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 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.

Read more about Case Genie and 67 Bricks

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2022 Website for more details and to book your place. 


Will Bailey, Head of Partnerships, 67 Bricks

photo Will Bailey

Rhys Parsons, Technical Lead, 67 Bricks

photo Rhys Parsons

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Spotlight on Charlesworth Gateway Mini-Program and Notification Service

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. 

Tell us about your organisation

The Charlesworth Group is a publishing services partner to the STM publishing industry. We support publishers with services that increase the dissemination of scientific research and support ESL authors with services that enable them to publish in international journals. We do this through two areas of our business: China marketing consultancy and representation services; and our Charlesworth Author Services language editing business.

In China, Charlesworth represents publishers for library and pharmaceutical market sales and provides marketing agency and strategic consulting services. The unique combination of our business offerings gives us insights into the evolving needs of authors and librarians in China. Our closeness to authors allows our marketing team to support the goals of our publishers with targeted impactful services. These services connect our clients to potential authors through Chinese language campaigns utilising Chinese social platforms.

Charlesworth Gateway logo

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

The Charlesworth Gateway and WeChat mini-program aims to improve the communication and publishing experience for authors in China.

WeChat has over 1.25 billion monthly active users, who spend on average over 82 minutes per day on the platform. WeChat is a super-app which extends beyond social and communication use, it also allows users to buy and pay for goods and services. It is used extensively in business and academia.

Authors from China accounted for 17% of the global article output in 2021 (Scimago 2021), but as an industry, our systems and processes are built around the English language and western technology experience. As an agency and author services provider we aim to create user journeys that replicate the same experience that authors in China are used to when purchasing other goods and services. The dominance of smart phone apps and WeChat has reduced the importance of email as a major communication channel; the reliance on email communication within in the scholarly publishing journey can create frustrations for authors and publishers alike.

The Gateway and mini-program are currently live with Taylor & Francis and Gateway notifications are live with Dove Medical Press, IOP and Researcher. Gateway notification services are available for any journal that uses Aries Editorial Manager; as well as through custom API integrations with bespoke publisher systems.

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

Gateway is a ‘Software as a Service’ tool which allows a publisher to integrate their services, such as submission systems and content platforms, and send short notifications in Chinese to authors via WeChat. The mini-program is a fully publisher-branded front-end app within a publisher’s WeChat account. It allows authors to authenticate the service and self-check the status of a manuscript. The mini-program can be an author hub for information and the notifications can link to content within the mini-program.

Mini-program home screen

This can be configured for each publisher and can serve as a hub for key content for authors in China. From this screen the author can quickly set-up notifications or check the status of their article.

mini program home screen graphic

Notifications are sent through as template messages in Chinese.

Messages appear in the WeChat template message area. 

notifications graphic

The product was built by Charlesworth’s global teams in Beijing, UK and Ukraine. The mini-program design and user testing is managed by our China teams, while the Gateway platform and integration with STM publishing services is managed by our Ukraine team.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

We believe the Gateway is innovative as it is the first product in our industry that aims to create a digital bridge between STM publishing and authors in China. Our vision for the product is to build end-to-end notifications for the entire publishing journey from submission, publication and tracking of an article’s impact.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to create journeys which support authors further, including support resources in the mini-program, journal selection tools, manuscript editing tools and options for cascade journals. We are currently working with existing users and new clients to improve the richness of the experience through using different notifications in the publishing journey to link to specifically created content within the mini-program.

About the Author

Andrew Smith is the Product & Marketing Director at Charlesworth. He leads Charlesworth’s global author services marketing teams and helps STM publishers thrive in China through great marketing, technology and strategy consulting.

For more information, please visit or contact us

Follow us on LinkedIn

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2022 Website for more details and to book your place. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Spotlight on Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing

Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2022

Joint Commitment graphic, participating organisations

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.

