Monday, 5 September 2022

Guest Blog - Frontiers Public Trust, Societies and Open Science


Public Trust, Societies and Open Science 

In the context of extreme global events, I find myself turning more and more to the possibilities of a collective response. Scientists have made enormous efforts in recent years for deeper and faster collaboration. And scientific research publication bears a profoundly important social responsibility. On both these fronts, society publishers are in the vanguard.

The context for their efforts is stark. Too frequently, in an often poor-quality, binary public debate, public trust in the veracity of science, in its intentions and its cost, falls away. Political accountability grows weaker when we don’t have the science, the trade-offs, and the difficult choices in view.

At Frontiers, we want to help change that. We are a fully open access publisher. We want all science to be open. To us, global, existential threats call for scientific breakthroughs at pace, based on full and immediate access to the latest research.

Now the move to open access is underway across parts of the publishing industry, and I know the appetite for it is building. But in my view, the pace of change does not match the aspirations I sense in society publishers. As the campaign group cOAlition S itself points out, more than half of the two thousand transformative journals enrolled in the Plan S program have missed their annual targets in the move to full open access. Meanwhile two thirds of the world’s science remains behind a paywall.

Add to this the arrival of transformative agreements – "read and publish" or hybrid deals – which have in our view sown confusion and opacity, and of course, societies are looking hard for certainty and clarity. With a decision to publish open access – and the commitment to deeper and faster scientific collaboration – I believe they can find both. It is possible to find the right fit. It is possible to meet the appetite for open access while protecting, and growing, sustainable income.

At Frontiers, we offer a platform that is industry standard while also being open to a tailored approach to a society’s specific needs. We can extend the brand, dissemination, and financial future of societies. We support societies with guaranteed minimum incomes, when necessary. We are building partnerships and agreements with funding institutions across the world to broaden opportunities to society authors. And we work hard to be financially transparent with our partners, to share our evidence and expectations of sustainable profit. We believe the traditional subscription model leads to excessive costs. It is still the case that the average price of an article in a legacy journal is significantly higher than it is in open access journals.[1]

So, we need to realign expectations. And with flexibility, ambition, and focus, I think commercial and society publishers have an enormous opportunity to drive change that is both good for business, and good for society. As we face down global challenges, open access science can grow our chances of success. And it can help meet public appetite for accountability, transparency, and trust.



[1] It is not transformation if nothing changes, 2022 (figure 2), Frontiers, 2022



About the Author

Robyn Mugridge











Robyn joined the Open Access publisher Frontiers in 2018. In 2019 she moved onto the role of publishing partnerships manager and established the Publishing Partnerships department. Promoted to head of publishing partnerships in 2022, her work now focuses on strategic collaborations with societies and associations, supporting them as they engage with their communities and develop their publications by transitioning to open access publishing models.



Further Information

Twitter

Frontiers Publishing Partnerships @FrontPartners

Frontiers @FrontiersIn

Robyn Mugridge @MugsPubs


LinkedIn

Frontiers https://www.linkedin.com/company/frontiers/

Robyn Mugridge https://www.linkedin.com/in/robyn-mugridge-8a461b86/

Guest Blog from ALPSP Conference sponsor - Silverchair

Why Having Independent Partners Matters

We at Silverchair recently announced that we have received a significant growth investment from our new capital partner (Thomson Street Capital Partners) to help us continue to scale our business and offer even more valuable products and services to learned and professional society publishers (i.e. the LPSP of ALPSP).






One of the crucial and most desirable aspects of the investment is that enables Silverchair to remain an independent, non-conflicted partner for society publishers. The feedback of the society publishers in our community has been resoundingly positive, as the investment is designed to increase the breadth of products and services available to them as well as attract additional society publishers into their community—with our ultimate goal of assembling and supporting a strong, sustainable community of independent publishers who can leverage Silverchair’s services and their peers’ knowledge and experience to react and thrive together as industry conditions change.

