It’s been a hectic and sometimes exhilarating first live week for us here at ScholarlyHub. The genuine interest and warm words our plan received, in private and on social media, bodes well for the broad support we will need once the funding campaign is launched (stay tuned!). A few critical and important points were raised, however, which we felt should to be addressed immediately. Some of them meant eliminating ambiguities or errors from our FAQs, while others are dealt with below. The following responses may not satisfy everyone, but at this very early stage we consider them to be the most responsible way of clarifying certain concerns:
ScholarlyHub shares the core values of both initiatives and their sense of urgency in changing the world of scholarly communications. We start from different places, however. SH is not a wealthy foundation or backed by one and is working outside the framework of traditional learned societies (though we certainly welcome them and their input). We also wish to operate beyond the humanities (even as broadly and helpfully defined by HCommons). Last but not least, we strive—ultimately—to provide a range of social networking and other services (including peer review and OA publishing) that exceed what either initiative currently offers. That said, small or wide overlaps in separate but thriving endeavors only make it more abundantly clear how much such interventions are needed, and there is no obstacle (from our perspective, at least) to coordinate efforts at 1) shrinking the pie of academic publishing from the absurd size it has now reached and the social injustices it perpetuates; and 2) creating inclusive spaces for diverse types of scholars and scholarship-using communities. We know there are numerous communities of scholarly practice out there that deserve to participate more fully in scholarly communications than they currently do, and to the benefit of the academic and non-academic worlds.
When will you be open to membership?
ScholarlyHub is still far from being able to offer services other than information, which is why it is not yet open to members. Once our crowdsourcing campaign provides a strong indication that building the Hub is viable, we will begin onboarding members, both individual, project-based, and organizational. Among the latter we shortly plan to get in touch with several possible candidates who will pilot our membership benefits, including some that have reached out to us once they learned of our plans.
How do you plan to collaborate with library (repositories)?
While the front end of ScholarlyHub will strive to be cohesive, its back end, including repositories, is likely to be a confederation of existing and future sites and services. In that sense, cooperating with and relying on not-for-profit and truly OA repos would help accomplish our mission and make it sustainable.
Do you aim to use open source software for your platform?
What does our crowdfunding aim of 500k cover?
Our calculations, made after extensive discussions with finance and IT experts, suggest that the amount will allow ScholarlyHub develop a digital environment that can provide several basic services such as user profiles, an OA repository (including for datasets), feeds, and a working governance structure. It will also help support onboarding efforts, and pay for servers and regular staff activities. A stable and growing flow of members will allow the site to develop further and offer more services, including peer-review support and various open-source publishing protocols. Yet these must be discussed and prioritized by the members.
Will charging membership fees be obligatory from the start and if so, will that not undermine your efforts?
Everything we wish to offer has costs, even if they are far lower than what publishers and other service providers now charge. We do not have a rich foundation behind us, or a substantial learned society guaranteeing income, let alone (and thankfully) institutional investors. That said, if initial funding from the crowdsourcing campaign or elsewhere allows us to onboard members with reduced or no fees to begin with, we will certainly consider it, even if as a temporary phase. And if individuals and organizations want to condition their participation and support by our recruitment of a minimum number of pledges, that is certainly worth discussing.
How much money do we need to become a fully sustainable platform (beyond the initial 500k)?
Once the initial coding is carried out, we expect that the site will float with 40k-50k fully paying members on an annual basis. The development of new features will require more members and/or further grants or help in kind.
How do we know you won’t get bought by a major corporation? What prevents SH from being SSRN-ed or Bepressed in the long run?
The ScholarlyHub Foundation is a registered charity/not-for-profit in the Netherlands. Its pending legal tax status (ANBI) does not allow it to make a profit, so all revenues return to service the community. According to Dutch law, a foundation of this type cannot be sold, only dissolved, and any remaining assets in the latter case can only be transferred to a like-minded organization that is likewise not-for-profit. Our modest membership fees serve to insure members against the site needing to scrape and trade data or aggressively monetize in ways that compromise the values of open-access scholarly communications.