“Sage not on stage” or a recap on the first NISO Plus conference

By Gabriela Mejias and Carolina Tanigushi

Standards are embedded at all stages of the information creation and dissemination processes, and hence play a crucial role in scholarly communication.

NISO is the United States’ National Information Standards Organization, responsible for “develop[ing], maintain[ing] and publish[ing] technical standards related to publishing, bibliographic and library applications”, such as JATS, KBART, MARC, and more.

In some of these cases, NISO maintains living standards, such as JATS, which SciELO uses as a base for the SciELO Publishing Schema. The use of living standards allows for scalability, sustainability, and adaptation of the standards, thus making sure they don’t become obsolete and/or outdated.

The first ever NISO Plus conference was held in Baltimore, USA, on February 23 to 25. The event brought together librarians, archivists, publishers, service providers, product managers, metadata specialists, and many others.

As part of the effort to make the conference more inclusive and thanks to additional funding from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, it was possible for the NISO Plus committee to offer twelve scholarships, divided into two categories: Early Career and Equity & Diversity. (Disclaimer: the authors were both Equity and Diversity scholarship awardees).

Infrastructure was a recurring theme in the conference, from the inaugural speech to the very last sessions. The inaugural speech was given by Dr Amy Brand, Director of MIT Press, who discussed Open Access and Open Science talking about “who owns the infrastructure”, meaning a OA journal might be using proprietary and therefore “closed” technologies. Open content might be in a “closed” infrastructure and vice-versa.

In the next sections we will recap the key issues related to discussion around contemporaneous standards.

Engaging with NISO

Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Executive Director, made a point in saying that the real work “begins on Wednesday”, following the conference. This rings particularly true for this session, which introduced the participants to the social function of information standards in establishing trust between content providers and users, and how NISO engages with many different stakeholders to discuss, define, and improve best practices and solve challenges in the information community. NISO offers many different ways to participate and thrives in making sure all voices can be heard. There are many options to contribute: organizations can join NISO as institutional members, and individuals can participate in focus groups, events, committees, surveys, and it’s also possible to send a request to be added to their Newsline list.


The SciELO Publishing Schema is based off of JATS (Journal Article Tag Suite), “an international standard XML tag set for journal articles” that started being implemented by the SciELO Brazil collection in 2014.

JATS is developed by NISO so of course it was discussed in many contexts, from its origins as the NLM DTD to its current state and the approach they are taking on the move to version 2.0, that will not be backwards compatible, but that should address ambiguities and accessibility concerns from version 1.x and fix “technical debt that had been preserved because of backward compatibility before moving to standard”. The JATS4R (JATS for Reuse) working group was also introduced during the conference as “devoted to optimising the reusability of scholarly content by developing best-practice recommendations for tagging content in JATS XML”.

SciELO participates in both the JATS committee and in the Peer Review Materials JATS4R subgroup.


Given that NISO is planning to establish a committee to continue outreach efforts and promote continued development of the taxonomy, NISO Plus was a great venue to discuss about CRediT current and future implementations and challenges.

Many publishers are currently encouraging the use of CRediT with a variety of approaches as described by Gabe Harp, MIT Press. Publishers like PLOS and eLife are mandating contribution details and requiring CRediT as the format, while others like MIT Press implement a “variable approach” making contributions statements optional and recommending the use of CRediT when authors list their contributions.

ORCID is planning to implement support for CRediT contributor roles to enable users to add this information manually and for organizations to add this data via the API. As an infrastructure provider and NISO member, ORCID participates in the committee and supports NISO leading this community discussion. Crossref is also planning to add support for CRediT in their schema soon.

SciELO will officially start recommending the use of CRediT on the new Criteria, policies and procedures for the admission and permanence of scientific journals in the SciELO Brazil Collection, even though some SciELO journals have been using it for a while now.

