Biomedical publishers adapt workflows with CHORUS to deliver on funder requirements

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A guest post by Susan King, Executive Director, Rockefeller University Press and Chair, Board of Directors, CHORUS

I’ve been honored to serve as Chair of the CHORUS Board of Directors since its inception.  CHORUS has been around since 2013 when publishers began working closely with funding agencies to create sustainable public access to published, peer-reviewed content.  A not-for-profit service, CHORUS enables and tracks an increasing number of publicly available articles reporting on research across disciplines, funded by US and global federal agencies and foundations. Our cost-effective approach guides publishers as they integrate existing standards, identifiers, best practices, and open APIs to adapt workflows to monitor compliance at multiple agencies and help authors to more easily fulfill the diverse requirements.

John Sack, HighWire’s Founding Director and a Board Member of CHORUS, invited me to join a panel of biomedical publishers to share our experience and goals for meeting these new requirements at HighWire’s Fall Publishers Meeting in Washington, DC in September 2016. I spoke on behalf of Rockefeller University Press (RUP) and was joined by my colleague Rob O’Donnell, RUP Director of Publishing Technologies; Tracey DePellegrin, Executive Director, Genetics Society of America (GSA); and Claire Moulton, Publisher, and Kirsty McCormack, Publishing Services Manager, from The Company of Biologists  (COB).  As we are all CHORUS members, we shared our experiences, the benefits we’ve derived, and the bumps in the road we’ve encountered in the course of getting CHORUS up to speed for our organizations.

Benefits of CHORUS

When it comes to federal funding agencies, our three organizations publish many articles reporting on National Institutes of Health-funded research, but also articles acknowledging funding from other agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Energy (DOE).  The NSF, DOD, and DOE and four other funders (including the Japan Science and Technology Agency) are all working directly with CHORUS.  Claire said CHORUS’s partnership with the NSF was the primary driver for COB joining, as many NSF-funded authors publish with COB. We all agreed how useful we find our customized CHORUS Dashboards because they provide real-time reporting on the multiple funding agencies acknowledged in the articles we publish — broken down by all US funding agencies, not just those who have partnered with CHORUS.

Tracey noted that GSA’s primary reason for joining CHORUS was its cost-effective distributed access infrastructure, with its clear rules and best practices building on Crossref, ORCID, Portico, CLOCKSS, and other industry standards. The resulting metadata directs search results on agencies’ portals directly to the content on the publisher’s site, monitors compliance, and provides unique dashboards to publishers and funders. As Claire commented, “CHORUS allows us to do a better job of tracking readership for authors because it points readers to our site,” consolidating usage statistics, which is useful for faculty when they’re assessed by institutions and funders.  CHORUS members that make the final published articles publicly available on their site can be assured that agency portals (including those from the DOE and NSF) will point to that content instead of making public the accepted manuscripts that funders have collected from authors.  For RUP, ensuring that the public has access to the final published article rather than the accepted manuscript (that doesn’t include changes made at copy editing and author’s proof stages) is imperative given the potential impact of the research findings that we publish on human health.

The three publishers on the panel described our own approaches to collecting the funder data from authors.  This essential step enables compliance monitoring and CHORUS members are exploring ways to minimize the burden on authors.

  • RUP’s approach recognizes that we reject a large number of submitted articles. So we don’t ask authors to provide funder information at submission. Our process mines the funder information from accepted manuscripts and validates that information with the authors at proof.
  • COB collects funder data at manuscript submission (optional for first submissions but required at revision) using the Crossref Funding Registry drop-down widget, “which has some pros and cons.” Although authors may introduce errors when submitting funder info, collecting the information early allows us to deposit funder info for our publish-on-acceptance articles and helps authors to select the official funder name, so reducing funder queries at the proof stage. Copy editors then compare the funder data to what’s mentioned in the manuscript. Kirsty reported about a 20-30% variance, which is resolved before handing the corrected article over to HighWire and depositing the metadata to Crossref.
  • GSA allows submissions in any document format, which Tracey reports “delights authors”; supplying funder information is optional at submission, required after acceptance, and verified before the license metadata is submitted to Crossref.

Help when there are bumps in the road

None of us have encountered serious problems implementing CHORUS; it’s more a matter of aligning many moving parts.  To date the agency plans have uniform embargo and version requirements, but ‘the devil is in the details’, it is challenging to keep on top of the varied implementation specifics as we optimize workflows to support our authors.  CHORUS helps in this regard, for example, by tracking the public access plans for over 20 US funding agencies to make current details more accessible.

Undertaking CHORUS implementation along with other priorities can be a challenge.  And we’ve also had to face new decisions and create new workflows. CHORUS asks publishers to include embargo information in license metadata to enable production systems to calculate “open” dates. Our panel agreed that developing licenses and detailing the associated workflow has proven to be one of the more complicated issues we’ve had to grapple with.  That said, CHORUS has active technical and communications working groups that provide a fertile forum for collaboration.  One of my favorite benefits of CHORUS is working with like-minded souls and asking fellow members, “How are you doing it?” COB recently completed their user license, which can be viewed at

Small organizations like ours get to have a big voice because CHORUS bylaws require that a majority of Board seats be held by non-profit organizations.  CHORUS’ value to the scholarly community is growing as more publishers implement its services and funding agencies finalize and execute their policies.  As this is happening, CHORUS is also evolving, having recently announced an initiative to pilot its services to funders outside the US (starting in Japan) and another that shows promise to reducing the burden on librarians and other university employees in ensuring faculty compliance with funder public access requirements.

During the Q&A following the presentation, John Inglis from Cold Spring Harbor Press asked whether we were providing author education, which we all thought was a great suggestion, even though, as Tracey pointed out, “authors hear ‘funder requirements’ and run!”

Learning about a competitor’s best practices and war stories is a great way to get an idea if something’s going to work for your company. Putting on my CHORUS hat for a moment, I hope the panel presentation, the Q&A, and this blog post peak your interest and allay your concerns.  If you’re not yet a CHORUS member, why not reach out to CHORUS Executive Director Howard Ratner, John Sack, or me to start or continue a conversation? Visit to learn more.


Tagged: CHORUS,, CLOCKSS, Cold Spring Harbor Press, Company of Biologists, Crossref, Genetics Society of America, Howard Ratner, John Inglis, John Sack, ORCID, Portico, RUP, RUP workflow, Susan King, Executive Director, Rockefeller University Press

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