The art of collaboration: Article sharing on Scholarly Collaboration Networks

Chair of a global working group set up to establish guidelines explains why cooperation among stakeholders in the scholarly communication process is key to finding a sustainable solution

Dr. Frederick Dylla, Chair of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers’ Working Group on Scholarly Collaboration Networks, explains why cooperation among stakeholders in the scholarly communication process is key to finding a sustainable solution...

STM_logoFor researchers, sharing your article is necessary to get your work noticed, and to encourage people to learn about, use and, hopefully at a later stage, cite your contribution to science. It’s a part of moving science forward.

The concept of sharing goes all the way back to when scholarly journals were invented more than three centuries ago. What has changed, however, are the methods of sharing.  In the past, authors often received extra hard copies (reprints) or they would print off a few copies to share with friends and colleagues. Sharing content in the form of digital files became easier with email and social media. Over the last few years, a new method of sharing has arisen in the form of Scholarly Collaboration Networks (SCNs).

What are Scholarly Collaboration Networks?

SCNs are platforms that host content and facilitate article sharing and collaboration among researchers. They solicit researchers to establish collaboration networks. Many SCNs give users capabilities to upload versions of their articles to be shared with user-defined collaboration groups and, in some cases, members of the public. Some examples of SCNs include: Mendeley, (with 5 million members; owned by Elsevier), SSRN (with 2 million members; also owned by Elsevier), (with 30 million monthly visitors), ResearchGate (with 6 million members), Figshare, MyScienceWorks and Readcube.

As these SCNs grow more popular, it is imperative that the scholarly publishing community supports them — but in a way that does not do harm to the enterprise that publishes these articles in the first place.

Sharing in a responsible way

First of all, it is vital that all stakeholders in the scientific ecosystem  – researchers, publishers, librarians and the sharing networks themselves  – understand what kind of sharing is permissible under the terms of the respective publishing houses’ contracts. If all articles were made available to everyone on the day of publication, the primary means of sustaining the entire publishing process in the first place would be in jeopardy; everything from the submission systems to the robust technical infrastructure behind access and discovery.

Further reading

For more information on Elsevier’s policy on sharing click here >>

For more information on sharing and promoting your article click here >>

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Therefore, coming up with transparent and simple rules of sustainable sharing is the next step. We need all parties to map out fair and sustainable practices for these new sharing tools. Contrary to what some may think, most academic publishers are very comfortable with authors sharing their articles. They are even encouraged to do so among private groups or Elsevier’s ShareLinks initiative. Through this service, authors can share their research via a customized link that gives anyone 50 days’ free access to the final article. It’s a win-win situation for both the author and the publisher. Other publishers are working on similar solutions to aid article sharing.

Moving forward

For the last year and half I have had the honor of chairing a working group assembled by the International Association of STM Publishers to help establish general guidelines for the use of SCNs by all parties across the research ecosystem.

After consultation and healthy debate across the stakeholders, a set of voluntary principles were developed and posted on the STM consultation webpage in August 2015. The principles provide guidelines around what is responsible sharing of research articles. They stipulate, in essence, that sharing should be allowed within research collaboration groups, that publishers and libraries should be able to measure the amount and type of sharing, and they encourage public posting of article metadata and open access articles in Scholarly Collaboration Networks. These principles are evolving as feedback and support in the form of official endorsements from industry stakeholders, including SCNs, grows.

As editors, I welcome you to read through these principles to be aware of our industry efforts regarding SCNs. I also greatly value and welcome your individual feedback on the topic – please do not hesitate to email:

For more information, you can consult the STM Sharing Principles and FAQs or visit the new website dedicated to this topic, How Can I Share It?

Author biography

Dr. Frederick DyllaDr. Frederick Dylla is Executive Director Emeritus of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), having served as Executive Director & CEO from 2007-2015. AIP is a not-for-profit federation of 10 scientific societies in the physical sciences that provides an array of information-based resources.  Having authored more than 200 publications, Dylla is a strong advocate for scientific journals and for improved access to scientific information through various business models. Full biography >>

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