During the discussion and breakout groups, the general consensus in regards to the requirement of contributor roles (using CRediT or not) was the difficulty found in convincing authors and editors to adopt new practices, as well as for services providers to implement and support these. An apparently simple solution for the transparency in authorship criteria issue becomes a lot more complicated when considering different contexts, stakeholders, disciplines, and systems. These shared challenges, support and confirm the need for a community-wide approach for standardization that enables:

  • Enhanced integrations and better support for publishers and contributors
  • Persistence (better processes and governance for the taxonomy)
  • Continued improvements (to make sure CRediT evolves as needed)

The NISO CRediT committee is expected to be completed by July 2020. The community-driven expansion of CRediT roles can lead to interesting analysis of contribution related data like geographic, gender and discipline trends as suggested by Allison McGonagle-O’Connell, O’Connel Consulting.

Publishing, linked data & metadata

The sessions dedicated to data publishing, linked data and metadata discussed the ways libraries, publishers and societies can help researchers and authors improve the data publishing culture, from the deposit to citation and reuse.

Depositing data is just the tip of the iceberg; the value of solid metadata was brought up several times given the importance of being able to connect the datasets to the published articles. The difference in the number of published datasets and datasets cited in the papers is very significant. Shelley Stall, American Geophysical Union, uses as an example a paper that, when submitted, was properly citing the dataset used but that, when published, had its DOI removed from the reference thus losing the citation.

The discussion highlighted the lack of a solid data reuse culture, with many lost opportunities as datasets could be used for other purposes beyond replicability. Three steps that should be taken in order to improve the publishing, use and reuse of datasets in the scientific community:

  1. Educate researchers on the value of publishing their datasets considering the use of
    1. Persistent identifiers such as DOIs and ORCID iDs, to make data FAIR
    2. Tools like the Repository Selector that empower researchers to make better choices.
  2. Encouraging best practices for dataset citation
    1. Such as the use of identifiers (like the dataset DOI, or the researcher ORCID iD) to help others to properly cite when reusing data
  3. Fostering a culture of data reuse. Initiatives like the Joint declaration of Data Citation principles, Initiative for oPEN Citations are working in this direction. SciELO promotes the deposit of datasets, and has also developed Guidelines for research data citation (Portuguese only), advancing on the first and second steps.

Persistent identifiers are the the “building blocks of research infrastructure” as they act both as identifiers and connectors. As Philipp Schreur said “linked data is all about identifiers, for things and for relations between things, and making those machine-readable”.

Consensus and consistency are two recurrent issues around metadata, and one of the reasons why we need standards. Discussing, agreeing and promoting good metadata are a community effort and a shared responsibility.


In the pre-conference, Bohyun Kim introduced the concept of Techno-Utopianism, the belief that technology advancement can and will lead us to a better, ideal society. The resultant data-ist dogma implies that “data is a transparent and reliable lens that allows us to filter out emotionalism and ideology; that data will help us do remarkable things—like foretell the future”. The rise of “pseudo AI” or biased data illustrate the need (and urgency!) to think critically about the data we produce (and use) and the technology we implement. Community engagement is essential to address those issues.

This being said, there are many ways in which A.I. can help us. “In the ocean of data and material search alone is not enough anymore”, so a search engine based on it was suggested as a means to deliver search results tailored for each and every user. The idea behind this is that a researcher will not, necessarily, have the same needs as an undergrad student, even if they are looking for materials on the same topic.

“Open is not enough” said Amy Brandt, to remind us that to avoid dystopian futures we need to question the ownership and diversity of research infrastructure. The future of knowledge depends on building an open and diverse research infrastructure.

Interoperability is the ability of systems to communicate and as such an open and diverse research ecosystem can only exist and evolve by being interoperable.

SciELO has been providing DOIs to all articles of all journals (unless they have another provider) for over ten years and requesting all journals to collect and publish ORCID iDs since 2019. Thanks to standards SciELO can interoperate with Crossref and ORCID (among others), which serve as a “bridge” for multiple other services and are both examples of non-profit open infrastructures. And the SciELO model is currently used by 17 countries that make up the SciELO Network, emboding “a program of international cooperation for the progress of research and its open communication with a view towards an inclusive global flow of scientific information that considers the diversity of geographies, thematic areas, cultures, multilingualism and the resulting richness of asymmetries”.

Meant to be “a different conference experience for the information community”, participation, collaboration and inclusion characterized the event. NISO Plus succeeded in avoiding the “sage on stage” traditional conference format, and was all about open, lively (and nerdy!) discussions both offline and online via collaborative notes, Twitter.

