Keeping metrics free

Sustainability is important for the kind of infrastructure we want to build with total-impact. The obvious way to do this is to pass along our costs to folks who want to use the metrics, and we’ve discussed ways to do this.

However, over the last week, we’ve reached an important decision: in addition to keeping our source code and planning process open, we’ll keep our metrics free and open, too. We won’t charge for access or use.

This may seems quixotic, but it’s not motivated by blind “information wants to be free” fanpersonism. Rather, it’s motivated by our underlying goal for this project: not just a nifty new way to measure impact (although it’s that, too), but rather the base for a fundamentally transformed, web-native scholarly communication system

The value in selling altmetrics is dwarfed by the value of what we can build using them. And we can only build these systems if the metrics themselves can flow like water between and among evaluators, readers, recommendation engines, authors, and all the other cogs of this scholarly communication system. 

We’re both believers in The Market. There’s lots of money to be made in the coming post-journal world; we support those folks trying to make it. But we see that the market is not going to provide the kind of infrastructure that the next generation of recommendation and tools will need.

So over the next few months, we’ll be forming a non-profit foundation, and continuing to pursue philanthropic funding through at least the next year (while still looking at innovative ways to develop additional revenue streams). The Sloan Foundation have seen the value in what we’re doing; we think that Sloan and others will be excited to continue supporting the vision of a comprehensive, timely, free, and open metrics infrastructure. 

We scholars have travelled the route of trusting our basic decision-making infrastructure to a for-profit before. Despite everyone’s best intentions, it’s not worked out so well. We’re excited about helping to start a new era of metrics along a different course.