Thu 6 Dec 2018 4:43PM

The COS can do a better/smarter fundraising effort than the one they are planning...

BC Bruce Caron Public Seen by 240

The proposed COS fees for preprint services are an invitation to failure.

They are directed at the wrong agents, and create perverse incentives.

If the COS wants to get money back from the people who use these services, they should be asking authors who have their content on the service, not the managers/editors who are already volunteering their time to shepherd the content into the service.

Any reasonable cost-recovery effort would support and applaud preprint efforts that manage to gain the most use. Instead, this would only lead to higher fees charged to people who are already working for free.

What happens when a preprint service cannot pay the fee? Didn’t the COS sign up to be the host of this content in perpetuity (whatever that means)?

Wikipedia does not ask its editors to pay for the service, it asks its users. The editor/governance volunteers for preprint services are the last people who should be tasked to come up with money to support these.


Stéphanie Girardclos Thu 6 Dec 2018 5:19PM

I agree with Bruce. I'm a happy volunteer for the edition and governance of EarthArXiv but not for fundraising. I'm already fed up with the obligatory search of my own research money (when in fact I just want to teach and search) so I don't want to start adding a new yearly money worry for EarthArXiv.
I agree with Bruce. COS (and thus EarthArXiv) costs should be put on final users.
It is logical and there is no reason why it should be free as long as it is non profit and costs are transparent. Authors from the Global South should pay a symbolic cost (1$) and authors from the Global North could be proportionally (over)charged for that missing financial input.


Bruce Caron Thu 6 Dec 2018 5:31PM

The service can first still try to be free, as Wikipedia is free. COS can tell the author "your work is here and safe and findable for now and the future... how about paying that forward, please donate so that we can add someone else's work to this corpus." COS can do an annual plea for funds this way, and also point out to the author how their metrics are doing.


Victor Venema Thu 6 Dec 2018 8:55PM

Sounds like the wrong people to ask and awful communication not to say this upfront.

Bruce, where is this COS request you are responding to? I have not seen it yet.

I did get a general donation request, which is similar to the Wikipedia funding model and seems more appropriate.

COS could also ask users (uploaders and downloaders) to provide them with contact information for their libraries, so that COS can send a funding request on behave of a happy user. Libraries would be the best institution to support repositories.


Bruce Caron Fri 7 Dec 2018 12:20AM

There is just some preliminary discussion from COS about charging each preprint service a fee based on how many new preprints they have each year.


Jamie Farquharson Fri 7 Dec 2018 7:34AM

Wikipedia is a great example, and there are plenty of other websites with a "donate a coffee" button or similar. If push comes to shove, I would help fundraising, but I would prefer that the onus doesn't fall on the moderators/editors/cheerleaders who are already devoting time and energy to the project.


brandon Fri 7 Dec 2018 9:02AM

+1, @jamiefarquharson. Make it simple, make it easy. It shouldn't take 9 clicks to make a donation. Microservices/payments can be really handy---e.g. flattr and others.


Christopher Jackson Fri 7 Dec 2018 12:50PM

Hi Bruce,

I hear and agree with most of this, although I can see why COS are, by their proposal to split costs via increased costs for larger services, trying to maintain the 'community spirit'. Not to pre-empt this afternoon's call, but I think they charging authors would lead to the death of many of the smaller, COS-hosted service; i.e. it's enough of a challenge to get people to engage with/use preprints, without then charging them for this...

Anyway, we can return to this thread after this afternoon's phonecall.




Bruce Caron Fri 7 Dec 2018 2:53PM

Hi Chris.... I didn't mean charge authors to put their content on the site, but challenge users to help out with donations, instead of putting this on the shoulders of the volunteers who are doing the work already.


Christopher Jackson Fri 7 Dec 2018 12:53PM

P.S. In essence, part of what I am saying is captured here:



Victor Venema Sun 9 Dec 2018 7:07PM

What was the outcome of the call?


brandon Mon 10 Dec 2018 8:45AM



Christopher Jackson Mon 10 Dec 2018 8:29PM

Hi All,

Victor: are you referring to the COS-hosted call to all preprint services they host, or the one between the Advisory Board?



Christopher Jackson Mon 10 Dec 2018 8:35PM

OK. Loomio seems to be less terrible than Gmail in terms of keeping threads together. TBH, I don't really understand how to use either...Anyway, on p3 and 4 of this document are some notes from our Advisory Board meeting: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hdJ2AkIter--Iu6GpP1rMThjLHB_Gv2u1Kx9Y0-LXrI/edit. The first two pages are just some extracts from the COS-generated document on the motivation for, the problems arising from, and potential solutions to needing more funding. This will indeed need more discussion between the Advisory Board and the broader set of Ambassadors/general supporters. Chris


Victor Venema Mon 10 Dec 2018 10:26PM

Christopher, thank you for the information.

Do I understand it right that before this announcement there was never any talk of us having to pay for promoting the COS manuscript server in our scientific community?

