1. Todd thanks for taking the time to talk to Wiley-Blackwells Publishing News. First of all, could you introduce NISO to our readers?
Thank you for the opportunity. The National Information Standards (NISO) fosters the development and maintenance of standards that facilitate the creation, persistent management, and effective interchange of information so that it can be trusted for use in research and learning. To fulfill this mission, NISO engages libraries, publishers, information aggregators, and other organizations that support learning, research, and scholarship through the creation, organization, management, and curation of knowledge. We are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop standards for the publishing, library and system-supplier communities and our membership is comprised primarily from those three constituencies. In addition, NISO is responsible for US positions on international standards development within the ISO technical committees on information and documentation.
2. NISOs membership is a unique blend of publishers (including John Wiley & Sons), library associations and technology providers. What does this bring to the organization in terms of both opportunities and challenges?
NISOs membership mix does create a mix of opportunities and challenges, but certainly more of the former than the latter. In order to create opportunities to solve community problems, NISO needs to create a neutral environment where all of the interacting participants can engage on an equal footing. In most other situations, there are power dynamics at play that make collaboration difficult.
However, NISOs environment provides a framework that fosters communication, trust, and consensus-based decision making that allows for eventual buy-in on the end result and, hopefully, better outcomes for all involved.
Sometimes the realities of competition or market pressures do filter into what we do and managing that can be a challenge. Again, trust is a key element in that process and NISO does its best to foster an environment where the people engaged are working to the best interests of the community, not only their own interests.
3. What opportunities are there for NISO to collaborate with other standards organizations, both in the US and globally?
There is not nearly enough standards energy in our community to address all of our challenges and it makes sense to pool resources whenever possible to achieve common goals. NISO has been very active engaging with and collaborating with other standards bodies and trade organizations in our community both within the US and internationally. NISO is very active internationally, despite the fact that our name begins with National. We have collaborated with the Association of Learned Professional and Scholarly Publishers (ALPSP) on a project related to Journal Article Versions, with the United Kingdom Serials Group (UKSG) on the Knowledgebases and Related Tools (KBART) initiative, and with EDItEUR and the Publishers Licensing Society in the UK on license expression. We are also active in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), as well as many other international forums. There are a number of other examples we dont have time or space to cover here.
Beyond that, NISO is very active at the ISO level, supporting international work on information distribution standards. NISO is also the Secretariat on behalf of ANSI of the ISO Technical Subcommittee on Identification and Description (ISO TC 46/SC 9), which is responsible for the commonly used identifiers ISBN, ISSN, DOI, ISMN, ISTC, ISNI and ISAN.
NISO is always looking to expand these opportunities. There are large potential areas of work related to the citation and exchange of research data. We recently reached out to a variety of international organizations to launch an initiative on indicators and metadata of Open Access (OA) status. We are also working to pull together the international community on an initiative related to the future of Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) and bibliographic information exchange.
4. What have been your key challenges and achievements since you joined NISO in 2006?
When I joined NISO in 2006, the organization had very limited technology infrastructure to support the difficult process of consensus development. In 2007, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NISO was able to invest in a technological support system that allows us to effectively track progress on working groups. This has allowed NISOs modest staff to more than triple the number of projects that we simultaneously managenow more than 20without significantly increasing our staff. We are now getting more projects done and finishing them more rapidly than ever. This is critical since the need is so great, but also since the pace of technological change is so rapid, if we were continuing with a four to six (or longer) year development cycle, the standards would be irrelevant by the time they were published.
One of the biggest challenges related to consensus standards development is adoption. We cannot compel anyone to use or apply NISOs standards. As such, we have to rely on education and communicating the value of the outputs we create. Previously, we had not done a great job of educating the community about our work. Fortunately, over the past six years, we have developed a very robust schedule of educational eventssome paid, some free, mostly webinars, but some in-personthat enhance the awareness about technological issues and potential standards solutions. Weve grown the program over the past six years to more than 35 events this year. Im so pleased that our events hosted more than 5,000 participants last year.
As with all organizations in this economic environment, resources are always a challenge, but we are lucky that our membership has remained fairly steady throughout the recession. We have been able to extend our work through grant funding from the Sloan and Mellon Foundations. This has allowed us to continue to maintain our development activities without continually relying on ever-increasing dues from our members.
5. There is increasing scrutiny of standards, and of the value that publishers and learned societies bring to scholarly communication, as well as of the role of libraries whats your perspective?
Efficiency is critical for nearly every organization in every industry, especially in our current economic environment. Expressing to your constituents/customers/leadership how the organization is improving its efficiency has become a commonplace activity in nearly every organization. This is just as true in publishing as it is in libraries or even manufacturing. Everyone is being questioned as to the value they add to the process. Fortunately, standards are the keystone of efficient information dissemination and delivery. For publishers to provide content effectively to the library community, it needs to be available in accessible formats, with discoverable metadata, searchable and probably indexed through existing discovery services. Ideally, it will be licensable through a relatively pain-free licensing/sales process. Usage data needs to be easily accessible and convertible to compare with other metrics. All of these things allow content to be purchased and plugged into a librarys electronic resource management systems.
