Friday, 19 May 2017

Not Your Teenager’s Social Network: What Academic Societies Can Learn from Facebook about Making Money—and Making Members Happy

We are delighted to share this blog by Roy Kaufman, Managing Director of New Ventures at the Copyright Clearance Center  which draws some interesting parallels between learned societies and social networks and highlights what we can learn from their example.

image social media networkingSocial networking a la Facebook and Twitter may seem to be a product of the Internet age, but it is actually nothing new. If you think about it, learned societies - which aim to bring together people in a given field or area of professional interest - are actually built on the original idea of a social network, to wit: a network of social interactions and personal relationships, as Webster’s defines it.

Yet today’s academic societies, charged with connecting individuals who share professional interests and providing a forum for communication and collaboration, continuing education, and career opportunities, are facing declines in membership, particularly among people under age 30. Fewer than half (48%) of all millennials belong to a society compared with 83% of baby boomer researchers, according to Wiley’s recent survey of nearly 14,000 research professionals.

Facebook and Twitter (and more researcher-focused sites such as Mendeley) have something to do with that age discrepancy; they are favorites for early-career researchers who want to actively network in both their professional and personal life. With so many online opportunities for making contacts and interacting, societies are tasked with finding new ways to provide meaningful benefits that will attract and retain members, as well as keep their revenues growing.

Perhaps scholarly and professional societies can learn something from Facebook, too. Just as that online social network continues to expand (and gobble up money) by using member data in ever more ingenious ways (linking all those Likes, learning from them, and tailoring content to members accordingly), so societies can use technology to better serve their members and become more relevant and profitable in the process.

From disconnected data to smart data

Fully leveraging data they already have is an often-overlooked way for societies to grow their membership and keep current members engaged enough to renew year after year. Take the example of researchers who submit an article to a society journal. It is a good bet that the article will contain the names and contact information of multiple coauthors. Wouldn’t it make sense if, instead of isolating those names within the editorial system, societies could use them to their advantage, connecting them with other data points throughout the organization?

That process could start at article submission by determining the needs of corresponding authors and co-authors, simply by asking questions like the following:

  • Are the authors already members of the society?
  • If yes, are their memberships up for renewal?
  • If no, will a special offering (such as an APC discount or free author reprints) entice them to join?
  • If they have an .edu address, are they taking advantage of institutional arrangements for payment of open access fees?
  • Are they registered to attend the next society conference?
  • Do they need continuing education credits?
  • Do they even know about these benefits?

Chances are, members and would-be members don’t know all the benefits of membership. In the Wiley survey, 15% of respondents said they’d never been invited to join an academic society; 12% said they didn’t know what offerings were available, and another 12% said that joining had never occurred to them. As the folks at Wiley put it, “This means that 37% of non-members are either waiting to be asked to join, or might be persuaded to join…With so many non-members just waiting to be asked, societies may find they are often pushing at an open door.”

But societies are not yet pushing on that door. One reason is that in many learned societies, different departments, and the data they house, are “siloed,” cut off from one another and not communicating effectively. “When a member interacts with an organization, they’re interacting with education, or a group that does grants,” says Ann Michael, DeltaThink CEO and former president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, who moderated a recent webinar on society membership by the Copyright Clearance Center. Silos, says Michael, make it difficult for members to see the organization as a whole, which makes it hard for organizations to serve members’ needs effectively.

In the same webinar, Alex Taylor, head of communities and events at the Institution for Engineering and Technology, admitted that for a long time, the IET was “lost in a labyrinth of our own making .…We offer so many different things, [there are] so many different teams and departments…that there’s most definitely a [silo] culture, a lack of joined-up collaborative thinking.”

The key, then, is for members and societies to come together, to increase satisfaction and engagement on one side and revenues on the other. That starts with knowing what members and potential members want and need.  For example, in Wiley’s survey findings, 26% of respondents said their strongest reason for joining a society was to take advantage of opportunities for continuing education. But the continuing education platforms seldom, if ever, talk with the editorial ones.

