This is the final report of Quartz Open Access project.
Thanks to the Grant for the Web program, we have developed tools to enable web monetization for the Open Access publishing ecosystem. With them, we aim to support the consolidation of a new route for the economic sustainability of independent open access publishers. Using web monetization and Interledger technologies, we facilitate economic value flows from university libraries and researchers to the Open Access content and journals they value.
Concretely, we have developed a hybrid donation widget that supports traditional donations (with PayPal or bank transfers) as well as micro-donations using web monetization. Additionally, we have developed our own browser extension. This development of an independent browser extension serves two purposes. The first is enabling our community to decide how they want micro-donations to work, as we know some would prefer a one-time donation to donations based on the time spent at each page. The second reason is that we needed to link the application to our own token, as we explain later.
In addition to the software design and development, we have been able to launch a “Pilots’ program” where journals interested in our technology are helping us to test it. Furthermore, we have developed strategies for community development, communication and marketing strategy that will lead to the establishment of our project as a platform cooperative.
In these months, we have also faced some challenges and struggles. After extensive research, we found that it was very difficult to connect our software to Interledger, as the network requires strong regulatory compliance that our token does not have yet (as many other blockchain projects). Additionally, the server-side part of Coil browser extension is not open source, and we could not use it if we wanted to connect the extension to our own token. That is why we decided to code our own extension and server side infrastructure, that provides a functional Minimum Viable Product to our community.
Our main goals were 1) the development of a Blockchain based system of rewards for the Open Access ecosystem and 2) the development of a web-monetization browser extension.
Our software enables donations to Open Access journals in several ways, both supporting web monetization and traditional payment methods. Additionally, we have developed social experience functionalities that enable interactions such as sharing donations in twitter or joining our community.
Our initial plan was to adapt and extend Coil’s browser extension to adapt it to our community needs. However, there is no open implementation of the server side part of the code, so we decided to implement our own extension from scratch as well as the back-end that supports its interactions.
In addition to software design and development, our project efforts aimed to bootstrap a community of early adopters.
To date, we have signed pilot agreements with 2 journals willing to test our technology and become early members of our community. We are currently in the final negotiation phase with another 3 journals as well as a publishing infrastructure provider. Furthermore, we are at the early negotiation phase with 5 more journals, and we have about 50 more journals in the pipeline and are going to continue contacting them in the coming months. We have also obtained positive response from one academic library and are currently exploring collaboration possibilities with two more libraries that already support financially one of the journals participating in our Pilot program. We also have about 20 libraries in the pipeline and will continue contacting them in the coming months.
We have also done numerous communication and marketing efforts to this end, and we have positioned the project as an innovative way to support independent Open Access publishing, bringing together Open Access advocates, platform cooperativism, and blockchain enthusiasts. However, these efforts should continue to build a strong community beyond early supporters of our mission.
In conclusion, we have made considerable progress on our main objectives, serving the needs of our users with a functional MVP. Nevertheless, our solution is deployed on our own Interledger infrastructure, which is yet to be connected to the main network. Additionally, our community engagement efforts should be the main focus of the project in order to build a sustainable community.
The key activities of Quartz Open Access can be grouped in 5 categories (Design, Development, Community Engagement, Business Research and Strategy, and Communication & Marketing). The efforts made in each of these categories are described in detail in the following subsections.
The design efforts include traditional graphic design work such as the creation of our graphic identity and branding, to the product design of our software, as well as its UX and UI. Following, we list some of these activities.
- Creation of a Graphic Identity
- Product Design
- UX and UI Design
- Web Design
- Design of communication and promotional material.
Software development is one of the key activities of the project. Our project have developed 1) a web widget that supports traditional and web-monetization donations, 2) a browser extension to manage the micro-payments at our ecosystem, and 3) the Interledger infrastructure to support those tools. One of the unforeseen difficulties we faced was the design and implementation of a software architecture that supports our value proposition and that deals with the challenges we found (e.g., the strong regulatory compliance required to join the main Interledger network, or the lack of an open source implementation of Coil Software). Next we list some of the most relevant development activities.
- Deployment of an Interledger infrastructure supporting our own ERC-20 token.
- Integration of PayPal and other standard payments
- Implementation of social interactions' functionality, such as sharing donations in twitter.
- Development of our browser extension.
