Feb 15, 2020 - Our Future and Financial Sustainability


The financial sustainability behind preprint servers has been garnering some attention lately—a conversation which was brought to the forefront again recently when EarthArxiv announced their intention to search for a new home—and brings attention to the status of all of the Center for Open Science hosted servers. MarXiv announced they were shutting down their server rather than attempt to host the service elsewhere. The financial status of the 26 COS servers has been in private discussion since late 2018 with COS making the case that their funders are pushing them to find new ways to fund the preprint offering. They told us at that time that we would need to develop new service agreements and begin paying a fee to COS to help over a portion of the costs to maintain the service, which they estimate to be $230,000 per year. These fees range from $1,000 to $25,000 per year per server, increasing with increasing server size—measured on the basis of preprint submissions during the previous year. COS has received some criticism for their handling of the preprint server roll-outs and the lack of an earlier plan for financial sustainability.

As Engineering Archive is a COS hosted server, all of this of course impacts us directly. It was primarily for this reason that late last year we announced the creation of the Engineering Archive Membership Circle and the formation of our 501(c)(3) nonprofite, Open Engineering Inc., as a mechanism for raising the funds necessary to pay the proposed fee to COS, primarily through “partner[ing] with libraries for funding,” as noted by that Nature article. Based on Engineering Archive’s current size, our fee for 2020 is $3,999, towards which we are making quarterly payments. The Engineering Archive advisory board discussed our financial situation and decided that we would continue to use COS as or service provided through 2020, giving us some time to evaluate the alternatives.

As of right now, the alternatives seem to include:

  • figshare: figshare currently powers ChemRxiv and TechRxiv. We looked at this option, but the current pricing structure would be more expensive than the COS fee. Wee are also partial to using an open source platform as we believe that this is important for the future of community owned and operated infrastructure.
  • Zenodo Communities: the Zenodo platform operated by CERN provides an attractive option as it is free and robust. However, the platform is currently not tailored to hosting branded preprint servers and does not offer custom domain support.
  • Science Open: AfricArXiv has taken the approach of splitting their hosting across COS, Zenodo, and Science Open as a mechanism for keeping the costs at COS down. At Engineering Archive, we have not looked closely at Science Open again for reasons of wanting an open source solution and one that is not owned by a legacy publisher.

Other platforms may be on the horizon. Both the Coko Foundation and the Public Knowledge Project are rumored to be developing preprint platforms. PKP’s preprint offering may be announced as early as later this month. We will be watching as these options develop to determine the best viable solution.

Of course we always have had the option of trying to roll our own solution. However, given that the server is completely volunteer operated during volunteer hours, avoiding too much additional burden, such as software development and maintenance as well as system administration, is desirable. Another challenge of building a custom solution, or even using something PKP for example, is that we would need to go through the process and expense of being able to issue our own DOIs and ensure proper archiving and longevity of our hosted documents.

We would love to hear from the Engineering Archive community with your comments and suggestions as we navigate these interesting developments in assuring the sustainable operation of a community preprint server and look beyond at what the future holds for Engineering Archive after the end of 2020. You can provide your feedback in the comment box below, the hypothes.is annotations to the right, or on Twitter, Facebook, or the fediverse.

Dec 31, 2019 - 2019 State of the Server


The year 2019 is drawing to a close and it has been a wonderful year for the Engineering Archive! This was another record breaking year in terms of submissions to the server. We ended the year at 411 submission in 2019, which (as it did last year) surpasses the total submission from 2016, 2017, and 2018 combined.

engrXiv print count by year

We’ve also seen a continuing trend from last year in that the submission rate has steadily increased as the year has progressed, showing promise for 2020.

engrXiv print count by year

Finally, preprints hosted on engineering archive recently surpassed 300,000 downloads (301,492 downloads at the time of writing to be exact)! We think that this shows the power of open access scholarship. If every one of those downloads represented the purchase of a PDF from a paywalled article, that would be a savings of at least $7,500,000 for the engineering community.

With this growth, Engineering Archive faces the ever present challenge of sustainability of the operation (we don’t intend to ever sell out to a private entity). With that in mind, we took two important steps financial sustainability this year.

1) We have formalized the relationship between the Engineering Archive and Open Engineering Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the promotion of open practices in engineering in all forms. Engineering Archive is a program of Open Engineering Inc. under which Open Engineering operates as the fundraising body to help meet the financial needs of the server, individual donations are welcome!

2) We launched the Engineering Archive Membership Circle. The Membership Circle creates the opportunity for institutions, libraries, and other organizations to support the sustainability of the server through a $500 annual contribution. Since launching in September, 10 academic libraries (listed below) have signed up to pledge their support. We are so grateful for their early contributions which will help us meet our financial obligations for the coming year. We are still looking for additional members, so please reach out to your home institutions to discuss the Membership Circle with them and encourage them to join. Interested individuals can reach out to info@engrxiv.org to learn more.

The first 10 institutional members of the Engineering Archive Membership Circle:

Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH to those who have already joined us in creating a sustainable future for open access engineering scholarship and to those of you planning to lend your support soon!

Oct 26, 2019 - Update to Engineering Archive's legal status and announcing the Membership Circle


Update to our legal status

Engineering Archive started as and has remained a grassroots effort, by researchers, for researchers. As Engineering Archive has grown, it has become increasingly necessary to create an entity that is capable of managing its own finances and have its own legal status. Up to this point, Engineering Archive has been almost entirely financed by Director Devin Berg in addition to the in-kind contributions of the Center for Open Science.

With that in mind, Devin launched Open Engineering Inc. to search as an umbrella organization, and legal entity, over the top of Engineering Archive. Open Engineering is:

a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the promotion of open practices in the engineering field. We are working towards increased awareness of open practices as well as providing tools to better enable engineers to be more open. We also provide resources and trainings that allow engineers to develop open workflows and participate more fully in the open dissemination of engineering knowledge.

Under Open Engineering, we now have the ability to accept tax-deductible donations and use other forms of generating income such as Amazon Smile.

Introducing the Membership Circle

Financing a grassroots effort such as Engineering Archive has always been, and probably will always be, a challenge. To this end, Engineering Archive has launched a new funding mechanism called the Membership Circle for libraries and institutions interested in supporting open engineering scholarship. We hope that in the shifting landscape of academic publishing, academic libraries and institutions will be able to find room in their budgets to support open access efforts such as Engineering Archive. At risk of sounding self-serving, we feel that efforts such as Engineering Archive are critical for increasing the availability of research and knowledge to the general public, particularly when the generation of that knowledge is publicly funded. This is especially important in engineering, a field where when applied correctly can have significant positive societal impact.

Your help needed!

We hope that all our Engineering Archive advocates will consider supporting these efforts by either helping us with a direct donation to Open Engineering or by advocating at your own institutions for them to support Engineering Archive and open engineering scholarship by joining the Engineering Archive Membership Circle.