Knowledge Futures is a nonprofit organization that builds public digital infrastructure that enables communities to publish documents, data, and conversations more effectively. Often these are academic research communities, but we also serve industry research, indigenous knowledge, non-profit work, public sector knowledge, and many other types of communities.
In our third year as an independent nonprofit, we've grown the number of communities that we support (5,000+) and launched a sustainability model that will allow us to provide those communities with the assurance that we'll be around for the long haul.
Successfully executing on that model brings us towards a world where Knowledge Futures can serve as a long-lived institution solely focused on building infrastructure to address the complex problem of ineffective research practices and wasteful traditions around how we share, produce, and evaluate knowledge. It's a vision for Knowledge Futures as an institution that aids in transitioning our knowledge and research ecosystems away from models based on transactional prestige and towards models based on the demonstrated effectiveness of research outputs and practices.
This transition is important to us because it brings us towards a world where knowledge compounds more quickly and at greater scales. Where people are able to more quickly and more efficiently build new knowledge on top of work done by others to create things that would have been impossible to build in isolation. Where silos of information are opened up and communities are able to leverage the scale of the internet and broad diversity of expertise to produce the documents and data that define our collective understanding at unmatched speed and scale.
The year ahead is a time for us to focus on the three steps we must execute on in parallel to establish Knowledge Futures as such an institution. We must:
Maintain the stable operation of our current infrastructure and nurture the communities it supports
Re-invest in our technology such that we can innovate and build best-in-class competitive products
Execute on our sustainability strategy so we can continue to provide the long-term assurance to our communities that we’re sticking around
This report will elaborate on our strategy for doing so, and more thoroughly detail the opportunities and realities that make us optimistic for the road ahead.
Business of Knowing series launches on Commonplace
PubPub reaches 3,000 Communities
C4DISC and Knowledge Futures announce partnership and release Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations on PubPub
Knowledge Futures, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), eLife/Sciety, and EMBO announce and pilot the new DocMaps framework
Custom CSS launches on PubPub
Global Transition to Open series launches on Commonplace
Notifications & activity features launch on PubPub
KF launches Membership program and Community Services as parts of its sustainability model and $2MM in funding
Arcadia Science + Knowledge Futures announce new partnership
First stage of Submission & Review feature launches on PubPub
Community Spotlight series launches to highlight impactful PubPub Communities
PubPub reaches 4,000 Communities
KF hosts its first Pub[Pub] Crawl on the theme of Climate Justice as part of OA Week 2022
NewsQ and Knowledge Futures announce collaboration around Underlay
KF and C4DISC launch Antiracism Toolkit for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
Cascading Settings launch on PubPub
KF announces 4 new Community Services offerings
PubPub reaches 5,000 Communities
PubPub is an open platform that facilities the end-to-end process of creating, publishing, and iterating on knowledge on the web. It differs from many traditional academic publishing systems in that it focuses on community involvement in the knowledge creation process and allows for complete flexibility in the form and manner of creating content, rather than prescribing specific content types and editorial processes. The result is that PubPub is used by many thousands of different Communities with outputs and workflows ranging from the traditional to the completely unique.
In the past year and a half, the team focused on enabling more experimentation with more types of content forms and processes. In August 2021, we launched the Activity Dashboard, and later in January 2022, added Activity Digest emails, both of which allow Community Admins to better keep track of the daily work of their communities. In October 2021, we launched Custom CSS, an experimental feature which gives Communities the ability to better tailor their sites to match their needs. In May 2022, we released the first iteration of our Submissions tool, which allows Communities to build basic submission processes for the first time. In October 2022, we released our Cascading Settings feature, which allows Communities to set and override settings defaults for Pub settings at the Community and Collection level, allowing Communities to scale their production processes. We closed out the year by testing two new experimental feedback collection modes with a few select Members, which we plan to expand into a full-fledged workflow and review system in 2023.
These new additions and experiments proved attractive to existing and new users of PubPub. We saw our 100,000th user signup and 5,000th Community created in November and December 2022, respectively, and by the end of the year had seen the 65,000th Pub created. Some of this Community and User growth is attributable to spam, a somewhat nice problem to have that we’re working to eliminate; so it’s nice to know that from July 2021 to December 2022, about two thirds of the Communities were active in the months after their creation, and roughly half of all users.