Tell us about your organisation

The Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing is a group of over 50 organisations, brought together by the Royal Society of Chemistry.  We comprise publishers from across the spectrum: commercial, not-for-profit, open access publishers, society publishers, those covering specialist subject areas and those covering a broad range of disciplines. Publishers of all shapes and sizes have joined, and we all have a common goal of seeking to improve inclusion and diversity in the scholarly publishing ecosystem. The Royal Society of Chemistry, as a society publisher and an organisation that has completed a range of credible work within the area of inclusion and diversity already, is trusted by publishers across the sector to lead this change.

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

The Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing is all about collective action to make things better together. We launched in June of 2020 following a workshop in which the Royal Society of Chemistry shared our Framework for action in scientific publishing – a practical guide to reducing bias in our own publishing activities – in a workshop with other publishers.

In that workshop, we collectively agreed to pool our resources to take decisive action. We made the following commitments:

1. Understand our research community

We will work to ensure that diversity data can be self-reported by members of our community, using appropriately worded questions, and in a compliant and secure way through our peer review systems.

2. Reflect the diversity of our community

We will use anonymised and aggregated data to uncover subject-specific diversity baselines, and set minimum targets to achieve appropriate and inclusive representation of our authors, reviewers and editorial decision-makers.

3. Share success to achieve impact

We will share and develop new and innovative resources, and we will transparently share policies, language and standards, to move inclusion and diversity in publishing forward together.

4. Set minimum standards on which to build

We will scrutinise our own publishing processes and take action to achieve a minimum standard for inclusion in publishing, based initially on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Framework for action in scientific publishing. We will engage all relevant stakeholders to improve outcomes on inclusion and diversity, at all stages of the publishing process. 

Our milestone achievements are:

  • June 2020: Workshop leads to joint commitment, signed by an initial 12 publishers
  • Feb 2021: Schema established for collection of gender data; work on developing schema for data collection methods for race and ethnicity is ongoing
  • March 2021: Post-publication author name changes good practices devised, shared with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and National Information Standards Organization (NISO). Members of the joint commitment have since facilitated name changes for hundreds of authors
  • May 2021: 

    • Workshop held to discuss making progress on tackling harmful historical content. Outputs shared with COPE working group
    • Facilitated collaborative conversations between Elsevier (owners of Editorial Manager) and ScholarOne about how to best incorporate diversity data collection into submission and peer review systems
  • June 2021: Number of publishers joined commitment reaches 40
  • November 2021: Minimum standards on which to build launched
  • January 2022: Number of publishers joined commitment reaches 50 
  • April 2022: Standardised questions for self-reported diversity data collection launched

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

The group serves as a knowledge sharing network, supporting publishers to accelerate their progress on inclusion and diversity. We have a working group comprising at least one representative from each signatory organisation, with sub-groups taking forward specific areas of action under each of the four commitments. These groups meet and share information frequently, and whole-group meetings are held three times a year to review progress, agree actions and set direction.  The Royal Society of Chemistry initiated and continues to facilitate the Joint commitment, contributing staff time and expertise from its Publishing, Inclusion and Diversity and Communications teams, and providing secretariat to the working group.  All signatory organisations contribute their staff time and expertise through attendance at working group meetings and voluntary participation in the subgroups and associated activities, at a level commensurate with the organisation’s size and available resources. Sub groups are (or have been) chaired by representatives from BMJ, eLife, Elsevier, IOP Publishing, the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

A major achievement of the initiative has been having publishers put aside competitive differences, to really drive change across scholarly publishing as a whole.  Our minimum standards, for the first time, set out clearly what publishers should do to lay a foundation that can be built upon to improve inclusion and diversity in their publishing activities. We believe the minimum standards will enable senior leaders in publishing, editorial decision makers and editorial boards to evaluate their performance and progress on inclusion and diversity within their organisations and publications. The minimum standards will also enable publishers, editorial decision makers, authors, and reviewers to identify and take achievable, specific actions to improve inclusion and diversity in scholarly publishing.  Furthermore, our standardised questions for collecting race and ethnicity data are the first globally applicable demographic questions of this type, which will support a standardised data-driven approach between publishers to inform our goals around diversity, inclusion and equity in scholarly communications and research more broadly.

