Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Successful organizations and the creative process

David Smith, The IET's Head of Product Solutions, writes:

"I cut my teeth in this business, under the original scholarly start-up environment of the legendary Vitek Tracz and his various ‘crazy ideas’ (that he generally managed to sell to the traditional publishers and thus make his return). Late 90s and early 2Ks. It was a wild ride.

Looking back over 15+ years, it’s fascinating to see what has changed and what hasn’t. In our world, we’ve ridden the wave. We digitised our back catalogues, the subscription business model still works well, the OA charging model is humming along nicely. We are not the Newspapers, or the Recording Artists, or the Bookstores and the Record Shops; The High Streets and Main Streets.

Yet we have challenges; the ennui that accompanies the knowledge that our money makers are all very mature things indeed. The knowledge, that despite the above, the networked world has not been kind to other mature businesses. The people who pay for our services are not the people who use them, day to day. We don’t have the luxury of a signal from the user that can be measured by credit card transactions. It’s very hard to connect a piece of new functionality to an increase in ROI. And a new product? Well, it’s probably fighting for existing money, from another product somewhere. New markets, proper new markets, are hard things to reach in our world, and they have fundamentally different environmental parameters.

And the way we are set up as organizations can also be challenging. Mature successful long lasting organizations (many of whom measure their existence in centuries!) have survived by optimising themselves to do what they do, day to day, very effectively. 

The new new thing can be and often is, an existential challenge. Will and I experienced that cognitive dissonance many times with attendees of our (ever evolving) Web 2.0 course.

Like Will, I also help my organization work out what things to focus on and how to best deliver them. And I ‘have people’ who then get to work with the engineering needed for the products to come to life. I’m increasingly fascinated by the processes that successful product shippers use. Iteration; rigorous analytics; unity of purpose; cross functional team building; horizon scanning and rapid delivery and more.

Because one thing is true; the successful organizations, the ones that ‘disrupt’ the old guard, are the ones that have figured out an end-to-end creative process that enables them to outflank their competition.

We will be using the twitter hashtag #alpspcreate to share interesting links on the run up and after the course, please do join the conversation."

David Smith is co-tutor on the new Disruption, Innovation and Creativity training course alongside Will Russell from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Further details and booking on the ALPSP website.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

ALPSP Awards: Where are they now? BMJ Case Reports

With the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing now open for submissions, we spoke to Janet O'Flaherty, Publisher at BMJ, to find out how BMJ Case Reports has faired since winning in 2010.

1. You won the ALPSP Award for Best New Journal. What was that like?

It was a super evening and we were all thrilled to win. The trophy sits proudly in our boardroom. I enjoyed the submission process, even doing the presentation to the panel. It was particularly gratifying that one of the reasons we won was the business model - only people with a personal or institutional Fellowship (subscription) can submit case reports - but there are no additional publication fees if the case is accepted.

2. How have you developed BMJ Case Reports since then?

We have grown immensely with nearly 13,000 cases live. The developments have been editorial rather than technical - we now have some subject specialist editors and a Global Health section with an accompanying Student Elective competition new for 2016. We have a group of medical student editors that blog for us. We've expanded into dentistry and have plans for a pharmacy section. The Editors do a lot of outreach and workshops on writing cases and getting them published which are always very well received. We have also copied the model for one of our societies with Veterinary Record Case Reports.

3. What have been the highlights?

The rapid growth and acceptance by medical schools that this is an important resource for students and trainees - and truly international as we have case reports from more than 70 countries. Adding the student board and having a workshop on getting published at the BMJ Careers fair in 2015 were personal highlights. Publishing our 5,000th and then 10,000th case reports were great milestones and we did some print mini-journals to celebrate. The journal has outperformed it's original business plan which is also gratifying.

4. What are the challenges you’ve faced?

The sheer volume of submissions and keeping turnaround times down is probably the most difficult. We also don't have an automatic way of checking that authors have the rights to submit (ie, that they or their institution has a Fellowship) so that's done manually (we do outsource that bit).
The journal is on a standard journal platform and so perhaps not optimal for discovery of the content. Also the publishing model means we don't currently have a mobile optimised site.

