SCOSS is a vehicle of renowned and trusted organisations well connected to the open science community that helps facilitate the funding of non-profit services that are on an unstable financial footing. SCOSS provides the framework and funding structure, vetting potential candidates based on a defined set of criteria. The most eligible of those that pass the vigorous evaluation are then presented to the global OA/OS community of stakeholders with an appeal for monetary support in a crowdfunding-style approach.
This funding drive is a bridge for services to a more sustainable funding model.
By Open Science “infrastructure” we mean the scholarly communication resources and services, including software which we depend upon to enable the scientific and scholarly community to collect, store, organise, access, share, and assess research.
Current members include: the Association of African Universities (AAU), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), the Council of the Australian University Librarians (CAUL), EIFL, LIBER, Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, France, REDALYC, and SPARC Europe.
Many organisations helped shape the coalition, including the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG), The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), The European Research Council (ERC), The European University Association (EUA), EIFL, The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), LIBER, Science Europe and SPARC Europe. Initial input was also provided by SPARC (US).
Up to four.
SCOSS specifically seeks funding from research affiliated organisations and institutions of all sizes, government, service providers, and funders worldwide.
SCOSS does not collect any funds, it acts a facilitator to connect infrastructures with financial donators or contributors. SCOSS-recommended infrastructure does make a one-time contribution to SCOSS to pay for support over 3 years, amounting to 25k to pay for general support for funding acquisition such as proposing suggested funding sources, the global promotion of the Supported Infrastructure, the provision of knowledge exchange activities, monitoring, visualisation and communication support and tools. To maintain high-quality support for the duration of the above-mentioned agreement, SCOSS also monitors the Supported Infrastructure on an annual basis.
At minimum, each candidate must meet the following basic qualifications:
1. The candidate organisation must have been established for at least two years, and can demonstrate their sustainability challenge.
2. Eligible organisations must have a non-profit status in the country in which they are based and/or be affiliated with or owned by a research or educational institution.
3. The services or infrastructure provided by the candidate organisation must be of international relevance and must be broadly relevant to more than one discipline.
It is important that each of these elements are clearly addressed in the EOI.
The SCOSS expectation is that its community-funded model is a step towards sustainability, and not an answer to full sustainability until the end of the service’s life-cycle. SCOSS’s aim is to save useful, supported infrastructure from immediate collapse. The continuation of infrastructure is the first priority. The SCOSS Application Form asks applicants to provide information on former business models, and on their sustainability plans for the future to ensure good thoughts have gone into future sustainability from the outset. Describing challenges, and experiences will also help evaluators determine maturity and that this point as been considered in earnest.
It is expected that SCOSS-endorsed infrastructure will develop its own path to sustainability during the three-year term. That infrastructure can develop a client base in the SCOSS period of funding, building on that in years to come when providing meaningful services also by engaging with funders in their governance as has been proven with DOAJ’s new governance approach. Continuing a certain business model does not necessarily mean failure since SCOSS funding can help save costs in infrastructure, strengthen the organisation, technology, provide more meaningful governance, and it can also help increase membership numbers that may be maintained after funding has come to an end.
Since Open Science is a global challenge, SCOSS strives to reflect its funding decisions to embrace diversity where possible, be this from a thematic, disciplinary or geographic perspective. In 2020 we invited Expressions of Interest from across the world: particularly from South America, Asia and Africa – although all regions were invited to apply.
Each year, the coalition invites non-commercial OA/OS services to apply for SCOSS co-ordinated funding.
This process begins with an invitation for interested infrastructure to submit an Expression of Interest; applicant entries are evaluated and up to six are selected and invited to submit a full, formal application.
The SCOSS board evaluates applicants rigorously based on criteria including the service’s value to communities such as funders, universities, libraries, authors, research managers and repositories; and on details pertaining to their governance structure, costs, sustainability measures, and future plans.
Those infrastructure determined to be eligible will be proposed by the coalition to the wider OA/OS community with an invitation to help fund them in a fashion similar to crowdfunding. Employing a funding structure devised and managed by SCOSS, research affiliated organisations and institutions of all sizes and funders throughout the world, are requested to contribute financially to the service for a defined three-year period. This temporary funding is intended to support OA/OS service providers so that they may obtain a more secure financial footing.
Up to three services may be selected for funding during each funding cycle.
The themes for the 3rd call were:
- FAIR and sustainable Open Access transformation
- Building an open infrastructure landscape
- Building an open reproducible research services landscape
- FAIR and sustainable Open Access transformation, including Open publishing services, tools and platforms (including emerging outputs and preservation), FAIR Open Access repository services, Open licensing services.
- Building an open infrastructure landscape, including support for promoting a more diverse open research and open science infrastructure, embracing multiculturalism and multilingual access to research; Discovery services (including but not limited to metadata services and indexes); Interoperability and information exchange services; Open citation, bibliometric, metric, and impact services; Services supporting new computational research methods, including data analysis; Open Humanities infrastructure, TDM and machine learning; Social networks for research; Open research data infrastructure, excluding big data.
- Building an open reproducible research services landscape, including services for open reproducible research (e.g. electronic lab notebooks, preprint services, pre-registration); and Services for open authoring, annotations, references.
Services or infrastructure that focus only on the following themes are out of scope: Open standards, Open practices, Open persistent identifiers, Training and eLearning, Infrastructure relevant only to a specific discipline, book, journal, or thesis content.
To avoid the selling-off of a recommended infrastructure, infrastructures have agreed to the fact that SCOSS will terminate any activities that support the selected infrastructure in the event that the Infrastructure is purchased by a for-profit legal entity during the course of the three-year agreement.
SCOSS has considered how it can provide some confidence to the library community when querying whether contributing to any of the recommended services is an effective use of library funds. In an area of great flux such as Open Science, can we be sure that what we as libraries fund today will still be essential infrastructure 5 years from now? Funding choices are therefore made using best efforts based on intelligence from the OS sector on current and mid-term needs and we trust in SCOSS members representing the needs of that community. We also have certain processes in place to provide assurance to funders or contributors.
First of all, SCOSS-promoted services must above all be on some unstable financial footing and substantiate their need for funding in the application process to be considered. Financial data on infrastructure budgets is not often public. However, full applications must be supported by data provided to SCOSS on operational costs from at least the previous year (incl. a formal financial report), and a budget for the following 2 years of funding. For successful applicants, this data and the related application form is made public.
How can SCOSS help ensure the community that a project remains relevant years from now in a time of transition and change? It is a fact that certain infrastructure needs support now to help us through this transition. This is an advantage of using the three-year cycle approach as funders can reassess its relevance at the end of that cycle. What we can do is evaluate infrastructure plans as specified in the SCOSS applications submitted year on year by the SCOSS Advisory Group.
SCOSS aims to promote projects that have developed into services or infrastructure that have proven their value to the community over time. SCOSS will only recommend infrastructure that has a minimum maturity of 2 years beyond the life of the original project. We are seeking to fill a gap in funding decisions and processes where the operational costs of running a free service are often forgotten. We are appealing to the community to therefore honour the work of organisations that have proven their worth over time to step up and help them with their operational costs.