What are your plans for the future?

The initiative, while having achieved a great deal, is still very much ongoing. Near-term priorities include the implementation of the recently launched gender identity and race and ethnicity questions, by encouraging uptake from publishers and supporting communication to researchers, and working with bodies such as COPE and NISO to support standardisation. Longer term, once collection of gender identity and race and ethnicity data is under way with many publishers, the group will work on supporting publishers to define baselines, and consider setting targets for more inclusive representation, as well as seeking to collect other types of diversity data as appropriate (e.g. disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status).

Sub groups are also working on providing support for publishers in implementing the minimum standards, facilitating conversations on issues such as sex and gender reporting and developing guidance on including I&D within editor, author and reviewer codes of conduct.

Read more about the Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing.

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2022 Website for more details and to book your place. 

image Nicola Nugent

About the author: 

Dr Nicola Nugent is Publishing Manager, Quality & Ethics at the Royal Society of Chemistry, where she is the strategic lead for quality and impact across journals and books.

She has responsibility for the journal's peer-review strategy, as well as publishing ethics, and inclusion & diversity in publishing. She leads the Publication Ethics Team at the Royal Society of Chemistry, which handles a range of publication ethics and research integrity issues, including paper mill investigations.

Nicola has over 15 years’ experience in STM publishing in a variety of operational and strategic roles, with an editorial focus. She has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Bristol, UK.

Friday, 22 July 2022

Effective Social Media for Scholarly Publishers

Social media is no longer a shiny new tool; if executed well, it can be a powerful channel within an integrated marketing strategy that supports an organisation in meeting its objectives.

Earlier this month, I delivered social media training on behalf of ALPSP in their Effective Social Media for Scholarly Publishers course. After 6 hours of online training, my head is still happily swimming with all things Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, strategy, and metrics. There were also fantastic discussions on crisis management in scholarly publishing, smart goals, and critiquing! 

If you couldn’t attend the course, I’ve got you covered! Here are key takeaways that will help to shine a spotlight on your current social efforts and, if needed, some tips to shake up your strategy: 


According to a 2022 HubSpot survey, the biggest social media challenge that brands are facing is determining which platforms to place focus on. 

Tip: If you are at the beginning of your social journey, as a starting point research where your audience is. For example, check out relevant # engagement, undertake a competitor analysis and see what level of traction their posts are getting, and look at reach capabilities using paid social.

Paid social: Securing organic reach is increasingly challenging, especially on Facebook. Paid social is relatively inexpensive and allows you to apply an experimental approach to see which platforms best meet your objectives.

Tip: Paid social best supports the top of the marketing funnel (awareness) but retargeting via paid social can be a great support in the consideration and conversion part of the journey.  

Community: Think of your social media followers as your community and not your audience. Audience implies a hierarchy and a one-way conversation.

Tip: Be a good member of your community; understand your role in the community, and to do that successfully…you need to listen!

Strategy: Without a sound social strategy in place, you will face all sorts of avoidable hurdles, for example: securing buy in from budget holders; spreading yourself too thinly, which can result in burnout and lost productivity; not having focus; and the inability to measure success.

Tip: Set SMART goals; these should fall out of your broader company and marketing objectives and should not sit in their own bubble! Don’t fall into the trap of starting with tactics; start at the top and understand the business mission and objectives so the social goals underpin company goals.

Trends to watch out for in 2022:

Tik Tok: Excluding messaging platforms, Tik Tok is now the 4th most popular social channel after Instagram. However, most businesses are reluctant to invest, with only 38% planning to increase investment in 2022 …is your organisation the rising star of scholarly comms on TikTok, and ready to take centre stage?!

