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AGU & KF: A proposal to further open science

Published onJan 05, 2023
AGU & KF: A proposal to further open science

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) seeks a publishing partnership that reflects and furthers its commitment to promoting Open Science, first through reimagining and supporting its open books program. This proposal outlines the ways in which Knowledge Futures (KF) can support AGU in that effort through the benefits of KF Membership and Community Services that are cost-effective and values-aligned. The five-year partnership proposed here outlines an investment from AGU in Open Science with a collaborator that is mission-aligned and similarly futures-oriented.

Section 1: Knowledge Futures


Knowledge Futures (KF) builds infrastructure for public knowledge. We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to building open source technology and working alongside communities like AGU to collaboratively design and build infrastructure needed for diverse, equitable, and sustainable knowledge networks. KF is able to grow alongside AGU to ensure that the digital infrastructure and mission alignment needed to lead in Open Science and to better serve AGU members is always in place. 

KF Products can offer a home for all AGU open practices in the future, starting with OA books. There are two core products that KF can offer AGU for publishing documents and data. The first is PubPub, which enables communities to publish research outputs early, iteratively, and openly. We also strive to build PubPub so that it serves as an easy, open, fast, and effective option for publishing, collecting feedback, iterating, and understanding the impact of Open Science. PubPub is currently employed by a diverse range of over 5,000 communities, a handful of PROSE award winners among them. These communities use PubPub to publish a range of content types such as OA books, journals, preprints and other knowledge artifacts. 

The second is Underlay, KF’s core data infrastructure. Underlay will allow open data generated by AGU authors to be published and maintained. This would enable AGU’s data practices to move beyond simply making data available, to a process of sharing data that is more granular, composable, and updatable — making it easier for people to actually use in practice and form community around data sets. Like all KF infrastructure, Underlay is open-source technology that will be publicly available and free to use in 2023.

Our team comprises sixteen people with deep tech experience (Microsoft, Google, Khan Academy, CNN), publishing industry veterans (AGU, the MIT Press, ASTRO, SPEI), and recovered entrepreneurs who have founded four companies. While AGU may have occasion to interact with anyone on the team over the course of our partnership, the core members that AGU will interface with are:

  • Catherine Ahearn, Head of Communities

  • Gabe Stein, Head of Product

  • Dawit Tegbaru, Director of Community Publishing Services

  • Allison Vanouse, Production Editor

  • Zach Verdin, Head of Growth and Innovation


There are two main ways that KF works with groups like AGU:

  1. KF Membership, and

  2. Community Services

Membership is a partnership between Knowledge Futures and AGU through which we facilitate connections with other Members and work together on high-level open strategy. Currently, KF has over 50 Members with groups ranging from publishers, foundations, societies, academic libraries, and funded research organizations.1 Our approach to Membership is designed to be responsive and flexible, therefore there are benefits that all members receive—such as discounts on Community Services, scheduled strategy calls and/or working groups, and access to others in the fantastic Member network. Ultimately, however, KF works as a strategic and open infrastructure partner in unique ways for each Member based on their specific goals.

Building on Membership, our Community Services team will work with AGU to take on specific roles and responsibilities across the full life cycle of OA publishing. In Section Two of this document you will find additional details about our Membership and Community Services offerings and how they can be used to ensure that AGU’s OA publishing efforts are rigorous, timely, and innovative from proposal to publication. 

Section 2: Creating the AGU and KF Partnership

In our vision of partnership, AGU is to retain most editorial oversight while working closely with the KF Community Services to brainstorm ideas, support volume editors and authors, introduce new OA formats and media types, and execute all production at a high-level and in a timely manner.

Collaboration Option A: An End-to-End Partnership for Strategy, Production, and Publication of all OA Formats

AGU Books Editorial Board

Knowledge Futures

Acquisitions — chasing leads identified by Editorial Board, providing support for people developing a proposal, arranging review of proposals, contracting, collecting author fees, assigning a managing editor, etc.