ITHAKA’s Roger C. Schonfeld recently provided his (independent) analysis of the TCSP investment in Silverchair in SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog, under the title of “Keeping Publishing Infrastructure Independent,” noting that “Silverchair remains vital infrastructure for some 400 scholarly publishers, which can feel a sense of relief that it remains independent.”

But Why Does the Independence of Your Key Partners Matter? 

As our President Will Schweitzer says (a lot), “Our top priority is to support our customers’ top priorities—in everything we do we must help publishers make money, save money, and best achieve their missions.” 

Maintaining independence allows Silverchair to avoid 1) conflict of interest or 2) conflict of priorities with our independent society customers. To expand on these two types of conflict:

1.     Many forms of partner conflict of interest are obvious – such as using platforms or services from a publisher that also publishes journals in your field and thus competes for finite authors, manuscripts, OA dollars, and subscription dollars. It is questionable how these partners can fulfill their legal responsibilities to their shareholders and yet also put society interests ahead of their own in the long run. However, there are legal structures and financial constructs that societies can use to try to identify and control for these obvious conflicts, so they can be seen as at least somewhat manageable.

2.     A partner’s conflict of priorities are less obvious (and more dangerous). An owner can put their own product development priorities above that of their customers’ needs when determining their forward roadmap or can cut back partner-facing resources, such as account management or client services. They can slow down the pace of product development in one area in order to refocus resources to other technology platforms (especially if they are a large organization with a variety of platforms). They can gather and use data about your submissions, authors, and registered readers to further their own author recruitment and sales. They can throttle support services to customers in order to have more staff to pursue these other strategies, which can disrupt operations or delay a society’s own product development plans. Crucially, these conflicts of priorities are not easy to name and control for in legal/financial terms, and thus the society may have little recourse if partner priority conflict worsens mid-relationship. (Worse, these examples are all drawn from real experiences society publishers have shared with us.)

This is why Silverchair puts such emphasis on our independence. We serve no other corporate parent or funder strategies. We run an open roadmap so that all of our customers can watch in real time (and have meaningful input into) the priorities and development of our platform. We succeed in the long run only if our society customers succeed in the long run, and so we are laser-focused on making that happen.

Silverchair believes that thriving, independent society publishers are an essential component of an optimal scholarly publishing future, and the lack (or diminishment) of these publishers would be a huge loss for researchers, professionals, and science writ large in society.

Independence matters – for you and your partners.

Want to learn more about our plans? Jake and other members of the Silverchair team are excited to be attending the ALPSP meeting and would love to set up a time to chat. Get in touch: jakez@silverchair.com.

Jake Zarnegar

Chief Business Development Officer

Silverchair

jakez@silverchair.com

 

Friday, 19 August 2022

Spotlight on: Impact Services

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of seven for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers on 14 September on the opening day of the ALPSP 2022 Conference in Manchester. The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday 15 September.

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. 

Emerald Publishing logo

Tell us about your organization  

Emerald Publishing is one of the world's leading digital first publishers, commissioning, curating and showcasing research that can make a real difference. We work with thousands of universities and business schools across the world to share knowledge and provoke the kind of debate that leads to positive change. We are a family founded business, passionate about people, and doing things differently. Going beyond the bounds of a traditional publisher, we want to be a facilitator of impact, encouraging equitable, healthy and sustainable research and publishing for all.  

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?  

Impact Services has been created in collaboration with academic impact experts, as well as universities and institutions in the UK and Australasia, with the aim of making ‘impact culture’ a daily reality for researchers and increasing the opportunities for research to make a difference. Alongside Emerald’s partners, we’ve created a service unique to the publishing industry which instead of focusing on the measurement and evaluation of impact, it creates a research environment conducive to producing high quality research that leads to real world change. 

