Libraccess original proposal

jbber edited this page Jan 13, 2015 · 20 revisions


Making open access widely available

Proposal to strategic partners by Clement Levallois – 2014, revised in 2015.

1. Summary

“Libraccess” is a project for a web platform indexing and creating services from international open access repositories of documents and datasets, for all scientific disciplines. We invite you to bring your support to this ambitious project.

Worldwide, the new standard is to publish scientific documents and datasets in an open manner (open access, open data, open source). At the moment, these documents are scattered in different repositories, which makes them a pain to find, blocking the development of innovative uses.
Libraccess aims to be the solution of reference for servicing open access documents from these repositories. In two sides:

  1. Harvesting and indexing of documents, data and code contained in open access repositories, using their APIs.
  2. Supply of services based on this index: search of documents, authors, university profiles... these services are provided to users through, and via APIs.

In a time when libraries are suffocated by high subscription fees, Libraccess would provide a solution for researchers to find the open access version of the documents they need.

2. What is open access? Why is it an opportunity today?

What is open access?

The activity of scientific publishing is transforming quickly. Because of the high prices of journal subscriptions paid by universities, scientists and governments are pushing for a solution where, in addition to the paper in the paying journal, a copy of the paper is made available on a public “repository”, which can be accessed for free by anyone. This is the open access model.
The open access model exists in different variations. “Green” open access consists in submitting a copy of a scientific work to an electronic archive center (“repository”) which is public and free to access, such as HAL in France ( Often, the agreement with the publisher forces a delay of 6 months between the publication of the paper in the journal, and the publication in the public repository. This is the “embargo” period.
“Gold” open access is the fact that scientific articles published in journals are made available for free to the readership. There are tight conditions for which use are permitted. For example, text mining on these publications can remain prohibited without a paying license.
Open access or scientific publications develops along the open data and open source movements, which are larger trends with clear affinities with academic open access.

Why today?

Until 2011 – 2012, open access was advocated by a minority of researchers and public actors, and sometimes perceived as a marginal phenomenon: would more than a tiny fraction of papers be ever available in open access? In 2013 and 2014, strong signs have shown that open access is going to become a major form of publication, and probably become the main model for publication of public scientific research.
Just two references to make the point:

3. What is the need for Libraccess?

  • Open access repositories multiply, yet there is no centralized entry point to them.
    Open access repositories provide an invaluable service of aggregation of publications and datasets. But the repositories are scattered in different countries and scientific disciplines. It remains to provide a service to access these archives all at once: from all countries, all scientific specialties, and including documents and datasets.
  • Open access is a new publishing mode for research, yet there is no dedicated channel for it.
    It exists of course numerous access points to scientific publications. Today, none of these services is focusing on servicing open access publications. It means that today there is no way to measure or comprehend the scientific output which is delivered open access.
  • Libraries need to provide open access research to their users.
    Today, libraries must cope with heavy subscription prices for scientific journals. Why don’t libraries unsubscribe, given that the papers published in these journals are otherwise publicly available in open access repositories? One essential reason is that open access publications are scattered in many different repositories, which makes them hard to retrieve. Libraccess will provide this portal to open access publications that would enable libraries to redirect users when they do not have a subscription to a specific journal.
  • Serving non-academics
    firms from the knowledge industry and without access to journal subscriptions need a platform of reference to find publications they can access freely. Libraccess is the service they need.
  • Serving agencies in charge of monitoring and evaluating scientific research.
    These agencies will increasingly need to consider open access research specifically, because this research meets the requirement to be freely accessible to taxpayers. At the moment, a number of national or discipline-specific repositories provide a clear view of OA publications they contain. However, there is no view available on cross-repository (cross national, cross discipline) OA publications that agencies can rely on. Libraccess will provide this missing tool.
  • Most importantly: Fostering innovation
    Restricted access to scientific publications has slowed down innovation regarding services based on these publications. Largely under the impulse of the open access movement, innovations are finally taking off: linked data, API access, Epi-journals, altmetrics, enriched profiles for researchers, data visualizations… we observe a diversification of services based on scientific publishing.

These new services need a platform for open access publications to really thrive, and Libraccess is this missing platform. Libraccess will also be in a privileged position to develop these services directly.

