Integrating an Anthropological Repository with a Social Network for Anthropologists?

Hello All,

I am currently developing a new buddy-press based social network site for anthropology researchers, much like and - but specifically catering to an anthropology audience and with the addition of an online learning platform and project management app. So to explain the situation, sites like take advantage of a legal gray area concerning licensing agreements between researchers and scholarly journals that they published papers in. Journals usually only allow researchers to post their published papers in “an institutional repository, an individual website, or a discipline-specific, noncommercial repository.” So sites like are getting away with their business model by assuming no responsibility for papers that their users upload to the site. Scholarly journals on the other hand have gotten bad publicity for sending cease-and-desist orders to researchers that upload their published papers to those kinds of sites (the business models of scholarly journals and publishers are not-unlike college sports and aren’t angels here either).

Repositories serve a very important role and purpose in the scholarly research community and will continue to do so, but there is no denying the rise in popularity of social networking sites for researchers. So I have been exploring ways to create a social network for rsearchers in such a way that respects the licensing agreements between publishers and the authors of research papers by using federated technologies. I have begun talks with a board member of a newly launched anthropology-specific repository about partnering with them to integrate with the anthropology social network. The repository is an initiative of the biggest anthropology institution in the United States with a membership that consists of some of the biggest anthropology organizations from around the world. This would be a huge deal and could potentially disrupt the space that and currently occupy as the first social network specifically catering to (anthropology) researchers to partner with a major institutional repository.

However, while have gone on a tear coming up with ideas on how this would all work theoretically, I am not very experienced with the currently available federated technologies or their capabilities and would like to get some direction and advice as to the feasibility of my proposal - as well as to connect with experienced developers in the fediverse who could take on this kind of work.

The basic idea that I would to pitch to them is to seamlessly sync-up the two sites in order to provide RSS-like feeds of paper summaries and their metadata in the user profiles of the authors on the social network and to dynamically organize lists of papers in the social groups across the social network based on a shared taxonomy between the social site and the repository. As well as possibly enabling the ability for users to upload papers onto the repository directly from their profiles on the social network. As I mentioned, the social network is using wordpress as its platform but the repository is using the proprietary Literatum platform by Atypon.

So I would like to ask the Feneas community, what do you think about the technical feasibility of such a project integrating two sites? What federated technology could be used to implement it? What is the scale of such a project. What are some of the potential hurdles that would need to overcome? Finally, is there anyone who would be interested in working on such a project?


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A diagram that I put together to visually represent the workflow that I am proposing to implement between the two sites:

Hey, another academic here. I’m not a developer, so I can’t solve most of your problems, but I was curious about one thing that might clarify your problem:

What’s the role of federated technologies here? As far as I understand, your problem is about making two pieces of technology talk to each other. That is a subset of federation, but it would seem to me that federated technologies would be more appropriate in a case where the goal is multiple different peer servers talking to each other. This would seem more like a centralised service, where federation doesn’t seem to solve any of the problems present. (Having multiple services like these talking to each other would seem like a federation problem.)

Hi Jaranta,
Yes, you are right - my immediate problem is to integrate two independent sites, and my specific reason for that is to create a social network for researchers where they can share their published papers without violating any licensing agreements that limit the posting of their published papers to “an institutional repository, an individual website, or a discipline-specific, noncommercial repository.” One solution that we seriously considered was to provide basic personal subsites to researchers on a multisite network connected to the main social networking platform, which would be a centralized service. You can see from the chart that we are still planning to provide subsites for project and ethnographic presentations and offering custom-made templates for those types of sites.

Another centralized approach would be to create our own repository alongside our social network - we have already set up an online learning platform and project management app together with the social network, so it’s something that we’re kind of already doing. With that approach though we would really just be repeating the same business model as the current sites operating in this space (I’m still not sure where we will land in the profit/non-profit spectrum yet) and I also think we are already pushing our resources enough with the other services.

Strategically relying on third-parties would solve several issues and federated technology is seen as a potential pathway to partner with established repositories without sacrificing the social features of other research-based social networks that make them so popular. So the repository that we reached out to isn’t necessarily the only repository that we are open to partner with but because it is an initiative of numerous major anthropology-specific institutions, because it meets licensing requirements as a discipline-specific, non-commercial repository, and because it is still new and getting off the ground, they are ideal partners (I imagine they will also have to enable the same protocols to get everything working).

Also, because our competitive edge is in a social network that is specific to a particular field, the base platform can also be relaunched for other research specializations. That is a long-term proposition, but we would not want to preclude opportunities of federated communications between them either.

Creating an scholar-controlled social network for academic research is a really valuable project. Have you talked to any of the developers working on OLKi about your vision? What about the folks that run

This is likely to make realizing your project a lot harder, because you’re going to have push everything through the bottleneck of whatever APIs Literatum offers. Also, from a more philosophical POV, if half your platform is proprietary, is what you’re building really that much of an improvement on and ResearchGate? What do you think the chances are of convincing them to switch to a free code platform, or find another repository to work with who are already using one?