The establishment of a sustainable community is one of the biggest challenges our project faces to be successful. Thus, our efforts aimed to bootstrap a diverse and committed community of early adopters. We have created a “Pilots Program” where we will support Open Access journals interested in our technology to install and use our technology, engaging their already existing communities to support their economic sustainability. Additionally, we have designed a community bootstrapping plan, with activities including crowdfunding and marketing campaigns, engagement activities, and a general assembly where our community will be established as a platform cooperative, making them owners of the technology and infrastructure. Some of the most relevant activities in this regard are:
- Research and collect information about relevant Organizations such as OA communities, OA Journals and Conferences, Universities and other institutions, technology partners and competitors.
- Develop our community canvas.
- Community engagement (see Communication section below)
- Creating and facilitating our Discord community
- Launching a pre-registration campaign to identify and engage with potential browser extension users
- Community bootstrapping plan: including crowdfunding and marketing campaigns, and engagement activities, aiming to establish a platform cooperative for the project.
- Pilots' Program
- Design of Crowdfunding Campaigns
- Design of an NFT auction to support our project and further develop the early adopter community (soon to be announced)
Quartz OA is a new project aiming to develop an innovative funding model for Open Access publishing. Thus, designing a sustainable business model for our project and for the communities we serve is key. In this regard, we have done extensive research about Open Access business models, Crowdfunding, Blockchain-based business models, and platform cooperativism. In addition, we have developed a Business strategy to reach and engage each of our key stakeholders. Some of our main business activities and outcomes are:
- Researching OA sustainability and economic models.
- Researching the academic publishing landscape and ecosystem to identify the key players, influencers, funders and potential competitors.
- Researching donation platforms in other fields.
- Researching the governance of platform cooperativism and other broad ownership organizations.
- Business model development, based on our Key Value Proposition.
- Business strategy and roadmap.
Our communication efforts focused on being present at the key Open Access publishing communities. Thus, we have participated in numerous conferences, such as Open Access Week, the 2nd Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum, or the Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools 2020 Conference, as well as contributed content to some of these communities. Additionally, we create our own content, from whitepapers and videos explaining the project, to a blog post series on platform cooperativism and academia, as well as our newsletter and twitter, as well as organizing a series of focus groups on fair rewards for reviewers or sustainable Open Access publishing. Some of these activities and resources are listed below:
- Animated Video introducing Quartz OA.
- Pre-registration page for future browser extension users Conferences and forums:
- Publishing papers, such as Re-thinking Academic Publishing: The Promise of Platform Cooperativism and the Quartz OA White Paper
- Organized focus groups on topics such as fair rewards for peer reviewers, or payments for OA journals and authors.
- Participating (and winning) in the ASAPBio sprint project “Building capacity for preprint peer review and curation in Africa” by our partners AfricArxiv and the Training Centre in Communication.
- PubPub space with our White Paper, FAQs for the Pilot program, and a blog series on platform cooperatives
- Newsletter, as well as being featured in ‘5 Things to Think About’ CommonPlace’s newsletter
- Regular updates and posts on our Twitter
- Submitted contributions to NISO + 2022 and Ethereum Amsterdam 2022.
Grant for the Web have enabled the initial design development of Quartz OA, a new cooperative route for sustainable Open Access publishing. However, we need to grow our community beyond the first early adopters, and grow a sustainable community. For that, our next efforts will mainly focus on sharing the project with Open Access journals and institutions supporting Open Acccess. These efforts will be concretised in our first assembly, where the project will be established as a platform cooperative, giving ownership and democratic control of the project to its diverse community. Some of the most relevant communication and community building activities we will develop are:
- Marketing: launch marketing campaigns.
- Start matching donations program, here each donation will be matched by our company and other matching institutions.
- Establish Quartz Open Access as a platform cooperative.
Additionally, our software product should grow in functionality and maturity. One of our medium term goals is to join the main Interledger network. Additionally, short term goals include the development of plugins for the most relevant OA publishing software (e.g. OJS), and improving our browser extension and donations widget.
- Connect with main Interledger network
- Develop plugins for the most relevant Open Access publishing software such as OJS
- Improve browser extension (add information such as previous donations, enable customized donations, enable donations to authors and reviewers).
- Improve donations widget (Improve widget installation and configuration process).
There are two ways the Interledger community could support our project. The first and most important is helping us to share our project with researchers, universities and journals that might want to join our community. The second is to collaborate with us to find ways in which small and medium projects could join the main Interleger network, or alternatively, to create an independent network for smaller projects that can interoperate without such strong compliance requirements.
Additionally, Coil could support the development of independent web monetization projects by opening their implementation of their GraphQL web browser API. Alternatively, we could coordinate a community effort to create an Open Source implementation of such API, for which assistance from Coil team would be also appreciated.