Unlocking the proprietary black box with open source solutions

… We want to disrupt this, and ensure that there is an alternative – a more open scholarly ecosystem, placing the researcher at the heart of everything, and ensuring there is no ‘black box’ surrounding the software.

The scholarly ecosystem continues to be hidden away from those that use and interact with it. It is controlled by a few big players aiming to create a proprietary software stack that serves all stages of the research cycle.

At Hindawi, along with partners in the Coko and Libero communities, we want to disrupt this, and ensure that there is an alternative – a more open scholarly ecosystem, placing the researcher at the heart of everything, and ensuring there is no ‘black box’ surrounding the software.

A note of clarification on ‘Open Source’. I don’t believe that Open Source software is ‘better’, I am saying the principles of advancing openness in research are tied closely to the software we build, and that by making that Open Source, the move towards a more open scholarly ecosystem is more achievable. From that, we can derive certain benefits – for example, no vendor lock-in for customers, and control of their own platform and data.

Additionally, by building infrastructure and tools as an open community, we are able to:

– Control the development roadmap

– Collaborate to distribute costs

– Benefit from shared expertise

– Reduce variation and complexity

– Improve interoperability

– Reuse what’s already there

– Sell services, not systems

We do not compete on technology, and we all benefit from the network effects.

From a Hindawi perspective, we are working with two open source communities to create a new end-to-end scientific publishing pipeline – under the brand of Phenom. While the PubSweet framework (led by Coko) offers the framework for review software, the Libero framework (led by eLife) focuses on production and display. This gives us coverage across all aspects of the pipeline:

The collaboration works well because we do not compete on technology, and we all benefit from the network effects. On top of this, we see the future potential of a network of service providers that will help organizations implement this technology.

There are working products out there right now using this technology – and with a small amount of effort, you can join the community and have a say in how it evolves. It is our firm belief that the dream of a purely open source infrastructure for the scholarly ecosystem is much closer to reality than it might appear.


Matt Green is Product Manager at Hindawi. This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.