Short form videos are now more accessible to brands thanks to the lower production costs, and the authenticity and lower production nature of video/stories/reels is part of the appeal to users. It’s listed as the most engaging social content type, so if you’ve not yet integrated short-form videos into your social strategy, what are you waiting for? 


Including social metrics to measure ROI not only holds you accountable but also showcases the impact and bottom-line results your social strategy generates. A Sprout social report highlights how only on 15% of marketers are using social data to measure ROI, and just 10% use the data to inform business decisions.

Tip: Watch out for vanity metrics! Think about’s meaningless having a huge follower base if they are not your target community. Make sure you choose meaningful metrics to track and if something isn’t working…stop doing it! Where possible, go beyond native metrics on the individual platforms and link it up with Google Analytics; this can really help to link social activity to hard metrics that matter most to the organisation–such as usage, submissions, and sales.

Oh, and one last point on metrics…you can’t measure success without a strong strategy in place (see above point on strategy)!


There is a vast selection of tools to support you on your social media journey, ranging from scheduling, to listening, and analytics. Your choices will likely come down to the scale of your social presence, and as is so often the case, budget.

Tip: If undecided between platforms, sign up for free trials and compare tools to see which fits your needs. Don’t underestimate the power of the good old fashioned manual method, that can be customised to meet your requirements.

Booking for next year’s ALPSP course, Effective Social Media for Scholarly Publishers, will open later this year.  Contact Melissa Marshall for further information about this or other training courses.

About the author

Kelly Henwood, Senior Manager, TBI Communications

Kelly’s experience includes developing brand strategies, brand assets, and improving brand experience and engagement across multiple channels including digital, TV, film, and licensing.  At Oxford University Press Kelly led the Humanities, Social Science and Law Journals Product Marketing team driving results with diverse marketing strategies. She has also managed partner relationships and the marketing program for several leading society journals.  In previous experience, Kelly managed international brand and licensing programs for both the commercial arm of the University of Oxford and a TV production company.

Kelly is CIM qualified with a Postgraduate Diploma.

Follow Kelly's social channels:

Monday, 29 November 2021

Society Publishers and Open Science: A Marriage Made in Heaven?

By Martin Donnelly, Manager, Funder Relations (Open Science) at the Royal Society of Chemistry – Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

This post is written from a standpoint of dual conviction. Firstly, that Open Science is the way forward for humanity, and therefore integral to the organisational purpose of a scientific society, yielding benefits for all stakeholders in the research endeavour, ranging from those who perform research to those who consume it, via those who fund and facilitate it. Secondly, that publishers – and especially society publishers - ought to be rushing towards Open Science with open arms. The more transparent and demonstrable the quality of the research, the more reproducible its conclusions, and the more robust the interlinkages between papers and their supporting datasets and software code, the stronger the quality of the product we offer. 

As a learned society and publisher our mission at the Royal Society of Chemistry is “to help the chemical science community make the world a better place.” We are of our community, as well as working for it, therefore publishing and disseminating chemical sciences information is part of how we help the community achieve this purpose, in close alignment with our other activities including education, policy and professional standards and support, which support and enable our community to do great things. 

As a publisher we have a strong commitment to Open Access, and as a professional body we seek to take a holistic view of open science to better promote, support and enable researchers to make a difference in an increasingly digital environment. We are now continuing to build on these foundations, going beyond Open Access publications towards a more holistic Open Science approach. As a first step, from May 2021, we asked authors publishing in our flagship, diamond OA journal, Chemical Science, to include Data Sharing and Availability statements as standard. The reaction to this has been extremely positive, with over 80% uptake in only a few months. This underscores our belief that the chemistry community is not intrinsically opposed to Openness, and that with encouragement and support we can all make the transition. 

