Monday 8 September 2014

Amy Brand talks innovation: not just introducing something new, but also a well-articulated sense of purpose

We are delighted that Amy Brand, Vice President of Academic & Research Relations and North America for Digital Science, is our keynote speaker at the ALPSP International Conference on Wednesday. Amy took some time out of her schedule to tell us a bit more about her work and what she thinks innovation is really about.

Tell us about yourself and Digital Science.

"I feel extremely fortunate to be in the midst of a long and varied career immersed in many different facets of scientific and scholarly communications: as an MIT-trained researcher in linguistics and cognitive science, executive editor at The MIT Press, Director of Business and Product Development at CrossRef, manager of the Office for Scholarly Communication and then Assistant Provost for Faculty Appointments and Information at Harvard, founding member of ORCID’s board of directors, and now as VP at Digital Science, where I manage U.S. operations and cultivate institutional partnerships.

For those of you who don’t know us yet, Digital Science invests in and incubates academic start-ups that provide research information software – software that accelerates scientific and scholarly research, both by facilitating aspects of the research cycle directly and by facilitating the management of the research process.

My ALPSP keynote next week will focus on where the innovation and change in scholarly communications is coming from, where I see it going, and how smaller scholarly and professional publishers can participate and benefit."

What does innovation mean to you?

"Innovation simply means making or introducing something new. In our world that tends to translate as creating new technologies to stay competitive. But innovation has also come to mean a way of working - towards a well-articulated sense of purpose, within a work environment that embraces experimentation and risk taking. I believe that innovation in publishing can make research better, and more productive researchers means more new knowledge with which to address the big problems in our world. We are inventing the future of scholarly communication to meet the evolving needs of scholars - in particular, to make research more efficient with tools that facilitate discovery, accessibility, attribution and reproducibility."

What do you think are the key drivers of innovation in scholarly communications at the moment?

"At a high level, I see our community innovating to create new efficiencies within today's complex linked information environment. But when you drill down, you can identify a number of specific researcher pain points that are driving the invention of new tools and models to address frustrating inefficiencies."

How is that impacting on the traditional industry?

"What it means to be a scholarly publisher and stay competitive has forever changed. Content may still rule, but what we mean by content and the scholarly conversation has expanded significantly. As a consumer of scholarly information, it is no longer enough to simply read the text. I expect to be able to look behind the curtain at data, code, other media, and - downstream - how other people are reacting to the work in real-time. There are tremendous opportunities for publishers that can grow accordingly, and extend their own services into other aspects of the scholarly communication ecosystem."

How  does Digital Science ‘do’ innovation?

"We have a clear vision and a well-defined approach to innovation. We aim to provide innovative tools that support every stage of the research life cycle, and we do so by investing in best-in-class solutions. Most of the start-up companies in our portfolio were conceived and founded by academics innovating to address a major challenge in their own workflows, whether during the funding process, in the lab, managing data, or in the writing and publication process itself."

And finally, what do you hope the delegates will get out of your talk at the conference?

"I hope the audience goes away with a renewed sense of understanding that when we innovate in publishing, we do so to advance research itself, and that the way to stay on the cutting edge today is to participate fully in the linked information landscape. Ultimately, whether you're a publisher, a librarian, a researcher or a funder, we’re all in the scholarly communication enterprise together, working towards the creation of new knowledge."

The ALPSP International Conference is on Wednesday 10 - Friday 12 September at the Park Inn Heathrow, London. Follow the conversation on Twitter via #alpsp14 or read highlights from the sessions here on the ALPSP blog.

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