It should be noted by the library community that this type of content organization by publishers isnt easy, nor is it cost-free. In many ways, production of electronic information is at least if not more expensive than traditional print.
Just as these things have changed at publishers, information exchange has changed tremendously on the library side. For example, the number of staff who process electronic content acquisition and maintenance is a fraction of what is needed for managing a print collection. All of these processes need to be standards-based in order to operate at scale and efficiently. Both sides of the exchange process need to focus on how their processes impact the other and how each can benefit from standardization. Simplifying usage data exchange, for example, via COUNTER and SUSHI allow librarians to process data more efficiently, without requiring support from the publisher and could lead to greater renewal by providing timely and more reliable data about the contents usage.
6. Open Access is a really hot topic for our readers is NISO involved in creating related standards?
NISO hasnt been deeply engaged in the Open Access (OA) work that has taken place over the past decade. For the most part, OA is a business model for distributing content and NISO explicitly avoids engaging in business model issues. We do this for two reasons. First, as an industry trade non-profit that establishes standards, it is a very short step from industry consensus to industry collusion and anti-trust concerns. We therefore do not engage in business model discussions or best practice development. The second is that up to this point, there hasnt been a technological need related to OA distribution for NISO to focus our attention on.
Recently, however, there have been discussions around the need for indicators and technical metadata related to OA content. This is particularly a growing issue as more and more titles are becoming hybrid with some content OA and others behind subscription walls. There are presently no metadata indicators about which articles are openly available and which are either behind a pay-wall or embargoed until some point in the future. NISO has reached out to some other industry trade groups to get some traction behind this idea and, if there is sufficient interest, we may move forward with a project later this year.
7. And what about that other hot topic, data?
There are a variety of issues that NISO has been involved in around data standardization. First, with the description of data, NISO standardized the Dublin Core metadata element set, which is used to describe data (and other types of content). Also, NISO was an early leader in the standardization of the DOI standard, which has been extended to data by the DataCite community. With the support of the Sloan Foundation and in cooperation with the Open Archives Initiative, NISO began work on a project to synchronize web-scale data repositories. The ResouceSync project is a protocol to allow replication of content and metadata between web repositories in close-to-real-time. Additionally, I have been serving on a working group exploring data citation issues (more below). We are also planning a project related to the question of data equivalence, i.e., how does one distinguish that this data object is related to another data object. This is similar to the challenges of identifying hard cover/soft cover issues using ISBN and the Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (FRBR). We hope to launch a project related to that later this fall.
8. In 2011 we interviewed Jan Brase of Datacite and he referred to collaboration with NISO around data and citation formats what are the latest developments?
I serve on a CODATA-ICSTI task force, led by Dr. Brase, which is focused on developing a culture of data citation. That group is working on a draft report, which should be released in late 2012 or early 2013, that will include the groups findings and recommendations related to data citation. The group has compiled an impressive bibliography related to data citation, which is available on the CODATA website. Also, the group hosted a meeting in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Berkeley, CA last summer. An official report of that meeting is due to be published by NAS this summer. Once the final report of this project is published, there will likely be standardization efforts related to establishing a formal standard of metadata or citation elements necessary for data citation. These efforts are meant to be Phase 2 of this project and will likely happen either with cooperation of NISO and/or ISO.
9. Related to the data question is your Supplemental Journal Article Materials Project with the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS). What has been the reaction to the draft recommended practice released in January this year?
Since NISO launched the Supplemental Journal Article Materials Project in partnership with NFAIS about 18 months ago, interest in the project has been sustained and considerable. This is indicative of how large this problem is for some publishers. Part A of the project, which focused on business and policy related questions, was released for public comment earlier this year. There were a significant number of comments on the initial draft, which the business working group has addressed. The second part of the project is focused on technical issues related to integrating supplemental materials in production workflows and content exchange. A draft of Part B was released for public comment in July and the group will be accepting comments until mid-September. We hope to have the project published by the end of 2012.
10. Finally, whats next for NISO?
We have a tremendous amount on our plate as we move forward. Since 2010, NISO has been considering issues related to ebooks and where we can be most impactful in working on e-book-related issues. We have already launched two projects on e-books, the first on accessibilitythe DAISY Authoring and Interchange format (Z39.98)and the second on e-book annotation and bookmarking. There are more than 40 other potential e-book projects that people have brought to NISO and we are vetting that list.
As I discussed above, there are a variety of science-data-related initiatives in the works or on the horizon. There are significant challenges related to provenance, data sharing, and semantic markup that are going to have to include standards components to their solutions.
Another burgeoning area is the topic of alternative metrics for assessment. NISO has a long history of working in areas related to assessment and performance measurement (Z39.7, COUNTER, SUSHI), as well as most recently on the MESUR project.
One of the greatest joys of working with NISO is one can never anticipate what the next initiative will be. We are always receptive to the community approaching us with their problems and challenges (or even better solutions!) that need a consensus review and development. We would love to hear from your readers about the problems that they are facing and what our next priorities should be.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss NISO with your readers!