The Future of Science Publishing

On Tuesday night we made our way to the Glasshouse, Macmillan’s new offices at King’s Cross, where September’s Future of Science Publishing event was held. The event, run by WriteLatex, was sponsored by Scholarly Social and London Open Drinks and, as always, it was interactive, informative and show-cased innovation in scientific publishing. It consisted of six short presentations by entrepreneurs in the industry, all of whom have founded, co-founded or work for start-ups in the STM publishing and research industry.

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First up was Sumika Sakanishi, Product Manager at the Open Data Institute. Sumika spoke to us about the company’s promotion of “open movement” and their aim to “catalyse the evolution of open data culture”. It was an engaging summary, focusing on fostering collaboration, peer review, cost efficiency and innovation and new insights. Users of this resource gain an open access certificate and can avail of a self-guided questionnaire. They publish data, earn their certificate and then embed their badge; their data is now truly open. Questions from the audience challenged aspects of the business plan but overall, it seems successful with over 100 published certificates already recorded and this figure set to rise.

Natalie Jonk of Walacea took to the podium next to tell us about her brainchild, a crowd-funding platform for scientific research. The current problems she identified in the area of funding include age, politics, bureaucracy and the public lack of awareness. She aims to bridge these gaps with her start-up and encourage scientists with good research plans to work with them and gain funding for their projects. They help to create campaigns for these researchers, engaging with audiences to fund the research and taking a 5% commission on all projects they successfully aid. The goal is to engage the public with scientific research and, besides some natural early teething problems, this is an inspirational and commercially-savvy business model and we look forward to catching up with Walacea in the future to see their success grow.

Cofactor’s Anna Sharman spoke to us about her journal selector tool. With competitors including JANE, Edanz and Springer and Elsevier run platforms, Anna has moulded her online offering to address all the issues she has found with similar tools and aims to offer an appealing alternative. She focuses on manual curation, the simple addition of journal data and a focus on a broad scope of open access journals.

Andrew Dorward stepped in at the last minute, replacing a colleague, to present his online model, Book Genie. This is a research engine for “books on the go” and aims to improve research in Higher Education. It matches candidate requirements with published content and uses social media to identify trends and preferences. It has a B2B and a B2C business model; the latter catering to students and universities and the former to individual publishers to help index their content. Book Genie takes a 40% cut on the published content they sell. Andrew followed on from this by mentioning the crisis in the area of academic textbooks across the US and UK.

Their aim to make relevant content more accessible and at a 40% cut is a positive response to publishers taking the Open Access movement into consideration; the cut Book Genie takes will not be as much as that which is triggered by OA. They have benchmarked themselves against several search engines and hope that their model addresses issues that exist across the market makes Book Genie the “iTunes of academic publishing”.

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Alan Hyndman of Figshare described how his venture started out as a platform for researchers to store, share, discover and research data. Their belief is that data should be available but that it also needs to look good. There is a DOI for everything uploaded to the platform and a range of tools for users to engage with, including “Figshare Viewer”, “Figshare Portal”, “Figshare Datastore” and “Figshare Innovations”. Figshare drives traffic to particular publishers’ sites and handles big data.

The final speaker of the night was Matias Piipari from Papers, “the citation tool of the future”. Through a series of demos, Matias showed us the workings of this model and how it allows users to communicate with other authors, retrieve references of interest and format citations. These “magic citations” can be used with practically any application and the goal is to establish it as a “quick launcher” for science.

It was a great evening, full of information and creativity. It is exciting to see the innovative ideas within the STM publishing industry and we cannot wait for the next event in the new year!

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