5. How did winning the Award help with BMJ Case Reports' development? 

It was great for marketing - in fact it's still used on our website and in our user guides/training materials.

6. What are your plans for the future?

We're exploring some technical enhancements - making the content more discoverable, e.g. if you are interested in this case then here are others that you should read. Hopefully some integration with other BMJ products that are used by medical students and junior doctors. We do hope to have a new user interface and design by 2017. As mentioned before - expansion outside medicine. We're looking at adding some interactive questions - starting with pathology and pharmacology cases. As we now have so much content - and there's no sign of it slowing down - we may offer a "read only" subscription once we have enhanced the journal's website.

Janet O'Flaherty is Publisher at BMJ. Information about BMJ Case Reports is available on their website.

Submissions for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are being accepted until Thursday 9 June. Full details available on the ALPSP website.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Marketer's Tool Kit: Leveraging social media - three steps to move beyond broadcasting

We spoke to Emma Watkins, Marketing Manager at IOP Publishing and co-tutor on our Effective Journals Marketing training course about how to get the most out of social media. Here's what she said.

It’s ten years since Facebook became available to the general public and Twitter was launched (and even longer since long forgotten and yet somehow still in existence MySpace began). In that time we’ve seen numerous new networks rise (and fall) and yet for many marketers the social web is still a daunting place to be.

For those companies who aren’t afraid to try, there is an awful lot of value to be found in engaging researchers in the social sphere – here’s how to start.

1. Start listening

Social networks are a great place to find out exactly what the community wants, needs, and thinks of you. Make sure you’re set up to find those conversations – there are tonnes of social media listening services out there which will aggregate content by keyword or product name. Take the time to skim through these regularly, as there can be valuable insight nestled amongst the pictures of people’s breakfasts.

Helpful link: Brandwatch Blog's Top 10 Social Media Monitoring Tools

Top tip: Conference hashtags are the perfect place to start – search for relevant events and keep an eye on your timeline when they are on (for example #alpsp16)

2. Conversations are a two-way thing – but make sure you’re speaking the same language

So you’ve done some great listening, perhaps even followed a conference hashtag or two – what next?

Time to start having some conversations! If you can add value to a blossoming conversation, perhaps with a link to some free (and highly relevant) content, or some advice on a publishing problem, then do it! But make sure you enter the conversation as a human being, not as a brand automaton. Where possible include your name – ASOS do this really well on Facebook.

Helpful link: Harvard Business Review - 50 Companies that get Twitter - and 50 that don't

Top tip: Once you’ve joined a conversation remember to stay with it – don’t just log off as people may respond to you.

3. Embrace different forms of content

It’s easy to get stuck on just sharing text content and links, but if you really want to make a splash then you should vary the content you share. Vlogs, infographics, images, podcasts – all of these offer unique ways to get your message across, so make sure you don’t just choose the right channel but also the right content.

Helpful link: Hubspot - 37 Visual content marketing statistics you should know in 2016

Top tip: Audit your current content store (leaflets, blog posts etc…) to look for new ways to repackage this information for social sharing. You could turn an FAQ page into an infographic, or make a video out of a press release on a product launch.

Emma is a Marketing Manager for IOP Publishing (IOPP), where she oversees the academic marketing strategy for the entire journals portfolio, as well as community websites, B2B products, and ebooks programme.

Effective Journals Marketing runs on Thursday 9 June in London. Further information and booking available on the ALPSP website.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Democratizing eBook Publishing: The rise and rise of e-publishing through the cloud

Copyright: RedKoala

We spoke to Sabine Guerry, founder of 123 Library, about the rise of e-publishing through the cloud, and why publishers should consider this approach.

For those that are approaching this topic for the first time, can you explain what e-publishing through the cloud is about?

Cloud-based systems, or Software as a Service (SaasS) as they are also known, are a way of combining proprietary data and shared software storage. For publishers looking for solutions to deliver their content to their customers, they provide access to hardware, software and maintenance on a licensed basis, without having to invest in setting up and managing their own in-house system.