In the Summer of 2021, we held two internal workshops under the aegis of our Open Science Forum, a cross-Directorate grouping which brings together colleagues involved in Publishing, Policy, Sales, Communications, Marketing and External Relations. These workshops sought to help consolidate our thinking around Open Science, and prioritise our next steps along the road. 

Beyond Open Access and data sharing, our ChemSpider database provides fast access to over 100 million chemical structures from hundreds of data sources, and we are planning to integrate this more closely with researchers’ workflows to support data publication and reuse. 

Externally we are seeking to reach out to research funders, aiming to build relationships beyond the traditional (and often unhelpful) model of action and reaction. We have held constructive conversations with individual funders and groupings around issues ranging from tiered and transparent pricing to nurturing a healthier research culture via increased diversity and inclusion approaches. 

There is no shortage of ambition in this space: finding areas for improvement is not the challenge, rather it is in prioritising these and bringing our internal and external communities along with us on the journey. Areas we have identified for future work include fostering a more open research culture, encouraging responsible and sound science, regardless of impact, and being increasingly open about assessment and pricing. We also see a more prominent role for preprints, and seek to integrate these into publication workflows more seamlessly. We also want to take steps to further normalise the citation and sharing of software, protocols and workflows (for those area of chemistry that utilise them.) 

As the African proverb goes: if you want to travel far, travel together. We have long been involved as a partner in ChemRxiv, a pre-print server for the chemical sciences, and we are increasingly looking outwards to grow our involvement in grouping and shared initiatives such as the Society Publishers’ Coalition and OAS Switchboard. There’s an open invitation to get in touch if you think we can do good things together – we’d love to hear from you!

For enquiries, please get in touch.

Find out more about the ALPSP Annual Conference.

About the author

Martin Donnelly is Manager, Funder Relations (Open Science) at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Before joining the RSC he was Research Data Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh, and prior to that Institutional Support and Consultancy Lead at the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). Externally, Martin has served as an expert reviewer for European Commission Data Management Plans, and sat on the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Management & Governance and Communications & Advocacy sub-committees as well as advisory boards/steering groups of a number of UK, European and international projects. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Research and Researchers in the time of Covid-19: Part II

What the researchers say

By Mridul Saxena and Alison McGonagle-O’Connell, MPS/HighWire Marketing.

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

In our first post, we shared an outline of the presented research. This included a summary of researchers’ responses within the ethnographic interviews conducted. The comments shared highlighted the issues, challenges, and changes observed by them. 

In this post, we recap and summarize the key comments and subject areas covered by our panel engaging publisher-side discussants with a subset of the researchers interviewed. The topics range from open access, preprints, peer review, choosing a journal, article discovery, changes in review processes due to the pandemic, and some specific questions to the publishers.

The Panel Participants

  • Richard Sever (Co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
  • Michelle Phillips (Open Research Product Manager, British Medical Journal)
  • Claire Moulton (Publisher, Company of Biologists)
  • Danielle Mai, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University
  • Samantha Andrzejaczek, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biology Department (Hopkins), Stanford University
  • Ben Callahan, Computational Biologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University
  • Eva Fischer, Assistant Professor of Biology at University of Illinois
  • Roman Ellerbrock, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemistry Department, Stanford University. 

Question: If the fee was out of the equation, does that really increase the enthusiasm for Open Access (OA) publishing, and secondly, are you aware of some of the publisher-led initiatives around things like read and publish agreements that aim to shift the cost burden to make it easier for authors to publish OA?

Danielle Mai, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, said she believes that removing fees alone won’t change her behaviour. “I don't think that removing the fee helps me push towards open access, for me the case is when I would want to publish open access if a funding agency requires it,” said Mai.

Meanwhile, Eva Fischer, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Illinois, strongly supports the idea of OA but believes that the cost is ‘a pretty big thing’ when it comes to OA publishing. She believes that OA helps people in countries where libraries do not have enough resources to fund subscriptions to content. At the same time, Eva thinks that the fees levied on authors to publish OA are too high, as she prefers to use funds to support the graduate students in their work directly.

