WorldWideScience.org Alliance

Terms of Reference



Background

Scientific progress increasingly requires global collaboration. Scientific progress requires access to worldwide scientific knowledge. Scientific progress can be accelerated if access to worldwide scientific knowledge is accelerated. This line of logic is the premise and the promise of WorldWideScience.org – a global science gateway.

In June 2006 at the public conference of the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), Dr. Walter Warnick of the U.S. Department of Energy introduced the concept of a global science gateway, which he descriptively called "Science.world." Envisioned as an international extension of the technology powering the U.S. Science.gov, Science.world was proposed as a revolutionary means of providing distributed and simultaneous access to scientific databases and portals around the globe.

Following the introduction of this concept, the British Library offered to partner in the development of a Global Science Gateway, and in January 2007, the British Library and the U.S. Department of Energy signed a Statement of Intent to partner in this effort and invited other nations to join the partnership. In addition to the points above regarding international scientific collaboration and the role of knowledge diffusion in scientific advances, the Statement of Intent also noted a number of other factors as impetuses for a global science gateway:

  • A positive trend has emerged as nations have recognized the importance of providing their citizens with one-stop electronic access to increasing volumes of science information;
  • In the international community there is a growing sense of the need for reciprocity and sharing of science knowledge across national boundaries;
  • There are well regarded and well used science information systems and collections which provide the critical foundation and content for a global, decentralized body of science knowledge; and
  • The technology exists for federating searching across vast, dispersed science information collections.

The Statement of Intent envisioned a global science gateway that will:

  • Search dispersed, electronic collections in general, subject-specific, and cross-cutting fields of science;
  • Provide direct and free searching of open-source collections and portals and will also allow patrons with proper access credentials to simultaneously search limited-access systems (e.g., agreements based on country membership);
  • Build upon existing and already successful national models for searching;
  • Seek to complement existing information collections and systems; and
  • Maximise the attribution to and recognition of individual sources of information to the patron for the purpose of raising the visibility and usage of individual sources.

Following the January signing, the U.S. Department of Energy and British Library began efforts to develop a prototype for a global science gateway, offering Science.gov and UK PubMed Central as the U.S. and U.K. sources, respectively, for the prototype.  Hearing the invitation to partner, other nations offered additional sources, and certain nations with robust science portals were also directly contacted and asked to participate.  The resulting prototype, called WorldWideScience.org (WWS.org), performed federated searching of 15 portals and databases across 10 countries.  The prototype was demonstrated before an international audience on 22 June 2007 at the public conference of ICSTI, held at L’Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique (INIST) in Nancy, France.

With the successful deployment of the WorldWideScience.org prototype and given its multilateral composition, the next step in developing a long-term, sustainable business model centered on establishment of a governance structure.  With many of the “owners” of WWS.org portals and databases being represented in ICSTI membership, it was agreed in the June 2007 business meetings of ICSTI that ICSTI will establish and maintain a special relationship with the WorldWideScience.org governance structure, serving as a primary sponsor.  This Terms of Reference (ToR) document outlines the general purpose, objectives, functions, and processes of this structure, called the WorldWideScience Alliance.

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of the WorldWideScience (WWS) Alliance is to provide a geographically-diverse, long-term governance structure to promote and build upon the original vision of a global science gateway.

The objectives of the Alliance are to:

  • Establish the process by which sources are added to, or deleted from, WWS.org’s federated searching.
  • Define the strategic technological path for WWS.org, with the goal of adhering to the original vision outlined in the Statement of Intent and keeping WWS.org unique and meaningful in the field of scientific knowledge diffusion.
  • Identify the market positioning for WWS.org and implement actions to fill that niche.  This includes identifying information sources for federated searching to fill key gaps in scientific knowledge diffusion.
  • Actively market WWS.org to maximise visibility and usage.
  • Establish an annual budget for WWS.org and Alliance activities.
  • Define the funding formula and mechanism for WWS.org and Alliance activities.  Potential funding sources include Alliance member contributions, ICSTI, and other sponsorship/grant sources.
  • Identify an Alliance member organization to serve as the treasurer for WWS.org and Alliance fund receipts and disbursements. 
  • Establish a secretariat, or operating agent, to provide administrative and other support to the Alliance.

Structure and Governance

The Alliance will have a two-tiered governing structure consisting of 1) the larger Alliance itself, which approves broad policies, direction, and strategies and 2) an Executive Board chosen by the Alliance to implement policies and strategies and to manage the Alliance’s day-to-day business. A description of composition and responsibilities follows: It is not a requirement that Alliance members are also ICSTI members although this relationship is strongly encouraged.  Likewise, it is preferable that the Alliance’s chairperson and deputy chair be ICSTI members.

