Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Does innovation help smaller publishers?


These are exciting times in scholarly publishing, as ALPSP 2014 so amply demonstrated. But is technical innovation leaving the smaller publisher trailing behind better-resourced and larger competitors and the big technology companies? It ain’t necessarily so…

The early ‘electronic’ decades were characterized by high entry costs, modest technical skill levels, uncertainties and risk aversion. Only the larger publishers would venture to take the first cautious steps. Now the pace of technical change is almost dizzying, innovation is rampant, entry costs have fallen, skill levels are higher and, despite some apprehension, even small publishers are more comfortable with taking risks.

The fundamental elements of scholarly publishing haven’t changed that much. Authors still want to publish in the ‘best’ journals representing their community, with fast, reliable and responsive peer review. Libraries and readers still want affordability, timeliness, responsiveness to their needs. Price is important but quality and impact weigh heavily. None of these criteria are barriers to the smaller scholarly publisher.

Despite the rapidity of change, technical innovation has lowered the entry barriers, making it easier and less risky for smaller publishers and start-ups to provide new products and services: think of Peerage of Science for peer review, figshare for managing and sharing research output, DeepDyve for low-cost full-text preview, PACKT using Google to monitor technology trends and turning them into publishing opportunities, and many more initiatives reported at ALPSP 2014. Vast collaborative effort is going into standardization, data structuring, interoperability to level the playing field and make it easier for players to concentrate on their own USPs. A whole industry of service providers and outsourcers ensure that small scale is not an obstacle: intermediaries, hosts, discovery services, technology partners, CCC, CrossRef, COUNTER and more.

With all this help, small operators have the additional advantage that they can be more nimble and exploit opportunities more quickly than larger organizations. The proviso is that they understand their role, that they stay in close touch and work with their chosen academic communities, respond to their needs and constantly reinvent themselves (Coco Chanel: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”). Even the big beasts in the field can be helpful: Google does offer well-used, free discovery services and is responsive to complaints about the negative impact of search algorithm changes. There were calls for more lobbying of services like Google, but the question of their market dominance is perhaps best left to the competition authorities.

‘Bells and whistles’ was the somewhat pejorative term used for service characteristics that are nice to have but miss what is really important to authors. For example publishers and librarians care deeply about version control, but researchers don’t. There are a fair number of ‘predatory’ journals that offer little or no peer review even though the research community still values it highly. Impact factors are important for publishers but researchers, particularly younger ones, care more about the societal impact of their work, also reflected in the changing criteria of the Research Excellence Framework. Small publishers need to have these conversations with the research community and understand what matters to them.

It is to the credit of ALPSP that it has always been aware of the special concerns of niche publishers. It has done its best to foster skill building, provide networking opportunities, encourage standards and service provision and bring the different parts of the scholarly publishing universe together. No wonder its international conferences have been so successful!

Kurt Paulus
kurtpaulus@hotmail.co.uk

Friday, 26 September 2014

The data deluge is upon us… are you ready?

Today sees the online publication (under an open access model) of our special data issue of Learned Publishing.

Produced with the support of Wiley, this collection of papers represents a snapshot of current thinking about research data from a variety of perspectives. It is guest edited by Alice Meadows, Director of Communications at Wiley and Fiona Murphy, their STM Publisher.

This special issue is launched at the end of a week where Wiley Exchanges published some fascinating posts on different aspects of data to coincide with the Research Data Alliance annual conference in Amsterdam.

Liz Ferguson, Publishing Solutions Director at Wiley hit the nail on the head with her observation “Acknowledging the significance of data in scholarly communication is one thing, but knowing what to do about it is another” in her piece Everybody Loves Data.

Jennifer Beal, Events & Ambassador Manager at Wiley observed “Ah Big Data, how things have changed!” in her write up of the Who’s Afraid of Big Data session from the ALPSP conference.

“Do you want to use my environmental data, or I yours? The question pulls in many conflicting directions.” Mike Kirkby, Emeritus at Leeds University reflected on the many questions with complex answers that the use and storage of data presents in  More data, more questions?

Fiona Murphy interviewed Mark Hahnel, Founder of figshare who believes that “Opening up research data has the potential to both save lives (say with medical advances) and to enhance them with socio-economic progress. It’s a space where humans and computers can work symbiotically, and where industry can also benefit.” He goes on to share his thoughts on the practicalities of opening data, blockages in the system and the potential for open science.