Roman Ellerbrock, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemistry Department, Stanford University, agrees with Eva’s point on the accessibility of OA for less-privileged universities and Ph.D. students who could not afford fees for journals. He supported his thoughts by sharing a personal experience, “Ph.D. students from one of Argentina’s universities were forced to either use open access content, or somehow get access to the journals, otherwise they couldn't pursue the research, and this was, actually, for me, the time when I started thinking about it, and tried to push towards this”.

Richard Sever, Co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Labs, elucidated the panel on other different routes for OA. He explained, “paying for the article is the gold open access, there are a small number of journals for which you don't have to pay, and then there's a very large number of journals that allow you to, essentially, archive the author manuscript, and this was the basis for the NIH [National Institutes of Health -US] policy.” 

Ben Callahan, Computational Biologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, prefers to publish OA and is willing to pay fees on the condition of availability of funds. He supported his comments saying, “because I consider that posting a submission, or even post revision preprint, and having it up on PubMed six months later is sort of acceptable for me, in terms of access to people all around the world.”

Question: In terms of OA journals, what does overall impact mean to our researchers? 

Samantha Andrzejaczek, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biology Department (Hopkins), Stanford University, said, “I often go to a journal where papers I’m referencing in that certain paper have been publishing.” She then prefers to share her work on Twitter and certain Facebook groups. She measures her impact in terms of how much it is shared around. Supporting her thoughts, she reiterated, “I’m thinking of ‘how can I get it out to the people that are going to benefit from this paper?”

Roman believes that peers also play an important role in deciding on impact factors. He would talk to his professor and the other Ph.D. students to rank the different journals, and based on the responses, he creates a ranking in his head. He manifests his comments by adding, “it's just like a network that builds somehow, and then you have a hierarchy and if you think about publishing a paper in a top journal, and if it doesn't work, you just go down this ladder until you get it published.”

Eva prefers to choose a journal based on its community and whom she wants her paper to be read by. Meanwhile, she also advocated the idea of advertising the paper on social media platforms, “journals should think about what they are doing social media-wise, because people are using that to find articles.”

Danielle supports the idea of reaching out to more people faster. For her, the critical measure of impact is how quickly a journal is known for publishing, whereas Samantha prefers to have a smooth review process and a lot of communication to decide the impact. She concluded by saying, “there's a discussion between the reviewers and the authors, and I appreciate the fact that their reviewer names get published next to the paper. I think it makes people more accountable to what they're saying.”

Question: How do you feel about the open peer review and being named as the peer reviewer of an article?

Benjamin is not appreciative of the fully open peer review process and declined to participate in any of these. He supported his opinion by saying, “I don't believe that you can give the same kind of review when your name is eventually published on that review. You will be less critical for fear of retaliation; you will be positive for reasons of building a positive image in their mind.” But he supports the idea of authors responding to peer reviews without naming the reviewers or if the reviewers want to reveal their names to the author.

Roman believes that there should be a level of uncertainty regarding reviewer identity because in some cases it can become very hard to collaborate with some people in the future, whereas Samantha prefers to have a choice. She is comfortable having her name published alongside her review only for manuscripts that correspond to her expertise. 

Danielle feels skeptical that a fully open peer review would pressure a reviewer to write nice reviews, yet she does feel that the accountability built in to ‘open’ could help the reviewer in considering everything more stringently. She, like Samantha, is open to having her name published as a reviewer but only for manuscripts where she feels comfortable with doing the review.

Acknowledging Danielle’s thoughts, Benjamin thinks that options are fine, but these options also have some potential problems. He underscored his remark by saying, “if I reviewed a paper that I thought was quite good, I might feel very comfortable signing my name to that review, and also thinking about my future relationship, whereas if I gave a critical review, then my comfort level goes away.”

