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October 21, 2020

Living Our Values and Principles: Exploring Assessment Strategies for the Scholarly Communication Field

Through the Next Generation Library Publishing project (2019-2022), Educopia Institute, California Digital Library, and Stratos, in close collaboration with COAR, LYRASIS, and Longleaf Services, seek to improve the publishing pathways and choices available to authors, editors, and readers through strengthening, integrating, and scaling up scholarly publishing infrastructures to support library publishers. In addition to building publishing tools and workflows, our team is exploring how to create community hosting models that align explicitly and demonstratively with academic values. 

Living Our Values and Principles: Exploring Assessment Strategies for the Scholarly Communication Field explores the relationship between today’s varied scholarly publishing service providers and the academic values that we believe should guide their work. We begin with a brief definition of the academic mission and then briefly probe how profit motivations have come to dominate the current scholarly publishing marketplace. We consider and analyze how academic players from a range of stakeholder backgrounds have produced a broad range of “values and principles” statements, documents, and manifestos in hopes of recalibrating the scholarly publishing landscape. We contextualize this work within the broader landscape of assessment against values and principles.

Based on our findings, we recommend that academic stakeholders more concretely define their values and principles in terms of measurable actions, so these statements can be readily assessed and audited. We propose a methodology for auditing publishing service providers to ensure adherence to agreed-upon academic values and principles, with the dual goals of helping to guide values-informed decision making by academic stakeholders and encouraging values alignment efforts by infrastructure providers. We also explore ways to structure this assessment framework both to avoid barriers to entry and to discourage the kinds of “gaming the system” activities that so often accompany audits and ranking mechanisms. We close by pointing to work we have recently undertaken: the development of the Values and Principles Framework and Assessment Checklist, which were issued for public comment in July-August, 2020 on CommonPlace (hosted by the Knowledge Futures Group).  

We are grateful for the generous support of this work by Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. We also deeply appreciate the engagement so many had with an early version of this paper during its public review period in the spring of 2020, then titled “Encouraging Adherence to Values and Principles.” We incorporated feedback from that review period into this publication before its finalization and release in October 2020. 

Corrections and clarifications to this publication are specified in the text, with a footnote providing notification that a change occurred and on what date that change occurred. Below, we detail all corrections and clarifications made.

  • Nov 5, 2020: On page 5, the authors mistakenly included Frontiers in (an independent, mixed model OA publisher) instead of F1000 (an OA publisher whose acquisition by Taylor & Francis was announced 10-Jan-2020) in a list of organizations that have been acquired by or merged with larger, profit-driven publishers and publishing infrastructure providers. This error was corrected, and a footnote documents the change.