Thursday, 29 September 2016

Laura Ceballos from CEDRO reflects on the future of scholarly communications and a little thing called Brexit...

At the recent ALPSP Conference we caught up with Laura Ceballos, from the Spanish RRO CEDRO, who chaired the Digital Business Models session. We asked her about the latest developments in scholalry communications and her reaction to that little matter of the Brexit vote. Here's what she said...

What is the most exciting opportunity for scholarly communications in the next two to three years?

In the last five years, we’ve seen a burst of digital innovation across the scholarly sector with hundreds of digital initiatives aiming to transform and enrich the publishing sector. It’s extremely positive to see that many young entrepreneurs believe that there’s a promising future for scholarly publishing related businesses in the digital age. A closer relationship with future entrepreneurs of the 21st century will allow long-established publishers to gain access to new and innovative products and services and provide them with a fuller knowledge of the advantages of business models in the digital economy

And what is the biggest challenge?

There is no doubt that open content is the biggest challenge for the scholarly sector. We are entering a change of era that is radically transforming the publishing sector. We are currently in the midst of a major transformation of cultural habits that is dramatically altering people’s behaviour in acquiring and consuming all kinds of academic and professional content.

Book industry professionals will have to accept that the main channels of growth will not involve mainly the sale of print books, but rather the sale of new kinds of digital content (audiobooks, transmedia books, fragmented eBooks, etc.) via yet unimagined new business models. Like it or not, the way culture is being created, accessed, and consumed is itself going through a historical transformation. In the next few years, consumers will have never-before-seen access to staggering amounts of user-generated information and knowledge which will require a reorganization of the scholarly sector.

What were your thoughts when the results of the UK referendum on the EU were announced?

It is in the interest of all parties (UK and EU) that the UK exit of the EU is managed in a gradual and orderly way to avoid a bigger disruption between both of them. Both sides have to come to terms and understand that they are destined to get along.

Laura Ceballos is Business Development Manager for CEDRO. She chaired the Digital Business Models panel discussion at the ALPSP Conference in 2016. You can watch the full session on the ALPSP YouTube channel.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Changing Role of Society Publishing

Some in our industry have publicly and privately opined that society publishers suffer from low business acumen. A “can’t see the forest for the trees” myopia impedes their competitiveness in a market dominated by deep-pocketed commercial publishers who have the “W” (WIN) gene embedded in their organizational DNA.
The big-revenue commercial and university press publishers get the lion’s share of library budgets, submissions, citations, APCs, and media coverage. A common perception is that they innovate better and faster and make smart, bolt-on acquisitions to strengthen their market-leading positions and to even reshape the market while society publishers increasingly struggle to compete because of declining revenues from member dues and publications and slow-to-decide, risk averse staff and governance structures. Are these perceptions accurate? Is future success for society publishers tied to commercial publisher partnerships and a quest for size and scale?

David Sampson, Vice President and Publisher for Journals at the American Society of Oncology chaired the penultimate panel at the ALPSP Conference. He believes that culture determines and limits strategy. We need to understand the organizational structure of non-profits; directors have the power, not shareholders. Strategic planning involves creation of vision and mission statements, initiatives, financials and metrics. Revenue forecasting often forgets that customers are in control of revenues. You need unparalleled customer service. Don't be afraid to kill failing programmes and don't be afraid to innovate.

A key element of ASCO's culture is to connect internally and externally. They have joint clinical guidelines to help identify cross-disciplinary work and connect with other associations for events on care for those with cancer. Embracing disruption of societal changes, technology and partnerships are key to the future success of a society. Readers and researchers are becoming increasingly connected with each other; we must connect with them.
Leighton Chipperfield is Director of Publishing and Income Diversification at the Microbiology Society. They have six journals, with £3.3m annual turnover; combining in-house staff and outsourcing. He noted commercial publishers filled the gap created by society publishers' failure to adapt to contemporary conditions. He believes being second to market is fine when it comes to technology. Why would he risk society income on that? They work with technology partners so they can take advantage of a service that has been developed by many publishers.

