Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Innovation and its place in the changing scholarly publishing landscape

Amy Brand from Digital Science takes questions
Amy Brand opened the ALPSP International Conference 2014 with a keynote reflecting on innovation, how its main function is to advance research, and how vital it is for publishers to participate in the linked information landscape.

There are crucial changes in academic publishing that are directed towards the challenges of new efficiencies in a data publishing environment. It is simply no longer good enough to just read the text. Researchers need to get behind the curtain or under the hood. Who owns what? Institution, funder, publishers? The shifts in landscape are leading to land grabs. There are institutional resources for management alongside publishers ones. But the good news is that there are many new opportunities for publishers to develop new services.

The act of creating something entirely new is an act of innovation. Brand was inspired by her experience at MIT Press. In the late 90s they experimented with open access monographs and were very successful at it. Another MIT  project CogNet was one of the first online tools for researchers. It was very exciting to work on it and proved to be one of the projects that drew her away from books and on to CrossRef.

One of the principle aims of Digital Science is to work smart in order to discover more. They work with researchers, librarians, academic administrators, funders and publishers, who all want to enhance their own platforms. So they spend a lot of time looking at workflows between all these stakeholders. They have built a portfolio of nine different companies and provide supporting tools for every part of the research life cycle.

Innovation sticks when it addresses a specific need. Pain not necessity is the mother of invention. Brand's check list for publishers comprises six 'pain points'.

Paint point number 1: 'I want a smarter way to manage my own record of scholarship.'

Researchers want a one stop interface that manages all aspects from activity reports, personal website, CV grant applications, institutional repository and lab website. Persistent identifiers are one way to help and what ORCID is trying to achieve (although it has not moved as quickly as they would've liked). ORCID identifiers are not all that sexy, but if everyone used them it would dramatically improve the academic world.

Pain point 2: 'I need better ways to manage and share my research data and other outputs'

Figshare allows publishers to host large amount of data and articles with no impact on your infrastructure. Brand believes working in partnership with figshare is a no brainer for publishers.

Pain point 3: 'I'm finding it impossible to keep up with the relevant literature in my field.'

Getting information from the internet is like trying to drink from a fire hose. Sophisticated filtering and recommendation services should be more closely integrated into the publishers' platforms. And this is what ReadCube tries to do: personalised recommendations best on researcher's libraries.

Pain point 4: 'I want to become more efficient at finding collaborators and funding opportunities.'

There are various services and systems available that can help publishers identify candidate peer reviewers. One example, Uber Research, brings in a wider pool of reviewers from a database. They can be filtered on expertise and conflict of interest. This is a real example of linked data that presents an opportunity for publishers to improve how they engage with the peer review process and minimise reviewer fatigue.

Pain point 5: 'Pay walls keep me from accessing needed resources and from disseminating my work as widely as possible.'

How can publishers be new partners for innovative access models? What about differentiated access? As the conference is in Heathrow, think about how airlines break down costs for carry on baggage, early check in, etc. With ReadCube, instead of facing paywalls, the institution has patron-driven but paid access to articles in the library. Brand urged publishers to sell more granular bits of information on the book side as well.

Pain point 6: 'Academic incentives and evaluation norms exert too much control over my research and publication choices.'

The traditional paradigms of where you publish (high Impact Factor, prestige monograph publishers) can constrain the direction of your research. The Journal of Statistical Software is a great example: they provide reproducible code and software tools for readers. Altmetric helps researchers read around the subject and authors can check engagement downstream. It can provide a tremendous force for change as readers start their own little revolutions on what to read.

A more radical way is turning the idea of authors on its head. The relationship between authorship, invention and credit is broken. The Harvard-Wellcome draft taxonomy is helping to drive credit for discovery which in turn can have a huge impact on a person's life and career. (Brand flagged the open invitation to CASRAI-NISO contributor role taxonomy review circle.)

Brand finished with a series of questions she feels publishers should be asking themselves to innovate effectively.
  1. Are you using and contributing linked data?
  2. Have you implemented ORCID IDs in your workflow?
  3. How are you increasing engagement with your content?
  4. Do your journals support data sharing?
  5. Are you displaying article-level metrics?
  6. Do you offer differentiated access options for your users?
  7. How do you currently capture contribution, and how can we collectively improve the tracking of research credit?

Amy Brand is Vice President of Academic & Research Relations and North America for Digital Science.  

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