Open-Access Platforms Are Key to Research Libraries’ Core Mission

To the Editor:

Your article, “Elsevier Is Becoming a Data Company. Should Universities Be Wary?” (The Chronicle, August 7), evokes the existential questions for research libraries that members of the Association of Research Libraries routinely confront: What is the library’s role in the research enterprise, beyond purchasing and licensing content? How can libraries support scholarly workflow at all stages of the research life cycle, including preservation and stewardship of research outputs? And how can we ensure that metadata — knowledge about the scholarly enterprise (which is the library’s professional domain) — can be freely exchanged and queried? Your rhetorical headline was apt in focusing on universities. Libraries have long been wary of the private sector’s role in data about scholarship.

For this reason, we were pleased to see the Center for Open Science (COS) and its Open Science Framework (OSF) highlighted in your article as a public goods infrastructure alternative to commercial, proprietary platforms. The Association of Research Libraries has been working in partnership with COS for several years on a project called SHARE, a free, openly accessible database of metadata describing both research product and process. Simply put, platforms and business arrangements that lock in scholarly content and data about scholarly process make stewardship of that content — research libraries’ core mission—impossible. By working with scholars to adopt and invest in open platforms like the OSF and SHARE, librarians can provide their expertise in data management, metadata standards, and preservation, and ensure that the resulting data and publications can be made accessible over the long term.

Elliott Shore
Executive Director
Association of Research Libraries

Judy Ruttenberg
Program Director for Strategic Initiatives
Association of Research Libraries

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