The students of the Open Knowledge course run by Professor Ina Blümel at Hochschule Hannover made a book The Open Science Guide of Guides with a series of rapid production ‘book dashes’. The project was a partnership with GenR and the Open Science Lab, TIB. Lessons were learned on all sides — the students had a non-stop tour of open science tools and services that you chain together to make a modern book, and all the partners got to see how the niche area of publishing ‘guides’ needs to up its open access game for reuse, findability, and impact.

The students had an exercise for the class to find and catalog four publications on the topics set for the guide — knowledge justice, data science, citizen science, and open access publishing. The catalog of publications was then be made into a short booklet and published as a multi-format on GitHub, as — Webbook, PDF, EPUB, and an HTML source — following open science good practices of using PIDs, open licencing, reusable, and depositing the content in an open repository. For the single source multi-format publishing the open-source ADA Pipeline was used, from the Open Science Lab. To make the publication open access a variety of web services were used — ORCID, DOIs from Zenodo, Zotero, and ROR, etc. All of the publishing tasks were carried out by the students in a series of ‘book dashes’ spaced over five classes, and all online under COVID restrictions.

The Open Science Guide of Guides

Read online | Deposit 10.5281/zenodo.4740163 | GitHub repo | Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) Worthington, Simon, Blümel, Ina, Hülk, Ludwig, Sael, Maria, Ilgaz, Kaan, Nguyen Thi, My Linh, Al Nasouh, Mohammad, Reschner, Edith, Görzen, Linda, Günes, Ümit, Matern, Johannes, Ulrike Ahlborn, Franziska, & Gaab, Sabrina. (2021). The Open Science Guide of Guides. Zenodo. 

Systems on the web

As students on an Open Knowledge course unit, the collaborative book making processes enabled participation in seeing the pros and cons of using services and web platforms in-the-field with all their limitations and quirks. In this case these systems were Zotero, ORCID, Zenodo — these are the three new systems we manually introduced into the ADA Pipeline workflow on GitHub.

In the exercise and for a learning context ORCID and Zenodo were used for students to create PIDs on these systems and have to pass back data to GitHub, as for example by adding their ORCID IDs to the GitHub CONTRIBUTE.MD file.

Using GitHub as our central hub for a book publication allows us to combine automation and manual processes. So when we want to prototype these new integrations we can first manually work with it, then work on further automation after prototyping.

Collaboration and writing in public

The ADA Pipeline includes Fidus Writer, an online collaborative academic word processor where the students work together in real-time. Collaborative writing will not suit everyone, especially when writing and formulating ideas. Being aware of how much learning and skills that specialist authoring requires, the starting position was to be sensitive to challenges students might have. At least this was the assumption to start with.

What was found through the class was that something different happened when writing together. It was interesting to find that for some participants collaborative authoring was helpful as they could get a better idea of what was expected of them from their contributions by seeing one another’s work — live — and learning from one another. This is something we will explore in future classes.

Reflections on publishing

There are two touch points that we saw as being ways for the students to learn about open access publishing and open science good practice: 

  • First, was using systems on the web, as mentioned, like Zenodo, ORCID, etc., 
  • second, was getting a feel for how other research organisations had made ‘open’ publications.

By looking at existing open access publications and how they have been published — license use, PIDs, reusable formats, etc. — we could introduce the students to the ideas of how to improve a publication’s visibility with open access and open science.

This aspect of understanding how a publication could benefit only became apparent as the course unit unfolded and will be something we integrate into the next round of classes.

Open access and open science good practice

What was not expected though was to see that in the area of guides and reports the application of licenses, reusable formats, PIDs is very mixed if not poor, and this is especially problematic as these are publications built for reuse and usually not sold commercially. So when it comes to reuse in LMSs, MOOCs it’s a problem.

Here are examples of the types of shortcomings we found and shows the importance of using open access to the full for maximum impact of a publication.

  • No reusable format, only publishing a PDF. 
  • Using the license CC BY NC ND. By having a no derivatives license it is not possible to even include a picture of the cover under German copyright guidance, for example.  
  • No DOIs, ORCIDs, or other PIDs.
  • No visible open access license, even when EU funded.
  • No deposit in a repository.

A general observation was that producers have been used to thinking of the publication as a fixed end product and don’t accommodate: review, feedback, or post publication review.

Here is the class longlist of sixtyseven guides collected on a GenR Zotero Group.

ADA Pipeline

The students worked with our experimental publishing pipeline that has two goals, firstly ‘fully automating’ multi-format outputs and secondly, enabling collaborative real-time authoring for academic authoring with a MSWord-like WYSIWYG experience.

The pipeline workflow has the following supporting features: editing, input sources — PIDs, etc., staging, transformation, multi-format outputs, and multi-channel distribution.

In terms of achieving our goals the core approach is to plug together existing systems. For fully automated multi-format publishing and collaborative authoring, our progress in completing the goals is in the final stages for a beta system. But the experience only reinforces the need for standards to enable interoperability of content.

Connecting systems

Central to our ADA Pipeline are three systems: Fidus Writer, Vivliostyle, and GitHub.

GitHub primarily works for our pipeline by providing a simple but effective way to publish — by using GitHub a repository we can present the different output formats, and allowing further collaborative work to tweak the outputs — while we look for ways to add more automation to the workflow.

What the ADA Pipeline project has added is connecting the three systems, and: adding an exporter to Fidus Writer to output for GitHub; having changes made to Vivliostyle for CSS Typesetting to work for a book. Next will be adding the output format Webbook W3C (Unofficial) Proposal Draft by Daniel Glazman to GitHub Pages.

What did we miss? Next steps

We had wanted to situate the publication in a fuller PID and Linked Open Data context but due to time constraints this was not possible. The purpose being to reinforce how a book might exist in an information ecology and think about what could be the benefit of this.

For example:

GenR was as partner in the production as the GenR project is situated at the Open Science Lab. The lessons learned here will be incorporated into GenR’s 2022 new editorial direction of producing open science guides to support open science communities. The obvious learning was about checking some basics to make sure an open access publication can have a chance at reaching wider audiences. But probably of equal importance was appreciating how important the simple, well made guide can be in making open science happen and realising the social benefits as a result.

Open Access Tage 2021

Note: The project was presented at the Open Access Tage 2021 as part of Session # 4: OA in education and training. Blümel, Ina, Worthington, Simon, & Sael, Maria. (2021, September 27). Collaborative Open Access Publishing. Zenodo. 

Video of contribution to the presentation by Maria Sael a student participant in the project.

Slides of presentation

OA Tage slides

ADA Pipeline

A research project from the Open Science Lab, TIB.


An infrastructural open-source software project to support the single source workflows and pipelines for open science ‘digital objects’ in next generation book publishing.

Image: Notebook, Copyright 2021 Katerina Limpitsouni open licenced

Cite as

Worthington, S. (2021). Learning to Make Collaborative Guides with Open Access. Generation R.