4. What business model and governance for Libraccess, and why?

  • Business model
    Libraccess will offer free and paying services. Libraccess will offer free access to its API and to the core services it will develop: doc search and author search: without payment, login, or any other constraint for the user. Libraccess is conceived as a public utility service, transparent and of an excellent quality.
    Paying services will be analytical services (such as university research profiles) interesting research organizations and public research agencies. The role of the paying services is to cover the costs of the free model. If Libraccess would secure enough funds to cover the maintenance costs of its platform, there would be no need for any paying services.
  • What form of governance?
    The main stake of open access is to give back the results of public research, to the public. A free model is a first facilitating condition to achieve this, but this is not enough as illustrated by the case of Mendeley. Mendeley was one of the most popular web hosting platform for open access documents (working papers, preprints, etc.). It is free to use. It did not prevent Mendeley from being bought up by Elsevier in April 2013, which created a big disappointment in the service among the proponents of open access.
    This shows the necessity to safeguard the commitment to open access with adequate mechanisms of governance, so that users can be assured that the platform will remain loyal to its goals. Organizing Libraccess as a not-for-profit organization seems to be the only option. Different options would be available. In the French laws for example, there are the statuses of association loi 1901, or foundation, or “fonds de dotation” which would all serve the not-for-profit objective.

5. There is already Google Scholar, Researchgate… how is Libraccess different?

The different solutions we describe below are of great value, but they have important differences with Libraccess. See also this list of projects similar in spirit with Libraccess.

Google Scholar?

  • No focus on open access.
  • Does not include open data or open source code.
  • Does not provide any information on which repositories are harvested
  • No visibility on long term development (with repeated rumors of cancellation)
  • No connection with the user community: preventing some innovations to develop.
  • No API

ResearchGate / MyScienceWork / Mendeley/

  • No focus on open access, don’t cover open data nor open source.
  • Focus on the creation of academic social networks / events / publishing / hosting / job postings, which are off topic here
  • Indexing is not of the best quality
  • No API (except for Mendeley).

OpenAire / Isidore

  • Geographical limits and / or disciplinary focused.

And Libraccess?

  • Free, without login, open source, committed to a not-for-profit model, transparent
  • Focused on open access, including open data and open source
  • Inclusive approach: partnerships actively sought with repos and main actors of open access
  • Effort on R&D for indexing in linked data and user interface (data visualization)
  • International and interdisciplinary
  • public APIs

6. Who are the strategic partners for Libraccess?

Libraccess ambitions to be the leading portal for open access, worldwide. It supposes that leading actors in the movement for open access bring their support to this project.
Important: the list below does not imply that the organizations and individuals mentioned have brought their support to Libraccess! (but we are in the process of reaching out to all of them).

  1. Open access repositories (OAR)
    These are the most strategic partners: these are their resources that Libraccess is going to display.
    There are hundreds of OARs, with a few dozens that are particularly central: Pubmed Central, SSRN, HAL, DANS, Arxiv, Figshare, Github and many more.

  2. Key figures in the open access movement
    Their collaboration will ensure that Libraccess develops without ignoring the most pressing needs and requisites of the open access movement: the European Commission initiative for Open Access (OpenAire), key individuals such as Stevan Harnad, the Open Science Framework, ORCID...

  3. National research agencies
    These agencies bring a large perspective on the stakes for open access for scientific research. They can make a decisive contribution for the long term future of Libraccess: the CNRS, ESRC, NSF, NWO, DFG, etc.

  4. Universities, higher ed. Institutions and their libraries
    Universities and their libraries will be the first users of Libraccess, and have an important role to play in sharing their needs and expectations. EMLYON and ERIM are the two institutions who support the Libraccess project at the moment.

  5. Other organizations using scientific publications in their activities
    Many organizations from the knowledge economy found their activity on the analysis of the scientific literature. Consulting and involving these organizations in the development of Libraccess would naturally suggest new services based on open access documents.

7. What are the technical features of Libraccess?

The backend: a robust platform to index documents
Libraccess will not host open access documents, because this is a service already provided by the open access repositories. The added value of Libraccess is to harvest these documents in order to create an index of what these documents contain. This indexation activity is a crucial one because it defines the services that Libraccess can offer. We have identified three main challenges that Libraccess will take on:

  • Disambiguation of publications (since the same work can be published in different versions, across different repositories)
  • Disambiguation and precise identification of authors (with their affiliations, in particular).
  • Text mining of the full text of the documents using linked data, to arrive at a semantically rich description of documents and their inter-relations.
    The platform will be created according to the principle that it should be modular (encapsulation and interfacing), so that it remains adaptable to future changes, and to make it ready to be used through public APIs.

