The funder identification problem

Stevan Harnad amsciforum at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 30 20:26:04 EDT 2014

On Fri, May 30, 2014 at 5:58 PM, David Wojick <dwojick at>

> *Stevan, you seem to think that I am advocating for a publisher based
> solution but I am not. I am simply trying to find a good program design. In
> fact I think CHORUS has wandered away from that design, to the point where
> the funding agencies may not try to use it.*

Well that much is very welcome news!

> *But as for the funder identification problem, it is far from trivial.
> What you describe below does not work. There is at present no simple way to
> tell which program funded the research that led to a given article. The
> grant information does not include this data. How then shall it be created
> (and made uniform)? This is a deep problem.*

David, I can only repeat: The *author of the article *(at the very least)
-- and hence also the author's institution -- know *exactly* where they got
the funding (program, subprogram, grants officer, everything). And they are
very eager to credit their funders for their article output, to justify the
funding, to get the next grant instalment, and for renewal or new grant

In the bottom-up option (2), they simply add a metadata tag for the
funding's program/subprogram (in addition to metadata tag for the
grant-contract-and-number) in the IR along with the article.

In the perhaps more sensible option (1), the *US Federal funders of
research* create a database that links their own grant-contract-and-numbers
with their own program/subprogram identifiers (and then the IR need only
tag the grant-contract-and-number).

No need for publishers to do any of that. And I don't know why you are
suggesting it's such a big deal: There are a finite number of US Federal
funding agencies, program/subprograms, grant-contract-and-number, and all
the information is know and a matter of record. They have the data; they
need only systematically integrate it into a database.

Alternatively, authors/institutions can do it distributedly.

In neither case is it a big deal.

It only appears like a problem if you look at it from the publisher's
viewpoint, where authors are only in the habit of crediting their
grant-contract-and-number in the acknowledgements sections of their
articles, rather than giving fuller source information.

But authors and their institutions *have* the fuller information. And
effective convergent funder and institutional mandates (to deposit in the
institutional repository) together with simple, systematic compliance
monitoring procedures will ensure that all the requisite metadata are
deposited with the article.

> *Moreover, how this funder identification problem is solved will probably
> dictate the form of the US Public Access program. *

Well, we've made some progress: *It won't be the publishers' CHORUS doing
it.* That's a  non-started, and has been all along.

Now the choice is between top-down, centrally (1) and bottom-up,
distributedly (2).

Maybe it's easiest to start bottom-up, distributedly (authors/institutions)
and then the funders can harvest the pairs of grant-contract-and-number and
program/subprogram metadata tags in the the IRs for all of their articles
in order to build up a central database of their own.

(This institutional-deposit/central harvesting (or institutional export)
procedure is by far the optimal mechanism for all article metadata in the
IRs and also, if desired, for the full-texts.)