Richard brings an interesting fact to the table with his mention, “the tenured older males are more comfortable putting their names on the reviews than the untenured, underrepresented minority: females.” He further said, “it's not really about the immediate recrimination people always couch this in the notion. It's about the fear that this person may do something to you in the future, and you will never know about it because careers go on for decades.”

Eva believes that the options do have their pros and cons, but thinking about the unseen scenarios in the future where someone is holding a grudge against you for your past reviews is scary. She affirmed her view saying, “I stand by my reviews, but I will confess, I don't feel comfortable signing them.”

Question: Are you getting more focused or narrow in your discovery because of things like Twitter and new approaches to article discovery? What can we do to encourage younger researchers to read papers thoroughly?

Eva openly admits she is not an avid Twitter user, but she likes the personalization feature on the social media platform and credits it with providing useful reading recommendations. 

Danielle likes the ‘do you want to read it first’ feature on Twitter. She thinks that Twitter notifications and following researchers on Twitter have broadened her scientific sphere beyond the table of contents. Tailoring the feed feature is very useful for her in hiring postdoc students from underrepresented backgrounds. While using Twitter features to her advantage, she prefers to keep Google Scholar notifications fairly broad.

Benjamin prefers the option to focus his feed on the tweets of the people he follows to cut out unnecessary noise on Twitter. Meanwhile, he has stopped using Twitter during the pandemic because of too much noise.

Samantha credits Twitter with helping her broaden her information circle. Being active on Google Scholar, she said, “I’ve seen everything by the time it comes through on Twitter itself.”

Eva also pointed out the specific problem of filtering out targeted information from the wealth of broader information available. Supporting her views, she opined, “I would just point out that ever since the invention of the printing press, there are people writing articles about the information overload, and there's too much of this, and this happens every 50 years as somebody claims that there's a massive technology change and that is now creating so much information nobody can filter.”

Question: Thoughts on preprints and the future possibility of peer review occurring partially or fully on preprints?

Benjamin believes that there are some rare cases where people post their reviews on preprints. He further suggested, “unless there's some structure that makes people responsible for reviewing a preprint, it's just not going to happen for, like, 95 percent of all papers.”

Richard agrees. He shares that, in actual fact,  95 percent of preprints are not reviewed, and calls for thinking about this factor more broadly to tackle this issue. He believes that there is also a cultural shift, and there is a sort of discussion going on this issue, but funneling it down is a real challenge. He added, “some journals are moving to use their formal peer review on preprints so that's an interesting development.” Watch this space! 

Question: Is micropublication easier to achieve via preprints?

Benjamin thinks that micropublications play an important part in science, but he is not certain about the role of peer-reviewed micropublications. He added, “a micropublication can be a blog post or something that you link to on a Twitter post. I had very effective dissemination and feedback on an idea through, effectively, a micropublication that didn't go through a journal or from a journal's perspective. It's so much easier to do that than to then put the micropublication through that onerous peer-review process.”

Roman thinks micropublications will be extremely helpful in the field of chemistry and in other fields where theory dominates. He believes that, with micropublications, ideas can come first—in the open—and then authors can work on the developments later.

Richard thinks, “I feel my problem with micropublications is that I think this is a sort of an obsession among publishing types: you constantly talk about it, and then when you talk to actual researchers they are not very interested at all.” He feels that it is needless to create this additional category of an object apart from journals.

Eva thinks micropublications can be very cool for trainees and undergrads, where we can serve them a much more controlled parameter space.

Question: One of the biggest challenges was reading the research outside their area of expertise and how you might go about tackling that challenge?

Danielle only trusts the paper that has been reviewed and does not bother to read preprints. Meanwhile, Eva finds many interesting and important preprints. But there are still challenges associated with the quality of these preprints, and researchers have to think twice before citing those. She claimed, “I have found it an incredible resource both as a place I put things and as a place that I get things from.”