The frontend: an ecology of services
Once the indexation running, it becomes possible to offer services based on querying these indices. The classic service is the search engine: query with keywords, return a list of publications.
Libraccess ambitions to create a small number of services of an excellent quality, based on the most common needs expressed by its target users. The quality of the services will stem from three principles:

  • relevance of use case
  • accuracy and transparency of the underlying data
  • extra care for UI design
    In addition to the services created by Libraccess, public APIs will be made available (with a special effort made on documentation) to incentivize third parties to develop their own services, for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

8. What do you expect from me / from my organization?

Libraccess will be a project with strong international impact if it is the result from an initiative gathering major stakeholders from scientific research and the open access movement. For this reason, as a key stakeholder, we ask you for your support. You can make important contributions in three ways:

  1. Feedback and suggestions
  • on the project itself: what are the aspects of the project that appeal the most to you? What do you think is missing? What would you do differently?
  • on your resource: how can your repository / service be used or interfaced with Libraccess? What functionality should Libraccess develop to answer best your needs on open access?
  1. Support letter
    Your support to Libraccess can take the form of a declaration of support – this brings no further engagement but constitutes a precious endorsement for Libraccess. The support can take a more active form, for instance by joining in the initiatives to contact potentially interested partners. You are informed and consulted about all important phases of the development of the project.

  2. Support in kind
    Libraccess needs human and material support to develop its services. You or a member of your organization can join the network of scientists, engineers and testers who provides ad hoc advice on the development of project. Finally and importantly, Libraccess needs financial support to get off the ground. Even a small contribution helps pay for the creation of the platform (concretely, paying the software developers and web designers).

  3. … and what is the reciprocity?
    Libraccess is owned by the people and organizations contributing to its creation and continued existence, as long as they commit to its basic principles (open access, commitment to a perpetual not for profit model). Any party contributing to the project gets a voice in the decisions shaping Libraccess, and can claim visibility and attribution on this project.
    Formally, this means that organizations contributing to Libraccess will have a representation in the foundation / not-for-profit organization in charge of Libraccess. Individuals who wish so will be represented in specific boards (such as a scientific board with an advisory role).
    The objective for Libraccess is to become the undisputed world reference for accessing public research results. Do you want to be associated with it?

9. Who is supporting Libraccess, where is this project coming from?

Libraccess was born at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2012. Clement Levallois (then a postdoc) and Wilfred Mijnhardt (Executive policy director) imagined a service that would create visual CVs of researchers by mining their publications in open access repositories.
The project led to a prototype but remained in relative sleep, while we kept a close watch on the burst of initiatives in scientific open access.
In 2014, the project has matured and the timing is right to launch it. Clement Levallois, who moved to EMLYON Business School, is ready to carry the project to completion.

The list of individuals and institutional partners supporting Libraccess will continue to grow. As of now:

EMLYON Business School ERIM
EMLYON is the 13th business school in Europe
ERIM is the 1st research center in management in Europe

Individuals (speaking in their personal capacity):

Pablo Achard ( – Delegate to the Rectorate, University of Geneva, CH.

Guillaume Cabanac ( – Associate Professor at University of Toulouse, FR.

Christophe Gueret (, Researcher at Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), Amsterdam, NL.

Clement Levallois ( - Assistant Professor, EMLYON Business School, FR.

Pierre-Edouard Portier (, Associate Professor at INSA Lyon, FR.

10. How do I contact Libraccess? What are the next steps?

Libraccess website:
Twitter account: @libraccess
A github account to download documents and join discussions:
A human: Clement Levallois, / @seinecle on Twitter

Next steps:
(see also the [road map here](road map)).
Libraccess is presented publicly for the first time at the “Force15” Conference in Oxford, January 2015.
From there, we will call on all interested parties to draft a manifesto for Libraccess, which will serve as the shared principles that will guide the development of Libraccess. Based on it; it will be possible to set up a governing body for Libraccess. Its role will be to coordinate efforts to gather resources for the creation of Libraccess.

And we will finally have an open platform to serve open access to the public.

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