Woah, OLKi is still in development but as far as I can tell it is everything that I could ever hope for! Thanks so much for that link!

Yeah, I was also disappointed by the platform choice of the anthropology repository and knew that it might make integration extremely difficult if not impossible. From what I understand they were sold on the idea of a wix-like experience where they are just the editors of the content and believed that they would largely be left on their own with an open source platform. I found out they didn’t even consider the DuraSpace platform and I tried to explain the benefits of an active developer community that regular updates and extends the original platform, but their choice had already been made.

Honestly, though I haven’t tried it, I did look up how to launch a site using DuraSpace and it doesn’t seem very user-friendly.

I could host my own repository but if I did it would be another centralized platform, I would still have to figure out how to integrate it with the social network, and I would definitely have to establish a 501© non-profit to meet publisher licensing agreements (it’s really just me and a developer that I contract out for help from time to time). I don’t necessarily need to host a repository for my particular objective, so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to integrate with an established repository or a federated platform like OLKi that specializes in federating research. Another idea that we’ve floated was to establish a multisite network and automatically generate very basic subsites to every user who signs up to the main social network, with the exclusive purpose of uploading their papers. Again, kind of centralizing things, but that would transfer ownership of the papers to the researchers themselves. The ultimate goal is to provide the most collaborative platform possible for specific fields of research (building on the standard social network template) and a kind of technological co-op to exponentially increase access, starting with anthropology.

It was definitely a rock, hardplace, < me situation before, but OLKi might be the key!


Glad to be of help. As it happens, my wife has her PhD in anthropology
and is set to start a fulltime social science lecturing job in China
later this year. I’ve also been a longtime cheerleader of the Open
Access movement, and very involved in pushing CreativeCommons forward.
So I’m very interested in seeing your project succeed and keen to help
in any way I can. Please do keep posting updates here on your progress,
and any obstacles we might be able to help you overcome.

Have you contacted the Open Educational Resources Foundation about your scholarly social network project? They have a project called OER universitas, which is a partnership with a number of universities. They want to implement betters tools for educators to network and share OER materials with each other, and this could have some overlap with the tools needed by scholars wanting to network and exchange research with each other. Dave Lane, the chief technologist for the Foundation, is a keen proponent of liberating software, and writes a blog about the free code stacks he maintains for the Foundation. He may have useful ideas on both technologies to try out, and people to speak to.

This also reminds me of Moodlenet, which is a project to create a social network for educators to share teaching materials. Moodlenet was forked from Pleroma so it uses ActivityPub, but to form a closed federation of educators using instances of Moodle (free code Learning Management System). Doug Belshaw is one of the people working on this.

Hey strypey, more great resources! I really like the Open Educational Resources Foundation’s mission and their Wiki Educators project. Both might be something that I’d be interested in plugging-into if possible, or at least to promote if not. Moodlenet seems similar to Wiki Educators in purpose but rummaging through their sample instance it is a very basic social networking platform and they are still working out many features. The fact that it is using ActivityPub might open it up to new possibilities but as a proposed platform I’m always thinking back to how many customizations I am planning for and, consequently, how many plugins and developers are readily available to do the work.

My project will have an online learning platform (moment to brag: the same one used by the University of Michigan, University of Washington, and Florida State), I am configuring it so that it runs more like udemy and I’m leaving it to the instructors if and how much they want to charge but I am open to directly implementing OER notices as well since it seems like a fantastic resource for potential students. On the other hand, despite being scholarly in nature, the site is specifically catering to the field of anthropology, ethnographic journaling, and collaborative anthropology. I will be extending the basic social networking platform to include things like a blog for ethnographic field notes directly in the user profiles, wiki pages in the social groups, a project management app, and I’m looking into integrating the dashboard into the user profiles as an annotation aggregator as well. There will certainly be a lot of educators given that a venn diagram of anthropologists and educators overlaps quite a bit, but it’s really for anybody that wants to take anthropology seriously as both a field of knowledge and practice.

That includes sensitive groups and cultures, and I am looking at the drupal-based Mukurtu platform for ideas and concerns regarding permissions and protocols, as well as the sustainable heritage network that provides resources and training in this same area. There are some legitimate concerns voiced by indigenous groups over historical anthropological practices and even the open access movement. As an anthropological social network that seeks to implement and promote the OA movement, those concerns need to be addressed or a careful balancing act needs to be maintained.

I’ve also spoken with a digital rights agency who referred me to a developer and advocate that they trust and work with who will be helping me to evaluate the site and technology being used to develop a preliminary analysis for the ToS and PP, as well as point out any existing issues and make short-to-long term recommendations for improving the area of user-friendly digital rights and personal privacy.

With the amount of customizations that I am likely to need, coupled with the amount of services that I am interested in implementing, using emerging technologies, all to serve very field-specific objectives, my goal is to draw an even wider audience to both promote the field of anthropology and disrupt the existing system at the same time.