From our Sprint to your browser: An update on Plaudit

We present a new mechanism for the academic community to openly endorse publications.
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By Vincent Tunru and Giuliano Maciocci

The primary way academics can receive recognition for their work is by being published in specific, well-known journals. This holds back progress in several areas, including rapid dissemination of scientific results, and open access to academic works. At last year’s Innovation Sprint, a team of researchers, publishers and engineers set out to bring an end to this situation, and prototyped the first version of Plaudit: a mechanism for academics to share their research recommendations openly with readers, in the context of that same research.

Late last year, eLife, the Center for Open Science and Flockademic announced that we would develop the concept into a full-fledged product. Now that we are a couple of months along, let’s take stock of where we are.

To start with the most important result: there is now a working Plaudit endorsement widget that can be easily integrated by preprint servers, journals, and other publishers of academic works. It allows researchers to sign in with their ORCID iD to endorse the research they encounter:

By integrating with different publishing platforms, Plaudit encourages cross-platform research discovery and makes these endorsements relevant to researchers who read research from a variety of sources. We therefore spent a lot of effort to make it as easy as possible for publishers to integrate the widget. If you are a publisher interested in incorporating Plaudit into your platform, feel free to get in touch for further assistance.

Furthermore, all endorsements are made available as open data through CrossRef Event Data and we build on open standards like DOI and ORCID. This prevents endorsements from being locked in to a single platform, while promoting accountability. Users can also follow the endorsement links on the widget to see who else endorsed a particular paper (and soon, for what reason) and explore what other papers other users have endorsed.

“Plaudit adds a lightweight but powerful layer of accountability to a new type of post-publication review. Its simplicity of concept, coupled with its obvious benefits, made it the perfect project for the eLife Innovation Initiative. We’ve been thrilled to see how quickly and effectively Vincent has managed to develop Plaudit from an initial concept to something anyone can use today, and we’re excited to see where Plaudit goes next.”

– Giuliano Maciocci, eLife’s Head of Product and UX

Apart from making it easy for publishers to integrate Plaudit into their website, we also published a browser extension. The extension allows anyone to endorse any research they encounter online, regardless of whether that platform has incorporated the widget. If a web page includes a DOI, the extension will display a toolbar button that allows you to endorse that work:

The Plaudit browser extension
  1. Get Plaudit for Chrome
  1. Get Plaudit for Firefox

Several improvements are still in development. With support from eLife’s UX team, we have carried out a series of User Experience tests to make sure Plaudit is as easy to use as possible and will be incorporating improvements as a result of our findings there shortly.

Finally, we are working to allow endorsers to further specify what they think the strongest features of an article are. This allows people to easily highlight when research was methodologically robust, clearly written, or particularly exciting.

A future version of Plaudit

Throughout Plaudit’s development, we have worked to make sure that the widget works well even for users with visual impairments. And as with all projects supported by the eLife Innovation Initiative, all source code for the project is open source and publicly available on GitLab.

We welcome comments, questions and feedback. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

Are you interested in contributing to open-source projects like Plaudit to drive forward open science? Register your interest for the eLife Innovation Sprint in September 2019.

Do you have an idea or innovation to share? Send a short outline for a Labs blogpost to innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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