  1. Alliance. Membership of the Alliance consists of WWS.org source "owners," sponsors, and others specifically approved by the Alliance – who agree to the Terms of Reference and fulfill membership obligations, including cost sharing (in the form of member contributions or sponsorship fees) and task sharing (i.e., fulfilling respective responsibilities to promote the quality and performance of WWS.org). A single designated person will represent each Alliance member organization. Members will be entitled to stand for election and vote on the elected positions of the Executive Board. Elections for the officers of the Executive Board will be conducted as needed, when terms of existing officers expire. Collective Alliance responsibilities are to:
  1. Approve and (subsequently) amend the Terms of Reference and other policies/plans of the Alliance;
  2. Vote on elected Executive Board positions;
  3. Approve the Alliance budget;
  4. Review and ratify WWS.org source additions and removals made by the Executive Board or based on Operating Agent recommendations; and
  5. Review and ratify sponsor relationships and other Alliance member additions provisionally established by the Executive Board.

The Alliance will have one formal annual meeting, normally in conjunction with the ICSTI annual conference. Special meetings of the Alliance may be called when twenty (20) percent of the membership or 3 Alliance members (whichever is more) request such a meeting.

The Alliance will use an approach similar to ICSTI’s in determining member contributions and sponsorship fees. Specifically, member contributions will be divided into 3 categories, based on the size of member organizations’ annual budgets (e.g., total revenue and/or appropriation). Category 1 will apply to organizations with an annual budget up to 5 million USD, and the annual contribution will be 2,200 USD. Category 2 will apply to organizations with an annual budget from 5 million USD to 15 million USD, and the annual contribution will be 5,500 USD. Category 3 will apply to organizations with an annual budget above 15 million USD, and annual contributions will be 8,800 USD. Also similar to the ICSTI approach, Category 2 and 3 members will have two votes on issues relating to budget and contributions, and Category 1 members will have one vote on such issues. On all other issues, each member will have one vote. All members are eligible to hold elected officer positions. Sponsorship fees and other forms of contributions will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Executive Board. The Executive Board will consist of elected officers (Chair, Deputy Chair, and Treasurer), one non-elected ex-officio member from the WWS.org "operating organization" (currently, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) from the U.S. Department of Energy), one non-elected ex-officio member from ICSTI, and one “at-large” Alliance member elected by the Executive Board. Selection of the "at-large" position will take into consideration the geographic diversity of the Executive Board.

The term of the elected officers and the "at-large" position will be 2 years each. At the end of the first term, the term of certain positions may be extended by one year, subject to approval by the Alliance, as a means to create an overlap of terms for the three officers. Non-elected members will have a perpetual term.

The Executive Board will meet at least three times a year. A quorum is required to conduct Executive Board business and is defined as a minimum of 2 elected positions and one non-elected position. The timing, location, and form of these meetings will be determined by the Executive Board. Initially, the expectation is that one of the meetings will be in person at the ICSTI annual conference and meeting, and the other two will be by conference call during the year.  Any Executive Board member who fails to attend three consecutive meetings will be deemed to have resigned from the Board, and a replacement will be sought. To reflect the global aspirations of the Alliance, elected officers should ideally be drawn from geographically distributed locations.

The Executive Board of the Alliance seeks to act by consensus.  In the event decisions require a vote, each officer (elected and non-elected) will have one vote, and a decision requires a simple majority vote. In the event of a tie, the chair will cast the deciding vote. Officers will be expected to abstain from votes where they have a conflict of interest.

The Executive Board will be supported by an Operating Agent that will perform the administrative duties of the Alliance.

Primary responsibilities of the Executive Board are to:

  1. Represent the Alliance;
  2. Develop and recommend program strategies for WWS.org to the Alliance;
  3. Formulate and recommend an annual budget to the Alliance;
  4. Make budget allocation and spending decisions;
  5. Establish member subscription fees and sponsorships;
  6. Develop and implement communications and promotions strategies;
  7. Review performance of 'Operating Agent' / and make recommendation to the Alliance regarding continuation of services;
  8. Provide a report of WWS.org status and progress at annual member meeting;
  9. Seek new members and sponsorships to the Alliance and provisionally approve such additions, subject to Alliance ratification; and
  10. Provisionally add and remove WWS.org sources, subject to ratification by the Alliance.

Individual responsibilities of elected officers follow.

Chair

  • Chairs the Executive Board;
  • Calls Executive Board meetings;
  • Reports to membership at annual meeting;
  • Creates and distributes agendas, with assistance from the Operating Agent, for Executive Board meetings (one week in advance) and Alliance meetings (two weeks in advance); and
  • Serves as primary spokesperson for Alliance.

Deputy Chair

  • Assumes Chair’s responsibilities when Chair is unavailable.

Treasurer

  • Produces annual report of accounts for review at Executive Board meeting and annual member meeting;
  • Ensures Alliance’s finances are well managed and correctly collected and disbursed; and
  • Proposes changes to annual Alliance member subscription fee.

Operating Agent responsibilities are to:

  • Conduct the annual elections for the officers of the Executive Board;
  • Take notes and action items for Executive Board meetings;
  • Collect member subscription fees and sponsorship payments;
  • Assist Executive Board in seeking appropriate new members for the Alliance; and
  • Report to the Executive Board on the status of potential new members.