They love initiatives that can be applied in a cross organizational way such as (ALPSP Awards Highly Commended) ORCID. Things are changing, society publishers are modernising. They tried collecting APCs themselves, but it didn't work, so they partnered with Copyright Clearance Center. Chipperfield believes that the power of societies' collective knowledge is huge. Stick to what you are good at. They have some fantastic assets: high profile expert trustees; journal editorial boards; conferences; and expert members.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, was inspired to join the panel to debunk the percetion that societies are risk averse. Member needs must outweight business needs and that tension puts them in an interesting position. They launched MLA Commons, a social network for members in 2013, allowing conversations to build beyond conferences. It is an open platform and has a repository at its core.
Simon Inger closed the session by providing some anonymous society publisher case studies. He mapped the journeys of organizations who adopted different strategies. One of the most common mistakes that societies make is to stop worrying about content when they partner with commercial publishers. You need to keep a strategy overview and management watch, but these are not always easy. With declining incomes a society is reluctant to invest in improving its own staffing. This can in turn lead to other issues. He has seen a lot of badly negotiated contracts.


The Changing Role of Society Publishing was the final plenary session at the ALPSP Conference 2016. You can view the video on the ALPSP YouTube channel.

Beyond Article Level Metrics

Melinda Kenneway, co-founder of Kudos, chaired the panel discussion exploring what is Beyond Article Level Metrics at the ALPSP Conference in September.

Change is coming, but it's not just metric wars, it's much bigger than that. Ben Johnson, Policy Advisor for HEFCE stressed the need for responsible metrics. They are everywehere - a layer on top of peer review. And for researchers, quality is wrapped up in publishing. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) costs £250 million. While it's only 2.5% of the overall cost of research, it is always questioned in terms of value for money.

Whatever the concerns around peer review, he observed, it is still considered the gold standard. Inappropriate indicators can create perverse incentives so these indicators need to be underpinned by an open and interoperable data infrastructure. This means that ORCID ids and DOIs become even more important moving forwards.  Johnson then announced the UK Forum for Responsible Metrics. Further details are available on the HEFCE website.

Jennifer Lin, Director of Product Management and Crossref, talked about the foundations needed to support the development of metrics. There has been an explosion of new, more diverse metrics that fit under the heading of 'altmetrics'. They hold power, constituting power, values, and livelihoods. But the infrastructure is mostly invisible, and you only feel it when it breaks. We need to understand the infrastructure behind metrics, understand metrics better, and the effect they have on research and researchers. Would a single non-proprietary body be ideal to coordinate our efforts on metrics?

Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000, talked about the opportunities to share science and its impact. There are suggestions that the concept of the journal is outdated, and open access is merely tinkering at the edges.
Publishing processes can get in the way. They don't have editors, but do pre-pub checks for ethics, quality and readability. Their open approach allows them to give full credit to reviewers. Open Science feels like the democratisation of research - it's very exciting. They are working with funders on these types of initiatives, including the Wellcome Trust on Wellcome Open Research.
Dr Claire Donovan FRSA, Reader at Brunel University London, was the final panellist. She talked about the broader impact of research but warned about 'metric fatigue' as the practice of measuring impact ran ahead of the theory. In the UK the 2014 REF had 20% impact, but may increase to 25% for 2020. This had led to concerns that impact may be more time consuming and potentially gamed in the next assessment. Donovan observed that research is a craft industry, with lots of bespoke outputs, but we're trying to assess it as if it were mass produced. (You can read her slides here.)
The Beyond Article-Level Metrics panel was held at the ALPSP Conference 2016. View all the sessions on the ALPSP YouTube channel.

Digital Business Models

The evolution of long standing publishign models is continuing and there are pressures on the underlying business models. What different business models have developed? What opportunities do they present? How have they evolved across books and journals?

The Digital Business Models panel at the ALPSP Conference provided different perspectives on what's new and developing in this area. Chaired by Laura Ceballos Watling from CEDRO, speakers included Jose Fossi, Vice President of Client Services for PubFactory, O'Reilly Media, Phill Jones, Director of Publishing Innovation at Digital Science, and Dr Julia von dem Knesebeck, Found of Open Publishing GmbH.