As eBook sales have gradually replaced print sales, aggregators have proliferated offering various distributions models. This has often resulted in smaller to medium sized and specialist publishers being overlooked, often hardly visible on aggregator platforms with half a million titles. Cloud publishing is changing that offering since a broader range of options over delivery as well as control over sales effectively democratises e-publishing. In its simplest terms, it harnesses the potential of off-site data management service providers to open up possibilities requiring minimal upfront capital expenditure.

What does this mean for a publisher’s output?

It provides another mean for publishers to deliver their eBooks and can open new sales channels by allowing them to build their own delivery website without enduring a huge investment. Cloud Publishing offers you to plug into existing tried and tested systems that offer the latest functionalities for the end users. By using a cloud-based service, you can more easily offer access to your content direct rather than being solely reliant on aggregators. It puts control of your content distribution back into your hands. For academic publishers Cloud Publishing platforms can cater for eBook delivery to both individual users and institutions, including to the most demanding academic institutions that will require an array of technical tools along with the content.

What other features can it provide?

Some customisation is usually available in cloud based systems meaning you can change and adapt it for your list and your market in a timely and responsive way. Cloud based systems also tend to include cross device capability and include enhanced search and research tools that improve the user experience. Areas such as, the provision of an online eReader, soft and hard DRM security, bibliographic reference integration, management tools, compatibility with mobile devices, cataloguing, COUNTER usage statistics, content management and collections creation, search tools, integration with Library management software, transaction creation and business model creation will be handled by the system.

How does it usually work if you decide to work with a cloud based solution?

Cloud publishing starts with a set of tools for linking easy-to-use software applications to your website – called an API (application programme interface). The API allows publishers to create a bespoke, standalone content delivery website, but it can also be used to power an existing one. The content can be eBooks but also e-chapters as long as they can be identified properly.

Why would you recommend users consider this approach?

Cloud services work particularly well for smaller organizations. They don’t require a team of in-house developers working on bespoke software. They are an ‘off the shelf’ tool with simple link to the publisher’s website and easier maintenance. The cloud company has already undertaken the expense and risk of developing the software, which is then ‘shared’ amongst their customers, together with technical maintenance. Crucially, it allows you to punch above your weight and provide at minimum cost direct eBook services equal if not better to those of larger publishers, thus opening up crucial new sales channels and opportunities for the future.

Sabine is Director and Founder of 123Library, an eBook B2B delivery tool for publishers. She is an entrepreneur who specializes in developing IT services for the publishing industry. 123Library’s CloudPublish™ platform provides a range of business models and management tools for both end-users and librarians, and complies with academic institutions' technical requirements.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

SciHub, sharing and predatory journals: how can publishers justify their existence? Rachel Maund reflects...

Rachel Maund, Owner of Marketability and tutor on ALPSP's Introduction to Journals Marketing course, reflects on the increasing importance of the relationship with your editorial board.

"At last year’s meeting of the Asian Council of Science Editors the talk was all of ‘predatory journals’, and how they damaged the reputation of the rest of us by charging author processing fees but not then adding editorial value in return.

Their actions fanned the flames of the argument that publishers exploit academics and are increasingly redundant in an age when sharing, self-archiving and self-publishing is so easy. 

Witness a spate of wonderful retaliatory articles about ‘xx things publishers do’ (various numbers as different authors came up with more) on sources such as The Scholarly Kitchen. Do look up a few of these if you need a bit of reassurance that all is not lost (and inspiration for future copy).

This year it’s the actions of SciHub that are getting journals publishers hot under the collar. And that genie is well and truly out of the bottle. SciHub’s founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, is convinced she has right on her side by making your research content available free to all, and let’s face it, those of us with an inside knowledge of what goes into publishing quality journals are in a very small minority. How much of your content is already being accessed via SciHub? 

But despite the scary headlines, all is not lost. We can distance ourselves from predatory publishers by constantly making clear how much value and credibility is added through the publishing process, and a majority of the research community does accept this in principle.

SciHub is a tougher proposition, because it’s your content they’re making available. 