If that is the case I feel that the behavior of COS is not acceptable. To lure us in with the expectation of a free service, asking dozens of scientists to volunteer their time and to use their networks to make the COS manuscript server a success and only when a large part of the work is done and our reputations are connected with the service to present an enormous bill of 6k€ per year for us and 100k€ in total is not an acceptable way of doing business. They manage to make it even worse by immediately threatening to close down the service if we do not jump.


Han Geurdes Tue 11 Dec 2018 6:36AM

I am in agreement with Victor. I add: if suddenly a bill is presented together with shutdown threats and I did understand all this really 100% correctly, then I withdraw my papers from EarthArxiv. Moreover, I advise everyone else not to submit to EarthArxiv or be involved in any way.

If this is not a misunderstanding on my part, the business model employed by the hosting organization is sneaky or, at best, simply a plain stupidity. To me, there are no excuses for deception. In the best case that the organization suddenly discovered costs they did not anticipated then we are looking at self-deception.

I added ( modestly that is true) in this (self or busineswise) deception of authors or free science on the web. Being a deceiver is nir my hobby.


Christopher Jackson Tue 11 Dec 2018 9:01AM

There were no real hints as to what was coming, as @tomnarock1 will confirm. However, we are where we are, and we need to think collectively and strategically to come up with a solution. Or at least those who wish to be involved can do so. Some of the language in this thread is very negative at best, and rude as worse, and is clearly not going to help at all.


David Tue 11 Dec 2018 10:15AM

Hi y'all!
There might be possibilities with programmes funding infrastructure costs, like those in Australia sustaining GPlates for Sidney Uni. As far as I know, these funding programmes have been sustaining developers, computational power and so on for GPlates for more than a decade. I guess someone within the COS wide umbrella is based in Australia and has the possibility for us to apply for this program, or there are similar programmes elsewhere, that I am not aware of.


Brian Nosek Tue 11 Dec 2018 5:05PM

Hi all - I am sorry that the communication about financing for maintaining the preprint services appeared in any way deceptive or sudden. We had tried to share the steps with the community of services along the way, but I'll consider this feedback as a communication failure on my part.

Our goal is to achieve sustainability of the preprint services using shared infrastructure. To that end, we drafted a sustainability strategy here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pZ3JI9Y-NYgzJgC1VV-r7qLh14hK_XKXHsb4y85km-4/edit Your review and comments are welcome.

Some key points:
1. To date, COS has been able to obtain grants that cover the costs of development and maintenance of all the preprint services. We also have sufficient grants to cover those costs through 2019. To maximize sustainability, we need some help from the community of services. We are engaging the services now to generate a plan that we can succeed with together.
2. The total cost for maintaining the services in 2019 is $148,821. A breakdown of costs is available in the proposal. Our present proposal would cover 72% of those costs from contributions from preprint service communities, with COS continuing to have responsibility for fundraising the rest.
3. COS will always be fundraising and hopes to be successful enough with that to subsidize costs for preprint services that have a gap in their own fundraising success. More detail on all this is in the proposal document.

As reminder, COS is a non-profit charity. The sustainability strategy is not to make money for COS, it is purely to ensure the sustenance of this open community of services. Your ideas for how best to achieve this are most welcome. The document is open for commenting.


Brian Nosek Tue 11 Dec 2018 5:15PM

And, as a quick comment on the opening idea -- requesting donations. COS does have a continuous fundraising drive for donations from users. This year, we expect to yield somewhere close to $100,000. COS's overall operating costs are $5.8 million in 2018, $3.3 million of that for the technology infrastructure. We expect to continue increasing contributions by individual donations, but it will be a long time before that will cover a significant portion of the maintenance costs. Grants, major gifts, and other sources will continue to be important for sustainability for the known future.


Bruce Caron Tue 11 Dec 2018 7:13PM

Thanks Brian!

My thoughts on fund development for COS preprint services: Mainly from an EarthArxiv perspective, but also from a history of fund development (I was the development director for the College of Engineering at UCSB for a time).