Acquisitions — brainstorming with Editorial Board; connecting Editorial Board and prospective authors with examples of creative formats and innovative ideas for series, special publications, and other kinds of OA publications; providing information about PubPub and publication possibilities for people developing a proposal

Editorial support — point-of-contact support for book editors/authors throughout the lifetime of the book regarding questions about topics such as the book’s development, scope, progress, etc. 

Editorial support — point-of-contact support for book editors/authors throughout the lifetime of the book regarding questions about the book’s format and their process as they relate to what PubPub can support, such as: interactivity, publishing experiments, collaborative writing and/or editing, open community review, etc.

Peer review management — provide the administrative support for the volume editors

Peer review management — provide the portal on PubPub for peer review, including establishing the peer review workflow and requirements for each book/OA project on PubPub

Production services — provide content compilation, rights clearance, and a final check before publication

Production services — provide copyediting, proofreading, ingestion into PubPub, quality check, ISBN registration and DOI minting (you can find a full list of these service in Appendix 1)

Publication and Dissemination –—circulation to AGU community via AGU channels, marketing

Publication and Dissemination — hosting on PubPub, distribution to agreed-upon archives and databases

Expansion into broader OA knowledge sharing — identify publication types of priority based on the AGU member-base and other strategic considerations, establish metrics for assessing the success of these new efforts (over the course of this partnership agreement), publicize these new channels and modes of support to AGU members

Expansion into broader OA knowledge sharing — establish an AGU-branded open sharing space for artifacts such as special reports, reference publications, translations, posters, multimedia works (like videos or podcasts), teaching guides, and more; oversee production of these artifacts ensuring a high standard and fast timeline

Migrating AGU’s OA publications to PubPub will be a great deal of work, require precise coordination, and demand that we create new workflows and structures for collaboration. But most of all, this partnership will be an incredibly fun, creative, and rewarding experience for all involved. The division of tasks detailed in the table above is a starting point that we’ll work to fill in during the first stage of our work together. 

Notably, we see each party as playing a key role at every stage. While AGU is best suited to make field/discipline/topic-specific decisions (such as deciding on a special series theme or assigning a managing editor or peer reviewers to a project), KF is best suited to inform and then bring these decisions to life. We will bring to bear our past partnerships, experience supporting over 5,000 Communities on PubPub, and mastery over PubPub’s features (and potential) to all that we do together.

In Partnership

In 2021, KF launched Memberships and Community Services to connect with individuals and groups aiming to support and leverage open infrastructure. In 2022, we added four new services and intend to continue to add new services offerings based on the needs and requests of Members and users. A full list of services can be found in Appendix 1 and on our website

In this collaboration, PubPub would serve as the platform to host AGU’s OA books with the potential to host all other OA outputs over time. As a KF Partner, AGU will have access to engage us in any of these services (including any new ones KF develops). However, we recommend the following to start.

KF Membership
Knowledge Futures Members represent a diverse group of individuals and groups that are leading in open knowledge sharing. Our work together is more effective and powerful in aggregate due to how the activities of KF Members amount to persuasive momentum toward openness. As a KF Member, AGU will benefit from connections with other Members (via optional calls, meetings, working groups, and asynchronous communications), as well as dedicated strategic support from the KF team. This support is tailored to AGU’s needs and can take a range of forms, from providing practical training sessions on KF products to collaborating on high-level open science strategy for all AGU outputs. 

It’s clear from AGU’s RFP and from our conversations that open access and AGU’s commitment to open science is a priority not only for AGU but also for its own members. We believe there’s an opportunity to work with AGU on communicating our mission alignment in a way that serves as an added benefit to AGU members with the goal of increasing AGU memberships and membership renewals.

Embedded Managing Editor
This person will be your primary contact and account manager on our team. Your EME will have regular scheduled calls with AGU staff (your Editorial Board and/or book-specific Managing Editors, for example), report on progress across projects, and provide ideas and recommendations, among other things. 