And even if they were closed down, free sharing of information (as articulated as Google’s mission many moons ago now), is the future. We have to find ways of promoting why working in partnership with a publisher, whether as an author, researcher or librarian, gives an extra quality of service that’s worth paying for. In other ways, we have to find ways to co-exist, as book publishers have had to do with Amazon.

The key may lie with our editorial boards. 

It’s never been more important to work in partnership with them to bring positive messages to the wider research community. A percentage of our audience may be sceptical about what we have to say, but editorial board members are fellow academics, and their views have credibility with their peers. Simple tactics like having campaigns fronted by the Editor-in-Chief (written by you, naturally) can really help.

It’s always been important to work in partnership with editorial boards to deliver marketing to our audiences. But today that’s true more than ever before.

We’re in this together, regardless of what you might read in some of the headlines.

None of us has definitive answers as to how to tackle these challenges, but our Introduction to Journals Marketing workshop is both a reality check for some of the simple tactics that will still work for you, and a great chance to hear what other publishers are doing to mitigate the effects of initiatives such as SciHub.”

Rachel Maund is an international publishing consultant specialising in marketing training, with over 30 years’ practical experience, and is the founder of Marketability.

Introduction to Journals Publishing will run on Wednesday 20 April in London. Book online or further details are available from

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Why is the business technology side of eJournals so unnecessarily complex? Tracy Gardner reflects...

Photograph of Tracy Gardner
eJournal technology is an essential part of the scholarly publishing industry. It is also the topic of one of our most popular training courses. Here, we spoke to Understanding eJournal Technology co-tutor, Tracy Gardner, about the challenges of keeping up-to-date in this area.

"One of the biggest challenges publishers face is making sure their content can be easily found in the various discovery resources readers use to find journal articles, and then to ensure the steps between the reader finding the content and reading it are seamless and without barrier. There are so many potential pitfalls along the way, and this issue therefore concerns people working in production, IT, editorial, sales, marketing and customer service.

The pace of change is fast, technology is evolving all of the time and the driver for much of it has come from the libraries. Libraries are keen to ensure their patrons find and access content they have selected and purchased and by keeping them in a library intermediated environment they feel they can improve their research experience overall. Ultimately the library would like the user to start at the library website, find content they can read and not be challenged along the way.

Simon Inger and I have been running the Understanding eJournal Technology course two or three times a year for ten years now and we have never run the same course twice - it constantly needs to be updated.

Those working in customer facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service may not fully appreciate how much library technology impacts on the way researchers find and access their content. Many people are surprised to learn that poor usage within an institution is often because something has gone wrong with the way the content is indexed within the library discovery layer, how it is set up in the library link resolver, or issues with authentication.

For those in operational or technology roles, the business technology side of eJournals can seem unnecessarily complex and, especially for those new to the industry, the way the information community works can seem counter to the way many other business sectors operate. What makes sense in classic B2B or B2C environments will not make sense within the academic research community.

By helping people who work in publishing houses understand how the eJournal technology works and how they can most effectively work with libraries to maximise discovery and use of their content. Many people who have attended our course have not been aware of the impact some of their decisions have had and our course has helped them understand why they need to work in certain ways."

Tracy Gardner will tutor on Understanding eJournal Technology in March and October 2016. Book your place now.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

All Change in Scholarly Communications: How are the Players – Veterans and Newbies – Adapting?

Fiona Murphy reports from #APE2016
Last month, in characteristically bracing January Berlin weather, around 250 intrepid speakers and delegates attended the 11th Academic Publishing in Europe (APE – pronounced “Ahhhpay”) meeting. Keep an eye on Twitter #ape2016 as all of the presentations were recorded and so should become available in the near future.

A number of familiar characters – large publishers, established platform providers, and so forth – whose language seems to have evolved over the past few years – spoke about ‘openness’ and ‘sharing’ rather than preserving business models. Todd Toler of Wiley, for instance, expressed the “publisher’s value proposition” as having shifted from content provision – basically “moving stuff about” to “strengthening knowledge connections”. This feels like a real turning of tides; such players are now actively aiding and abetting our efforts to garner significant knowledge from our scholarly ecosystem.