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

logo impact services
Impact Services is a subscription, cloud-based service, made up of three parts: 

Impact Planner: A comprehensive planning tool, through which researchers are guided through a process to map impact pathways, engage with society and drive meaningful and measurable change. The planner is underpinned by the principles of Impact Literacy, navigating researchers through the processes of identifying need, articulating impact goals, identifying stakeholders and considering barriers to generate an overall plan.  

Impact Skills: Developed and created with our academic partners, Impact Skills is a set of learning materials to build impact competencies across the research ecosystem. The content reflects academic insights into the skills and the framework needed for building impact literacy, and specific content has been commissioned from key members of the research community, augmented by existing, relevant content from our online learning platform sister company, Mindtools. Coupled with and accessible from the impact planner – provides a rounded service in support of impact literacy planning and action.   

Impact Healthcheck: In parallel with the more individually focused Planner and Skills aspects, this section focuses on institutional practices and how to build ‘healthy’ approaches to impact. Our academic collaborators have identified how the pressures to deliver impact within the research sector risk unhealthy and non-inclusive practices, and this Healthcheck provides institutions with a diagnostic tool to understand what they are doing well and what areas they might want to focus on.  

Impact Services was based on the research and experience of Dr Julie Bayley and Dr David Phipps, both experts in the field of research impact. Alongside Emerald and Mindtools (an online learning company part of the Emerald Group), there were workshops with researchers and the research office, the commissioning of authors in the research environment and finally the digital development team to create the service. Now, Impact Services is worked on by a dedicated team at Emerald with expertise in UX, sales operations, customer operations, marketing, and publishing. We regularly action on feedback from our customers, and Dr Bayley and Dr Phipps, to ensure the service satisfies the appetite of the research community. 

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?  

The significance and innovation of Impact Services is threefold.  

Firstly, the suite of tools focuses on the development of healthy, literate practices based on the expert knowledge of those who support impact on a daily basis. Where many tools in the sector focus on measurement or capturing evidence of impact, Impact Services uniquely seeks to equip individuals with the means to build their own literacy and address practices of their work environment to maximise the likelihood of impact.   

Secondly, Impact Services represents a significant step change in the publishing sector, taking an end-to-end approach to impact from the inception of a research idea through to actual societal change, rather than solely focusing on better communication and dissemination of research outputs.   

Thirdly, the principles underpinning Impact Services have been embedded across Emerald’s business as a whole. Emerald updated its Impact Manifesto in 2022, is a signatory of DORA, and has since co-funded additional research to understand challenges around impact literacy in the funding application process. Impact Services will continue to evolve and refresh in line with the sector’s need.  

What are your plans for the future?  

We want to continue to support changes in research evaluation, showcase the stories of new approaches, and work to advocate healthy approaches to research impact.   

Through Impact Services, Emerald is supporting the need for a service which helps to plan for impact to enable stronger research outcomes. It helps to de-mystifying impact and to provide a structured way for research to lead to real change in the world. Emerald has an active roadmap and ensures new features are prioritised based on customer feedback and demand. We have always solicited regular and comprehensive feedback from customers and prospective users and want to ensure that we reward their time and honesty with the right improvements to the service. For example, we are scoping enhancements to the collaborative functionality of the service.  

About the author

photo Steve LodgeSteve Lodge is Head of Services for Emerald Publishing.  He has worked for the business for almost ten years, most recently looking at ways in which they can support research staff in developing their impact literacy; the ability to understand, appraise and make decisions on how research resonates with the outside world.

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Spotlight on: Hum

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of seven for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers on 14 September on the opening day of the ALPSP 2022 Conference in Manchester.

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday 15 September. 

