Wednesday, 1 April 2020

How to be most effective when homeworking

Guest blog by founder of Redwood Publishing Recruitment, Theresa Duncan

With an increasing number of companies asking their staff to work remotely from the office, many people will be learning new ways of tackling the daily task list. We’ve compiled some helpful tips to make working from home more straightforward, based on our experiences and those of candidates we work with.

Creating a workspace
The first, and one of the most important tips, is to create a dedicated workspace. Perching on the end of the kitchen table while your family eat around you is never going to work! Even if you have to move to a spare bedroom, use the sitting room for part of the day or even the garden shed, creating your own area to work in.

Once you have secured your workspace, now’s the time to set out a plan and schedule. Think how your normal workday is scheduled and try to mirror this as much as possible. For instance, if you always start with a ‘to do’ list, make this the first thing you do. Keep team meetings and 121s in place and look to achieve tasks during the day and week.

Sharing is caring
To help keep your schedule, share it with others who are in your home. Whether these are flatmates or family, it’s important that they respect your time and keep noise and activity to a minimum, especially if you’re on a video call!

Break it up
It’s important to schedule regular breaks, whether it’s for a coffee or lunch away you’re your desk. While you are at home, take advantage of eating as healthily as possible – homemade sandwiches, baked potatoes, veggie pasta and rice bowls are great options. Avoid sugary snacks such as biscuits and cake – they only give you a false energy high. And step outside. We are still able to exercise outside, so perhaps use your lunch hour for a power walk or jog. Drop into the garden for air during the day, to literally clear your head.

Identify when you are at your most productive or change your work hours to be online when your clients or colleagues are. And think about dressing for the occasion. We’ve all heard about newsreaders wearing shorts under the desk and a jacket just for the TV camera, but if dressing more smartly helps your productivity, or doing your hair gets you in the zone, embrace it! There is nothing wrong with looking the part just because you are working from home. The important part is your output and getting the job done.

Stick to the 9-5
If you were in the office, you would not be thinking about the washing or running errands, so the same should apply when you are homeworking. Quit the tasks during the day or make time for them before you start work. You need as few distractions as possible, so taking housework or errands out of the mix will help you to focus. Social Media can be a huge distraction, so disable alerts and put your personal phone on silent to help you focus on the 9-5.

Keep in touch and keep motivated
One of our final tips is to keep in touch with co-workers. As a recruitment business, Redwood Publishing Recruitment do this on a daily basis, contacting candidates and clients regularly. We plan in calls, emails and meetings and stick to them, becoming business as usual. Use this to keep yourself motivated in and in touch with your colleagues. We’ve heard how effective Zoom has been for all team and 121 meetings, even being used by some for a 5pm ‘Friday hurrah’ as the week draws to a close. There are plenty of video calling options; the key thing is to utilise them to keep motivated and in touch with your team. Remote working can be challenging, but this, and the other ideas, should make your working week a little easier to manage.

Redwood Publishing Recruitment is offering ALPSP members free advice on homeworking, career coaching, team restructures, recruitment and other employment needs during this unprecedented time. Their qualified careers coach is happy to answer all your questions, just email:

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The partnership that built a platform fit for 21st century publishing

In the run up to the ALPSP Webinar Series, Case studies in collaboration: the next wave of platform hosting initiatives, Harriet Bell (Emerald Publishing) and David Leeming (67 Bricks) discuss their alliance.
Back in 2017, all of Emerald’s journals, and most of their books and case studies, were stored and managed by Atypon on the Literatum platform. But Emerald lacked control over their customer data and user experiences; and there was no flexibility to innovate - essential in the new digital era. How does a small publisher hold their nerve to digitally transform?

What were the key issues behind moving from a vendor platform?

Harriet Bell: The ability to innovate was paramount. User needs are dramatical
ly changing and they expect personalised, digital products, tailored to their own needs, as standard. We were keen to take back control of our customer data and offer new products, but our vendor platform was holding us back. We wanted to build something ourselves but it was too big a task. We thought: why not find a technology partner who can help us do the best of both - build something tailored to our users needs whilst buying in the best of the latest flexible technologies that are already out there - and take a ‘partner’ or ‘hybrid-build’ approach?