The bottom line: If the membership, continuing education, and conference departments are not connected with each other or linked up with the editorial department, opportunities for generating new members and retaining existing ones will be missed. Think about the benefits to all involved if these systems talked to one another. In that scenario, it would be easy to notify an individual who recently submitted an article on a particular topic about an upcoming workshop on the same subject. Or, having just published that article, to let the author know that his society membership renewal comes with the benefit of 25 free article reprints.

What all of this requires is a smart network of links among databases that enables societies to target their marketing to specific individuals with personalized messages and offerings, at opportune times (when you already have their attention, for example, at article acceptance or other key points in the editorial workflow). That is the difference between blasting members with renewal notices three days after they’ve renewed and instead telling them something they truly want to know (i.e. that they are due for CME credits). Rather than putting off members and would-be members with more junk mail, suddenly, you are providing them with a higher level of service.

One way to make the data connection easy is with an enterprise content management system that does the sorting and linking of member information automatically. An investment in an ECM system is worth it, because it allows societies to provide a higher level of service.  Knowing what members need and offering it to them when they need it will bring in higher revenues in the form of new and renewing members, who can now avail themselves of services they were previously unaware of. Or, to put it another way, societies will be able to maximize revenue sources already at their disposal, and members will understand the value proposition that comes from joining and engaging with a learned society. Talk about pushing an open door.

Adopt some standards

Besides enterprise content management systems, another crucial step toward connecting data and better serving members is to adopt standards such as ORCID IDs, Ringgold names, IP addresses from Publisher Solutions International, and identifiers from FundRef. Once employed, societies can identify institutional affiliations, funding agencies, geographical locations, and membership status, and then launch relevant messaging.  You might, by ORCID ID, identify an author member as hailing from a particular institution and take it from there, reaching out to let a Harvard-based author know that she’s eligible for an institutional discount on open access charges. Combine these standards with the member data derived from your enterprise content management system, and suddenly, you get to the nirvana of data connection, without having to reinvent the wheel, and without having to bother the author.

Create new businesses to keep members happy

To keep growing, societies also need to consider new sources of revenue. It makes sense that the first thing a membership-driven society should consider when it thinks about growing its bottom line is the needs of its members. For example, the Wiley survey asks members what they value.  Some key services mentioned in the Wiley survey are continuing education (64%), keeping up to date with the latest research (50%) and job openings (32%). Once societies have this information in hand, they should ask: Do I have a business around this? If the answer is no, the next question might be: Should I have a business around this? If learning is a key reason members renew, a society may want to look at whether they have adequate continuing education offerings. If career networking is a top priority, a society might send out alerts when jobs open up in members’ areas of interest. That’s known as data driven messaging, whether a society tells a researcher who has just submitted an article on kidney cancer about an opening in the nephrology department of a major research hospital, or reminds her to register for the upcoming American Society of Nephrology Conference.

Attracting and retaining members - even millennials - is not rocket science, and we can learn from the companies who do it well. It is about figuring out why people join, and asking: Have I done enough here? Because sometimes, by asking relatively simple questions, offering opportunities vis-à-vis the needs of members, and doing some obvious things like adopting standards, it is possible to create the building blocks that raise a society to the next level - and make it go viral. 

photo Roy Kaufman
Roy Kaufman is Copyright Clearance Center's Managing Director of New Ventures. Prior to CCC, Roy served as Legal Director, Wiley-Blackwell, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. He is a member of, among other things, the Bar of the State of New York, the Copyright and Legal Affairs Committee of the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers. He was the founding corporate Secretary of Crossref, and formerly chaired its legal working group. He has lectured extensively on the subjects of copyright, licensing, open access, text/data mining, new media, artists’ rights, and art law. Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Art Law Handbook: From Antiquities to the Internet, and author of two books on publishing contract law. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Columbia Law School.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Data challenges for publishers – teams, tools and changes in the law

We are delighted to be able to share this blog from Warren Clark at Research Information who attended our popular, recent seminar How to Build a Data- Driven Publishing Organization chaired by Freddie Quek.

Dealing with data is nothing new to scholarly publishers – but it was clear from a recent ALPSP event that it’s an ever-changing battlefield, reports Warren Clark

How to Build a Data Driven Publishing Organization, held on 20 April at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and hosted by ALPSP, proved there is much for many still to learn in how to approach the masses of data points generated by companies throughout the publishing cycle.

