NISO – information standards past, present and future

Alice Meadows

Information standards have been around for centuries, but the move to digital and the need for systems interoperability mean that they’re more critical than ever. Here, Alice Meadows tells us about some of the new and emerging standards being developed by NISO, the National Information Standards Organization.

Standards are literally all around us. The laptop, tablet or phone you’re using to read this post all have to meet agreed standards – ditto the window you’re looking out of, the cars you can see, the roads they’re driving on, and pretty much everything else you use in your everyday life. That’s because standards are about solving problems. They help ensure things work properly, safely and consistently so that we, as users, can trust them – and that includes information standards.

In fact, content distribution, also known as printing, was both the first industrial process and the first to apply standards. Think font sizes for typesetting, standard page layouts, indexing, and – a bit more recently – international book and serial numbers (ISBNs and ISSNs), for example. The move to digital and the need for technological interoperability have only accelerated and expanded the need for standardization. This year alone, my organization, NISO, has published three new standards/recommended practices and started work on seven – with more in the pipeline.

Our standards focus on content creation and curation, discovery and interchange, and the analytics and business processes that facilitate content exchange. We work across the whole information community libraries, content providers, the service providers that support them and more to identify what new standards and best practices are needed and to develop recommendations, invite feedback and publish them. Thanks to the support of our members, all NISO standards are openly available – you can see some examples of how they’re being used in practice on our website.

To give you an idea of the kinds of standards we work on, below is a sample of some of our projects that have been recently published, are in progress, or are about to start that I think will be of particular interest to the Open Pharma community.

Peer review taxonomy standardization

What? The standard definitions and best practice recommendations for the communication of peer review processes developed by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers is now being developed into a version 3.0 to be published as a formal American National Standards Institute (ANSI)//NISO standard. Currently designed for peer review of journal articles, the intention is to expand to other outputs in the future (e.g. books).

Why? To support more openness and transparency in peer review, helping to maintain trust in the scholarly ecosystem.

When? Approved as a NISO project in 2021; we expect to see recommendations sometime in 2022.

Manuscript exchange common approach (MECA)

What? This Recommended Practice provides a common means of easily transferring manuscripts between and among manuscript systems, such as those used by publishers and preprint servers. It provides an open protocol to support better publishing operations and communications between stakeholders.

Why? To alleviate the pain points encountered by researchers, publishers and service providers alike.

When? Published in 2021.

Contributor role taxonomy (CRediT)

What? The CRediT taxonomy, currently being formalized as an ANSI/NISO standard, identifies 14 contributor roles for article creation. Once it has been finalized, a NISO CRediT Standing Committee will be set up to provide a forum for discussion and community feedback, support further CRediT implementations and use cases, and expand the taxonomy to support contributions in a wider range of subject areas and output types.

Why? To enable recognition for the specific contribution(s) researchers make to a publication or other research output or workflow.

When? Publication expected in 2021.

Reproducibility badging and definitions

What? This taxonomy defines the various levels of reproducibility that, together with a standardized badging scheme, can be applied in the publishing process and perhaps used as a currency in the academic rewards culture – initially focusing on computational and computing sciences, although adoption by other disciplines is encouraged.

Why? To enable standardization of what reproducibility means for a discipline, and easy identification of reproducible research outputs.

When? Published in 2021.

Integrating publisher and repository workflows to improve research data article links

What? This Recommended Practice will facilitate the exchange of information about data objects between repositories and publishing platforms. It will provide a simple, bidirectional solution for linking data sets, related versions and related works to enable tracking of data during its lifespan from creation through validation, availability and use.

Why? Enriching data article links in this way will enable them to be easily and reliably shared between stakeholders to improve workflows, analysis, discovery and reuse.

When? Approved as a NISO project in September 2021; work will start in 2022.

Communication of retractions, removals and expressions of concern (CORREC)

What? This Recommended Practice will focus on the metadata and communication of an item’s status and its visibility, and it will provide a model workflow process — from issuing a retraction notice through display and discovery of the retracted item.

Why? To clearly identify parties involved in the retraction process, along with their responsibilities, actions, notifications and required metadata, to help reduce the spread of retracted research through citations.

When? Approved as a NISO project in September 2021; work will start in late 2021.

Update author name changes

What? This Recommended Practice is intended to ensure the widest possible notification and implementation of changes to author names post publication, including where changes to author names are requested or required not to be made public.

Why? To ensure the information in an author’s published works is in sync with their actual situation in real life, which is important for many reasons – accountability, funding, precedence, promotion, tenure and more.

When? Approved as a NISO project in April 2021; work will start in late 2021.

If you’re interested in learning more or would like to get involved in our work, please check out our Welcome to NISO page, which includes answers to some frequently asked questions; sign up to receive emails from us, including our monthly Information Organized newsletter; and follow us on Twitter. You’re also welcome to contact me at

Alice Meadows is Director of Community Engagement at NISO, responsible for communicating the value of information standards to libraries, publishers, infrastructure and service providers, and other information organizations. She is President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (2021–2022) and contributes regularly to its Scholarly Kitchen blog, among others.