Benjamin reads preprints and likes the latest addition by the bioRxiv to populate the links to the published version of the paper. He suggested, “if you put out a preprint that you care to get published, it should be in a pretty good form before you just slap it up there.” He also added that his papers that undergo peer review come out better in the end, and they have more value.

Eva raises the issue of not seeing any changes or updates on the preprints once uploaded. She continues by raising another issue, “I agree the link [to published version] is helpful, but I wonder how often people are, you know, following the link to reread the finalized version of the paper.”

Roman says that a lot of the preprints are shorter because authors want it to be published elsewhere later afterward, but other papers are longer to read and there is always a problem with long papers: who will check this full paper, versus the shorter preprint, if it gets cited?

Question: What are some of the challenges that you faced due to the pandemic?

Samantha thinks in her field (Biology), there is always a kind of limitation of experimentation with regard to animals and sample size. Due to the pandemic, this issue of sample size remains prevalent, but even with the small sample size, researchers are still able to find something new that is worth publishing.

Richard believes that there is a flipside to what Samantha shared—in the field of microbiology. With fewer animals or subjects to perform the experiments, the experiments become less effective. He thinks that the pandemic has affected different people in very different ways.

Roman feels that, in a field where theory dominates, most of the work can be done from the home just as from the university, meaning that there may be fewer challenges associated with specific disciplines.

Question: What is the takeaway from the publishers from the session?

Benjamin feels that the publishers should not require stringent formats at the initial submission stage, and they should provide an option to format the paper later, only after it is accepted. Roman echoes these feelings and adds that, at reviewer invitation, adding more information about the manuscript rather than less would be better for researchers trying to decide whether or not to accept or decline the opportunity to review.

Danielle thinks handling manuscripts with care from beginning to end is critical, and making sure that editors moderate reviewers to avoid ‘bad review experiences’ is important. Also, partnering closely with authors for promotion of published works is also an important part of the process.

Researcher question for publishers: Editors are working to find and recruit reviewers who are otherwise academics; do editors receive and/or offer any training to academic editors and/or reviewers?

Richard clarifies that all of the editors in the publications are trained. A paid professional editor goes through extensive training; they have mentors, handle papers with other people to get to the point where they can make decisions on their own, and have groups where they can discuss with their colleagues.

Claire calls the process a team effort, where editors meet and share their decisions. She elaborated her thoughts by saying, “One of the things you do want is to get consistency across the editors so that you're setting the same threshold, and the same rules, first that you know for articles are accepted, so there's quite a team effort as well behind the scenes”.

While this was our first Best Practice Webinar Series event, we felt that the turnout, enthusiasm, momentum, and key takeaways were successful. We are working on plans to continue this series and have announced our next event, which will focus on Best Practices for publishers to consider when thinking about getting the most out of preprint integration. Find out more. And if you enjoyed this piece and would like to discuss, share questions, or suggest a new focus area for a future Best Practice Series event, please drop us a note.

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more about the conference and details for 2022, visit 

About the authors

Mridul Saxena, Subject Matter Expert, MPS 
Mridul strategizes, plans, and executes marketing activities for group brands including MPS Limited, Mag+ and HighWire . Mridul is a writer who observes the creative side of every task and infuses his work with over seven years of industry-wide experience in media, public relations, and corporate communications. Mridul studied Journalism, and is an Honours graduate of Delhi University. He is also a sports enthusiast, and enjoys reading mythological books. His favorite number is 42.

Alison McGonagle-O’ConnellSenior Director of Marketing, HighWire Press
Alison is an experienced marketing professional with nearly two decades of demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry, including 10 years marketing scholarly communications workflow solutions.  Alison leads HighWire Marketing and is responsible for continually growing and supporting our community. 

Alison is active as a volunteer in industry initiatives including CRediT and as a Library Trustee in her hometown of South Hampton, New Hampshire in the United States.