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!

#Futurepub – New Developments in Scientific Publishing

On Tuesday evening, we made our way to the NESTA offices in Chancery Lane for a discussion on the new developments in scientific publishing, organised by John Hammersley (WriteLaTeX) . The event consisted of six “microslot talks” of five minutes each from a great panel, with time for a few questions for each speaker.

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First up was Cheyne Tan from Blikbook who explained how his platform allows students who have questions and problems with research to ask each other and help each other out through an interactive platform. It started out in LBS and UCL and aims to improve content discovery and aids the universities in gleaning data from monitoring behaviour; how the data is shared between students and disseminated. The key point from Cheyne’s talk was the issue of “I don’t know what I don’t know” – this echoed through all five minute speaker slots and brought to the fore the issue of the lack of discovery avenues for those seeking information – how can they be led to unearth information that they never knew existed? In a society hungry for data, this is something that innovative science publishers are looking to address.

Joseph McArthur from Open Access Button took it from here and as well as filling us in on how Open Access Button works, he explained the importance they place on the stories that their users tell them of experiences, challenges and successes with their academic research. Everyone, from patients looking for information on their illnesses to academics probing for details and explanations, can use this platform and it is looking to grow and evolve even more.

Lou Woodley, Co-founder of MySciCareer, filled us in on what has been occupying her time during her current sabbatical – she is focussed on what preoccupies scientists; how can they keep up with all their papers and how can they secure grants? There is more of an interest now in talking about data. Career decisions is another big issue and MySciCareer records the personal narratives of what people have been through and the paths they have taken.

Richard Smith, Founder of Nowomics, stepped up to discuss how his platform helps life scientists to source research (a “twitter for genes”) and collates the information needed in one place through a twitter style feed. It searches for updates and publishes them and setting up an account is free. You can search by popularity and see what people are talking about and email alerts are also set up to further aid the discovery of more information.

Greg Tebbutt of Sparrho delivered an engaging microslot where he explained the purpose and work of Sparrho and how it came about for the same reasons mentioned above – you can search journals but this doesn’t help you find what you don’t know is out there! Again – the issue of “I don’t know what I don’t know”. On Sparrho, you can “love” posts that you like and get rid of what you don’t – Sparrho understands more about you by your activity and can consequently recommend better information and sources.

Cat Chimes, Head of Marketing for Altmetric, closed the evening’s event with an interesting overview of how they work. She opened with the line “Every researcher is a communicator” and went on to discuss the academic and societal impacts of research and how they are alternatives to metrics and do not replace the impact factor, they complement it. This is an article-centric approach, it searches blogs and articles to collate and deliver article-level metrics to journal publishers.

All six speakers gave excellent, informative and engaging accounts of their respective business models and it was refreshing to see how they are developing and improving user access to information in the scientific publishing arena. Even better was how they are keeping the stories and needs of the readers/researchers at the heart of it all – communication and interaction is key and with this in mind, there are so many more exciting developments and ideas to come! This linking of people’s stories to information is a nice way of connecting back to the roots of publishing; it is, after all, about story-telling.

 

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

Is peer review broken? Can we fix it?

This week we attended a fantastic event run by City University on the debates around peer review, is peer review broken? Can we fix it? Chaired by Connie St Louis, director for City University Science Journalism MA and award winning journalist, the panel consisted of an epic line up – Tom Reller, VP & Head of Global Relations for Elsevier; Richard Van Noorden, Senior Reporter at Nature; Tiago Villanueva, Editorial Registrar at the BMJ; Maria Kowalczuk, Deputy Biology Editor at BioMed Central; Peter Ayton, Associate Dean of Research at City University and Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Principal Investigator at the Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Science Unit.

The debate kicked off with each panellist talking about the problems that peer review faces in its current state. Niko talked about the wide range of problems that do exist that are not necessarily going to have a simple solution, one issue being fraud. By expanding the evaluation pre publication process, this is not going to solve this problem and there was an overall agreement across the panel that fraud is not going to be able to be picked up by peer review – that is not its purpose. The assessment of science is a difficult problem and one which has been around in the form of peer review since well before the internet. As academics and publishers it is important to remember that the younger generation coming in now will be able to imagine a different method of assessing science and evaluating the current peer review process; this is an important development for the continued success of peer review to go forward. The real question is; how will academics and publishers want to organise the collective process in which they evaluate their science in the future? This is the challenge and it will take a strong collaborative approach from all parties in order to move this forward.