As much as we love seeing this kind of growth, we’re just as excited about the foundation we’ve laid for the years ahead. Now that we’ve built the basic tools for submissions, review, and process management, we’ll be focusing on bringing them together into a more cohesive whole while maintaining PubPub’s philosophy of preferring bottom-up, emergent behavior to top-down prescription. Our goal is to make PubPub the easiest and best platform not just for creating and sharing knowledge, but also for creating, experimenting with, and sharing processes and models for creating knowledge and begetting understanding.
To do that effectively, we’ll be starting with our own product process by working more transparently and collaboratively than ever. We were thrilled to see many of our Users and Members adopt the PubPub Discussion forum on GitHub to get help, share successes, and discuss ideas—both small and large. In particular, forum discussants prompted us to put in motion a plan to eventually make PubPub self-hostable, which we have made some initial progress on. In the coming year, we’ll be re-launching our roadmap and a new process for maintaining it with community input, as well as inviting more community participation in our day-to-day product work.
We’re pleased with how far PubPub has come in the last 18 months at fulfilling its promise to be the best end-to-end solution for innovative knowledge communities. We can’t wait to work with our users over the course of this next year to further accelerate their ability to experiment and succeed with new forms of publishing.
Underlay is an open platform for storing, publishing, and using collaborative datasets. Underlay differs from other data repository solutions by supporting the social processes involved in making public datasets broadly available, trusted, and useful. Rather than just uploading static data files, Underlay allows data practitioners to collaborate on public and private datasets over time, to provide social signals that allow datasets to be trusted, and to surface best-practices through repeated use within communities.
Underlay is modeled after the capabilities demonstrated in open-source software (OSS) communities, where publicly available software is rapidly published, evolved, and used. OSS infrastructure allows people to assemble software projects like lego bricks, building on top of work done by others to create things that would have been impossible to build in isolation. Critical to the open source ecosystem are the social signals and processes that allow people to trust, collaborate on, and stay involved in a given piece of open-source software. Underlay will do the same for data. By making data easier to publish, collaborate on, and deploy, we hope to reduce the barriers to use of public data such that the compounding effects of continuous iteration and collaboration on datasets will enable solutions at speeds and scales that are currently impossible.
In the past year, Pine Wu joined the Underlay team with a full-time focus on building an initial alpha-version of the underlay.org platform that we hope to launch at the end of 2022. With the initial version of the platform we intend to serve both publishers and users of data. Our strategy is to leverage the relationships we have developed through PubPub to offer neutral data infrastructure for all sectors and fields. We have forged additional partnerships through a handful of grants focused on data used for elevating quality journalism (NewsQ Collaborates With Knowledge Futures Group) and building a Reliable Sources list for Vaccine News information (Why does Wikipedia need a reliable sources list on vaccines?).
The Commonplace is movement toward knowledge sharing futures and the cultures that sustain them. As a publication of Knowledge Futures, Commonplace highlights the work and promise of existing groups and individuals to reach beyond current norms and structures to generate alternate, better, more open, and equitable knowledge sharing practices.
In its second year after launching in July 2020, Commonplace served as home for the work of 68 contributors across 37 pieces and served 31,522 page views to about 13,000 people.
The top 3 highlights of the year were:
Our series on Community-led Editorial Management
The launch of our “Convos on the Common” podcast series
Experimenting with a rolling publication format for our series on Useful Accessible Data
As these highlights reflect, 2022 proved helpful as a time for us to test format and topical ideas while continuing to build a broadening readership. Our experiments have enabled us to shore-up the content types we seek to continue and grow (especially the structure and cadence of Series and podcasts), restructure the site with an eye toward highlighting these and sunsetting others, and to find a consistent editorial voice and tone for the space. It is with a sure sense of Commonplace’s purpose and personality that we move into 2023.
In the next fiscal year, Commonplace will:
Pay contributors and guest editors a stipend for their work, further building goodwill with our network and aligning the operations of the publication with KF’s values
Welcome KF Members and Staff more closely into our development process for series, contributor ideas, and topics for feature articles
Test ideas for a sustainable business model for this open publication about and contributing to the discourse about open knowledge, its cultures, and its business (in part based on conversations that were started as series)
Grow our publication rate and readership by 20% while working with a similar number of external contributors and editors
Preprints are increasingly popular because they provide rapid dissemination and access to research findings, which have been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The academic community has responded by developing new ways of evaluating new findings — from informal Twitter threads to community review groups like PREreview, overlay journals like Berkeley and MIT Press’s Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, and platforms that support the “publish, review, curate” model like eLife and Review Commons.
As a consequence, publication and evaluation are becoming increasingly heterogeneous and distributed. A more diverse system of evaluation offers many advantages over traditional peer review, but adoption is hindered by technical barriers to participation and lack of discoverability.
