Tuesday 17 March 2015

The publisher as technology company

Phill Jones from Digital Science
Phill Jones, Head of Publisher Outreach at Digital Science, asked the audience to consider whether publishers need to become technology companies to succeed in today's market?

Information technology has changed everything. A crucial point in time was when telephones and computers collided.  Another key point is when television and the internet collided (think NetFlix). Marc Andreessen, Co-Founder of Netscape and Andreeson Horowitz, came up with the phrase "software eats the world." This is when software is developed into something that heavily disrupts an industry. That is what is happening to our industry. Publishing is changing because it is colliding with information technology.

Who are the most powerful players in publishing? Google, Amazon, Apple. One is an advertising company, one is an online retailer, one is an device manufacturer. What they all have in common is IT.

With science, what is happening now is a transformation from a cottage industry approach to industrial size. Things are on a much larger scale with a range of researchers tackling one part of the research project each. The technologies of choice in the lab lag behind. Post-It notes still prevail.

Another key driver is the change in policy (e.g. Neelie Kroes in the EU through to the NIH compliance where they moved to remove grants from researchers who didn't comply with OA requirements).

There is an evaluation gap. Traditional measures of impact don't take into account funders; requirements to measure impact including societal impact, public engagement and legislative impact. As publishers, we need to be aware of this.

Where does this leave us? The publisher as technology company? When content and technology collide you basically get Open Science. The different stages of research include: getting the idea, doing the research, documenting findings, output and dissemination, maximising return on researcher investment.

There are opportunities to use technology to help with each one of these stages. That is the space that publishers should inhabit. How do you go about this to add value? Digital Science focuses on investment in young companies that have solutions to problems in the science space. To understand what the problems are, they have a consultancy division who undertake research.

Phill Jones chaired the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

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