The ALPSP Conference was held at the Park Inn Heathrow in London on 14-16 September 2016. View the different sessions on the ALPSP YouTube channel.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Innovation: Who, what where, when and how? Rahul Arora reflects...

The ALPSP Conference is over for another year and the winners of the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are celebrating. As life gets back to the normal routine we took time to speak to Rahul Arora, Chief Executive Officer of the Awards sponsor MPS, to find out what he thinks about innovation and scholarly publishing.

How would you define innovation?

At MPS, we are now focusing on developing a culture around Disruptive Innovation rather than Evolutionary Innovation. Our team has been following the work of American Scholar - Clayton Christensen. We are inspired by his work and his definition of disruptive innovation –

“Disruptive innovation describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”. 

To explain the MPS understanding of disruptive innovation: we don’t consider UberX to be a disruptive innovation, since UberX made the market more efficient but did not expand the market. However, one could argue that UberBlack was disruptive to the luxury rental car market.

What part(s) of scholarly communications do you think need to innovate the most? Why do you think that is?

MPS provides platforms and services for content creation, production, and distribution. From our perspective, few market segments (note that the list is not exhaustive), where we foresee disruption where the status quo will be displaced include:

  • Manuscript submission and peer review systems: There have been some “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of this market segment but this market segment is ripe for disintermediation or an outside entrant disrupting the status quo. Some publishers have already decided to lead the charge by developing in-house software.
  • Production Management Systems: Having deep and intricate systems have been typically associated with the larger publishers. This market segment is ripe for a disruptive platform that provides deep level of functionality in a competitive manner so that it can be accessed by all publishers, irrespective of number of books and journals published in a year.
  • Typesetting and publishing services: HTML5-based typesetting is well under away. The reliance on InDesign and 3B2 is diminishing. This space has seen a series of innovation but is now ripe for a disruption where publishers don’t need manual touch points but rather publisher platforms speaking to supplier platforms.


What are the most exciting innovations you have seen over the last couple of years that you think will really move scholarly communications on?


  • Smart innovations in enriching and harmonizing content to improving discoverability
  • Movement from document-based workflows to asset-based workflows
  • Digital-first workflows backed by digital sub-processes such as online authoring and peer review; all powered by cloud-based workflow management
  • Global standards across value chain
  • Automation wherever logic can be developed in the workflow including transformations on the fly
  • Embracing open access and developing research communities to demonstrate tangible value

Why were you interested in supporting the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing?

MPS has been growing through our technology business and through acquisitions. Technology services and platforms have no meaning if we aren’t disrupting the status quo. And the underlying principle behind our acquisition strategy is simple --- we aspire to be the most meaningful partner to publishers and recognize that we consciously need to reinvent ourselves to achieve this goal. We can all predict that the scholarly market is ripe for disruption; however, how and when will this disruption take place is something we will have to live through to see. Supporting the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing allows MPS to be closer to the reality of disruption and also support change agents that will help deliver this Disruption.

What do you think the finalists demonstrate about innovation in the industry? 

This years’ finalists showcase a diverse set of innovative thought, but two major themes stand out: collaborative information sharing, and creative dissemination of information:


Rahul with the ALPSP Awards winners

And the winners were... 


Cartoon Abstracts from Taylor & Francis and Wiley's ChemPlanner were announced as joint winners. ORCID were Highly Commended by the judges.





MPS Limited are the sponsors for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. The 2016 winners were announced at the ALPSP Conference 14-16 September 2016. The 2017 winners will be announced at the Conference in The Netherlands 13-15 September.


What does academic engagement mean now?

Isabel Thompson, Market Research Analyst at Oxford University Press, chaired the morning plenary on Thursday at the ALPSP conference with a session focusing on the changes in publishers' engagement with academia and researchers. She noted that academics don't care how publishing works, they just want it to work. Researchers are readers, authors, peer reviewers and editorial board members. As a publisher, you have to find right voice for each one. Without academic engagement there is no publishing.