Operating Organization responsibilities are to:

  • Operate and maintain WWS.org, including implementation of upgrades and additions/removals as directed by the Executive Board;
  • Lead development efforts for technological enhancements and work directly with software vendors and partners;
  • Maintain WWS.org performance and usage metrics;
  • Report to the Board on the availability over the last reporting period of all content sources for WWS.org;
  • Contact any source owner whose content source has dropped below an acceptable level of availability and/or quality over the last reporting period; and
  • Propose acceptance and quality criteria for new content sources for approval by the Executive Board.  This may include the use of external experts to guide the Executive Board in its recommendations of source additions.
  1. Dissolution of the Alliance.  In the event that the Alliance is dissolved, remaining funds of the Alliance will first be used to satisfy any outstanding obligations of the secretariat and operating organization.  Net funds remaining will then be proportionally distributed by the secretariat to Alliance members and sponsors based on their cumulative fees paid.

Addendum 1 - March 2009


Associate Membership - Established and Defined

A new WorldWideScience Alliance membership category is hereby established -- the Associate Member.

An Associate Member is an organizational entity with a positive and constructive benefit to WorldWideScience.org who does not otherwise own or manage an information source searched by WorldWideScience.org. Illustrative examples include, but are not limited to, national and international governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Associate Membership may be initiated in one of two ways:

  1. recruitment by the Alliance or
  2. application of the prospective Associate Member.

In the case of recruitment by the Alliance, prospective Associate Members are identified and approved by a two-thirds majority vote of Alliance members or by the Alliance's Executive Board (with subsequent approval by Alliance members). In the case of application by a prospective Associate Member, the Operating Agent will prepare a background summary on the applying organization and, if applicable, will obtain the views of Alliance Member(s) based in the same country as the applying organization regarding the application for membership. On behalf of the Alliance Chair, the Operating Agent will distribute the application and related background materials to Alliance Members. Associate Membership is approved with a two-thirds majority vote of the Alliance.

The Executive Board will determine Associate Member dues amounts on a case-by-case basis, generally following the pattern of regular Member and Sponsor dues categories but also considering other factors and implicit value to the Alliance from the particular Associate Membership being considered.

Associate Members may attend and participate in Alliance meetings as non-voting members. They are not eligible to hold Executive Board positions.

Associate Members may cancel their membership at any time, and the Alliance may also cancel an Associate Membership at any time with a two-thirds majority vote.

Source Types

  1. Nationally-sponsored STI sources -- positive evaluation of contents by Operating Agent (OSTI), approval by Executive Board, and simple majority approval by Alliance.
  2. International, government-related STI source -- same as national STI sources (examples CERN and ETDE).
  3. Non-governmental, national or international non-profit STI source -- positive evaluation by OSTI, endorsement of national STI Alliance member from same country where source resides (if applicable), approval by Executive Board, and simple majority approval by Alliance (this is similar to INASP).
  4. Academic or institutional repository not covered by #1-3 above.
  5. Open-access commercial or non-commercial publisher -- same as #3 above.
  6. Commercial publisher and professional society -- not eligible for inclusion.

New Source Evaluation Criteria

The following criteria should be considered when evaluating potential new databases and portals for inclusion in WorldWideScience.org. Minimum requirements, including certain key technical requirements, are indicated by an asterisk (*). The database/portal must fit into one of the specified Source Types and should offer an overall net benefit to the collective content of WorldWideScience.org. If a source does not meet the minimum criteria, the Operating Agent will cite the specific deficiencies and/or issues.

A. Source Type

  • * Does the owner/provider of the database fall into one of the categories defined on the Source Type list?
  • * Is the database or portal accessible to the public, or does it otherwise have a seamless form of user authentication?

  • B. Subject Area and Content

  • * Does the source contain scientific or technical content?
  • If the source is multidisciplinary, does it contain a substantial portion of scientific and technical information?
  • * Does the source provide, at minimum, searching of bibliographic records (title, authors, citation)? Are abstracts available for searching and viewing?
  • Does the source provide open access to full text, or an option such as pay-per-view or document delivery?
  • g. Is the search interface available in one of the ten languages supported by multilingual translations? Are some records, or are partial records such as titles/keywords, available in one of these ten languages?
  • Is the source a current collection, and if so, are new records added on a timely basis? If it is a legacy collection, do the records clearly indicate applicable dates of publication?
  • How large is the collection and is the quality of the records comparable to similar sources?

  • C. Technical Specifications

  • * Does the source contain a searchable interface?
  • Is a cost, fee, or individual user registration required to perform a search? View a bibliographic record? View full text?
  • Is the source maintained on a regular basis? Does the database/portal owner demonstrate a commitment to making the site available long-term?
  • Perform several test searches to evaluate the functionality of the source and its search engine. How is the search speed? Does the site appear to have significant "down" time? Is there anything unusual returned in the results?
  • * As a final step, all sources must be evaluated by the WWS.org technical staff to ensure compatibility with WWS.org's federated searching software.