an Observatory will be built to gather evidence about the impact of systematic archiving of stage-two research outputs. Three strands of research will be tendered:

Behavioural Research: Authors and Users vis-à-vis Journals and Repositories (Call mid-December 2008, Deadline mid-February 2009). The objectives will be to:

  • Track trends and explain patterns of author and user behaviour in the context of so called Green Open Access
  • Understand the role repositories play for authors in the context of journal publishing
  • Understand the role repositories play for users in context of accessing journal articles.
  • Usage Research: Journals and Repositories (Call mid-December 2008, Deadline mid-February 2009). The objectives will be to:

  • Determine usage trends at publishers and repositories
  • Understand source and nature of use of deposited manuscripts in repositories
  • Track trends, develop indicators and explain patterns of usage for repositories and journals.
  • Economic research: The deposit of journal manuscripts in repositories (Summer 2009). The objectives will be to:

  • Compare the efficiency and cost effectiveness of methods of deposit, e.g. publisher-assisted vs. author self-archiving
  • Compare the efficiency and cost effectiveness of access, e.g. repositories vs. publisher systems.
  • PEER is based on the selection of 200-300 ISI-ranked journals, from which manuscripts will be selected for deposit. Publishers will hold a control group of equivalent journals from which no manuscripts will be deposited. Half of the manuscripts will be deposited directly by the publisher, but the other half will require action by the author before archiving. Authors will be invited to deposit in repositories participating in the PEER project.

    Partners in PEER are The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), the European Science Foundation, Göttingen State and University Library, the Max Planck Society and l’Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA), supported by the SURF Foundation and the University of Bielefeld, which will contribute the expertise of the EU-funded DRIVER project. The funding comes from the European Commission’s eContentplus Programme.

    The PEER project has nominated a Research Oversight Group consisting of

  • Justus Haucap, Professor of Competition Policy, University of Erlangen. Professor Haucap chairs the German Monopolies Commission.
  • Henk Moed, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University. Dr Moed has been the recipient of the Derek de Solla Price Award.
  • Carol Tenopir, Professor of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee. Professor Tenopir has received the International Information Industry Lifetime Achievement Award.