*Stevan Harnad*

On May 30, 2014, at 5:07 PM, Stevan Harnad <amsciforum at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Adminstrative info for SIGMETRICS (for example unsubscribe):
> On Fri, May 30, 2014 at 2:39 PM, David Wojick < <dwojick at>
> dwojick at> wrote:
>>  Stevan, what you describe sounds somewhat like the SHARE program, which
>> is one of the emerging proposed mechanisms for the US Public Access
>> program. See my
>> <>
>> from a year ago.
> David, "SHARE" is of course much better than CHORUS because it leaves
> access-provision in the hands of the universities and research institutions
> rather than journal publishers. And "SHARE" really just means that the IRs
> do it rather than the publishers.
> But I certainly don't agree that the following is any problem whatsoever:
>  SHARE has its own specific problems, as does CHORUS. But as far as funder
>> identification goes, SHARE and CHORUS share the problem. This is because
>> the grant information that institutions get does not identify the specific
>> funding program. For example, in DOE the grant contract and grant number
>> merely say that the grant is from the Office of Science, which funds about
>> $5 billion a year. Which of their many programs and sub-programs funded a
>> given grant is not specified. So the institution still has to get that
>> information from the author, just as the publisher does. And the resulting
>> data must be uniform across all institutions, just as with all CHORUS
>> publishers.
> So the grant-contract-and-number does not specify the program and
> subprogram. But the specific funder certainly knows what the program and
> subprogram is. And the author-and-institution certainly knows what the
> program and subprogram is. So what's the problem that necessitates
> publishers (of all parties) to become the custodians of these data, which
> have nothing to do with publishers?
> (a) The exact source of the grant can be disambiguated *top-down, *with
> the funders linking the grant-contract-and-number to the exact funding
> source. That seems the most obvious way to do it. Then the IR need merely
> include the grant-contract-and-number tag in the institutional repository
> metadata for each funded article.
> (b) Or it can be disambiguated *bottom-up, *with the
> author-and-institution including an exact funding source tag in addition to
> the grant-contract-and-number tag in the institutional repository metadata
> for each funded article.
> Either way, the problem is trivial, and certainly no grounds whatsoever to
> outsource it to publishers!
> Moreover, while the publisher knows about the article, but not the
>> specific funder, the institution need know about neither. At present few,
>> if any, institutional repositories have deposit enforcement that would meet
>> federal standards. Most repository programs are voluntary, so an unreliable
>> source of ALL funded articles. And many institutions have no repository,
>> especially federal laboratories. So all in all the institutions have much
>> further to go than the publishers, as far as the federal program goes. Keep
>> in mind that the paradigm federal access program at this point is PubMed
>> Central, which works with publishers, not institutions.
> This is why I have been urging for years that deposit should always be
> convergent
> <>,
> not divergent, with *all funders and all institutions mandating
> institutional deposit*, not institution-external deposit. (Deposits can
> then be automatically exported to or harvested by any institution-external
> repositories desired, such as PubMed Central.)
> (Institutions that don't yet have a repository are just a piece of free
> software, some disk-space, and some sysad time from having one. Another
> non-problem.)
> Convergent deposit mandates immediately recruit institutions to monitor
> and ensure full and timely compliance with the funder OA mandate, whether
> or not the institution has an OA mandate of its own (and in fact it
> motivates the institution to adopt an OA mandate of its own, for all of its
> research output, funded and unfunded).
> Again, no grounds whatsoever to outsource any of this to publishers.
> This is not to say that SHARE cannot win the public access race. In fact
>> it is rumored that NSF may go the SHARE route, while DOE may go the CHORUS
>> route. NSF works solely with universities, unlike DOE.
> Well, let's hope that DOE too sees the wisdom and practicality of taking
> the convergent route, with institutions instead of entrusting this
> funder/institution record-keeping function to a third party with a huge
> conflict of interest (publishers).
> *Stevan Harnad*
>  At 12:12 PM 5/30/2014, you wrote:
>> On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 4:20 PM, David Wojick <
>> <dwojick at>dwojick at > wrote:
>>  *The core challenge in the US Public Access program is to precisely
>>> identify the funders of the research that leads to a given journal article.
>>> This sounds easy but it can be a difficult and complex process. The US
>>> Government is a vast and complex organization, with hundreds of different
>>> offices sponsoring research. Moreover, each office can be referred to in
>>> many different ways, creating a major name disambiguation problem in the
>>> funder data.*
>> To repeat:
>> It is not for publishers to do record-keeping for the government on the
>> articles they publish, dearly as publishers no doubt wish to hold onto this
>> further potential chain of control over research and researchers' work.Â