Hum logo

Tell us about your organization

There are about 20 of us at Hum, and we are a fully remote organization. The idea of Hum developed from Silverchair’s product innovation function. We were set up as a separate company in late 2021 so that we could single-mindedly pursue an idea that we think has the potential to transform publishing.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

Hum is the product, as well as the company name. One of the challenges we face in talking about Hum is that there is a lot about it that is new and different. As a class of software, Hum is a ‘Customer Data Platform’ (or CDP), but for most publishers that isn’t that helpful a place to start since they aren’t that familiar with CDPs – although they are going to get familiar with them because my view is that every publisher (and society) will have a CDP as a central part of their tech stacks and – more importantly –business practices, within 5 years.
So what do CDPs do? They integrate with the other systems and databases at an organization and collect all of the relevant data about an audience (defined as everyone who comes into digital contact with that organization, covering user, reader, customer, reviewer, author, librarian, researcher, teacher, and learner, and so on) and then they allow you to manipulate that data for business use. The primary ways that organizations can use CDPs are via vastly improved segmentation and personalization. Sounds simple, but it is the means for organizations to make data-driven decisions about nearly everything they do.
At Hum, in addition to helping the publishing market to understand what CDPs are, we need to highlight Hum’s critical differentiators from the class of generic CDPs. These differentiators come from Hum’s focus as the only CDP built for content-rich organizations (publishing, most obviously).

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

Hum brings together all of the first party data relating to a publisher’s audience and provides that publisher with the tools to generate insights and take actions from that data. The systems integrated with are likely to be publishing platforms, websites, CRMs, commerce systems, marketing systems, and submission and peer review systems, for example. The data is demographic (name, age, location, email, title, university, library); transactional (a purchase made, a campaign email received); and behavioural (reading all or part of a journal article, visiting a blog post, opening an email, clicking on the email content, scrolling, carrying out a search, downloading content, listening to a podcast, watching a video).

It is this final category (behavioural data) where Hum’s differentiation really kicks in. You can generate significant insight and business benefit by understanding how your audience is engaging with your content. Hum tracks at a deep level every audience member’s interaction with content, capturing what is being read, by whom, how deeply, when, etc. When this behavioural data about interests and intent is tied together with other data (eg demographic and transactional), a lot of exciting use cases become possible. But Hum does not just collect up all the data that a publisher is already capturing (and in most cases not using). It generates significant new data. Hum uses AI (and this is genuinely AI, based upon our own proprietary development of Google’s BERT) to automatically tag every piece of content at a publisher. Many publishers have their journal and book content tagged at some level, but Hum automatically tags and assigns key words to ALL content (video, podcast, blog, content marketing, social, marketing pages, etc). So Hum is generating new data about a publisher’s audience’s engagement with a publisher’s entire content set.

This focus on content is a big differentiator. But also very important is that Hum is ‘built for humans’. While Hum is powerful it is also easy to use: data-driven decision making becomes something that everyone in the publisher can do, rather than requiring data scientists.

 

illustration graphic Hum


Hum is best understood by example. Say you want to market a new webinar. After implementing Hum, you can use Hum’s ‘Audience Explorer’ to build in a matter of seconds a precise segment that you think will be interested in that webinar. That segment of interested people will automatically be reflected in your email and advertising platforms to use for targeted messaging. The segment is live, not static: when people sign up for the webinar, they are removed.

Hum illustration graphic

When new people qualify, they get targeted messages or ads. For your identified users (for whom you have an email), you can promote the webinar ‘off platform’, often via regular communications that are specifically tailored down to the individual and drive 150%+ lift in metrics like opens and click throughs. You can also target anonymous users on your own sites via popup modals, personalized ads and content recommendations (webinars are content too!). And if I had more time, I’d tell you about ‘Content Explorer’ that allows publishers to understand what content is (and is not) working, for whom, where, when, and so on, to help to devise content and product development strategies based not on guesswork but on actual audience interest and behaviour.

