The desire for open access to scholarly information is a well-established principle, particularly among iSchools members. At the same time there has been discussion about how to improve mechanisms for sharing scholarly developments before they reach a stage where they are ripe for publication. Preprint options such as the ArXiv at Cornell have been around for a long time, and systems like SSRN let people in a broad range of disciplines read versions of potential publications before they are sent in for review. One of the flaws of pre-prints is their granularity: The research is presented as if it were a finished paper.
Octopus is a new British project that „is designed for easy and rapid sharing and assessing of work, in smaller units. Octopus will be where researchers can record every piece of work that they have done, as they do it, to assert their priority and for it to be assessed and critiqued by their peers.” The intention is “to encourage a collaborative approach to the scientific process, with publications building on each other over time, regardless of authorship.”¹
The project website states: “Using Octopus, researchers can read, review and register ideas and findings - freely and immediately publishing their work in full detail, and in an open and transparent way and gaining the credit for it. … Initially, Octopus’s 8 publication types are most closely aligned with the scientific research process. These are problem, hypothesis, method, results, analysis, interpretation, real-world application and peer review.”²
In some sense Octopus means having to rethink how we produce scholarly papers, and especially how the community is prepared to collaborate on research activities that may help other scholars with publications even at the expense of their own work. True collaboration sometimes involves a certain amount of selflessness that does not fit well with the competitive structure of academic promotion in many of our communities.