NISO’s Open Discovery Initiative
Today, NISO is releasing the recommended practice for its Open Discovery Initiative. This important initiative is intended to bring greater order to the indexed discovery services that have achieved a market penetration of roughly three-quarters of US academic libraries, according to the most recent Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013 (pages 53-54). With such a high share of libraries positioning indexed discovery services as the primary discovery interface for their users, it is essential to address the concerns—both real and perceived—about how these systems work and interact with libraries and content providers. The ODI report recommends practices in the areas of usage statistics, various data sharing mechanisms, content availability, and fair or unbiased linking.
I chaired the “fair linking” subcommittee, which interpreted its mandate as addressing perceptions of bias in search results and relevancy ranking while bringing greater transparency to the business connections between content providers and discovery services. I am especially proud of the principle we have established that “Discovery service providers should offer an affirmative statement of the neutrality of their algorithms for generating result sets, relevance rankings, and link order” (18.104.22.168, at page 25). While there are many ways to game any system, I believe we have set out some valuable principles regarding not only neutrality but also transparency that will allow libraries more effectively to steward the discovery interests of their user communities.
Bridging the differences in interests between content providers, discovery services, and libraries was no small task, and I thank all the members of the ODI committee, chaired by Marshall Breeding and Jenny Walker and staffed by NISO’s Nettie Lagace, for their contributions.