While metrics will be available to AGU staff at any time, the EME will also report these Community metrics at an agreed-upon cadence. PubPub offers analytics at a Community (site-wide) level, book (or publication) level, as well as on a chapter-by-chapter basis. These metrics include the geographic spread of visitors around the world, page views, users, top downloads, referrers, top campaigns, and more.

Community Structure and Design
The AGU PubPub Community will be a branded hub for AGU books. Through this service, we implement the AGU brand and our knowledge of AGU’s OA books plans to design and structure a site that will fulfill the needs of this partnership. Considerations that go into this process include both the ways AGU editors and authors will need to navigate the space pre-publication, as well as how we would like readers to experience and engage with AGU’s OA books post-publication (or in the case of “living books,” as a text evolves over time).

If AGU would like to establish a new publishing brand, ether for its OA books or for a future series of, say, reference publications, it will have the option of engaging with a PubPub designer to establish this brand under our “Branding” service. 

Content Production
Your PubPub team will ingest all books into the platform and oversee that this is done properly and fully, inclusive of details such as establishing the proper chapter header design, tags, and contributor lists. PubPub supports publications applying any CC license and applies CC-BY as the default, and the PubPub team will ensure each chapter and book is published under the proper license. 

The average time from final files to publication depends on the production details. For example, an OA book that we produce along with four interactive elements and an OER teaching guide will take longer to publish than a book without these enhancements. However, for a text-dominant title, we estimate approximately 2 weeks, post-copyediting, for production, QC, and publication. All books on PubPub do not require typesetting and are published on a chapter-by-chapter basis, allowing for the gradual publication of a book over time (if desired), the assignment of DOIs for individual chapters (if desired), the downloading of individual chapters by readers, and metrics collection on a book and chapter-basis.

As a platform, PubPub prioritizes the digital experience of reading OA content. In practice this means that we design our UI for different screen sizes, prioritize accessibility, and display text primarily as HTML. All PubPub content can be exported to other formats, including auto-generated and typeset PDFs.2

The image shows a download button from which file format options cascade. These options are: PDF, Word, Markdown, EPUB, HTML, OpenDocument, Plain Text, JATS XML, and LaTeX

List of download options for all content on PubPub

Once a final draft is submitted to the AGU Managing Editor, we will work on copy editing the manuscript. We recommend that this process occur directly on PubPub, allowing for the use of PubPub’s commenting, annotation, and history features to enable the author to respond to any queries. The average time for copyediting is about 1 week, but depends on the length of the book, number of queries, and author responsiveness.

Archiving and Indexing (and general notes on distribution)
We’d like to work with AGU to establish a list of relevant A&I platforms for your OA books. Your EME will take the lead in collecting the requirements necessary for AGU OA books to be included in relevant A&I spaces in addition to those we already work with.3 While PubPub currently does not offer a pipeline for print-on-demand, this service has long been on our roadmap. We’d be excited to work on this together. 

KF does not have the in-house expertise to offer marketing services, but we would help amplify all AGU announcements and include news about AGU books and programs in our own newsletters and social channels. We can also inform AGU marketing plans and work with marketing teams to align book launches with marketing timelines and announcements.

Backfile Import
One priority we will work on in parallel with establishing new AGU OA workflows and books on PubPub is migrating existing books and files to the AGU Community. The EME will oversee this process, working in collaboration with AGU and the PubPub product team. 

Section 3: Models and Costs

The KF Membership and services contained in this proposal outline an investment from AGU in Open Science. Our priority is to provide cost-effective strategies and services for open knowledge sharing that align with AGU’s values and with those of its members so that AGU can continue to lead in open science. 

