Major Award From the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

By pbrantley | 28 March, 2014

De Maculis solaribus

Hypothesis is pleased to announce a major award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to advance “Open, Digital Annotation for Scholarly Communication.” The award will support work with our partners, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which is international in scope; eLife Sciences, an open access journal jointly funded by the Max Plank Society, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Wellcome Trust; and the arXiv pre-print repository for physical sciences at the Cornell University Library.

Hypothesis is a mission-driven organization working to develop an open-source solution supporting annotation of web documents, building on top of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Annotator project, and contributing to and utilizing the Open Annotation standard.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation award is for $638,000, and will support a year-long engagement commencing on April 1, 2014. In addition, the funding underpins the 2014 I Annotate conference, a co-located W3C annotation workshop, and a project-focused meeting in Washington D.C. to canvas the options for involving annotation in peer review workflows.

Our goal in this grant is to accelerate the availability of open, digital annotation within scholarly communication. Annotation is an important key to enriching the debate and discussion needed for research and education because it facilitates deeper engagement with articles and ideas. We believe that it is important to execute this work now as part of the overall development of open digital annotation for the Web. Done today, the work is affordable and likely to succeed; if we wait and retrofit annotation into scholarly publishing after Web annotation has matured, the effort will be substantially more expensive, and more likely to fail.

Our work is ambitious, but it involves a necessary series of steps toward achieving a better understanding of implementing annotation systems within scholarly publishing platforms. Annotation in the scholarly community is in transition: although many publications are experimenting with commenting systems, full-fledged annotation is often feared for the perceived loss of control over the form of the final published product, or the article review process itself. Successful integrations of annotation technology should lead to journal editors and publishers becoming willing to test and deploy annotation services, and these engagements must then lead to continuing revision of both technology and the scholarly process.

Currently, scholarly communication is under intense pressure from many angles, motivating improvements in both quality and productivity. Further, social media is rapidly encouraging new forms of scholarly interactions where current measures of scholarly impact are of limited value. Digital annotation tools and services, with new “altmetrics” that can accompany them, provide a bridge between traditional scholarly practices and the emerging technological realities of the Web and social media, helping scholarly communication to move forward and thrive.’ partners in this grant bring diversity across scholarly communication, and all are at the leading edge of innovation. AGU is one of the most respected learned societies in international scholarship, operating a large number of peer-reviewed scholarly journals. AGU will help ensure that our software can serve the complex needs of traditional scholarly communication. eLife is a new biosciences publication with a mission to test significant reforms of basic processes like peer review that are fundamental to scholarly communication. ArXiv is one of the largest open repositories of scholarly articles in the world, and its use-cases are similar to those of other new forms of scholarly communication such as social media. By working collaboratively with all our partners, we increase the cross-fertilization among them, enabling each to take and use innovations originally conceived and executed by the others.

Each of our partners will engage in specific trials. AGU will investigate post-publication peer review in the new open access journal, Earth’s Future. ArXiv will permit selected groups of readers to make and view annotations on arXiv articles, or the formally published versions of the same articles, and support new authentication mechanisms, potentially involving ORCID, that would permit overlay journals to integrate select conversations on arXiv. eLife will implement annotation supporting pre-publication peer-review. This will be incorporated into a new and more flexible revision system that will be created to streamline the editorial review process.

Ultimately, achieving the full potential of annotation as a ubiquitous layer across human knowledge, and in particular as a scholarly tool, is simply not possible without its openness as a standard. The task of and its partners is to illustrate that the greatest potential of annotation is obtained through open software implementations, and to provide the tools and services necessary to create and support them.

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