What is a hybrid-build approach?

David Leeming: The hybrid-build approach is all about flexibility and getting closer to the customer. Today’s developers and architects have taken the best lessons from the monolithic platforms of old and are now creating smart, flexible frameworks built to interact with other systems and to create opportunities to build business-changing assets that will age gracefully. Taking a hybrid-build approach means selecting and using the best of breed components that are out there, and combining these with your own specific architecture,design and development. Your partner can provide upgrades to the service in real-time, with little or no disruptions to the service or the other systems with which they are interacting. Other features and applications can also be added to the architecture fairly easily.

What is unique about the partnership between 67 Bricks and Emerald?

Harriet: 67 Bricks really got our overall goals around digital transformation and going beyond academia from the start. They helped us bang the drum internally, and win hearts and minds. This level of commitment helped build mutual trust; it never felt ‘them and us’. The other key ingredients? 67 Bricks were, and are, unafraid to challenge us. Their role as ‘critical friend’ is an essential one for us. We want to push the boundaries in publishing - and we need to be challenged sometimes to do that. For example, when user requirements ran into the thousands, 67 Bricks were not afraid to push back and call on us to focus.

If publishers are considering a new digital platform, what three top tips would you leave them with?  

1. Select the appropriate partners to help
2. Run a focussed and phased implementation that builds out capabilities whilst delivering business value
3. Last but not least, prioritisation is key - don’t try and do everything at once.

To join the webinar on 6 May email Susie Brown or visit the ALPSP website.

About the Speakers

Harriet Bell
Harriet Bell, Marketing Director, Emerald

Harriet Bell has worked in academic publishing for over 20 years and is now a Board member for Emerald Publishing which is an independent social science and humanities publisher. Harriet is responsible for global marketing and product development for Emerald at a time of exciting opportunity and change, moving towards innovative content formats to more broadly communicate research findings, supporting open science and above all looking at the role publishers can play in supporting research impact.

David Leeming, Head of Client Services, 67 Bricks
David Leeming

David is Head of Client Services at 67 Bricks Ltd a technology company that is leading the evolution of content and data capabilities at scholarly publishers. At 67 Bricks he oversees consultancy and software development projects and has taken a lead in exploring how technologies like AI and machine learning can deliver value in the information industry. David is a regular speaker at publishing events, having delivered talks at several industry events. He brings practical experience of the use of these technologies on real projects at 67 Bricks and an in-depth publishing knowledge of over 20 years working for scholarly publishers.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Updates on Accessibility and Sustainability at University Press Redux 2020: Steps in the Right Direction

Nisha Doshi
Senior Digital Development Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Last summer we floated the idea of a parent-baby room to allow new parents to attend this year’s University Press Redux Conference. We received lots of positive feedback about this suggestion, but it wasn’t clear that anyone would specifically wish to make use of a parent-baby facility at this particular event. We’ve therefore decided to broaden our plans to cater for the needs of attendees at this conference and we wanted to share with you the plans we’ve put in place:

  • Building from the idea of the parent and baby room, we’ve designated a room at Churchill College as a Quiet Space, which can be used by anyone wishing to take time out from the busy conference day. 
  • In partnership with the Disability and Neurodiversity Staff Network at Cambridge University Press, we have developed best practice guidelines for speakers to ensure that presentations are accessible. If you are chairing or speaking at this year’s Redux event, please do look out for these guidelines from ALPSP. 
  • We have also arranged large signage to help delegates navigate around the conference venue, and we implore attendees to use a microphone when asking questions in conference sessions. We’ll provide roving mics to help with this. 
  • Lastly, we’ll be offering delegates pronoun badges at the registration desk and we encourage everyone to make use of these, even if you have not used one before.

For those who can’t attend the event in person, several of us will be live tweeting the conference sessions (#Redux2020). If you’re following along on Twitter and want to ask a question of one of the speakers, just let us know on the Twitter feed and we’ll do our best to ask your question and tweet the answer. We’ll also be making the slides and audio recordings of sessions available on the conference website after the event.