KF services are priced by project (or, book) and are estimated via a time-based calculation. Simply put, longer books or content types that take more time to produce cost more than shorter ones. And based on the numbers you will see below, we expect that this approach will be more cost effective for AGU. Based on a recent TOME estimate, the average cost to publish an OA monograph is $19,954, the estimated cost per monograph on PubPub is $8,712 (not including Membership and site design). 

Here is a breakdown of all estimated fees for Y1, assuming an output of 15 books of about the same length:


Rate/ Amount


15% Member discount


KF Membership (yearly)




Embedded Managing Editor (yearly)





Site Design & Structure (one-time fee)






$5,280/ book





$3,750/ book









Underlay Data Publishing startup service





Year 1 Total:


In total, open book production-related fees5 amount to about $130,675 per year. Across 15 books, this amounts to a cost of about $8,712 per title. One-time and yearly fees such as KF Membership and site design would be charged upon contract signing, while all production-related costs would be charged to AGU on a monthly basis. 

Fees associated with optional services include:


Rate / Amount

Audiobook conversion  

$2,500/ book

Video abstracts/summaries 

$100/ hour



Branding & cover art 

$125/ hour

Ebook conversion support



Appendix 1: Complete List of PubPub Community Services



Content Production

We ingest finalized, copyedited content into PubPub for you, assure its quality, implement necessary revisions, assign DOIs (if applicable), and implement any Pub design. Content on PubPub does not require typesetting and can be exported to many different file types, including PDF.


Our copyeditors edit and format articles for grammar, clarity, and style requirements. Average turnaround time: 1 week. Copyediting is completed by contractors.

Embedded managing editor

We assign one person from our team to work as your dedicated production point person. This work includes regular calls, communication with authors, and providing general publication strategy as well as insights. 


We'll enhance your community's accessibility and expand its reach by generating crisp audio versions of your text with support for 100+ natural sounding synthetic narration voices in 70+ languages. Our editors will proof listen to ensure high quality sound delivery and accuracy.

Archiving and Indexing

We'll work in partnership to enhance discoverability of your publications with customizable XML transformation and, or project support for relevant A&I services. For example: PubMed Central, Web of Science, Scopus, EBSCOhost, ProQuest, HeinOnline, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), and others.

Development of interactive elements and media

We work with you or directly with your authors to develop media and/or interactive elements to enhance your Community. Our focus is always on more effectively communicating the message(s) of your content.

OER course presentations

We'll provide technical and design support to convert curricula into interactive course presentations featuring interactive summaries, multiple-choice questions, videos, and various other H5P content types necessary to convey learning objectives.

Community structure and design

We believe the content you publish (and how you want readers to understand and interact with it) should inform the structure and design of your community on PubPub. We'll work with you to understand your content—from traditional journal articles and books, to reviews, to video tutorials—in order to design a space that best supports your work.

Backfile import

We help you migrate years of existing content into PubPub so that your existing publication can start its new phase on PubPub without losing its history and archives. This activity often also makes past work more discoverable and navigable for readers.


We offer two recorded training sessions of up to 90 minutes on a one-off or ongoing (yearly) basis for your team. These sessions cover basics on how to use PubPub, specifics on your group's workflow, and leave plenty of time for your team to practice and ask questions.


Our design team will develop a brand and design scheme for your Community. Groups that find this most useful are those who are starting a new publication, such as a journal, and need a brand to inform the design and appearance of their PubPub Community and other possible communication elements, such as a newsletter.