The biggest use cases in publishing are: improved marketing via segmentation and personalization; improved ad targeting; author and reviewer acquisition; content strategy; audience building and identification; B2B sales; and new product development. As for the team, we are a mix of technologists, publishers, data scientists, and sales, marketing, and delivery people. We joined Hum for its mission and culture.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

Hum is the first CDP purpose-built for publishers. Publishers care a lot about their content. And so do we. Our focus on content as a first-class artifact is a key Hum differentiator amongst the broader CDP category, and it’s an area where much of our innovation is demonstrated. We’re developing a few proprietary features that help publishers evolve their content strategy and deepen their understanding of how readers interact with content.

I’ll highlight a few areas of content innovation:

- Engagement Scoring:

 

graphic illustrating engagement scoring


- Content & Audience Explorer:

graphic content and audience explorer

What are your plans for the future?

We’re just getting started and we’ve got miles to go! We just launched in 2021 and we’re still working our way towards fully understanding what publishers need and want from the Hum product. Hum’s success and future depends on delivering genuine differentiation and business value for publishers. We’ve had great success with our early customers, but we’re always listening for their feedback as we continue to evolve the product.

Hum uses a proprietary engagement algorithm that gives publishers a sense for their best topics and subtopics by assigning values to various content metrics. It reads each piece for engagement metrics like full and partial reads, visits by segment, overall traffic, etc. It compares these article-level metrics to other pieces in the corpus to share comparative insights on content performance.

- cueBERT: A modified version of Google’s BERT pre-trained model (trained on huge amounts of text), tweaked to read content and understand what it’s about.

- cueBERT uses Natural Language Processing and machine learning to understand the entire body of content, normalize the tagging of that content, and iteratively improve Hum’s recommendations engine.

This feature pulls a lot of what I’ve just described together. It’s an interactive tool that allows you to drill down into your content and audience based on various search parameters. It lets publishers get a real-time look at important trends, answering questions like: What topics are resonating most with x group?; How big is x segment, and more importantly, how can we activate them?; Where are the gaps in our content strategy?; What are readers in x segment most engaged with? 

About the author

Tim Barton, CEO

photo Tim Barton


Tim worked for OUP for 27 years in many different rolesand markets across research, higher education, and dictionaries (in his last role, he ran OUP’s Global Academic Division) before joining Silverchair (as President) in 2018. As CEO, Tim oversees all aspects of Hum growth and operations. Tim splits his time between New York, NY, Charlottesville, VA and Oxford, UK

Relevant web links:

www.hum.works/publishers

 

Spotlight on: GigaByte

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of seven for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers on 14 September on the opening day of the ALPSP 2022 Conference in Manchester. The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday 15 September.

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. 

Gigabyte logo



Tell us about your organization

GigaScience Press is an Open Access Publisher, based in Hong Kong, that publishes journal articles and accompanying datasets and software. It is a division of BGI Research, a non-profit research institute that is part of the genomics organisation BGI-Group.


graphic gigabyte



What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

GigaByte is a new journal and data publishing platform that rapidly and cost-effectively shares research in a manner that makes the scientific process more inclusive and accessible to the broader community. GigaByte uses an exclusively XML-based publishing system that automates the production process and makes it effortless to change views, languages and embed interactive content. The journal breaks down many of the remaining access barriers in research, which helps to address the UNESCO Open Science Recommendations.



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

GigaByte was developed by the GigaScience Press team with the goal of speeding up the publishing process, reducing cost, and changing the way scientific research could be more broadly accessed and used within the publishing process. GigaScience Press partnered with River Valley Technologies to build a new end-to-end XML-first publishing platform that would make these goals a reality. The journal editorial team are employed by BGI and are primarily based in Hong Kong and mainland China, alongside a team of professional data scientists and curators in the UK who work with authors to assist them in curating their data and preparing dynamic content. The combination of the GigaScience Press, with their extensive knowledge of scientific publishing and areas needing change, and River Valley Technologies, with their novel technological publishing solutions, enabled the production of a new platform that changes the current slow and limited scientific publishing methods, and created not only a unique new journal, but also a partnership that works synergistically to develop new and better ways to provide, present, and use research.



