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Knowledge Futures, ASAPbio, and TU Graz to develop Doc Maps: a community-endorsed framework for editorial research events

Published onAug 27, 2020
Knowledge Futures, ASAPbio, and TU Graz to develop Doc Maps: a community-endorsed framework for editorial research events

New York, New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Styria, Austria — August 27, 2020 — the Knowledge Futures Group, ASAPbio, and the TU Graz’s Open and Reproducible Research Group are teaming up to develop Doc Maps, a new community-endorsed framework for representing editorial research events at the research output level. Responding to numerous efforts to better capture the review processes used on individual articles the Doc Maps team will convene a Technical Committee composed of leading publishers, technology and infrastructure developers, review services, taxonomy definers, and open science advocates to develop an initial specification, implementation guides, and a roadmap for future infrastructure to support Doc Maps.

Editorial practices (i.e., the processes, checks, and transformations that journals and publishing platforms apply to manuscripts, such as peer review, ethics checks, certification such as journal acceptance, etc.) are highly heterogeneous, and will become even more so as scholarly publishing is disrupted by new innovations, the open science movement, and the removal of barriers to entry. Multiple initiatives to develop models describing peer review practices have emerged, including Transpose, Peer Review Transparency, Review Maps, and an STM Association working group

These models are a positive development, but they are often narrowly focused on the needs of their creators, and as such do not fully accommodate the needs of readers, funders, and the scholarly publishing ecosystem as a whole. In particular, these efforts do not focus on representing editorial practices in ways that can be reliably aggregated, surfaced, and queried. Moreover, these efforts are often limited to traditional peer review processes, and do not capture the full range of editorial practices and events needed to accommodate a Publish-Review-Curate world where reviews can be conducted by multiple parties. To add more transparency to existing processes and support new emerging evaluation models, the community needs a machine-readable, interoperable, and extensible framework for representing and surfacing object-level review/editorial events.

Doc Maps will initially focus on three key requirements for representing editorial events in a healthy publishing ecosystem:

  • Extensibility: the framework should be capable of representing a wide range of editorial process events, ranging from a simple assertion that a review occurred to a complete history of editorial comments on a document to a standalone review submitted by an independent reviewer

  • Machine-readability and interoperability: the framework should be represented in a format (or formats) that can be interpreted computationally, used by multiple services, and translated into visual representations.

  • Discoverability: the framework should be publishable such that events are queryable and discoverable via a variety of well-supported mechanisms.

“Driven by necessity during this global pandemic, an exciting new ecosystem for capturing existing review processes and experimenting with new ones is emerging from the ground up,” said Gabe Stein, Head of Operations and Product at the Knowledge Futures Group. “We’re excited to work with leading practitioners to help formalize these efforts, fill in some gaps in core infrastructure, and lay the groundwork for future experimentation.”

“Despite recent progress towards Open Science, so many parts of the editorial processes remain locked in the black box of publisher systems. Making these processes visible will not only enable greater trust in scientific findings,” said Tony Ross-Hellauer, leader of the Open and Reproducible Research Group, TU Graz. “It will also surface a range of information which adds to our understanding of the impact of research activities.”

“As we learned from efforts to catalog peer review policies at journals and screening processes at preprint servers, practices can vary widely, especially between disciplines, and are often unclear to website visitors,” said Jessica Polka, Executive Director of ASAPbio. “With unprecedented public interest in preprints and other research outputs, it’s increasingly important to explain the level of scrutiny they’ve undergone.”

The output of the project will include a specification for representing editorial events as Doc Maps, implementation guides for publishers and technology providers, and a roadmap for future development of a Doc Maps ecosystem, including aggregation and discovery services.

To learn more about the project and get involved, visit

Doc Maps is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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