Appendix 2: Sample Workflow Between AGU and KF



Point Person


Outreach at scientific meetings and in professional networks

Editorial Board (expected to bring one new proposal during each year of service)

AGU small scientific meetings

Jenny & AGU Meetings staff with conference conveners

Exploratory conversations

Editor in Chief and/or Subject Editor

Feedback on one-page concept (not done in all cases)

Editor in Chief and/or Subject Editor | KF Embedded Managing Editor

Advice on writing a proposal

Editor in Chief and/or Subject Editor | KF Embedded Managing Editor


Initial screening (for scientific compatibility with AGU interests and quality)

Jenny and EiC

Preliminary evaluation (for scientific quality and suitability for review)

Subject Editor

Review (min. 3 for monographs, min. 6 for textbooks)


Proposal assessment & recommendation

Subject Editor

AGU decision

Jenny and EiC

Contracting & Launch

Ethical screening (Professional Conduct Self-Disclosure form)

Instructions sent by Jenny Review and approval by AGU Ethics Office



Launch/Intro meeting

Organized by Jenny For Volume Editors/Authors to meet EiC, Subject Editor, KF Embedded Managing Editor and PubPub Services team

Writing, Review, & Revision

Peer review management

KF: Peer review workflow and portal on PubPub, editor training, any needed documentation/ instructions

AGU: general admin, chasing authors/ reviewers

Regular check-in meetings with Volume Editors/Author re progress

Subject Editor, Jenny, KF Embedded Managing Editor, Editor EiC if necessary

Edited volumes
- Selecting reviewers
- Inviting reviewers
- Chapter recommendation
- Chapter final decision

Authored volumes
- Selecting reviewers
- Inviting reviewers
- Chapter recommendation
- Chapter final decision

Volume Editor, Subject Editor/EiC

Assessment of complete book manuscript (for scientific quality, overall editorial narrative, rigor of peer review process, quality of written English, etc.)

Subject Editor, Jenny

AGU decision

Subject Editor, EiC, Jenny



KF contractors

Ingest into PubPub

KF Team

Book structure and brand implementation

KF Team

Quality check, review and revision

KF Team, Subject/Volume Editor, Author(s)

ISBN registration and DOI minting

KF Team


Hosting on PubPub

KF Team

Archiving and Indexing

KF Team

Print on Demand6

KF Team


To AGU members (various means and channels)

Coordinated by Jenny, KF Team

At scientific meetings



Analytics tracking

KF Embedded Managing Editor for analysis by Jenny7

Expansion into broader OA knowledge sharing and development of AGU OA strategic plans

AGU and KF Team

Appendix 3: Suggested Readings and Resources

The Case for PubPub
In this Short Analysis, Jefferson Pooley is reviewing/introducing PubPub, a web-based publishing platform hosted by a nonprofit, the Knowledge Futures Group
by Jefferson Pooley in Elephant in the Lab, August 2022

Charting our Pathway to Sustainability
With $2MM in additional funding, Knowledge Futures Group launches Membership program and Community Services
KF announcement, February 2022

KF Pro Bono Services Advance Anti-racism and Structural Justice with Latest Release of C4DISC Resources
C4DISC and KFG collaborate to release: Anti Racism Toolkit for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Scholarly Publishing and the Guidelines on Inclusive Language and Images in Scholarly Communication
KF announcement, November 2022

Expanded Community Services Offerings Further Support Open Publishing on PubPub in 2023
Copyediting, archiving & indexing, audiobooks and articles, and OER support round out PubPub's slate of 12 Community Services
KF announcement, December 2022

Clarivate, ProQuest, and our Resistance to Commercializing Knowledge
The dominant commercial models in scholarly publishing aren’t serving the academy or humanity well — extracting enormous profits from a mostly publicly-funded endeavor. But we have a window to stand up and support an alternative.
Article by Gabriel Stein, Travis Rich, Zach Verdin, and Catherine Ahearn in Commonplace, May 2021

PubPub Community Spotlights
The goal of this series is making center stage the unique and bespoke work and community-building that’s found all throughout the PubPub universe. We’ll dive right into the particulars around what makes each spotlit community tick and share helpful tips and resources that can be applied to others’ spaces to learn from each other.
KF series, ongoing

Example Communities
An evolving list of communities on PubPub across genres and use cases
PubPub Help

You can export an auto-generated version of this proposal to multiple file formats from the header. As an example, here is a PDF, generated by and exported from PubPub and embedded within this proposal:

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