In point of fact, there was a general theme around intelligence rather than simply the power of data. Barend Mons bemoaned the existence of “a Christmas tree of hyperlinks and the malpractice of supplementary material’”, instead calling for the training of experts to really understand how machine learning and human interrogation of data can be meshed together to form a powerful whole – “Open Science as a Social Machine” (keep an eye on the IDCC programme in Amsterdam later this month, as he’ll be expanding on the topic there). Meanwhile, Emma Green, of Zapnito – a start-up that aids knowledge-based companies to maximise the impact of their associated experts spoke of growing the ‘knowledge economy’ by reducing the noise and chatter, thereby freeing up the collective intelligence.

John Sack of Highwire’s approach was to examine frictions in the workflow. If workflow is ‘a way of getting things done,’ then instances of friction – with the possible exception of a review stage – largely involve the loss of efficiency. Currently most journal workflows are still based on the original print journal format, but with the version of record shifting online, the resulting misalignments between what is desired and what is produced are causing delays, and infringements of established rules (such as copyright). Friction-reducing tools that can support and simplify the generation, finding, and attribution of scholarly outputs are needed. This can be enabled by standards such as e.g. ORCID or ResearcherID for people, and by initiatives such as openRIF/VIVO for connecting people and their roles to their works and activities. This connectivity will surely boost quality, productivity, and the need for improved garnering of knowledge from our research landscape that generally arose as a theme across APE in general. This connectedness, according to Sack, is about a supported conversation amongst collaborators who are enabled by tools that sift, pre-curate and – potentially – publish their scholarly outputs.

Opportunities for new business models are appearing in a number of points in the workflow – Publons acknowledges and badges peer review activities, Overleaf provides templated support to write journal articles, and Elsevier is leveraging the new Mendeley Data service to enable authors to publish their data and link it immediately with journal articles.

At the same time, policy (=funding) is also moving in the same direction. Stephan Kuster, Head of Policy Affairs for Science Europe explained its function and mission. Science Europe is a think tank set up to support and advise EU National Research Funding Councils around on EU R&D policy issues. Open Access is one of nine key priorities, including enabling authors to hold copyright, supporting sustainable archiving, and publication and dissemination are integral part of research process and should be funded as such.

There was a thoughtful debate about Scholarly Communications Networks and whether they add value, which would not have been possible even a few years ago. Fred Dylla, Emeritus Executive Director of the American Institute of Physics, made the salient point that reputation of the journal still needs to be fundamentally challenged for the landscape to be really disrupted. Currently, the people and institutions making the key decisions about funding, tenure and promotion, are still fixated on journal reputations and impact factors. So, despite feeling as though there has been a lot of progress in the last few years, it also seems there’s still a lot to do.

Luckily there are several opportunities coming up to extend and develop our understanding of and strategies for adapting to this changing landscape. As well as the aforementioned IDCC later this month. And look out for the ALPSP Seminar on research data, digital preservation and innovation in March. Standing on the Digits of Giants is co-organised with the Digital Preservation Coalition and is designed to orientate and empower publishers, research managers and researchers to navigate and flourish in the new landscape.

Another key space to continue these discussions is in the context of the Force11 community, which aims to bring together many of the stakeholders needed at the table to effect change: policy makers, funders, researchers, technologists, publishers, informaticists, lawyers, etc. Force16 promises to be an exciting venue where we’ll be pushing scholarly communications into uncharted territory. Hope to see you there too.

Fiona Murphy, February 2016

Now associated with the Maverick Publishing Specialists, Fiona Murphy has held a range of production and editorial roles at Wiley, Oxford University Press, Random House and Bloomsbury Academic. She specializes in emerging scholarly communications (including Open Science and Open Data) and works to raise expertise and activity levels across the wider research and publications communities. Fiona has written and presented extensively on the research landscape, data and publishing. She is Co-Chair of the World Data System—Research Data Alliance Publishing Data Workflows Working Group, an Editorial Board Member of the Data Science Journal and enjoys organizing meetings.

This post was written by Fiona Murphy with the support of Melissa Haendel.