As John Morton, board chair of Zapaygo, said in his keynote: ‘Most publishers are using less than five per cent of the data they own.’

The event featured many examples of areas in which data could be collected, analysed and presented in a form that would improve profitability for publishers, and provide users with a more personalised experience.

Ove Kähler, director, program management and global distribution at Brill, together with his colleague Lauren Danahy, team leader, applications and data, explored the challenges they faced in developing an in-house data team. Their most significant innovation was to arrange their primary data groups according to where they occurred in the workflow: content validation; product creation; content and data enrichment; content and data distribution; product promotion; and product sales.

The pair explained how they created a team – from existing staff within the company – giving each specific responsibility for one of those data groups, and how that led to improved quality and output of data at each step.

Indeed, the notion that publishers shouldn’t assume that dealing with data means employing new staff was echoed throughout the day, with both David Smith, head of product solutions at IET, and Elisabeth Ling, SVP of analytics at Elsevier, suggesting in the panel discussion that people ‘look at your own team first’, since it was likely that the skills required would already be present.


Choosing tools

As well as who and why, many speakers talked about how they capture, store, analyse and visualise the data they collect. The most extensive of these was IET’s David Smith, who overhauled the IT department’s software tools to evolve a more accurate suite of visualisations that product teams could use independently and without the need to continuous IT support. Smith explained that those looking for a ‘single solution’ from a software package that solved all data challenges for publishers would be disappointed, before reeling off half a dozen or more software tools that his team had integrated to develop a solution that suited their needs.

In a session that brought a perspective from outside the publishing industry, Matt Hutchison, director of business intelligence and analytics at Collinson Group, a company that runs global loyalty programmes on behalf of major brands, supported this notion by showing how they had outsourced some of their function to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Matt Pitchford, solutions architect at AWS, demonstrated that the cloud computing set-up they developed for Collinson Group involved more than 20 different pieces of software.


What data can bring

Another theme was quality of data – as Graeme Doswell, head of global circulation at Sage Publishing put it: ‘You need your data capture processes to be as granular as you want your output to be.’ He showed examples of how Sage was using its data to show librarians their levels of usage, making it easier for the sales teams when it came to renewals. David Leeming, publishing consultant at 67 Bricks, gave a further example, specifically in the area of content enrichment.

For Iain Craig, director strategic market analysis at Wiley, data was used to help business decisions on new journal launches. He explained a major project that involved them collecting internal and external data points such as subject matter, number of submissions, journal usage, funding patterns, and many more. The outcomes have helped improve existing journals, and suggest where future resources should be deployed for emerging markets.

Similarly, Blair Granville, insights analyst at Portland Press, demonstrated how his team tracked submissions, subscriptions, open access, citations, usage, commissions and click-through rates in order to to feed intelligence back to the editorial teams about where their focus should be.


Data and the law

The most enlightening paper of the day came from Sarah Day, data marketing professional and associate consultant at DQM-GRC, who spoke about data regulation and governance. She warned against complacency and ignorance when it comes to data, particularly with regard to the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Already law, but due to become enforceable in May 2018 (allowing time for institutions to ensure compliance), this is an EU-wide revision of privacy laws designed to give individuals more control over their personal data.

‘In spite of Brexit, the UK – and indeed any country outside the EU that offers goods and services to people in the EU – will have to comply,’ said Day. The impact of the new regulations are far and wide as far as publishers are concerned, and among the most important things they can do is ‘be transparent about what you are doing with an individual’s data’.

Although Day successfully rose to the challenge of explaining GDPR in one minute, it served to demonstrate that managing data in a safe, secure, and legal manner is a complex issue that every publisher will have to address head on.

With more than 50 attendees at the event, drawn from publishers large and small, it’s clear that understanding data – and all the issues that come with it – is an issue that will only become more important in the years to come, as the amount of data generated grows exponentially.

For more blogs and publishing news from Warren Clark and the excellent team at Research Information please visit:

Thursday, 30 March 2017

'Just do it': highlights from the ALPSP Open Access seminar

photo Martyn Lawrence

Martyn Lawrence attended last month's ALPSP seminar How to build a Successful Open Access Books Programme which was chaired by Frances Pinter.