Dr Philippa Matthews us a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow based at the Nuffield Department of Medicine in the University of Oxford. She is also Honorary Consultant in Clinical Infection at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Hospital Trust. She talked through the results of a survey she conducted in advance of the conference. She is very interested in engagement with schools, also infographics. Wants to share results and resources. As a researcher, life is complicated, a simpler publishing process would be preferable. There are significant penalties imposed if her work isn't open access. She outlined a few gripes around the publishing process:
  • we don't accept pre-submission enquiries
  • hard copy signed conflict of interest statements are required before submission - can be a very long-winded process!
  • COI statements need original signatures from all authors... on six continents... at submission!
  • multiple revisions before rejection for incorrect trial format
  • new reviewers introduced after rounds of revision
  • length of time between submission and publication.
Matthews sent a survey to colleagues and received over 100 responses. Results showed that researchers are happy with peer review, but not the timeline and available support. 47% felt the publication process didin't support innovation or allow creativity. People obsess on the Impact Factor, but it's broken. She closed on a more optimistic note: there is a willingness to discuss this from all parties.
Dr Emma Wilson is Director of Publishing at the Royal Society of Chemistry. She outlined how much effort they put in to maintaining a two way dialogue with their community. This involved a lot of scientific conference, international engagement, and by building in-house teams in other countries. They support students and early career researchers via poster prizes and emerging investigator issues of journals. They use social media, but mainly for broadcasting information about them. However, it is growing in importance through initiatives such as through the Twitter-based poster conference.
Dr Sacha Noukhovitch is Executive Director and Editor in Chief at the STEM Fellowship/STEM Fellowship Journal. He feels that with open access, an unexpected, uninvited readership appeared spontaneously - students. A new generation of data-native students is tapping directly into research papers alongside professionals. These students lack the background knowledge, but they use their data skills to understand and interpret the world. If one students finds a paper interesting, others swarm to it creating a real buzz and students use academic communities to help understand complex concepts. They approach parts of the editorial process in a very different way, something that publishers need to follow and engage with.


The ALPSP Conference was held at Park Inn Heathrow London on 14-16 September 2016. View the videos of the session on the ALPSP YouTube channel.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Peer Review is Dead! Long live peer review!

The demise of peer review in its traditional form has long been predicted, indeed demanded by some. And yes, we’ve been talking about peer review for a long time – what more is there to say? The reality is that peer review is evolving and tailoring itself for difference communities. How can publishers ensure they have the right model in place, at the right time? Most attention has been focused on the needs of quality controlling the traditional article in the sciences and there has been limited attention paid to managing the needs of a global and technically sophisticated and diverse scholarly environment.

Peer Review is Dead! Long live peer review! was a session at the 2016 ALPSP Conference chaired y Pippa Smart, Editor-in-Chief of Learned Publishing. The panel presented case studies and opinions on how review outside the traditional scientific article is managed, what specific needs humanities and social science publications must address, whether there is a global balance between authorship and reviewing, and how reviewer quality can be assessed (an important factor if reward for their efforts is to be granted).

Perfectly timed - a few days before Peer Review Week - you can view the whole session here to #recognizereview for #PeerRevWk16.





Speakers included:

  • Seeking reviewers to the ends of the earth - Verity Warne, Associate Marketing Director, John Wiley and Sons
  • Peer judging of peer review quality: rationale, implementation and effects in Peerage of Science - Janne-Tuomas Seppänen, Founder & Managing Director, Peerage of Science
  • Placing the research community at the heart of publishing - Michaela Torkar, Editorial Director, F1000Research
  • Peer Reviewing Data: experiences from a data journal - Varsha Khodiyar PhD, Data Curation Editor, Scientific Data, Nature Research
  • Perspectives on peer review for the humanities and social sciences - Gino D’Oca, Managing Editor, Palgrave Communications


The ALPSP Conference was held at the Park Inn Heathrow London 14-16 September 2016. Further information on Peer Review Week 2016 is available online.