Contributorship badges: a new project

At the Science Lab, we’re always looking for opportunities to work with the community to build prototypes that help research thrive on the open web. We find that these prototypes are best approached by bringing together existing tools and the right groups rather than starting from scratch. This way, we can bridge gaps in workflow and communities while building on existing work done in this space.

Our next prototyping effort is exploring the use of digital badges for crediting contributors to scholarly papers for their work. As the research environment becomes more digital, we want to test how we can use this medium to help bring transparency and credit for individuals in the publication process. This work is a collaboration with publishers BioMed Central (BMC) and the Public Library of Science (PLoS); the biomedical research foundation, The Wellcome Trust; the software and technology firm Digital Science; and the registry of unique researcher identifiers, ORCID.

Why badges?

OpenBadges at MozFest 2014! CC image courtesy of christosbacharakis on Flickr

OpenBadges at MozFest 2014! CC image courtesy of christosbacharakis on Flickr

Using the web as a platform, we can enhance the experience surrounding an academic article. Badges can serve as a standardized digital credential for the work done by each author. Research is increasingly reliant on a wider range of skills from software to drafting to data curation. We want to avoid vague and unstructured text descriptions of work completed by offering a set of well defined and standard badges.

At Mozilla, the Open Badges infrastructure was used to successfully encourage participants to teach, learn and get credentials for digital skills. We’re hoping to apply similar principles to the world of academic research.

What we’re testing

Can badges help provide an incentive for researchers, show the diversity of roles involved in a piece of research and increase recognition? We’re joining a wide range of stakeholders willing to try this out:

  • BMC and PLoS will be the first publishers to test issuing and displaying the new badges on selected articles;
  • Badge types and descriptions are based on the 14-role author contribution ‘taxonomy‘ being developed by the Wellcome Trust, Digital Science and others;
  • ORCID provides the unique id to identify a researcher and will display all badges earned by that individual;
  • Open Badges infrastructure (badgekit-api), currently used by Mozilla, will issue and retrieve the badges.

One of the first questions we’ll be testing in this project is the proposed workflow:

  1. Once an article is published, the publisher notifies the badging system and authors.
  2. Authors will fill out their roles based on the contributor taxonomy.
  3. Badges, crediting authors for the work they contributed, will appear next to the authors names and link to their ORCID page.
  4. The ORCID page will display all badges earned by that particular author.

We want to make sure this process is positive and beneficial at each step. We will be continually refining this workflow and experience as we go through the prototyping process.

Next steps

Amye discussing contributorship badges at MozFest 2014

Amye Kendall, BMC (left) and Laura Paglione, ORCID (right) discussing contributorship badges at MozFest 2014. CC image courtesy of mozillaeu on Flickr

After some amazing work spearheaded by Amye Kenall (BMC) presented at this year’s Mozilla Festival, we’re ready to iterate on prototypes to help identify how we can best provide clarity and credit in this space. First, a lightweight system including a few curated papers and 14 badge categories will be put in place as a way to gather immediate feedback on the proposed workflow and display. This is scheduled to launch early next year. We’re hoping to use this prototype to open dialogue with the research community and evaluate the effectiveness of a digital badge system.

After receiving feedback on the first iteration of the badges prototype, we’ll being implementing a longer term infrastructure based on Open Badges. We hope that by iterating and getting continuous feedback we’ll build a system that’s open, usable and accessible by the research community.

How to get involved

Let us know what you think of our proposed workflow here.

Wellcome Trust is looking for feedback on the 14-role ‘taxonomy’ for author contribution. The badge choices and details are currently based on this taxonomy.

Take a look at the Open Contributorship Badges planning GitHub repo for more background on the project.

Want to help us test the prototype? Comment on this GitHub issue if you’d like to participate.

Further reading