As part of Cambridge University Press and ALPSP’s commitment to sustainability, we’ve been careful to strike a balance between providing printed materials and minimising environmental impact. So, we will be providing signage and pocket conference planners but we won’t be providing every delegate with a full printed programme, notepaper or pens. A conference app will be available and we encourage you to use this to plan your attendance at breakout sessions. It will also be possible to use the app to plan lift sharing to minimise your carbon footprint for this conference. Churchill College will provide mugs for coffee and tea, but please do bring along your own reusable bottles for water – we want to completely avoid the use of single-use cups. 

If you’ll be attending the University Press Redux Conference this year and have specific requirements or suggestions, please do let us know when you make your booking, or as soon as you can by emailing ALPSP on While we have a limited budget, it’s extremely important to us that this event is accessible to and inclusive of everyone.

To register for the Conference, go to the event website or email ALPSP for details.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

ALPSP 2019 Conference Report

This year’s annual ALPSP conference once again focused on the key issues facing society publishers – from Plan S and open access to diversity, copyright, and Brexit – offering a wide range of perspectives on how to navigate this changing landscape.

Professor Stephen Curry
Professor Stephen Curry, chair of DORA, gave a wide-ranging overview of the deficiencies of our current market-driven measures of success, suggesting many urgent opportunities for improvement. Though metrics can be useful, he suggested, too often they are too closely tied to extrinsic rewards or misapplied by those who fail to understand their context. Our focus on journal impact factors, for instance, slows publication, creates a bias towards positive results, and even incentivises fraud. Many of these problems, Curry argued, might be mitigated by the complementary adoption of article-level metrics – which shift attention to the quality of articles themselves – and the sharing of preprints, which increase circulation speed and encourage greater scrutiny, thereby revealing flaws that might be missed by reviewers. More nuanced journal-level metrics that assess the range of activities that journals perform – from evaluation to archiving – would also be helpful. Ultimately, our assessment of research should ensure that it is reliable and rapid, accessible, and high quality, transforming our understanding of the world and changing it for the better.

The following panel session, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, chaired by Rebecca Asher of Sense About Science, saw four industry leaders discuss the glass ceiling that still affects women within
the scholarly ecosystem. Leslie Yellowlees, the first woman president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, described change within STEM as ‘glacially slow’; Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press, noted the ‘subtle slights’ that discourage women from developing their careers, from not receiving invitations to overhearing negative comments, and recommended that women ‘engage head on’ with these microaggressions. Sarah Greaves, publishing director at Hindawi, agreed, arguing that women need actively to retrain themselves to challenge the assumptions of authority, such as the persistent assumptions noted by Allison Lang of the BMJ that, as a woman, she would make the tea and book taxis, and act as her children’s primary care-giver.

Day two began with the launch of the results of the Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project in a panel session on Open Transitions within Plan S, chaired by Alicia Wise of Information Power. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and UKRI and conducted in partnership with ALPSP, the project has issued a collection of outputs including 27 business models, a model transformative agreement, and an implementation toolkit. Commenting on the more than 100 responses received – two thirds from STEM societies; a third from HSS – Rachel Bruce, Head of Open Science for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), noted society publishers’ reliance on hybrid models and the difficulties they encountered in dealing with consortia. Lorraine Estelle of Information Power then gave an overview of the toolkit while exploring the possibilities that transformative models offer for society publishers, repurposing existing institutional spending to provide predictable and attractive revenue streams that nevertheless made content openly available. More than 90% of the library consortia consulted for the survey, she noted, were keen to work with publishers on exploring such models; and though they tended not to see current spend as sustainable in the long-term, they were willing to accept a cost-neutral transformation in the short term. Following Bruce, Gaynor Redvers-Mutton shared some of the lessons the Microbiology Society had learned from developing a Publish and Read model as part of the project, flipping their business model institution-by-institution and country-by-country through offering ‘all you can eat’ access to all their journal content on payment of a single upfront fee. The process was essential to the society’s own mission of sharing and promoting biomedical research, but it had also been time-consuming and involved risks – particularly financially – that they had attempted to mitigate through the setting of time limits. Responses had been hugely positive, though some were concerned that the society might be displaying commercial naivete. Shelley Allen closed the session by discussing Emerald’s new open research platform Emerald Open Research, launched in partnership with F1000 and focused primarily on the humanities and social sciences, where funding for APCs is rarer and open access content less common. Describing the platform as not a journal but a web-based platform with an author-led approach, Allen explained that – as Curry had suggested the day before, talking about preprints more generally – it enabled rapid publication, open peer review, and for research to be judged on its merits, not its place of publication.