It seems that there is a constant conflict between academics and publishers around peer review – Niko went on to say that the publishing industry has done science a great service, but they have also made an awful lot of money out of that. By reinventing peer review, most of the new ideas amount to scientists using the internet to self organise papers and this will in turn cut publishers out as administrators of peer review. This is a huge conflict and one that needs to be addressed in any reassessment of peer review moving forwards.

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Tom gave his perspective from Elsevier’s viewpoint, speaking about how publishers will continue to thrive and do well as long as they continue to administer the peer review systems that scientists want. There is a huge amount of innovation in how peer review is being done differently but that doesn’t mean that they have to start completely from scratch. He described an excellent analogy for peer review when he said that if you think of peer review as a rubber band and you keep stretching it, the more you stretch it, the easier it will be for bad things to filter through – we often hear about the bad things that have come from peer review, the fraud and increasing retractions for example, but it’s important to remember there are a lot of positive things as well.

Tiago explained the process of peer review from the very start, when a batch of papers arrives on his desk. From there, he sends it out to 6 peer reviewers which he finds on a database, 90% of the time Tiago doesn’t know who these people are and often gets poor reviews back. This means that often they end up using reviewers who give good reviews but does this then create a bias? With traditional peer review, the author and the reviewers don’t know each others identities, but with open peer review they do, which can create conflict on both sides.

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The increasing retraction of papers was another element of the debate that came up, maybe because of more fraud, more competition and a higher pressure to get published. The general consensus from the panel was that this is a good thing; it means the papers that are being published are of a higher quality. Peer review cannot be expected to detect fraudulent papers, 2-4 people reviewing that paper cannot be tasked with the decision on whether that data is right or wrong, the scientific community is based on trust and that is how the peer review system has always operated. Tom at Elsevier confirmed that trust in the industry is absolutely critical, telling someone you don’t trust what they submit leads to a need for policing which then stretches the rubber band even further making things problematic. The internet is also hugely powerful, science is only just starting to see the power that the internet has and how it can help them in allowing for lots of information to be changed. We need this to allow post publication review and discussion but we also need filtration and for people to get the chance to improve a manuscript, both before and after publication. Niko favours open peer review, he said reviews should be published, reviews should be signed and it should be possible for everyone to contribute. There will always be the problem where people can’t see where a paper is incorrect (because it hasn’t been subject to pre-publication) but academics should come out with papers publicly, stand by their judgements and then organise a collective, cognitive process.

So, is peer review broken? Absolutely not, the notion of it being broken means it wouldn’t work or serve it’s purpose – it may be chipped and stretched and in need of some tlc but the tools are here. We have the power of the internet, the incoming younger generation mixed with the generation who have been using the current process for their whole lifetimes can come together to create an innovative, collaborative process for the assessment of scientific research.

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! This year, we are sponsoring London Book Fair and invite you to take a look at our People Development seminar stream that is running throughout the 3 days. If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter

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.

The role of the Publisher

As the Open Access debate rages on, and mainstream academic publishers increase their Open Access offering, it’s interesting to revisit the role that publishers play in bringing research results to market. This will certainly come to light in discussions at the upcoming ALPSP conference to be held 11-13 September, which Inspired Selection will be attending.

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Our specialist STM/Academic publishing team – Esme Richardson and Donald Smith – are keen to hear what current practitioners have to say. We’re certainly looking forward to attending some of the talks and getting up to speed with latest developments.

 

Proponents of Open Access have for some time been putting journal publishers under pressure to prove their worth, questioning their value beyond managing the peer-review process and copy editing materials. Scholarly Kitchen see the author community claiming that “journal publishers do so little”, but is this perception really just a result of the fact that they are only aware of a small part of the overall journal publishing process?

 

So what role does the Publisher have in light of the growth of Open Access? Scholarly Kitchen recently posted a thought provoking guide highlighting 60 key benefits  publishing companies bring to the table. This post highlights the added value that publishers offer – Scholarly Kitchen argue that many authors are not aware of the complexity of processes involved in preparing, promoting and disseminating scholarly information; nor the commitment and resource required to maintain and further develop the necessary technological platforms.

 

We’ll be at the ALPSP conference to learn more about the issues surrounding Open Access and the value added to the industry by both big and small publishers; if you’re there please don’t hesitate to get in touch we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Esme Richardson              e.richardson@inspiredselection.com

Donald Smith                     d.smith@inspiredselection.com