Tag Archive for publishing

SSP round-up – what’s lighting the scholarly publishing touchpaper?

Many of you will have been at the Society for Scholarly Publishing annual conference in San Francisco earlier this month. The conference seems to have taken on a new lease of life in recent years, with a growing number of delegates, and an increasingly substantial program (props to program chairs Jocelyn Dawson and Emilie Delquié for a job well done). Of course, much of the business of a conference is also transacted in the discussions that take place in, around and beyond the conference venue – at the dinners, receptions, and even (thanks to jetlag?) the surprisingly buzzy breakfast meetings. So, like all good conferences, SSP passed in something of a blur, but it’s interesting for me to take a step back a week or so later and think about the key points that have remained with me:

Closing the loop was the theme of Tim O’Reilly‘s opening keynote; I think it’s fair to paraphrase it as “using data and technologies to enrich products / services and make them work better”. He gave a myriad of examples of what he means by this, from Google’s driverless car to distributed peer review of open source software. He laid down the gauntlet for the assembled publishers – how can we reinvent some of the more dated aspects of our ecosystem (think Impact Factors, peer review) to make better use of available data and technologies? While throwing out suggestions such as Wikipedia-style revision control, Tim also made the point that scholarly publishers could make more of the  opportunities offered by being closer to their markets than some other (trade) publishers (a drum TBI has been banging for a while with our talks on advocacy and relationship marketing – and indeed, I gave a talk on “getting closer to customers” at SSP the following day). He also picked up on the notion that, as we evolve to become more service-oriented, publishers begin to look more and more like societies – so we have a lot to learn from each other. In short, said Tim, publishers need to take seriously the obligation to reinvent the world of information dissemination.

Much of this reminded me of the talk given by David DeRoure at the recent ORCID–Dryad Symposium on Research Attribution, in which he talked about “the social machine” – in which big data comes together with social technologies (and people’s use of them) to overcome past obstacles in creative, intelligent, joined-up ways. If I’ve understood both speakers correctly, then “the social machines” David talked about are examples of “closing the loop”! – and both very inspirational for publishers. Check out David’s slides on Slideshare (“2066 and all that“).

Having heard Tim O’Reilly open the conference, everything else I said and heard there seemed to be shaped by or interpreted within the context of closing the loop. Talks about standards – such as that given by Ringgold‘s Jay Henry, in which he made a well-supported plea for standards such as ORCID to be better used, even mandated, by publishers – seemed to fit well with this theme. O’Reilly’s reference to Eric Ries’ “minimum viable product” also seemed to capture the zeitgeist, with many publishers seeing this as a way to make the most of (seemingly minimal) product development budgets and pursue more innovative approaches to everything from discoverability to video (O’Reilly – again – referenced Lynda.com‘s $70m video training business: “Take video seriously,” he said. “Take small units of video very seriously.” – and of course several publishers are, with Elsevier and IOPP among many who have reported significant increases in content usage driven by video abstracts).

Finally, of course, it’s not just publishers who need to / are innovating – an excellently curated panel session on MOOCs, with a set of speakers from different departments / roles at Stanford University, providing a fascinating insight into what institutions are doing to reinvent themselves and reach wider audiences. I enjoyed hearing that Stanford has appointed a Vice-Provost for Online Learning whose mission, among other things, is to “unleash creativity and innovation in online learning”. An aspiration for all of us, perhaps!

UKSG top takeaways: “open or broken”, intelligent textbooks, research stories

Several years ago, I started the UKSG blog to report on the organization’s annual conference, which provides a forum for publishers and librarians to network and share strategic and practical ideas. Between 2006 and 2012, I enthused on the blog about topics including metrics, publishing evolution, innovation, research assessment, user behaviour and workflows. All those topics still fascinate me today (expect more on all of these from my Touchpaper postings) – and they were all covered again at UKSG this year. But this year – shock, horror! – I wasn’t blogging about them; my role for UKSG has changed, and others are carrying the blog torch now. 

This frees me up to take a more reflective look at what I have learned at UKSG, rather than trying to capture it all in realtime for those who can’t attend. So – here on “my” new blog, TBI’s Touchpaper – is my snapshot of another great conference:

1. Let go of “publish or perish”. Accept “open or broken”. 

UK academics’ submissions to REF 2020 (the process by which government evaluates academic institutions) *must* be OA at the point of publication. That is surely the game-changer that will mean, from this point on, academics will be trying to submit their best work to a publication that supports immediate OA. We may not yet have completely worked out the kinks, but events have overtaken us; it’s time to satisfice – adopting an imperfect model, refining it as we go. The lack of additional government funding for article processing charges (APCs) means that this particular mandate will have to be met as much by “green” self-archiving OA as by “gold” version-of-record OA. Both publishers and higher education institutions need to be sure that they have a clear strategy for both. (More from Phil Sykes’ opening plenary)

2. Information resources should be SO much more intelligent.

We were all blown away by student Josh Harding‘s vision of textbooks that “study me as I study them” – using learning analytics to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, comparing this to other students, adapting content as a consequence, reminding the student to study (“telling me I’m about to forget something because I haven’t looked back at it since I learned it”) and generally responding to the fact that we learn not just by reading, but also by hearing, speaking, and (inter)acting with information. (The highlight of the conference – Josh’s talk is must-see inspiration for all publishers’ product development and innovation.)

3. Authors need help to tell better stories about their research.

With increased pressure to justify funding, and the need to communicate more effectively with business and the general public, researchers need to be able to highlight what’s interesting about, and demonstrate the impact of, their work. Journal articles are but one node in a disaggregated network that together makes up a picture of their research. That network needs to be more cohesively visible. At the moment, the journal article is the hub but it doesn’t do a great job of opening up the rest of the network. I think publishers’ futures will be shaped by the extent to which they help academics surface / tell that whole story. (More from Paul Groth and Mike Taylor‘s breakout on altmetrics).