He offers his thoughts on the day.

This one day seminar on Open Access monographs brought together a mixed – and refreshingly perky – group of publishers, librarians, funders and authors.

On the heels of the R2R conference, held on the preceding days, chair Frances Pinter set the scene in a room full of industry heavyweights, traditional presses, societies and start-ups. She had briefed the wide range of speakers to talk about challenges overcome and how their offer could be scaled up, not just to showcase their companies.

Here, rather than a blow-by-blow account of each presentation, I’m offering the top ten takeaways from a thoroughly enjoyable day.

1. Monographs are important

The tone was set from the outset. There’s an intangible thing with books: even though you can read on a device, there’s something about a printed book that provokes different emotions from a printed journal. Yes, chapters in edited collections are akin to journal articles (scholarly ‘stuff’ to use the language preferred by Toby Green and Tom Clark) but monographs, by and large, arouse different responses. That’s partly because of their dominance in the humanities and social sciences: because HSS research is so often about the idea, rather than the data, the venue for that idea is venerated – as is the means of expressing it. As the Crossick Report stated: ‘The writing of the long-form publication IS the research process’.

2. Books are under pressure

The problems are hardly new: low sales, declining library budgets, tough distribution, pressure to make publicly-funded work freely available and a changing environment in a platform-led world.

For some disciplines, it’s a relevancy issue in the fake-news, barriers-first world of Trump and Brexit. If STM creates new drugs and builds planes, HSS needs to explain what it offers. Indeed, as Rupert Gatty so eloquently said in favour of Open Book Publishers, it’s time to re-evaluate the entire publishing model. If access to your title results to a 300:1 success in favour of the open version (based on data from his presentation), it takes a lot of effort to justify prioritising the single digit. We should be able to communicate in more ways, not fewer.

3. HEFCE monograph policy

Funder attention and OA policies have hitherto focused on journals publishing, because of the desire to kick-start innovation and drive new business models. It’s also been driven by academic priorities in the big-money STM areas.

Ben Johnson (HEFCE) explained why HEFCE is interested in OA for all published outputs:

  • it leads to greater efficiency when university finances are stretched
  • it improves quality of research
  • it leads to impact and reach outside big institutions

A diverse system means that people can choose how they communicate. In STM, 98% of REF returns were journal articles. In HSS, by contrast, the monograph dominated.

The REF after next will require OA monographs, and pilots are being put into place for that. In ten years, there will be a significant percentage of OA books. The equivalent REF value isn’t yet given to e-monographs but that will change.

4. We’re going to play nice

The journey to OA for journals was heated and not always constructive. HEFCE hopes to avoid a repeat for monographs (which, given the expected length of the journey, is a blessing), and it’s worth emphasising that the atmosphere in the room was considerably different from the ALPSP OA event in June 2016 which focused predominantly on journals. There was precious little mention here of ‘drive your APCs’ or ‘milk the P&L’. HEFCE set the tone and subsequent speakers reinforced it: all parties should respect that the pace of change will be up for debate.

5. University presses may be the future melting pot for OA

Perhaps the most interesting news was that initiative for change is less likely to come from the legacy publishers, nor yet the start-ups, but from the growing cohort of university presses. Often housed within university libraries (and therefore with a strong mandate to champion OA), they are often far less reactive than the legacy publishers. Two careful presentations from CUP and Taylor & Francis bore this out: progress is cautious in the global publishing houses, partly because agitation from the author community is not high, and partly because of varying geographical and disciplinary opinions about open research.

In the UPs, by contrast, commissioning can be driven by ‘what’s the story?’ not ‘where’s the money?’. The rationale for editorial excellence is as strong as ever, but removing the pressure of profit margins means OA books can be more eclectic, more interesting, more exciting than ever before. ‘The value to the university is in profile and reputation, not in income’, said Sue White of University of Huddersfield Press. No one is going half-measures on this, either. As Lara Speicher (UCL Press) noted, authors are watching closely and they’ll quiz publishers over their sales and marketing plans for a title. Having said all of that, the (small) list of OA books published by CUP was notable for its breadth and quality: there’s no indication that OA diminishes the value proposition for readers.

