ALPSP Conference 2013

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Last week Inspired Selection attended the ALPSP conference, 3 days at the Belfry in Birmingham dedicated to the academic and STM publishing industry. Throughout the conference there was an overall theme of communication – ensuring we are speaking in the right language for our consumers and also a chance for everyone to network, learn and discuss current challenges that the industry is facing.

We kicked off on Wednesday with a keynote speech from Tim Brooks, CEO of the BMJ; Are we Waving – or drowning? He talked about the difficulty of change and how we can be so blinded by our own language that we stop seeing what the consumer wants and what language they communicate in. Tim discussed how to ‘storm the barricades’ so to speak and really encourage change by talking with everyone in your organisation and offer the opportunity for people with insightful things to say to talk. It’s important to push different disciplines together, let new members of staff input and influence the future as they will be the leaders of tomorrow.

The conference was jam packed full of fantastic information and ideas from the industry on what we’re doing right and what we could be doing better – specifically in the area of communication. As an industry we are strong on communication on behalf of our products and authors but perhaps we need to improve on our communication of what it is that we are responsible for in each of our roles within our publishing sector! To focus on key themes from the conference important for moving forward as an industry:

Data is the language of the future; it is clear that were are now entering a time of change where content is key but the way in which that content is delivered needs to change. The way we consume data through devices will adapt and grow and we will need to change the way we consume and sell this content. Hazel Newton talked about a way in which we can challenge the restrictions imposed by traditional print publishing with the input of digital technology; Palgrave Macmillan has created Palgrave Pivot – a way for researchers to publish their research at its natural length, quickly and fully peer reviewed.

Communication is key; as publishers, a huge amount of time is spent talking about authors and their research – but are we talking in their language? A key theme of the conference was to ensure that we are looking at everything from our audiences’ point of view and ensure that we are communicating everything in a way that others can understand.

Accessibility was a strong theme for one of the plenary sessions. The focus was on making content available for everyone; the majority of popular books, newspapers and magazines are published digitally and there is an opportunity for those who are print impaired to read and access these products. The key challenge for publishers is to make everything available at the same time and price for print impaired readers – including academic content for students and researchers.

Publishing skills are changing – we are seeing more roles come through that are content, digital and platform focussed and for these roles there is a need to seek candidates with a different set of skills. Publishing is becoming more diverse and as well as current candidates within the industry adapting to the change in skillset we are also seeing a rise in candidates coming from outside of the industry. 

For researchers, there is a huge focus on making data accessible; this has a huge benefit for research but it must be done in such a way that it encourages researchers to make data available in an arena where they will get recognition and credit for doing so. Data could be made discoverable through Open Access however this could be taken beyond the discoverability of data to become knowledge sharing – a way of accessing the data and using the data to assist current research but also allowing credibility for the person who shared the knowledge in the first place.

The whole issue of current trends within Open Access publishing is a major factor for all publishers – both journals and books. Fred Dylla, CEO, American Institute of Physics led an interesting update on government responses (UK, US, EU) on the issues involved with the differences between Gold and Green Open Access publishing.

The conference was a fantastic platform for networking and for the sharing of information across the industry. It is a sector that is thriving with activity, change and exciting adaptations. Everyone we met and spoke with at the conference was brimming with new ideas and it’s clear to see how much passion publishers have for their industry and for the future.

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Big Data: what is it and what do we do with it?

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We’ve all heard people talking about ‘Big Data’. Some are excited by it and some are confused by it, but what exactly is it? Wikipedia defines it as ‘a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications’. If you’re still confused, or even more excited, read on to find out what Inspired Selection heard about at the @urbanonetwork event, with speaker Francine Bennett @fhr from @MastadonC.

Up until recently, we have been used to receiving and understanding data in a structured form, in spreadsheets or SQL. However, we now live in a world where we receive data from a diverse range of sources and often in a constant stream. In other words, imagine that businesses have gone from reviewing all data in an Excel sheet to receiving it as a Facebook Homepage, with links to other sites and images connected to comments from other social networks. Businesses might have access to what people are buying, what they’ve looked at but discarded, what their shopping history is and how they’re shopping. Big Data is the idea that we have so much data, from so many sources, that we need new ways of looking at it to be able to discover things about the data subjects (usually consumers) and to predict what they might do next.

Francine introduced some of the new ways, including software such as Hadoop, advanced analytics, text mining, machine learning and network analysis all of which allow the business or analyst to view the combined data sets from a new angle and derive findings. Different publishers may be using or considering different methods but many of them will be thinking about how to use sales data to inform product development or sales strategies. What do we know about buying behaviour to make us sell more? In an industry where more and more, we’re seeing a ‘consumer as king’ market, it is crucial that publishers utilise the data they have at their fingertips wisely.

We’re in an environment where lots more data exists and where storing and analysing it is cheaper. This will inevitably give rise to new opportunities for insight and revenue growth but when handling consumer data we must use it cleverly and with their best interests at heart.