Thursday’s second plenary session saw Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive of Publishers’ Licensing Services discuss ‘The Changing Copyright Landscape Across the World and the Impact of Brexit with Elisabeth Ribbans, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the British Copyright Council. Conversation began with a discussion of the new EU copyright directive, two years in the making, which has introduced a mandatory copyright exception for text and data mining the contents of scientific journals for scientific and research purposes; Faulder noted also that a new ‘bestseller clause’ allowed authors to renegotiate contracts for works that outperform expectations. However, given that the UK is set to leave the European Union during the two-year implementation period, and that the government has as yet made no move to implement the directive, its future status in UK law remains uncertain. Considering further the UK’s position after leaving the European Union, Ribbans observed that existing copyright law adopted by the UK should largely remain unchanged, excepting databases, whose infrastructure would no longer be protected; however, future trade agreements with the more copyright-liberal US might threaten current protections.

Friday’s final sessions returned to the subjects of open access and Plan S. In the first, Transforming publishing: Sharing perspectives on the latest models to expand open access, chaired by Dan Pollock of Delta Think, Springer Nature’s Steven Inchcoombe explained that though publishers had been served well by subscription models, they must accept the benefits that open access offers science, and find ways of making it work for them. Ralf Schimmer of the Max Planck Digital Library insisted that open access was the only legitimate business model in a fully digital world, reminding listeners that there was already enough money in the system to pay for it, while Niamh O’Connor of PLOS noted that the move to open access would have its own long tail, with the timeline for open access books looking very different to that for journals. Malavika Legge of the Biochemical Society’s Portland Press shared some of the lessons drawn from the adoption of open access models by a society heavily dependent on subscription revenues to support its other work: don’t be distracted by deadlines, but learn by doing; talk with other publishers, consortia, and institutions; and, be open about routes to sustainable OA.

The session concluded with discussion of Plan S – broadly welcomed, though with some concerns over its prescriptiveness.  This led neatly into the conference’s closing session, Plan S - the road ahead, in which Johan Rooryck, newly-installed OA champion at cOAlition S, discussed the principles behind Plan S and recent changes in its implementation guidance. With timelines extended by a year, a range of transformative agreements would now be supported until the end of 2024, but hybrid journals would remain uncompliant because they had been shown not to work; immediate green OA would, however, be acceptable. Rooryck stressed that the coalition was listening to stakeholders: it was working with researchers – and particularly those in their early careers – to understand and then mitigate their concerns, and with learned societies too: it would work with publishers and other stakeholders to define the services involved in publishing and then price them. Libraries would play a vital role in the transformation too, particularly in converting subscriptions to open access payments.

In addition to the plenary sessions, this year’s conference once again included a wealth of parallel sessions covering such key topics as diversity, early career researchers, innovation, open peer review, open monographs, and the future of the book. Thursday evening’s awards dinner also saw Ann Michael, Chief Digital Officer for PLOS and founder of strategic consultancy Delta Think, honoured for her lifetime contribution to scholarly publishing, while the award for innovation in publishing Scite, a platform to evaluate the reliability of scientific claims using deep learning models alongside a network of experts. Also shortlisted were BMJ Best Practice from BMJ with 67 Bricks, preLights from the Company of Biologists, and Ripeta
went to

Friday, 6 September 2019

ALPSP Guest Blog: Copyright Clearance Center (CCC): Top 3 Types of Transformative Agreements

Recently, funders and institutions have been reconsidering the established business models in scholarly publishing, particularly the subscription model favored by Scientific, Technical, Medical, and Scholarly publishers. In the year since the debut of Plan S, that conversation has rapidly accelerated and has expanded to include many other important stakeholders.