6. Systems really stink

Publishers don’t build systems to give away books for free. OK, so there’s a wisecrack hiding there, but try as you might, it’s really difficult to convince a legacy e-commerce system to offer an article or an entire book with a zero price tag. They simply weren’t built with OA in mind, and rescaffolding sites is one of these things that everyone assumes is easy until they try it. Time and again, this issue emerged as a remarkable stumbling block.

7. Discoverability ain’t great either

Three kinds of metadata are needed to make an OA monograph fully discoverable, and they are non-negotiable, functional essentials:

  • content (eg keywords and BIC codes)
  • digital (eg DOIs, ORCiDs, ISBNs)
  • OA-specific (eg specific CC license for both articles and images, embargo period, funders, location of Version of Record)

Without this, scalability of OA programmes will prove tricky. It doesn’t help if third-party vendors don’t make it clear that a print book is digitally OA, or if elements of the metadata drop out on the book’s journey through the post-publication environment. (I was reminded at this point of a recent Scholarly Kitchen piece by Jill O’Neill, in which she described the convoluted process of tracking down what she called ‘an OA monograph in the wild’.)

Simon Bains, Head of Research Services at the University of Manchester reinforced this point. Unless metadata is strong, Manchester doesn’t give OA books the same priority. In Bains’ view, JSTOR discoverability is good; OAPEN and DOAB are poor; Hathi Trust and Internet Archive are non-existent. They also prioritise reading list books.

As Euan Adie said, ‘metadata is a love-letter to the future’. Without it, OA founders.

8. OA encourages audience-first publishing

Some of the most fascinating presentations came from researchers. Vanesa Castán Broto, Senior Lecturer at UCL, made the forceful point that if academics are not inspired to produce something, they will drag their heels. Broto was adamant that she didn’t want to produce something held only by an elite group in the English-speaking global north. Her OA research on Mozambique, published by UCL Press in English and Portuguese, has seen downloads in 152 countries: ‘it’s a massive incentive for me to publish open and in a language other than English’, she said. This motivation, she said, trumped any accusations about OA vanity publishing.

Broto’s conviction raised an important issue. The bigger publishers are ploughing time and money into an OA monograph programme as a business need: they’re packaging it as part of a wider author services offer. By contrast, the authors are taking risks because they are in the business of communicating their research discoveries to the widest possible audience. In one sense, these factors are symbiotic: authors need publications to be widely available, and publishers are in the business of making that happen. But it’s intriguing to see how these two different rationales will converge, given the issues of scalability and sustainability. For the most part, publishing ‘closed’ in the right journals is still more important than publishing ‘open’ in smaller journals.

9. OA enables innovation

Book launches kill budgets, but authors love them. So in a platform-driven world, what’s the alternative? Online parties, says Xinyuang Wang at UCL, who reported on a campaign supporting her OA book with a MOOC and YouTube videos translated into multiple languages. The greatest impact of this was the means of attracting new and wider audiences to the work. It’s an audience-first model that legacy publishers will struggle to match.

The larger point seemed to be that OA publishers, particularly those without legacy models to protect, are potential incubators of innovation. Without a cumbersome legacy model to restrict format or dictate price, they can engage more fully with the long tail of high quality titles. Diversity, said Andrew Lockett of University of Westminster Press, has much greater value once you’re not obsessed with the US library market.

10. Print isn’t going away

Despite everything, physical books still make a difference. Ultimately, that’s why the transition to OA monographs has taken so much longer than journals. Lots of university presses are offering books as short-run PODs (often 100 copies) to ensure they cover demand, and OA isn’t replacing print. This was the funding message too: academic choice is a big part of the HEFCE approach. Data from Brill and UCL suggests that print sales are not decimated by OA (it’s the effect on ebooks that is more notable).

And this is what’s so interesting – the mix keeps us going. When it comes to OA monographs, what do we want? Everything.

Martyn Lawrence is Publishing Manager at the Royal Armouries Museum, with oversight of the books programme at the museum's three sites (Leeds, the Tower of London and Fort Nelson). He is a frequent contributor to international publishing workshops and training events, including seminars for ALPSP and London Book Fair, and he has chaired numerous conference sessions around the world.

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