The DocMaps project has been working to overcome these barriers by providing an extensible, standards-based, and machine-readable framework. This framework fully represents metadata relating to preprint evaluation and other editorial processes not captured by current infrastructure.
In August of 2021, we announced the culmination of the pilot phase of the project, a collaboration between Knowledge Futures, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), EMBO, and eLife/Sciety. The organizations used DocMaps to capture metadata about preprint evaluations from EMBO’s Early Evidence Base platform and eLife’s Sciety platform and displayed them as community reviews on CSHL’s bioRxiv preprint server. Groups ranging from eLife to Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, Biophysics Colab, ASAPbio crowd review, and Arcadia Science took advantage of this infrastructure to make hundreds of evaluations available directly on bioRxiv preprints in the “Community Reviews'' section.
Thanks to new funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Open Science program, we’ve been able to expand and continue the project. At the end of 2022 we hired two new full-time team-members, Emily Esten and eve, who are now working to develop a Software Development Kit (SDK) for creating and consuming DocMaps, comprehensive documentation, mappings to common community standards and vocabularies, and to expand the growing network of DocMaps users by helping aggregators, preprint servers, and tool builders adopt DocMaps to transmit and display preprint review.
In February 2022 KF launched its Membership program. The $2MM of funding we received from Reid Hoffman, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation earlier in the year allowed us the runway to focus on KF’s financial sustainability in 2022 and beyond. We believe it is imperative that our long-term strategy prioritizes moving away from being primarily grant and gift-supported, to being primarily supported by our community via mission-oriented revenue streams. We’re dedicated to aligning our success with our ability to ensure the success of those who use our products, making us more sustainable over the long term. In 2022 we began doing this, in part, via KF Memberships.
Memberships are a collaboration with communities to identify and implement strategies that enable them to be more effective in their work while also providing value to the broader network by supporting publicly available digital infrastructure.
At the beginning of the year, we forecasted gaining 73 Members with an average contribution size of $1,500 for year one. In 2022 we had a total of 53 Members with an average contribution size of $3,619. While we had fewer Membership enrollments, this has been counterbalanced by a higher contribution size than we anticipated. In 2023, we aim to continue to develop the Membership program by:
Deepening our partnership with Members by leveraging KF infrastructure to support their core missions
Creating opportunities for Members to connect with each other
Establishing a larger, ideally in-person, yearly Member Convening, the first of which is planned for April 2023
With this focus we hope to grow member support for KF into FY23 and, as outlined above, continue to execute on our sustainability strategy.
Appalachian State University Belk Library and Information Commons
Belk Library & Information Commons
Berlin University Alliance
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Center of Complex Inventions
Centre for Applied Strength and Conditioning Science
Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications
Duke Kunshan University, SciEcon CIC
Internet of Production
Iowa State University Library
KU Leuven Libraries
Litzsinger Road Ecology Foundation
Media Studies Press
NC State University Libraries
New Things Under The Sun
Ocean Discovery League
Project for Peaceful Competition
San Antonio Review
Society for the Anthropology of Work
Sustainable Futures Lab
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
The Global Health Network, Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health
The Open University
University of Vermont Howe Library
Vanderbilt University Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries
Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University
plus 13 individual contributors
This year we formalized a program for Knowledge Futures Working Groups for Members. These Working Groups are facilitated conversations and targeted projects between the KF Team and Members that have common areas of expertise, interest, or inquiry. KF facilitates a Member (and user) community that joins us from a variety of industries and backgrounds, from academia and industry to government and cultural institutions. Working Groups are one way to bring a cross section of these Members together for collaborative problem solving and creation. Through these groups we hope to create new on-ramps for unlikely (and some obvious) collaborations that ensure our product development emerges from a community-driven process and consistently addresses real problems and needs. While some working groups may be ongoing and industry or specialty-specific, others may be time-bound and feature or issue-based.
Our first Working Group is Community Publishing for Libraries (CP4L). CP4L is a KF Working Group for librarians and those working out of or in close collaboration with university libraries that are also KF Members. Libraries have long served as a top supporter of PubPub and the researchers who use the platform to develop and share their work. As a result, CP4L is a way to acknowledge and expand upon this existing and helpful exchange by sharing information on a range of topics, including: strategies for promoting OA adoption, strategies for fundraising and budgeting to prioritize open knowledge, creating documentation for dissemination on campus, sharing experiences about standing up new programs, and exchanging creative ideas and new experiments.