As more and more colleagues across the scholarly publishing community engage with open data, we hope this special issue will help them along the way.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

What societies need to know about Creative Commons (CC) Licensing - free webinar

Want to know what a CC license is and what all the different types mean?
Which CC license is best for your journal’s authors and the future of your journal(s)?

What societies need to know about Creative Commons (CC) licensing
Tuesday, September 30th, 8-9am PDT/11am-12pm EDT/4-5pm BST

With new mandates being announced by funders globally for Open Access archiving of their funded research, societies need to understand what the different CC article licensing options mean, both for their journals’ and their members’ needs.  This webinar will provide society executives with an overview of what they need to know about CC licences. Do you know your CC BY from your CC BY-NC-ND?  What are the pros and cons of different CC licenses for society journals? What options should you give your authors?

With speakers from Creative Commons, Copyright Clearance Centre and Wiley.

To register your place, visit http://goto.copyright.com/LP=981

This webinar is organised by Wiley in conjunction with the Copyright Clearance Center

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Big data: mining or minefield? Kurt Paulus reflects...

Who's Afraid of Big Data? Not this panel...
"Data are the stuff of research: collection, manipulation, analysis, more data… They are also the stuff of contemporary life: surveillance data, customer data, medical data… Some are defined and manageable: a researcher’s base collection from which the paper draws conclusions. Some are big: police data, NHS data, GCHQ data, accumulated published data in particular fields. Two Plenaries and several other papers at ALPSP 2014 addressed the issues, options, opportunities and some threats around them.

There have long been calls for authors’ underlying research data to be made accessible, so as to substantiate research conclusions, suggest further work and so on. The main Plenaries concerned themselves with Big Data, usually unstructured sets of elements of unprecedented scale and scope, such as the whole of Wikipedia, accumulated Google searches, the biomedical literature, the visible galaxies in the universe. The challenge of ‘mining’ these datasets is to bring structure to them so that new insights emerge beyond those arising from limited or sampled data. This requires automation, big computing resources and appropriate but speeded-up human intervention and sometimes crowd sourcing.

Gemma Hersh from Elsevier on TDM
Text and data mining has some kinship with information discovery where usually structured datasets are queried, but goes well beyond it by seeking to add structure to very large sets of data where there is no or little structure, so that information can be clustered, trends identified and concepts linked together to lead to new hypotheses. The intelligence services provide a prime, albeit hidden example. So does the functional characterization of proteins, the mining of the UK Biobank for trends and new insights or the crowd-sourced classification of galaxy types to test cosmological theories.

Inevitably there are barriers and issues. The data themselves are often inadequate; for example not all drug trials are published and negative or non-results are frequently excluded from papers. Research data are not always structured and standardized and authors are often untutored in databases and ontologies. The default policy, it was recommended, should be openness in the availability of authors’ published and underlying data, standardized with full metadata and unique identifiers, to make data usable and mitigate the need for sophisticated mining.

CrossRef's Rachael Lammey
Because of copyright and licensing, not all data are easily accessed for retrieval and mining. Increasingly licensing for ‘non-commercial purposes’ is permitted but exactly what is non-commercial is ill-defined, particularly in pharmaceuticals. Organizations like CrossRef, CCC, PLS and others are beginning to offer services that support the textual, licensing and royalty gathering processes for both research and commercial data mining.

Rejecting the name tag Cassandra, Paul Uhlir of the National Academies urged a note of caution. Big Data is changing the public and academic landscape, harbouring threats of disintermediation, complexity, luddism and inequality and exposing weaknesses in reproducibility, scientific method, data policy, metrics and human resources, amongst others.


Paul F. Uhlir urges caution

Judging by the remainder of these sessions and the audience reaction, excitement was more noticeable than apprehension.

ALPSP of course is on the ball and has just issued a Member Briefing on Text and Data Mining (member login required) and will publish a special online-only issue of Learned Publishing before the end of this month."