Now, given mandates from the funding community, government agencies, and research institutions, more journal content is published Open Access. Instead of a subscription fee, authors or their institutions/funders pay an article processing charge (APC) to make articles Open Access.

Beyond Gold Open Access and Green Open Access, many scholarly publishers are signing new types of annual or biannual agreements with institutions or consortia. In some cases, for example, these agreements combine one fee to access or read the publisher’s subscription content with a second fee or per-article-fee to publish the institution’s eligible research articles Open Access.

The three most common types of agreements being signed today between publishers and institutions include Read and Publish, Membership, and Deposit.

Under a Read and Publish agreement, the institution pays an agreed upon amount for “read” access to subscription-based journals (the subscription fee portion of the agreement) and receives “publish” benefits: all eligible and accepted manuscripts from the institution’s researchers are published Open Access immediately (the APC portion of the agreement).
  • Within these agreements, the APCs are often discounted
  • The transactions reflect a zero-balance due from the author and institution, but all parties need a record that the “transaction” has occurred or that an eligible article has been published Open Access.
  • Sometimes, these agreements have caps and when the APC cap or monetary threshold is reached, a retail or discounted Open Access charge must be paid “out-of-pocket” by the author or institution.
  • Sometimes institutions must approve manuscript eligibility, but increasingly the agreements expect no approval, by the institution or the publisher, in advance of articles being published Open Access.
  • When the larger share of an agreement’s value provides publishing benefits, the term “Publish and Read” may be used to describe the arrangement (instead of “Read and Publish”).


Under a Membership Agreement (or Partner Agreement), the institution pays a “membership fee” to the publisher.
  • In exchange for enrolling as a member or partner in the publisher’s Open Access program, authors from the member institution(s) receive discounted Open Access charges.
  • When a manuscript is accepted and the Open Access transaction is placed, usually by the author, the APC due reflects the discounted membership price.
  • Sometimes institutions must approve funding requests before the invoice is generated.

In some cases, an institution prepays or deposits an agreed-upon amount to the publisher to cover all anticipated APCs for a given time period, usually a year.
  • In exchange for the upfront deposit, the institution is eligible for discounted APCs.
  • Open Access transactions reflect a zero-balance due from the author and institution, but all parties need a record that the “transaction” has occurred. On an agreed upon cycle, as articles are published Open Access, the publisher deducts the net price transaction value (retail prices less the agreed upon discounts) from the deposit account.
  • When the deposit is exhausted, the discounted Open Access charge must be paid “out-of-pocket” by the author or the institution. 
  • Sometimes institutions must approve funding requests before the APC debits can occur. 
  • Some agreements require the author to complete the APC payment workflow. But, increasingly, other agreements provide that the articles will be published under an Open Access license without the author completing an APC payment workflow.

While these models of Transformative Agreements are common, new models are constantly evolving based on the unique complexities involved in any particular negotiation. To get a sense of the variety, browse ESAC’sAgreement Registry for dozens of recent Transformative Agreements.

Stakeholders, including publishers, funders, and institutions, may feel a different level of urgency based on their location or other factors, but many participants in the scholarly publishing industry are committed to the shift to Open Access. While
January 1, 2020 loomed large as a significant deadline for Europeans over the last year, under the May 2019 revisions to the Plan S principles and implementation guidelines hybrid Open Access journals can be accepted under Transformative Agreements until 2024. 

Author: Kurt Heisler
Biog: Kurt Heisler is Director of Sales, Publisher, at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). He has been with CCC for over a decade assisting global publishers in expanding their licensing and permission business. For the past five years, he has focused on the Open Access aspect of the publishing business with RightsLink®. Prior to CCC, he worked in Silicon Valley with internet start-ups, cable TV, video-on-demand and online gaming industries. 

