Spotlight on Annotation for Transparent Inquiry: Finalist for 2018 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

By ALPSP | 6 September, 2018

This post by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) was originally published on their blog on 5 Sep 2018 and is reposted here with permission.

On 13 September we will be announcing the winner of the 2018 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing, sponsored by MPS Limited, at the annual ALPSP Conference.  In this series of posts leading up to the Awards ceremony we meet our six finalists and get to know a bit more about them.

Logos for Hypothesis, Qualitative Data Repository and Cambridge University Press.In this blog, we speak to Nisha Doshi, Senior Digital Development Publisher at Cambridge University Press, Heather Staines, Director of Partnerships at Hypothesis and Sebastian Karcher, Associate Director of the Qualitative Data Repository.

Tell us a bit about your company

One of the things that makes Annotation for Transparent Inquiry unique is that it isn’t the product of one company but the result of a collaboration between three mission-driven organizations: Cambridge University Press, Hypothesis and the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR).

Cambridge University Press dates from 1534 and is part of the University of Cambridge; our mission is to unlock people’s potential with the best learning and research solutions and we published the first articles that make use of Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI).

Hypothesis is an open-source technology company, and they provide the annotation tool that powers ATI.

QDR is a domain repository dedicated to curating, preserving and publishing the data underlying qualitative and multi-method research in the health and social sciences.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

We submitted Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI), which creates a digital overlay on top of content on publisher web pages and connects specific passages of text to author-generated annotations. The ATI annotations include ‘analytic notes’ discussing data generation and analysis, excerpts from data sources, and links to those sources stored in trusted digital repositories. These data sources can be interview transcripts, audio clips, scanned telegrams, maps and so forth – all sorts of different types of material which wouldn’t usually be accessible to the reader. Readers are able to view annotations immediately alongside the main text, removing the need to jump to footnotes or separate appendices.

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it

A passage of the article is highlighted to indicate there’s an annotation, and the annotations are displayed as a collapsible right-hand panel alongside the content. Each annotation created by the author generates a unique persistent web address for the details and analysis shared with the reader. The passage in the publication is linked to the source material, which is archived by QDR — a trusted digital repository. Readers can also shift into an Activity Page where they can view, search, and filter all of the annotations created on the project. From this page, researchers can explore other portions of the content as well as connected resources.

Diagram showing schema for elements of the Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI).

ATI has been a collaborative effort both within and between our three organisations. At Cambridge University Press, launch of ATI has involved colleagues in editorial, digital publishing, the Cambridge Core platform team and marketing, to name but a few.

At Hypothesis, with our dedication to supporting researcher workflow through open annotation, input and technical expertise has come from partnerships, marketing, and product development.

And at QDR, transparency in qualitative research is central to our mission and ATI involves the whole team. QDR is run by active researchers, who conceptualized ATI based on ongoing debates in qualitative methods. The repository’s curators provide advice and support to researchers interested in using QDR.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

Recent years have seen significant advances in transparency and reproducibility for quantitative analyses, but progress has much slower for the qualitative analyses central to so much research. ATI brings transparency to qualitative research. ATI allows readers to interrogate qualitative sources in a way that has not hitherto been possible without, for example, travelling to archives or museums to access the original material themselves. It also allows readers to understand authors’ analytic processes in depth, verify their evidence and thus properly evaluate their findings. By utilizing an annotation layer, authors are no longer constrained by word limits and thus can elaborate on aspects of the project which are important to them, providing rich media and additional links as needed.

What are your plans for the future?

We originally launched ATI in April 2018 with eight articles published by Cambridge University Press, followed by a 9th article published in May. We are now working to integrate ATI with books published by Cambridge, as well as material from other publishers and preprint servers. Although ATI was launched by Cambridge University Press, Hypothesis and QDR, it makes use of open standards and open source technology and the aspiration is that it can go on to be used by different publishers, different annotation tools and/or different data repositories. For example, a further eight articles with annotations on five other publishing platforms are pending publication. The founding partners of ATI are also exploring how best to embed ATI upstream in the research and authoring process.

Lastly (for now), to further promote ATI and explore how authors will conduct research and write with these annotations in mind, QDR launched the “ATI Challenge”. The winners receive an honorarium to help them finalize their manuscript with ATI annotations and, from our point of view, working with those authors in a variety of disciplines and understanding how they want to use ATI will help us further improve workflows, instructions and technology. QDR received more than 80 applications across disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and STM and from across five continents and announced the winning proposals in early August. We believe that the wealth and quality of applications to the ATI challenge shows that Annotation for Transparent Inquiry really does serve a need recognized by qualitative researchers worldwide.

Photo of Nisha Doshi standing on the Great Wall of Chiina.Nisha Doshi is Senior Digital Development Publisher at Cambridge University Press, where she leads the digital publishing team across academic books and journals.

Headshot of Heather Staines with dark background.Heather Staines is Director of Partnerships at Hypothesis, working with publishers, platforms and technology companies to integrate annotation into their workflow.

Headshot of Sebastian Karcher.Sebastian Karcher is the Associate Director of the Qualitative Data Repository, where his work focuses on data curation and technological strategy.

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