In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?                

The outputs from GigaByte’s novel publishing workflow transforms the research article from a stagnant narrative describing what the researchers have done, to something that can be utilised by a much wider audience, including formerly inaccessible elements that underlie the narrative. The journal dramatically increases  interactivity of content through embedded data visualization tools (for NMR spectra, 3D models, genomic maps and more), browsable maps, and video summaries, all of which, beyond usability, improves trust in the scientific findings. More, the journal crucially improves accessibility to authors and readers around the world by enabling the articles to be shared in a bilingual format (with examples published in Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese, alongside the English language version-of-record), and linking them to regional preprint servers such as AfricaXiv and SciELO Preprints. The journal is also  beginning the process of tackling the cost-barrier of Open-Access, due to its primarily automated production process, where, upon acceptance, the publishing platform converts manuscripts to online- and PDF-ready articles within hours with minimal human intervention. This dramatically reduces both production time and cost, providing an equitable solution to publishing open science.                                         

What are your plans for the future?

Leveraging the cost savings of this platform, we’ve published a series of papers crediting the outputs of a public college student project on an agricultural pathogen that has decimated their communities, and a series of articles sponsored by the WHO, that shares extremely important public health datasets from across the world. Working directly with the funders and consortia who handle these important public interest projects is a more cost-effective and equitable way to disseminate their research outputs openly. Having completed this type of journal-to-consortia and funder process for scientific publication, we are in the stages of formalising this process and engaging with organizations to expand these efforts further. Beyond creating article series, GigaScience Press is in the development stage for launching new journals using this approach and publishing platform, and for offering a cost-effective and interactive solution for other journals that want to use our expertise to improve their own publication workflows in a similarly Open Science friendly manner. 



About the author



Scott Edmunds is the Hong Kong based Chief Editor for GigaByte Journal. With over 15 years experience in Open Access and Open Data publishing he is co-founder of CivicSight (formerly Open Data Hong Kong) and CitizenScience.Asia, and is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Dryad Digital Repository.





Relevant web links

gigabytejournal.com  

https://www.linkedin.com/company/gigascience/

https://www.facebook.com/GigaByteJournal

https://youtu.be/TVdKLtRGSYs


Thursday, 11 August 2022

Solving Editorial Challenges with Aries’ Ecosystem of Connected Tools

By Aimee DesRoches, Marketing Manager at Aries Systems, Silver sponsor of the ALPSP Conference and Awards 2022.

Aries logo

Editorial offices face many challenges, including managing an increase in submission volume beyond their capacity, locating qualified researchers for peer review, maximizing reach and impact factor of published works on a global scale, making data more accessible, implementing various business models (such as Open Access (OA)), ensuring accuracy and reproducibility or metadata and research, and more. These can introduce a series of risks for publishers and other key stakeholders, including decreased quality, increased time to publication, and increased costs. To solve these pain points, Aries Systems has built an ecosystem of best-in-class tools designed to enhance user workflow - connected all in one place.


graphic illustrating workflow


 

Comprised of both Aries and third-party technology that plug into our workflow management solutions Editorial Manager® (EM) and ProduXion Manager® (PM), the Aries ecosystem serves as a network of features, purposefully categorized under seven branches to solve for various workflow needs:

  • Centralized repositories to easily store, site, and share/distribute pre- and post-publication data and content
  • Fee processing services to calculate, collect, and manage standard or ad hoc publication charges, such as open access APCs
  • Manuscript evaluation tools to help improve the quality of scholarly content and support initial triage
  • Reporting and tracking tools for efficient data, content, and task management to allow seamless notices and strategic editorial decisions
  • Reviewer candidate identification, screening, and recognition services to boost Reviewer invitation and engagement
  • XML workflow features to streamline the submission, editing, and publication of structured content
  • Industry standard identifiers for people, institutions, funders, and more for accurate metadata

As a trusted partner, Aries recognizes that collaboration is critical to the advancement of scholarly research and the successful dissemination of knowledge. We form strategic partnerships with industry organizations to support relevant societies and initiatives, strengthen ties to our user community, and enrich our offerings. The Aries Ecosystem, one of the two main channels within the Aries Partner Program, is continually expanding and evolving through in-house innovations and strategic collaborations to meet the needs of our user community and the ever-evolving scholarly publishing landscape.

