eLife Latest: How publishers are coming on board with open annotations

We explore how publishers are adopting the newly customised Hypothesis annotation platform to promote scientific discussion online.
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About a year ago, eLife introduced open annotations to enable our readers to make comments, highlight important sections of articles and engage in an online conversation about our content. eLife worked with open-source software developer Hypothesis to extensively customise its annotation platform to address common publisher pain points, introducing new moderation features, single sign-on authentication and user-interface customisation options. These features were subsequently made available to other publishers, giving them more control over the implementation of annotations on their sites.

Following our work with Hypothesis to create a more versatile open-annotation solution, a wide range of publishers and hosting platforms have integrated the tool, or are using it in their workflow. They include, among others: Highwire, Silverchair, Ingenta, Atypon, the Center for Open Science (COS), the Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems, Ubiquity Press, American Diabetes Association (ADA), Cambridge University Press (CUP), American Psychological Association (APA), University of California Press, and the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). We take a look at how some of these organisations are using Hypothesis.

A timeline showing some of the many publishers that have integrated the Hypothesis annotation tool since we launched it on eLife last January.


COS and Hypothesis announced a new partnership in February 2018 to bring open annotation to Open Science Framework (OSF) Preprints and the 17 community preprint servers hosted on the platform. The partnership enables researchers to engage with each other, discuss research and share additional information as part of the regular research workflow.


In the spring of 2018, ADA was looking for a simple way to provide updates to its annual Medical Standards of Care in Diabetes issue. The organisation’s restricted annotations group, which is world-readable but writeable only by ADA staff, hosts additional information, links and suggested citations. The group activity page enables readers to search all updates and filter by relevant tags.


In conjunction with Syracuse University’s Qualitative Data Repository, Cambridge Core hosts an annotation layer which provides context around citations. Part of a wider collaboration that includes half a dozen other publishers, Annotation for Transparent Inquiry is designed to bring transparency to citations in the social sciences and beyond.


Later in 2018, APA launched an open-annotations group across its PsycNET platform. A recent initiative invites authors of the most downloaded articles in 2018 to update their articles. “APA supports openness and rigor in psychological science and this partnership provides a new pathway for authors, researchers, students and other users to engage with each other about the rich content in APA PsycNET,” said Rose Sokol-Chang, APA’s Journals Publisher.
University of California Press

The University of California Press and Hypothesis teamed up in October to deploy annotation technology across Collabra: Psychology, the official journal of the university’s Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science. The tool will allow the publisher to foster greater collaboration between its authors and readers.

Dan Morgan, Publisher of Collabra: Psychology, said: “In addition to illuminating commentary and discussion, we’re also interested in things like authors adding more context to their articles, explaining why they referenced an article in particular, giving extra background on a methodology, adding informal updates like adding links to any popular media stories based on the article, etc. We’re really looking forward to exploring these uses that emerge, rather than defining them up front.”


Nearer the end of 2018, BMC added Hypothesis annotation to enable community feedback during peer review.

BMC first partnered with Research Square to develop In Review, a platform for showcasing manuscripts submitted to four BMC titles: Trials, BMC Anesthesiology, BMC Ophthalmology and BMC Neurology. The publisher later announced its collaboration with both Research Square and Hypothesis to promote transparency and early sharing, as well as encourage community feedback through annotation during the peer-review process.


ASPB is the latest publisher to come on board, having this month added open annotations to The Plant Cell journal for use by researchers, authors and other readers. Some of the first annotations in the journal have been made to provide links to related scholarly materials, including peer-review reports, ‘in brief’ companion articles and author biographies, giving readers additional context and information around the findings in one place.

And, from what we hear, there are more to be announced soon...

When we first introduced the annotation tool to the eLife website in January 2018, we were delighted to see other publishers already adopting the platform as a result of our collaboration. And we hope that many more are still to follow.

Publishers wishing to implement open annotations and take advantage of the latest features can do so by contacting Heather Staines, Hypothesis' Director of Partnerships, at heather@hypothes.is.

Questions and comments are welcome. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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