The idea of an open-access evidence rack

I just mailed the December issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Excerpt from the lead article, "The idea of an open-access evidence rack":

The containers of research are evolving beyond articles and books, and OA is facilitating that evolution. Indeed, OA is a precondition for nearly all of that evolution, which is one reason why OA is closer to the minimum than the maximum of what we should expect for research in the digital age. Speaking personally, I have stronger reasons to want OA itself than any particular, proposed new container. Hence, I've generally stuck to the case for OA, confident that the case for better containers will take care of itself as smart, motivated people explore the opportunities OA is creating.

This article is an exception. I want to describe one kind of new container for OA research. In this case, "structure" may be a better term than "container". I want to describe a structure for organizing the evidence in support of the basic propositions in a field, and for making that evidence OA....

Here's the idea in three steps.

First, identify the basic propositions in the field or sub-field you want to cover. To start small, identify the basic propositions you want to defend in a given article.

Second, create a separate OA web page for each proposition. For now, don't worry about the file format or other technicalities. What's important is that the pages should (1) be easy to update, (2) carry a time-stamp showing when they were last updated, and (3) give each proposition a unique URL. Let's call them "proposition pages".

Third, start filling in each page with the evidence in support of its proposition. If some evidence has been published in an article or book, then cite the publication. When the work is online (OA or TA), add a link as well. Whenever you can link directly to evidence, rather than merely to publications describing evidence, do that. For example, some propositions can be supported by linkable data in an open dataset. But because citations and data don't always speak for themselves, consider adding some annotations to explain how cited pieces of evidence support the given proposition.

Each supporting study or piece of evidence should have an entry to itself. A proposition page should look more like a list than an article. It should look like a list of citations, annotated citations, or bullet points. It should look like a footnote, perhaps a very long footnote, for the good reason that one intended use of a proposition page is to be available for citation and review as a compendious, perpetually updated, public footnote...."

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