Users can easily explore branches of the ecosystem to access helpful resources and learn more about how each feature can streamline their workflow and improve research output. Leveraging these integrated solutions help push the boundaries of what technology can enable to empower content creators to publish faster and smarter.

To learn more about the Aries Ecosystem or take advantage of the diverse applications offered for your EM/PM sites, contact your Aries Account Coordinator or visit www.ariessys.com. Potential partners interested in integrating their innovation with EM/PM as part of our ecosystem should contact the Aries Partner team.

Aries Systems is a proud Silver sponsor of the 2022 ALPSP Conference and Awards.


About the author

photo Aimee DesRochesAimee DesRoches, Marketing Manager at Aries Systems, is passionate about communications, brand, and content marketing. With over seven years’ experience, Aimee supports and leads Aries’ go-to-market initiatives and the promotion of our workflow solutions, Editorial Manager® and ProduXion Manager®. As part of Aries’ ecosystem channel, Aimee leads the development and management of partner marketing strategies and relationships to promote industry collaboration and lasting value to joint stakeholders.




Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Spotlight on: Case Genie, built by 67 Bricks for ICLR

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of seven for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers on 14 September on the opening day of the ALPSP 2022 Conference in Manchester. 

The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday 15 September.
In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists.

67 bricks logo



Case Genie, built by 67 Bricks for ICLR, is an AI-powered search tool using programmed intuition to revolutionise case building by surfacing the ‘unknown unknowns’.

Tell us about your organization

67 Bricks is a technology consultancy specialising in supporting scholarly publishers to digitally transform. We’re best known for building great software to unlock publishers’ content and data and allow them to be more flexible in the way they meet customer needs - we’ve twice won the OpenAthens Best Publisher UX award for our content platform builds, first for Emerald in 2019, and this year for De Gruyter. Beyond that, we offer a full technology consultancy service - whether that’s through making better use of publishers’ internal data, developing bespoke software to solve specific problems, or guiding companies through a program of complete digital transformation - we’re here to help.

This entry is submitted with the support of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR). As well as the official Law Reports, ICLR publishes The Weekly Law Reports, The Industrial Cases Reports, The Business Law Reports, The Public and Third Sector Law Reports and the Consolidated Index to leading law reports. ICLR was established in 1865 by members of the legal profession and its mission is as important today as ever and explains why they are universally regarded as the most authoritative source of English case law.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

As an increasing amount of legal case law is moved online, the question for barristers, law students and solicitors is ‘how do I find the cases I need that I don’t know about’? Enter Case Genie. Case Genie represents a real evolution to the way legal cases are constructed - taking the valuable database of case reports held by ICLR and creating a way to search for relevant cases quickly and intelligently. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyse a user’s own document in order to identify the legal concepts and issues in it, the search tool then uses programmed intuition to suggest relevant cases from the ICLR database. Early results have been extremely positive and Case Genie has been named “a potential game-changer” by users.


graphic illustrating case genie


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

ICLR made its Case Reports and Indices available online over a decade ago. ICLR.4 makes it easy to see which important cases have been Affirmed or Overruled (there are, in fact, seventeen variations on these!). The contents of the Case Reports can also be searched, and this has been an important resource for judges, barristers, solicitors and magistrates.