Kurt Paulus
kurtpaulus@hotmail.co.uk

Friday, 19 September 2014

Open Access rules OK – almost? Kurt Paulus reflects one week on from the ALPSP International Conference

Toby Green (centre) asks 'Why are we still not there?'
“Twenty years since Harnad, ten years since Budapest, but why are we still not there?” asked Toby Green in the second Plenary at ALPSP 2014. Well, the venerable Royal Society has launched its first OA journal, Open Biology, and has survived the experience. They are only one of many scholarly publishers: Phil Hurst of the RS claimed some 50% of learned societies are planning OA journals. Jackie Jones from Wiley gave structured advice on how and when to ‘flip’ the revenue model from subscription to Gold OA. So where are we?

It seems that much of the hesitancy surrounding this topic is fading away and we are now looking at how rather than whether to do it. Practical questions come to the fore: how long do we give authors APC waivers before they become fully liable (1-2 years), and what groups are entitled to more permanent waivers. The key customers continue to be the authors, but so too are funding bodies who underwrite APCs, and institutions who are targets for membership schemes. More internal customer service silos must disappear as the whole workflow is rethought.

If everything is rosy in the garden, why did Open Access pop up in almost every session? Well, we are still in the transitional stage between Hybrid, Green and Gold, and progress towards a more common approach is still patchy. The mandating issues are very much on the table, with only the UK and USA relatively self-assured. In the EU the new Commission will need time to settle in, and mandating policy may not be its first priority. Thinking about OA in Australia and New Zealand is positive, as it is in China – where scientific research output is blossoming – while developments in South America, perceived as a significant future market, are less coherent.

Hybrid, Green or Gold? You decide.
Behind the front line of even small publishers taking the plunge, there are other developments that shine a light on the changing landscape. Ottawa University Press is in partnership with the university library which financially supports some OA book titles. OECD, amongst others, uses the 'freemium' model, where read-only is free but download, print and other services are paid for, and it claims it works. OA repositories are adding to the exposure of published works, and bring PhD theses and research reports to readers’ attention. Scholarly publishing in libraries is growing the younger author pool, a trend rather more prominent in the USA than the UK.

Simon Ross (left) presents Fred with his Award
Many details remain to be chewed over: Should APCs apply only to published papers when rejected papers also incur a high cost? ‘Value for money’ becomes more of an issue now that the cost of publishing is out in the open. It is in the joint interests of libraries and publishers to support each other; what’s the best way to maximize exposure and discovery of the work? Almost the last comment of the last Plenary was that most if not all new journal launches will be Open Access; another example of the glass half full.

There was genuine delight when Fred Dylla, CEO of AIP and a driver of clear thinking about OA policies was announced as the winner of this year’s ALPSP Award for Contribution to Scholarly Publishing.


Kurt Paulus
kurtpaulus@hotmail.co.uk

Monday, 15 September 2014

A call to all ambitious society publishers from Susan Hezlet

ALPSP Committees and Council are at the heart of what we do. They are a group of dedicated industry volunteers who advise, steer and guide the secretariat, providing strategic direction and practical support so we can connect, inform, develop and represent the scholarly publishing community.

Susan Hezlet, Publisher at the London Mathematical Society and outgoing member of the ALPSP Council, reflects on the pains and pleasures of volunteering in this guest post.

"About ten years ago I was asked to give a talk at an ALPSP seminar, it wasn't particularly good, but the next thing was a request 'would I join the Professional Development Committee?' This involved co-organising a seminar - I think it was with Felicity Davie and Karen Hillmansen. That was fun, I learnt a lot in the process and we were guided and kept to the task with the help of Lesley Ogg.

The next request was 'would I be Treasurer of ALPSP?' Five years and a lot of direct involvement in authorising payments, helping with the interviewing and appointment of a Chief Executive, being asked to attend meetings on open access policy development, trotting over to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to tell them how important scholarly publishing is - not that they still do regular meetings since Vince Cable moved in.

Then it was 'would I do a second term?' This was followed by me saying no, but it would be nice to do one more year on Council as an ordinary member. Three years later... and I'm finally finished.

Perhaps this doesn't sound like fun? However, it is perhaps the best free education you can get in publishing! I have had good times with my fellow publishers on the PDC and ALPSP Council, all of whom are way more senior and knowledgeable than me. All of the people who work for ALPSP are highly professional and generous in the extra time they devote to supporting the rest of us.

It was through ALPSP connections that I managed to find and persuade some excellent publishers and consultants to come and join our Publications Committee at the London Mathematical Society. I have learnt a great deal from them and over the years it has transformed the committee, from one where the Editors spent time on the use of the Oxford comma, to a business committee with a strategic plan (thanks Mark!)

