A Coalition of over 40 60 Scholarly Publishers

Today we’re announcing a coalition of over 40 scholarly publishers, platforms, libraries and technology partners that share the goal of building an open conversation layer over all knowledge. Over the next several years this coalition will be working together to define, design and implement a common framework for scholarly collaboration from peer-review through post-publication discussion, all based on open standards.

This initiative has its own page on our site, here:

Annotating All Knowledge

We’ve called this initiative “Annotating All Knowledge” because these organizations do truly represent the place where a large majority of human knowledge is developed, previewed, published, discussed and archived.


How did we get here?

Over the last year, we’ve been working with a number of partners to implement annotation within the scholarly community, on platforms like USC Scalar and arXiv, and for publishers like Michigan Publishing, Ubiquity Press and the American Geophysical Union.  We realized that if we wanted to achieve the vision of annotation as a truly pervasive and universal layer over scholarship that we’d have to stretch our thinking and the way we were working.

We began to jot down a list of the names that represented in our view the key organizations who, if they were all to work together, would generate momentum sufficient to bring along everyone else. We’d need a mix of the largest platforms like JSTOR and HathiTrust, the big pre-print services like SSRN, arXiv and biorxiv, key scholarly infrastructure like ORCID and Crossref, the standards groups like W3C and IDPF. We’d need major publishers like Wiley and platforms like HighWire, journals like PLOS ONE and eLife, presses like Michigan Publishing, MIT Press and JHU MUSE and library innovators like the University of Illinois and Stanford. And of course we’d need key thought leaders and fearless champions of openness like Peter Murray Rust, Kristen Ratan and Ian Mulvany.

As our rather far-fetched thinking went: “if *all* these groups were to link arms, we just might be able to start a revolution”.  We decided to test this idea on a few of our closer colleagues, and we got a very positive response.  We began having more conversations, and realized that we needed an “ask”.  Something that these groups would be saying “Yes!” to.  The ask had to be meaningful, but not too onerous– and it had to be simple enough that even larger organizations would be willing to sign on.


The ask

We settled on four key elements:

First: That they recognized and embraced the potential for what annotation can bring to scholarship.

Second: That they were willing to invest in experiments to figure out how it could be implemented within their context.

Third: That they were willing to collaborate openly with others in doing so.

Fourth: That they were willing to be mentioned publicly as participating.

This seemed like the minimum, but a good minimum.  We were concerned that #3 might knock out some participants, since, we worried, some competitive groups might not share our values around collaboration, but we thought we would give it a try.

We had more conversations, created more slide decks, and began having more serious conversations, with teams of five, ten and fifteen colleagues on cross-functional teams within larger organizations. Executives and CEOs were asked to weigh in, boards voted on approval.

More organizations began to say yes. No one had said “No”.

About a month ago, we decided to pick today to launch.  At the time, we were approaching twenty participants.  As of two days ago, that number hit 42.


More are coming

There are a large number of organizations that, at the time of this announcement, were not able to formally say yes, but who clearly are in the process of doing so. We’re extremely excited by the potential that these organizations can bring to this group, and will work carefully with them to address their remaining questions. (And of course, the design of this coalition is intended to do just that.)


Who has joined this effort, and why?

The members of this coalition represent some of the world’s largest and most important scholarly publishers and knowledge platforms — essential services such as JSTOR, PLOS, HathiTrust, arXiv, HighWire Press and Wiley.  They realize that a robust and interoperable conversation layer can transform scholarship, enabling personal note taking, peer review, copy editing, post publication discussion, journal clubs, classroom uses, automated classification, deep linking, and much more.  They understand that this layer must evolve as an open, interoperable, and shared capability aligned with the motivations and interests of scholars and researchers. The up-to-date list of participants is represented on the initiative page.


What are members agreeing to?

Coalition members are agreeing to come together to begin the exploration and experimentation required to understand how best to implement this interoperable layer over their content. This capability would be fully open to any compliant service provider the user wishes to store their annotations with. They are also agreeing to collaborate openly with their peers, to share experiences, and to work together towards mutual objectives. Finally, members have all agreed to be open about their participation and lend their names to the effort.


What will the coalition do?

Today, coalition members are in different phases of engagement.  Some have already implemented annotation natively and are working to increase adoption and develop new uses, others are at the very beginning of the process. Objectives for the first year are to begin socializing the progress that’s been made, to identify opportunities, to work through potential challenges, and, for many, to begin the process of design and experimentation necessary to implement annotation in their own context.


What’s the role of standards?

Interoperability means that annotations created by one client can be viewed by another, and that they can be stored on any compatible backend server. Standards help ensure that solution and service providers compete, and that users win.


Open to others

The coalition is open to any publisher, platform, library or technology organization that shares its vision and objectives and wants to participate.  Interested parties can email: coalition@hypothes.is for more information.