>> Researchers' own institutions are the natural ones to do this. As I wrote
>> in my previous posting on this very same issue:
> All authors have institutions -- either a university or a research
>> institution. Those institutions have a huge stake in ensuring that their
>> researchers comply with their funder requirements (and they already review
>> all grant applications). Institutions are hence the ones in the position to
>> monitor their own researchers' journal article output, ensure that the
>> funder (if any) is specified in the repository metadata for each published
>> article, and, most important of all, ensure that the deposit is done within
>> the required time-frame (see BOAI recommendation above).Â
>> Repository deposits are time-stamped. Researchers can even be asked to
>> deposit the journal's acceptance letter (in closed access) alongside the
>> final refereed draft, for record-keeping and compliance monitoring
>> purposes. The institution can thereby systematically monitor and ensure
>> timely compliance with funder (and institutional) deposit mandates. (The
>> repository software and the Copy Request Button can then handle any
>> allowable publisher embargo periods in a simple, straightforward way --via
>> the Button till the embargo elapses, and then the deposit automatically
>> becomes OA.)
> *CHORUS and FundRef are attacking this funder identification problem using
>> a standardized menu of funder names and DOIs. The basic idea is that the
>> submitting author will pick out the standard names of all the offices that
>> contributed to the research that underlies the submitted article. Again
>> this sounds simple but it is not, because building a comprehensive taxonomy
>> of all possible funders is far from simple.*
>>  Far from simple -- and far from necessary. Authors' own institutions
>> are the ones that are best positioned to stay abreast of the grants that
>> their researchers have received (in fact they already do so), and their
>> repositories can automatically record what resulting articles are published
>> and deposited, and when.
>>>  *To begin with they have elected to build this menu to identify all
>>> the funders in the world, not just the US Federal funders. As a result the
>>> menu of funders already has six thousands names and it will probably have
>>> many thousands more before it stabilizes. The size of the funder list alone
>>> thus creates a big discovery problem, because many funders have similar
>>> names. *
>> Let's hope that while (all? some?) publishers are spending their time
>> constructing a mega-database of all their authors' potential funders
>> worldwide, institutions will do the much more simple and sensible thing of
>> constructing a database of all their own employees' funding. (Indeed, they
>> do it already; they need only pool this information in their IR metadata
>> (and their CRIS <>,
>> if they have one).
>> Let journal publishers just manage the peer review of the papers
>> submitted to them and stop trying to create a monopoly over everything
>> else. The research community is perfectly capable of doing its own
>> record-keeping, thank you very much!
>>  *Then there is the hierarchy problem, especially within the vast US
>>> Government complex. Funding offices occur at many different scales, which
>>> are arranged within one another in the tree-like organization chart. For
>>> example in the US Energy Department there may be five or more layers of
>>> funding offices. Saying which layer should be named in the funding data for
>>> a given article is not simple. Moreover if offices in different layers are
>>> named for different articles, then the resulting data will have to somehow
>>> be aggregated by layer in order to be useful. To make matters worse there
>>> are also cross cutting programs that involve multiple offices. In short any
>>> taxonomy of US Federal funding offices is going to be a complex system, not
>>> a simple listing.*
>>> Needless pseudo-complications. The researcher receives a grant. The
>> grant has an agency and number. That agency and number is one of the
>> metadata tags on all articles arising from that funding that are deposited
>> in the IR.
>>> *Given these complexities it may be better to have an editor name the
>>> funders based on the acknowledgements section of the article, rather than
>>> presenting the author with a complex taxonomy of possible funders. There
>>> seems to be some experimentation in this direction, but it is a labor
>>> intensive solution. The question is also whether the resulting data would
>>> be accurate enough for agency purposes; given that acknowledgement has been
>>> a relatively informal process. There is also the question of when to
>>> collect this funder data, given the labor involved. Should it be upon
>>> submission or after acceptance?"*
>> The above metadata are enough. Let those who wish to harvest it do so,
>> and do with it, as they will. Publishers have nothing to do with any of
>> this.
>> And a reminder: We are talking about monitoring and ensuring compliance
>> with Green OA self-archiving mandates here.
>> How funders plan to handle billing and documentation for any Gold OA
>> publishing charges that they may be foolish enough to cover out of scarce
>> research money while the money for Fair-Gold OA is still locked into
>> subscription journals is not what we are discussing here (and certainly not
>> my concern.)
>> * Stevan Harnad*
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