As a small society publisher who spends most of her time being a pain in the arse for my larger publishing distributors, I would not have had the confidence to ask and occasionally insist on a decent service from them without the conversations and support of people involved with ALPSP.

On the second day of the 2014 conference, while I should have been listening to even more good advice from the great speakers we had at the event, I was tucked away with the first round of business proposals from no less than nine publishers. Without the networking and experience of dealing with senior publishers in ALPSP, I would not have known where to begin. It has been a fascinating read and one of these days I will write my memoirs...

Finally, I have made some good friends. In the long run, there is nothing more important.

So. This is a call to all ambitious Society Publishers who want to learn something beyond their own field of publishing; Volunteer!"

Huge thanks go to Susan for her time on PDC and Council. She can be contacted via the London Mathematical Society website.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Open access: the daily challenge (new customers, processes and relationships)

Phil Hurst, Jackie Jones, Wim van der Stelt
Springer's Wim van der Stelt chaired the final panel at the 2014 ALPSP International Conference. The panellists reflected on the daily challenges of starting an open access product and how the new business model fundamentally alters the publication chain.

Phil Hurst from the Royal Society talked about how they approached launching OA journals. They had a gap in their portfolio and they thought the best way to do this was to launch an OA journal. Open Biology was their first online only journal.

They learnt that many things are the same. Getting the right people on the board is key: you need top people. Content is still king and they need to get the journal in the right places. Open access is a big benefit to everyone. They didn't really realise until they launched the journal. The benefits to stakeholders include speeding up science. There is greater visibility for universities and funders. For researchers there is increased visibility and results. It was good for them to get involved in the OA community.

Much of the marketing is the same, but they supplemented this with an OA membership. Authors from member institutions receive a discount on pure or hybrid access. They incorporated a wider range of metrics including DORA and Altmetrics as a range of measures of research impact. It has also provided them with a springboard. They launched the journal to learn and prepare for the future. OA is consistent with the mission of learned societies. Sustainable? The jury is still out, we will only learn by putting OA journals to the test.

Alex Christoforou from BioMed Central asked who is the actual customer for an OA publisher? They have hundreds of journals across BMC and Springer with hundreds of members, thousands of authors and transactions. What they all need is access to the publisher, support and excellent customer service.

Alex Christoforou
They continue to provide some good old fashioned and reassuring tools to support authors such as a fax number, photos of the team on the web and lots of different ways to contact them. They have 4000 customer service queries each quarter that they deal with. It's increasing as well. They have to provide some kind of service 24 hours a day so they can turn around queries in one day. They even provide online banking for those that spend large amounts of money.

Customer services is not just complaints, payments and author services. It's a way of thinking across the organisation so that all stakeholder groups can build a constructive relationship with them and business can grow over time.

Jackie Jones from Wiley talked about subscription versus open access and 'flipping' journals. They have flipped eight journals so far and it is early days. Some of the key flip criteria they assess include
whether it has a modest subscription revenue. Typically these are young journals that haven't achieved predicted revenues. They also look at areas where there is evidence of good OA funding and existing hybrid activity. Where there is longer term growth potential or attractiveness to authors. They also consider ratio of current revenue to articles.

For publishers flipping can lead to potential for faster growth, but there is higher volatility of revenues. From a society perspective, it provides an opportunity to explore OA. However there is risk commercially and editorially. From the funder point of view some prefer full OA journals but Gold OA is the only option. From an institutional point of view there is no subs fee, but you have to track APCs and costs. For tools and modelling they have flow charts and decision trees to help monitor and track submissions and revenues.

EMBO Molecular Medicine launched in 2009. It had modest subscription sales and the society had concerns about visibility. There was an 85% rejection rate. The per page publication charge was 125 euros and pre-flip the average author cost was 1600 euros. They set the APC at 3000 euros in line with other journals in the society's portfolio. Submissions doubled in the launch period. However, on other journals there was a dip in submissions initially, but they do recover.

They have learnt you need to plan ahead and time communication really carefully. Make sure papers in hand are under the new model so you don't have to waive fees. Don't flip mid year and avoid complications of subs reimbursements. Undertake submissions and publications surveys.