When I floated the idea of doing a post on SHARE, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) led open data initiative, I received responses that fell into three camps:
1) “Oh, good! I want to know more about that.”
2) “That’s great. That thing is like a black box. I don’t get it.”
3) “What is that?”
The latter two responses were by far the most popular. While encouraging to know that I had picked an interesting topic, it did worryingly confirm my suspicion that people just don’t *get* SHARE. Perhaps some of this uncertainty is due to the ARL effect, wherein non-ARL libraries don’t receive updates and/or feel disconnected from the initiative. I think the equally large issue, however, falls to marketing.
SHARE was introduced in early 2013 as a response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo regarding public access to federally funded publications and data. ARL, in coordination with The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), proposed SHARE as a way to pull together the research products of universities – mainly in the form of publications – via a search interface. In the fall of 2013, ARL, AAU, and APLU released an overview of SHARE, outlying its basic tenets. Perhaps because SHARE referenced the OSTP memo and perhaps because of how some conversations were framed, many people began to view SHARE as an alternative or competitor to CHORUS: the publisher-led initiative to bring publications into alignment with the OSTP memo. It definitely seemed that, early on, SHARE did not do much to discourage that perception. However, by late 2014 SHARE had positioned itself as a complement to CHORUS – but it did this in the most understated way possible: a webinar. (More on that later.)
Soon after announcing the overview of SHARE, ARL revealed the first stage in development: the notification system. The notification system initially set out to provide a unified mechanism to alert interested parties of the publication of articles and “release of research” (which includes data) from an institution/researcher/grant agency/etc…The notification system would pull metadata from various repository platforms, funding agencies, institutions, and publishers to provide a mega-search interface, which seems similar to the premise of DPLA. The project plan proposed an 18 month timeline from concept to product, which appears to have been met, although I would argue that some notable changes have occurred along the way.
Perhaps because SHARE referenced the OSTP memo and perhaps because of how some conversations were framed, many people began to view SHARE as an alternative or competitor to CHORUS: the publisher-led initiative to bring publications into alignment with the OSTP memo. It seemed that, early on, SHARE did not do much to discourage that perception. However, since 2013 two notable changes occurred: the pivot away from a head-to-head relationship with CHORUS and the partnership with the Center for Open Science (COS). From my perspective, I did think that SHARE was trying to be academia’s answer to the OSTP memo and was, as such, in an antithetical relationship with CHORUS. As agencies began to respond to the OSTP directive and include language about CHORUS as a partner in meeting the public access to publications section, I was concerned that SHARE had lost an opportunity to align with the funders themselves.
In late 2014, a representative from SHARE participated in a webinar with a representative from CHORUS and it was clear that neither one had an interest in pitting the two ventures against each other. Rather, they positioned their services as complementary – although SHARE was looking beyond the funder compliance issue. SHARE’s biggest departure from CHORUS with respect to “collection scope” is the inclusion of research data and other research content that may not reside with a publishing entity (this is also part of what sets SHARE apart from OAIster). While all of this is well and good, I could not find additional information or news blurbs that made it clear that SHARE and CHORUS were not competitors.
This is a big problem. If people think you are competing with another group that is being consistently brought in as a partner with federal agencies, people are going to think that you are losing the competition. If, however, you are *not* in competition, but are actually doing something with a larger and more holistic scope with respect to scholarly products…well, that’s another kettle of fish altogether. And here is an example of a true marketing failure. Whether or not you *want* to be considered in a competition, if other people think you are and think you are failing, they will not choose to engage with your efforts.
The partnership with COS in summer 2104 heralded a new platform, the Open Science Framework (OSF), and dedicated development to the notification system (SHARE also received IMLS and Sloan funding to support its work). As a result, SHARE launched a new website with updated branding and promotional materials, as well as a new knowledge base (aka FAQ), updates page, and SHARE Notify page. In terms of usability, the new site is a huge improvement (with an important exception – see below). It is also much easier to find detailed information about the notification service because all the documentation is hosted on OSF. The communication from SHARE via Twitter (@share-research) is a steady stream of updates and, if you know to look for it, a good way to track growth and new developments.
