The scientific community is increasingly recognizing how the open science enterprise critically relies on access to scientific tooling. John Willinsky, Stanford scholar and Director of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), presaged this development, calling it an “unacknowledged convergence” between open source, open access, and open science in 2005. Today, the vision has developed in material ways with a number of organizations coordinating the development of open source software to analyze data, connect it to existing and new channels for disseminating the results, and more. Michael Woefle, Piero Olliaro, and Matthew Todd’s crystal clear summary of the advantages of open science is one of many compelling arguments circulating in presentations, blogs, and the media.
PLOS’s mission to advance open access is a part of this larger enterprise – doing science in an open way also means communicating it openly for others to read and reuse. Furthermore, these research outputs entail not only the content itself, but metadata surrounding the object, including type, provenance, conditions of its production and its reception, etc. Article-level metrics are a part of this diverse family, enabling authors, readers, institutions, and funders to better understand the evolving state of the research object.
The ALM software, which harvests article-level activity, was started at PLOS in 2009 and made available as Open Source software in 2011. Over the last three years a small but growing community of developers has reported issues with the software, reminded us of missing documentation, and contributed code. Earlier this year we started a community site for the project, including a page listing all contributors.
We are happy to announce that last week – with big help from developer Jure Triglav – we also made the ALM Reports application available as open source software. ALM Reports uses the PLOS Search and ALM APIs to generate reports and visualizations of metrics for PLOS content. In the initial release ALM Reports only works with the PLOS Search API, but any enterprising developer can now take the ALM Reports application and tweak it to his or her needs.
Both ALM and ALM Reports are licensed under an MIT license, the most popular license for Ruby on Rails software (the web framework used to create them), and one of the open licenses recognized by the Open Source Initiative. The MIT license is a permissive open source license, allowing unrestricted commercial reuse, and several commercial and non-profit organizations are using the ALM software in their production systems.
In celebration of this new era, we have renamed the software Lagotto, in reference to the Lagotto Romagnolo, a water dog that originally comes from southern Italy. The breed is especially gifted in hunting and retrieving, used not only as a water retriever but also for hunting truffles. In the same spirit, the ALM application hunts for activity surrounding a research paper, bringing it back and making it visible to the community.
The data collected by the PLOS ALM service have always been freely available via API and a monthly data package. As both the software used to collect and analyze the data are available under an open license, other users can validate the data, perform additional data quality checks, and even more critically, open up the discussion about values underlying what each of the communities are measuring and using for assessment.