What Case Genie adds to this, is the ability to prime the standard search with a starting document. As part of preparing a case, solicitors and barristers create formal legal documents (such as skeleton arguments) that summarise the case and its arguments. Such documents can be uploaded to ICLR.4, either whole or selected extracts, to find existing cases that are conceptually similar. These similar cases can be further expanded to include linked cases (important cases that cite or are cited by the similar cases). The results of these can be filtered using more traditional search facilities in ICLR.4. The aim is to help the lawyer find cases that they might not otherwise have considered.

In addition, Case Genie finds cases cited in the uploaded document and lists them with their subsequent treatment (Approved/Overruled etc). This can save the lawyer significant time.

Superadded to those, Case Genie facilitates finding similar paragraphs. When reading the judgment section of a Case Report, the user can click on a paragraph to find paragraphs from other judgments that are conceptually similar.

The team behind the tool is made up of both software developers and publishing consultants, who worked deeply with ICLR to really understand customer needs. Feedback from users was that the site’s search functionality was great when you knew what you were looking for, but the experience of finding content when you didn’t know where to start was much harder. We set about testing ideas and technical approaches to help users find ‘unknown unknowns’ when they were working in unfamiliar areas. After lots of iteration and validation, we settled on the ML/NLP approach as a way to leverage all of the valuable data and editorial content ICLR has to make relevant content more accessible to users.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

There are several layers to this. Firstly, the tool uses unsupervised learning, which is crucial for avoiding bias in the output. Supervised learning uses example data that teach the ML algorithm how to predict a given outcome, which has all of the pitfalls of bias. Usually, the data have come from real-world decisions made by people, so it embodies the biases of those decisions. Unsupervised learning, however, is not based on previous human decisions. The models created by unsupervised learning map connections between data, but do not try to predict a specific variable. Case Genie uses unsupervised Machine Learning to build document embeddings for each Case Report and judgment transcript. The only biases it embodies are those of the judges in their language (but not their verdict or sentence), which are actually what we are most interested in! Language use changes over time, so two cases from a specific period are more likely to have high similarity if they cover similar topics. This is beneficial because it means more recent cases are likely to match new case material; whereas important, older cases will still surface in the results when added as linked results. The goal of using NLP and ML in this project is to surface surprising cases. We have worked very closely with ICLR to validate the results of Case Genie, because it requires a very high level of domain knowledge to determine whether a result is a surprising but good result; or just noise.

We have also had to work in new ways to ensure data privacy, as this was a very important aspect of the development for ICLR. The architecture of ICLR.4 is therefore built around the need to secure sensitive legal information in ongoing cases. Uploaded document data and information derived from it is never stored unencrypted. Two keys are required to unencrypt the data, one is stored in the system database and is unique for each user; the other is transient and created by the user’s browser for each user session. As soon as the original document has been processed, it is deleted. Derived ephemeral documents are deleted as soon as the initial processing pipeline has completed. The remaining data, required to show the user the results of the processing, is available only for the duration of the user’s session. For example, if they close their browser and use a fresh log-in, they will not be able to access their own results.

Finally, the tool has enabled ICLR to innovate on their own business models. Case Genie has switched the customer focus for ICLR from bigger institutions to smaller or even individual users, providing additional value and expanding the potential for ICLR to find new revenue streams in the future. This advances ICLR’s mission to make case law accessible by supporting access for individual users. As well as access, the tool also makes it easier for single individuals to build a case using whatever resources they currently have since the heavy lifting of searching for relevant cases is done automatically.

What are your plans for the future?

We have built the system with ongoing scale and development in mind. We have created a processing pipeline that is secure, can be built upon and is scalable. Scalability is essential for a system like this because NLP can be very processor intensive. We also have some large data indices that sit in memory so that they are blisteringly fast. We adapted the architecture to fit the changing needs as the system was built. The end result is that the system can easily be scaled out to support a larger number of users and new use cases for the machine learning model.


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Authors: 

Will Bailey, Head of Partnerships, 67 Bricks

photo Will Bailey

Rhys Parsons, Technical Lead, 67 Bricks


photo Rhys Parsons