  1. There is no service “community.” Implying that the various named entry points into the COS preprint platform somehow together, or even simply individually, represent a community or communities is just wrong. There is no broad constituency of community “members” out there already to be fund-raising targets. There is no pre-existing organization with its own membership ready to be tapped. In the case of EarthArXiv, one of the logics of its formation is to be external to all other Earth/space science organizations, and so to be a neutral service, so that members from any of them can feel free to contribute their preprints. This means that the Advisory Council for EarthArXiv represents as broad and diverse (in many different ways) a collective as can be assembled across the planet and across the disciplines of Earth/space science. The Advisory Council was chosen at random from a list of people who volunteered on the internet. NONE of them volunteered to be fund raisers.
  2. The people who are volunteering to do the work of getting authors to add their papers to the COS platform are already contributing to the success of COS as an open science organization. Without pay, they are making COS a significant player in the preprint arena. These are exactly the wrong people to be told they need to raise X amount of money every year to keep things going. If this proposal becomes policy, I predict EarthArXiv will fail to raise the suggested amounts and that volunteer enthusiasm will plummet (as will the current positive sentiment for COS as a partner). The current preprints sustainability strategy is a real load-pistol-shoot-foot proposal.
  3. Asking for more money from entry points that succeed in getting more preprints seems at first look to make sense (there are some costs per preprint); but on reflection is a self-defeating move. COS, we presume, wants these preprint efforts to succeed, and the prime metric for success is the number of preprints. So dampening enthusiasm for adding as many new preprints as possible is counter-productive for COS’s own goals. What are the other metrics? How might other metrics come to the fore in fund development? For example, searches, downloads, alt-metrics, etc… These metrics are important to the users of COS’s preprint platform: the authors!
  4. One of the logical groups to ask for ongoing funding is the cohort of authors with content on the COS platform. An annual fund to “pay it forward” is a natural fund development effort here. This puts more effort back on the COS fund development team. But then with some tactical support (e.g., the emails of authors… and some metrics on their preprints), the volunteers at EarthArXiv can certainly help spread the word.
  5. Tasking the ad-hoc volunteer leaders from the various preprint end-points to meet a fixed fund-raising goal will, over time, underperform tasking all interested open-science supporters to be on the look-out for ways to help COS maintain the preprint effort, including possible new funding from foundations and other somewhat serendipitous fund-raising potentials. In other words, having a plan means your plan either succeeds or fails. And each year it succeeds, you never know if there were other opportunities that this success delayed or obscured. But opening up to the generosity that might happen when authors and volunteers feel energized to help out could lead to far greater success, even perhaps to endowments.

brandon Wed 6 Mar 2019 11:40AM

Are there any updates for this issue?


Bruce Caron Wed 6 Mar 2019 2:09PM

I believe that the COS is working out a governance system that can handle these matters with better communication and participation. The need for funding is real. I still think that a major source of funding could be a "pay it forward" request that authors who have added their own work to the service for free (as in beer), can donate the real cost of this to fund other submissions in the future. This service is also a form of deep infrastructure: these articles are meant to be persistently available. Once the COS can show that they are serving the faculty of an institution, perhaps they can request that that institution join as an institutional "member" and recognized as such on the website, with a small annual fee. stuff like that might help.


Tom Narock Thu 7 Mar 2019 2:40PM

Yes, as Bruce said, COS has formed a 6-person governance team to work through better communication and think about joint efforts to raise money rather than each preprint group competing with each other. The thinking is that 6 reps from the 30 preprint systems will be flexible enough to meet regularly, but also able to aggregate feedback from multiple domains. Someone nominated me (still haven't figured out who :) ) so I'll be part of the 6-person team. We're going to meet bi-weekly starting next week. As I understand it, this means that the request for preprint systems to begin paying next year is now on hold. I'll try to confirm that for sure at our meeting. Feel free to post thoughts/concerns here (or email me) and I'll bring them up on our calls. As we start meeting regularly I'll report back here.


Jamie Farquharson Thu 7 Mar 2019 3:05PM

Great, thanks Tom


Victor Venema Thu 7 Mar 2019 4:22PM

Good that that bad idea is on hold.
I have seen an open publishing system with an elegant model: they ask their users for contact information for the library or when that is already know to contact their library to say you would like them to support us or thank them for their support as a happy user.


Leonardo Uieda Thu 7 Mar 2019 5:57PM

Thanks for taking this on, Tom! I'm curious to see what the team comes up with.


Tom Narock Fri 8 Mar 2019 2:39PM

@leonardouieda there's a discussion that started in the Moderation Policy thread that might interest you. Based on this blog post https://www.fromthebottomoftheheap.net/2018/12/20/what-is-wrong-with-software-paper-preprints-at-eartharxiv/ we're thinking about revising the EarthArXiv policy on software papers. I've going to reach out to the blog post author next week. If this is of interest to you let me know


Victor Venema Fri 8 Mar 2019 2:53PM

That is good news.

Also in general I would advocate being more open rather than more closed with respect to types of scientific contributions than traditional journals. That is one of the strengths of repositories and one of its gifts to open science.


Leonardo Uieda Mon 11 Mar 2019 7:26PM

Thanks @tomnarock1! I'm interested. Let me know when you plan to talk to them.


Tom Narock Wed 13 Mar 2019 2:46PM

@leonardouieda I've reached out to Gavin via email. I'll let you know if/when he replies and we can set up a group discussion


Bruce Caron Thu 14 Mar 2019 2:48PM

I think the software paper discussion deserves its own thread... please start one. @tomnarock1


Tom Narock Fri 15 Mar 2019 2:37PM



Christopher Jackson Mon 25 Mar 2019 8:31AM

A belated thanks from me @tomnarock1 for getting involved in that committee. We still have some lead-time to get things sorted out, and it's positive to see everyone working together (rather than fighting for pots of money individually).