Many thanks to Copyright Clearance Center for sponsoring the ALPSP Frankfurt Member Dinner which will be held at Quattro Ristorante Italiano, Frankfurt on 15 October 2019. You can book your place here

Thursday, 29 August 2019

1st Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum—Dialog with Learned Societies: Sustainable Solutions for Successful Transition to Open Access

Academic publishing has undergone many changes in the last two decades. Chief among these is the emergence of open access, which have greatly affected the delivery of research to readers and the status of authors, in addition to publisher revenue streams. The current publishing landscape can appear very complex, with a variety of strategies implemented to achieve open access. These include hybrid journals, depositing of draft or accepted versions of articles, embargo periods, levying article processing charges, or seeking benefactors to fund free-to-author open access options.

Learned societies are often relatively small publishers and can be under pressure during times of change. Many rely heavily on publishing revenue to fund valuable services for researchers in their field, and publishing often fulfils a key part of their mission to promote knowledge. Since the emergence of Plan S in Europe, there have been suggestions that some societies face closure if they are forced to convert to open-access-only publishing modes. Is this really the case or are there opportunities hidden within these daunting challenges that could be explored? What are learned societies most concerned about and where do they have the most to contribute to the new publishing landscape?

The MDPI Sustainability Foundation is hosting a forum to bring together representatives from the industry, including learned societies, librarians, and open access publishers, to survey the current status and explore challenges facing the sector. The goal is to ensure a vibrant and diverse landscape within academic publishing. The title of the day is the 1st Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum -Dialog with Learned Societies: Sustainable Solutions for Successful Transition to Open Access and we will hear from representatives of learned societies in order to understand the challenges they face to transition journals to Open Access. A number of publishing experts will also share their views on open access journals and how the current climate might affect learned society publishers. A key point will be how the requirements of Plan S will affect the stability of the research evaluation system, academic publishing, and researchers themselves.

The day will mix keynote talks with discussion sessions. Confirmed speakers include:

A representative of cOAlition S to present the details of Plan S, guidelines and timeline for implementation.

Alicia Wise who will present potential strategies and business models through which learned societies can transition to an open access landscape and adapt to Plan S. These recommendations arise from the consultancy done by Information Power, and commissioned by Wellcome, in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP).

Jan Erik Frantsvåg will present a detailed overview and perspective on the current status of the open access landscape.

Saskia de Vries will present the principles of fair open access, in the context of Plan S and their relevance to societies.

The day will be opened by Antonio Loprieno, President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, President of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, and former Rector of the University of Basel.

A full program and registration can be found online at

We are looking forward to a vibrant day of discussion and debate. The talks will be recorded and made available online after the event.

Spotlight on BMJ Best Practice and 67 Bricks - shortlisted for the 2019 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

On 12 September, at the ALPSP Conference, we will be announcing the winners of the 2019 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  In this series of posts leading up to the Awards ceremony, we meet our finalists and get to know a bit more about them.

First of all we hear about BMJ Best Practice and 67 Bricks

BMJ Best Practice
BMJ is a healthcare knowledge provider that advances healthcare worldwide by sharing knowledge and expertise to improve experiences, outcomes and value. BMJ Best Practice is a generalist point of care tool particularly useful for junior doctors, multidisciplinary teams, specialists working outside of their specialty and GPs. It is uniquely structured around the patient consultation with advice on symptom evaluation, test ordering and treatment approach for over 1000 conditions across 30 specialties. BMJ Best Practice provides a rich source of expertise that healthcare professionals rely on every day.

67 Bricks are a software development consultancy who help publishers deliver information products for the data-driven world. We give publishers control, flexibility and agility so that they can deliver the compelling user experiences that their customers increasingly demand. Our custom-built solutions enable publishers to increase the value of their content, support existing and new business models, enable better reuse of content and deliver increased revenues from digital products.

What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

At BMJ Best Practice we wanted to be more innovative with our product development pipeline and user experience in line with our users’ changing needs and expectations. Clinicians increasingly want concise answers at the point of care rather than long-form reference text, but our content was being created, stored and presented as monolithic articles typically extending to thousands of words. This made it difficult to improve the user interface and limited our ability to slice and dice content to power new products or to deliver our content to third parties for integration into granular software systems, for example Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems.