Hopefully this history and statement of purpose makes you excited that libraries and higher education organizations are taking such a coordinated and proactive role in bringing the intellectual output of academic institutions together in a searchable way. What’s that? I didn’t actually talk about how to search SHARE or use the notification system? Yeah, about that…Here’s where the great usability of the website falls down a bit. You can search SHARE, once you go to the Share Notify page and click the hyperlinked text to browse or search the database. I do not understand why this is not more accessible from the main page. This is the first ‘tangible’ deliverable from SHARE (albeit a beta release)…why are they hiding it? Moreover, from the search interface you can see the participating institutions, which includes non-ARL libraries, subject repositories, and international institutions.
Perhaps you are wondering why you would want to use the notification system, if you can just search the database? I had the opportunity to speak with Judy Ruttenberg from ARL about the SHARE project at ALA Midwinter in Boston. A wonderful use case that she gave of the SHARE Notify system was one involving liaison librarians. Liaisons could set up a notification for faculty in their departments and then, once alerted, could have an opening for a conversation with the faculty member about visibility, potential impacts, or whatever other topic the liaison may want to leverage the notification for. I love this. I could see myself using this feature to be alerted when a publication from a faculty member was released and if it had an associated funder mandate. I can loop back around to that faculty member and ensure that what we had planned to comply with the public access policies was still on track, and this may open up additional conversation for future research. This was the clearest example of the practicality of the SHARE Notify system, from a “public services” librarian perspective. I currently liaise to several departments and a tool that could consolidate updates from across the research life-cycle would be a welcome one.
I got back from Midwinter and went to the SHARE website to look at setting up just this kind of notification. From the FAQ, I found this information about setting up Notify:
Okay, this is not the most streamlined process. I would vastly prefer an email service, but it’s not the end of the world to set the aggregator up. But then I looked at the link from the SHARE Notify page to the subscribe and I laugh/cried:
This is just not something that I can see a multitude of liaison librarians setting up. Never mind that an RSS feed is already only going to appeal to a smaller subset of the population, but when you provide this kind of instruction it is improbable that someone completely new to the technology is going to take the effort to set this up. To me, this is effectively kills off the stellar use case that Judy proposed. It would make more sense to have someone who was already familiar with the metadata fields – most likely the person who set up participation in the SHARE network – create RSS feeds for various interests. This is not a great use of that person’s time and it creates multiple steps to get the notification to the end-user.
The next stage of development for SHARE includes enhancing the minimal level of metadata currently captured and linking related activities, like data and its associated publication. I think these are exciting developments, but it would be disappointing if this product improvement continued in what seems like a vacuum. SHARE has a marketing problem of intention and message penetration. People (if they have heard of SHARE) think of it as a competitor to CHORUS. CHORUS excels at promotion of its partnerships with federal funding agencies, leading spectators to conclude that SHARE is stalling.
As this is not the reality, SHARE should do some aggressive outreach to frame its efforts not as a response to the OSTP memo, but rather that the OSTP memo served as the catalyst for an even more ambitious project to reveal academia’s intellectual output in a unified and comprehensive way; to connect anyone with these research outputs, regardless of format; to help expand the reach of information and new knowledge creation; to help with truly democratizing information in a global setting…tell me, doesn’t that inspire you to involve your library in this effort? Isn’t that a more stimulating goal than simply compliance with funder mandates?
I sincerely hope that SHARE finds a way to engage more systematically with non-ARL libraries/librarians and can find a way to push this worthwhile ideal throughout higher education. Given the involvement of AAU and APLU, one would hope that university administrators would be asking libraries “what resources do you need to get us involved in this?” I would love to be able to ask librarians from any institution how they were using SHARE and get more than a blank stare or a response that they thought it was just for those “big” institutions.
One thought on “Confused about SHARE? Let’s fix that!”
Just as a follow up, it’s worth noting that SHARE did make the search interface for the database more prominent by adding a bright pink button to the homepage, so you can easily navigate to it.
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