Appalachian State University Belk Library and Information Commons
Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship
Iowa State University Library
KU Leuven Libraries
Vanderbilt University Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries
From the early days of PubPub, groups seeking to publish openly on the platform sought our help doing so. While we focused on the development of the platform, our interactions with groups actually using it not only consistently informed how and what we built, but it also led us to draw (and redraw) the contours of our involvement in bringing about publications on PubPub. As adoption of PubPub grew, along with the size of our team, it became clear that formalizing our expertise and bandwidth as a service to others was a good idea.
And so, in 2022, we officially launched Community Services, with Dawit Tegbaru, our Director of Community Publishing Services, at the helm of logistics and strategy. We define Community Services as, “Fee-for-service contracts for production, training, content-enrichment, and strategy for groups who want support getting onboarded and/or effectively publishing their work.” Our initial goals included:
Offering transparent, accurate pricing
Realizing 10 services contracts and a total services revenue of $220,000
Establishing the internal structure for effectively servicing these partnerships at a high level
Applying feedback from partners to revise, grow, or pair down our initial menu of services
Two notable partners in our services development are the American Psychological Association and the American Astronomical Society, with whom we have worked closely since 2020 to deliver many of the services we launched this program with. The services we offered at launch are: content production, copyediting, Embedded Managing Editor, development of interactives and media, Community structure and design, backfile imports, training, and branding.
Over the course of the year, the Content team (now called the Community team) signed nine services contracts and billed 152,970.00 in revenue. We were also able to channel feedback and ideas from partners to launch 4 additional services in December 2022: OER course presentations, archiving and indexing, text-to-audio, and copyediting.
2022’s Community Services work has brought about some exciting examples of creative collaboration with publishers, editors, and authors. The APA continued to center interactives for its digital-first journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior. The Harvard Data Science Review and The MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) both expanded their contracts with us to include multimedia development. SERC also served as a partner for testing text-to-audio, a new service for 2023.
The goals for 2023 are as follows:
Continue to develop in-house expertise amongst the Community team to deliver excellent, creative services
Fulfill 20 services contracts for a total services revenue of $400,000 and more than doubling the size of our Community Services program
Collaborate with 3 services partners to experiment with and roll out new services for 2024
Better align the benefits of Community Services with KF Membership and open knowledge sharing experiments conducted across KF products
In continuing to develop our organization through a social justice lens, our anti-racism task force spent the last year reflecting on our unique position. We find ourselves belonging to industries that are unequivocally lacking in diversity and representation. Here we are, at the intersection of tech and academia with a responsibility to engage diverse communities to inform our decision making not only around our programs but also our internal operations. Our task force published a Structural Justice Report that defines several avenues we can pave to ensure that underrepresented communities are heard and are actively being consulted.
The outcome of this exploration led to the adoption of a new KF hiring and internship policy to reduce bias during interviews and ensure we are recruiting from diverse pools of candidates. Included are principles that define our values around hiring, such as not considering credentials or prestige in evaluating candidates. These policies led to better processes and surfaced a pool of candidates that reflected less systemic bias, allowing us to hire the best candidate without over-biasing towards our industry's typical demographics.
We also worked on implementing benefits that would improve the quality of life for employees from underrepresented groups, like officially adopting a 14 week paid parental leave and making the experimental 4-day work week permanent, which you can read more about here. Committed to advancing structural justice in publishing, we partnered with C4DISC to support the launch of their Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations, which helped shape our own task force, and the launch of Editorial Office News, in service of our pro bono work initiative.
Least to say we have been busy, and for good reason. The last year has seen a huge culture shift around work, widespread resignations, a movement not at all surprising and is probably long overdue. Fairness and equity are at the heart of this paradigm, the heart of our work, and likely the reason we did not have to report any turnover this year. Our staff members have increasingly reported that they enjoy the culture we have collectively created and feel that leadership is highly transparent. Head over to our Anti-Racsim & Structural Justice hub to learn more about what we’ve been up to and check out our Handbook for a full rundown of our policies.
As our operations mature, we are being intentional in how we structure the organization to support the diversity of people and teams that are required. In reflecting on how we are presently organized, it’s apparent that we have slowly evolved towards a matrix organizational chart. We have distinct functional roles and product roles. The functional teams (product, community, growth, and operations) provide cross-product reporting lines and management structure. The product teams provide cross-function focus that allows all teams to participate towards the shared goal and purpose of the product.
At the time of publication for this report, the audit of KF’s FY2022 financial statement has not yet concluded. When it does, the report and associated tax statements will be available on the KF website.
Knowledge Futures, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the United States of America. Tax identification number: 84-3111259