In order to take ownership and build an open sustainable and diverse research ecosystem, we need to involve all stakeholders, acknowledging the diversity of the information and scholarly community, promoting the adoption of standards, and invest in developing open infrastructure. It takes a village!


CONRAD, L.Y. Humans are the Loop: Social Solutions to Technological Challenges [online]. Scholarly Kitchen, 2020 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2020/03/02/humans-are-the-loop-social-solutions-to-technological-challenges/

FEENEY, G. Proposed schema changes – have your say [online]. Crossref blog, 2019 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.crossref.org/blog/proposed-schema-changes-have-your-say/

Guia de citação de dados de pesquisa. SciELO.org. 2020 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://wp.scielo.org/wp-content/uploads/guia-de-citacao-de-dados_pt.pdf

LAPEYRE, D. Introduction to JATS (Journal Article Tag Suite) [online]. XML.com, 2018 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.xml.com/articles/2018/10/12/introduction-jats/

MEADOWS, A. Announcing the NISO Plus Conference Scholarships! [online]. NISO Plus blog, 2020 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://niso.plus/announcing-the-niso-plus-conference-scholarships/

MEADOWS, A. Next Steps Toward Using CRediT for Credit [online]. NISO IO, 2019 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.niso.org/niso-io/2019/12/next-steps-toward-using-credit-credit

MEADOWS, A., HAAK, L.L. and BROWN, J. Persistent identifiers: the building blocks of the research information infrastructure. Insights [online]. 2019, vol. 32 [viewed 16 April 2020]. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.457. Available from: https://insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/uksg.457/

PACKER, A., et al. Why XML? [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2014 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2014/04/04/why-xml/
PACKER, A.L. The SciELO publication model as an open access public policy [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed 16 April 2020]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/12/18/the-scielo-publication-model-as-an-open-access-public-policy/

External links

Ask the Experts About… Linked Data <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_LinkedData>

Ask the Experts About… Metadata <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_Metadata>

Critérios SciELO Brasil <https://new.scielo.br/about/criterios-scielo-brasil>

Data Publishing <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_Data_Publishing>

F1: (Meta) data are assigned globally unique and persistent identifiers <https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/f1-meta-data-assigned-globally-unique-persistent-identifiers/>

Initiative for oPEN Citations <https://i4oc.org/>

JATS, BITS, STS: Keeping Things in a ‘Family’ and Backward Compatibility <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_JATS_BITS_STS>

JATS4R <https://jats4r.org/>

JATS4R Subgroups <https://jats4r.org/subgroups>

Join NISO <https://niso.org/join>

National Information Standards Organization <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Information_Standards_Organization>

NISO <https://www.niso.org/>

NISO Events – NISO Plus Conference <https://www.niso.org/events/2020/02/niso-plus-conference>

NISO Events <https://niso.org/events/upcoming>

NISO Plus <https://niso.plus/>

NISO Plus Pre-conference <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_Preconference>

NISO Standards Committees <https://niso.org/standards-committees>

NLM DTD <https://dtd.nlm.nih.gov/>

Repository Selector <https://repositoryfinder.datacite.org/>

SciELO Publishing Schema <https://scielo.readthedocs.io/projects/scielo-publishing-schema/pt_BR/1.3-branch/>

Search/Retrieval/Discovery of Information — What Does the Future Look Like? <http://bit.ly/NISOPlus_SearchRetrieveDisc>

The FAIR Data Principles <https://www.force11.org/group/fairgroup/fairprinciples>

Twitter – #NISOPLUS20 <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23nisoplus20>

About Gabriela Mejias

Gabriela Mejias is the ORCID Engagement Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa. She works with regional ORCID consortia and members to implement ORCID in their systems and workflows and engages with the wider community to raise awareness of ORCID and other PIDs. She is interested in building sustainable open research infrastructure and always trying to learn about the latest innovations in scholarly communication. She is a member of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

MEJIAS, G. and TANIGUSHI, C. “Sage not on stage” or a recap on the first NISO Plus conference [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2020 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2020/04/16/sage-not-on-stage-or-a-recap-on-the-first-niso-plus-conference/


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