We therefore took a strategic decision not only to relaunch the product, but to build a completely new editorial production system, and crucially, to reinvent the underlying data structure of the content to make it more granular, flexible and reusable. To help us achieve this we partnered with publishing technology experts 67 Bricks. The success of the project has enabled us to satisfy current market demands, create new market opportunities, upskill our technology team and provides a springboard for further product innovation.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The most visible outcome of the project is our relaunched point of care tool, BMJ Best Practice. It is significantly more user focused and we have introduced many new features. For example users now have the ability to:
  • switch languages
  • receive important updates on the latest evidence changes
  • access 400+ calculators
  • watch practical videos of common procedures.
We have seen a 202% growth in traffic, 39% increase in year-on-year revenue and a 95% retention rate.

In addition, our internal staff now have a much improved content production system which is responsive, collaborative, quicker to use and supported by a powerful faceted search function. As a result of this and our new ability to integrate with third parties we have been able to revolutionise our content translation process leading to an 80% increase in capacity and 40% reduction in costs.

The achievement we are probably most proud of is that our content is now structured and managed in a much more futureproof way. As such we are in a better place to continue to innovate our current and existing products, build partnerships and integrate with third party systems. A lot of intelligent work went on “behind the scenes” in order to achieve this, for example:
  • We created a new content model, composed of individually referenceable fragments of content (e.g. assessment, diagnosis), which was refined iteratively throughout the project. More standardised than the old model, it provides us the scope to reuse, repackage and serve up our content in different ways.
  • A Knowledge Base API was built to allow the new website to retrieve the content to power innovative front-end features such as enhanced search capability and medical recommendations.This API can also be used by BMJ or new partners to power future products. 
  • Content enrichment and entity recognition was used to add significantly more value to our existing content, for example to identify drug names and diagnoses.
The joint BMJ and 67 Bricks team behind the project consisted of technology, content, product and market experts. Agile methodology and the principles of user-led ‘Pragmatic Marketing’ were used to ensure that customer problems were addressed first and foremost. BMJ and 67 Bricks’ developers worked together in an Agile way, as one co-development team, developing, prototyping, testing and gathering and responding to user feedback ‘on the go’. This was facilitated through heavy use of online communication channels, daily joint stand-ups and reciprocal code review. The team were able to talk openly about how to implement features and a shared understanding of the business drivers meant that everyone on the team was working towards a common goal. Co-developing the solution in this way has ensured maximum knowledge transfer to BMJ’s developers who are now well placed to continue to maintain and extend Best Practice to meet future needs.

What are your plans for the future?

Longer term we are in a much improved position. Our content is now more flexible, granular and standardised, which means we have the opportunity to innovate and build commercial partnerships in a way we weren’t able to do before. 


The impact of the new, revamped product and the competitive advantages that our improved content and data capabilities have brought have already been significant. Our customer retention rate has exceeded 90% and we have 3 major product development projects in the pipeline. We are actively pursuing opportunities for Best Practice to link with Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) and we have been able to tender for content related business opportunities that were previously out of reach, with clients such as NHS England, Wales and Scotland.
photo Chris Wroe

Chris Wroe, MB BChir is a health informatician at the BMJ ensuring BMJ’s healthcare content can be integrated into the heart of the clinical workflow. He is a qualified medical doctor, with 18 years experience in bio-health informatics and a special interest in biomedical ontologies.

photo Isaac Menso

Isaac Menso, is the Product Development Manager for the BMJ Knowledge Centre, working to create new products and develop existing products that solve market problems. He is passionate about building innovative digital solutions that help people.

photo Jennifer Schivas
Jennifer Schivas is Head of Strategy and Industry Engagement at 67 Bricks, a software development consultancy that help publishers deliver data-driven information products. She has previously held roles at Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis and Intellect Books. 

Twitter: @BMJBestPractice and @67bricks
See the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2019 finalists at the ALPSP Conference on 11-13 September where the winners will be announced. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by MPS Ltd.