Tuesday 17 March 2015

Disruption, development and divestment: what's the current 'state of the nation'?

Mark Ware: state of nation speech
Mark Ware, consultant to the STM publishing and information sectors, provided an overview of where scholarly publishing is at the Disruption, development and divestment seminar.

The industry is being reshaped by a range of factors: the continuing digital transition and rapidly evolving technology, convergence of content and services, funder policies, growing pressures for openness, the growth of R&D outputs, and the changing attitudes and behaviours of researchers, to name just a few.

Economies of scale are more important than ever, but at the same time lower barriers to entry have increased competition from start-ups and technology companies. And yet examples of disruptive innovations are very hard to find.

Classic examples of disruption to established business include newspapers and music. It's interesting to note how stable STM communications is compared to other sectors. Disruption doesn't mean a whole industry is destroyed. It is easier to find disruption to B2C markets (e.g. Blockbuster hit when NetFlix came along, Blackberry affected by the iPhone). It is hard to find any incumbents in our world that look like Blackberry or Blockbuster.

Ware cites a model developed by Bob Campbell from Wiley on the journal industry. There are four stages: discovery, exploitation, management, reinvention (with the web). The question is what comes next? Is there a second or third wave or are we going off the cliff into disruption? However, he believes that the death of scholarly publishing is often reported, but we're still here.

The four key forces for change in STM publishing are:
  1. Digital transition
  2. funder policies
  3. Momentum for increase openness
  4. changing research behaviours and needs
The key political forces are funder policies as well as government policies and copyright reform. There is a big drive not only to open access, but to more openness.

Political, economic, social and technological forces lead to an evolution, not revolution or disruption. Open access is the norm, but in a mixed economy. OA combined with pressure from funders will increase competition. The economies of scale and logic of that will lead to further consolidation in the market. There are also likely to be other structural changes.

Ware reflected on what this means for publishers. Open access continues, but growth is slowing down. There are differences in disciplines and the bureaucracy around OA funding is a nightmare. There's a clear need for better systems. All the things we're good at: standards, data, compliance, will help, but there's still a way to go.

The move for Open Science (as championed by the Force 11 group and beyond the PDF) situates data alongside collaborative tools and practices, behaviours and social media. Recent research by Nature outlined attitudes, behaviours and tools that scientists use/adopt. They are using social networks such as Research Gate and Google to raise their profile, share and collaborate. Economies of scale on the web become yet more important and are enhanced with social elements of digital.  It's not just about companies, journal platforms benefit from scale.

The changing industry structure results in several new dimensions:
  • New entrants such as PeerJ, Google Scholar and ResearchGate
  • Company diversification e.g. Elsevier, Digital Science, JBJS
  • Product complexity including journal platform inc. mobile, SciVal, Converis
  • Industry concentration as seen with the Springer/Mamcillan merger
  • Geography such as Wolters Kluwer/Medknow, Scielo and Spanish/Chinese output
  • Vertical integration in production, distribution, OMTS, etc
  • Value network complexity e.g. Mendeley etc.
Ware closed by describing the STM scorecard. We are surviving, are not disrupted yet, still profitable, managing the digital transition so far, with wider access, and usage increased. However, user experience and understanding/responding to changing user requirements, plus changing user requirements, workflow, setting the agenda, are not so good. Opportunities and directions include consultation (firms and journals) diversification, efficiencies, open innovation and platforms, and moving from product centric to service centric.  Challenges and threats include managing the transition to open science, more competition leading to lower profits, and new entrants including tech companies and services providers.

Mark Ware spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

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