Tuesday 23 February 2016

Why is the business technology side of eJournals so unnecessarily complex? Tracy Gardner reflects...

Photograph of Tracy Gardner
eJournal technology is an essential part of the scholarly publishing industry. It is also the topic of one of our most popular training courses. Here, we spoke to Understanding eJournal Technology co-tutor, Tracy Gardner, about the challenges of keeping up-to-date in this area.

"One of the biggest challenges publishers face is making sure their content can be easily found in the various discovery resources readers use to find journal articles, and then to ensure the steps between the reader finding the content and reading it are seamless and without barrier. There are so many potential pitfalls along the way, and this issue therefore concerns people working in production, IT, editorial, sales, marketing and customer service.

The pace of change is fast, technology is evolving all of the time and the driver for much of it has come from the libraries. Libraries are keen to ensure their patrons find and access content they have selected and purchased and by keeping them in a library intermediated environment they feel they can improve their research experience overall. Ultimately the library would like the user to start at the library website, find content they can read and not be challenged along the way.

Simon Inger and I have been running the Understanding eJournal Technology course two or three times a year for ten years now and we have never run the same course twice - it constantly needs to be updated.

Those working in customer facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service may not fully appreciate how much library technology impacts on the way researchers find and access their content. Many people are surprised to learn that poor usage within an institution is often because something has gone wrong with the way the content is indexed within the library discovery layer, how it is set up in the library link resolver, or issues with authentication.

For those in operational or technology roles, the business technology side of eJournals can seem unnecessarily complex and, especially for those new to the industry, the way the information community works can seem counter to the way many other business sectors operate. What makes sense in classic B2B or B2C environments will not make sense within the academic research community.

By helping people who work in publishing houses understand how the eJournal technology works and how they can most effectively work with libraries to maximise discovery and use of their content. Many people who have attended our course have not been aware of the impact some of their decisions have had and our course has helped them understand why they need to work in certain ways."

Tracy Gardner will tutor on Understanding eJournal Technology in March and October 2016. Book your place now.

Thursday 4 February 2016

All Change in Scholarly Communications: How are the Players – Veterans and Newbies – Adapting?

Fiona Murphy reports from #APE2016
Last month, in characteristically bracing January Berlin weather, around 250 intrepid speakers and delegates attended the 11th Academic Publishing in Europe (APE – pronounced “Ahhhpay”) meeting. Keep an eye on Twitter #ape2016 as all of the presentations were recorded and so should become available in the near future.

A number of familiar characters – large publishers, established platform providers, and so forth – whose language seems to have evolved over the past few years – spoke about ‘openness’ and ‘sharing’ rather than preserving business models. Todd Toler of Wiley, for instance, expressed the “publisher’s value proposition” as having shifted from content provision – basically “moving stuff about” to “strengthening knowledge connections”. This feels like a real turning of tides; such players are now actively aiding and abetting our efforts to garner significant knowledge from our scholarly ecosystem.

In point of fact, there was a general theme around intelligence rather than simply the power of data. Barend Mons bemoaned the existence of “a Christmas tree of hyperlinks and the malpractice of supplementary material’”, instead calling for the training of experts to really understand how machine learning and human interrogation of data can be meshed together to form a powerful whole – “Open Science as a Social Machine” (keep an eye on the IDCC programme in Amsterdam later this month, as he’ll be expanding on the topic there). Meanwhile, Emma Green, of Zapnito – a start-up that aids knowledge-based companies to maximise the impact of their associated experts spoke of growing the ‘knowledge economy’ by reducing the noise and chatter, thereby freeing up the collective intelligence.

John Sack of Highwire’s approach was to examine frictions in the workflow. If workflow is ‘a way of getting things done,’ then instances of friction – with the possible exception of a review stage – largely involve the loss of efficiency. Currently most journal workflows are still based on the original print journal format, but with the version of record shifting online, the resulting misalignments between what is desired and what is produced are causing delays, and infringements of established rules (such as copyright). Friction-reducing tools that can support and simplify the generation, finding, and attribution of scholarly outputs are needed. This can be enabled by standards such as e.g. ORCID or ResearcherID for people, and by initiatives such as openRIF/VIVO for connecting people and their roles to their works and activities. This connectivity will surely boost quality, productivity, and the need for improved garnering of knowledge from our research landscape that generally arose as a theme across APE in general. This connectedness, according to Sack, is about a supported conversation amongst collaborators who are enabled by tools that sift, pre-curate and – potentially – publish their scholarly outputs.

Opportunities for new business models are appearing in a number of points in the workflow – Publons acknowledges and badges peer review activities, Overleaf provides templated support to write journal articles, and Elsevier is leveraging the new Mendeley Data service to enable authors to publish their data and link it immediately with journal articles.

At the same time, policy (=funding) is also moving in the same direction. Stephan Kuster, Head of Policy Affairs for Science Europe explained its function and mission. Science Europe is a think tank set up to support and advise EU National Research Funding Councils around on EU R&D policy issues. Open Access is one of nine key priorities, including enabling authors to hold copyright, supporting sustainable archiving, and publication and dissemination are integral part of research process and should be funded as such.

There was a thoughtful debate about Scholarly Communications Networks and whether they add value, which would not have been possible even a few years ago. Fred Dylla, Emeritus Executive Director of the American Institute of Physics, made the salient point that reputation of the journal still needs to be fundamentally challenged for the landscape to be really disrupted. Currently, the people and institutions making the key decisions about funding, tenure and promotion, are still fixated on journal reputations and impact factors. So, despite feeling as though there has been a lot of progress in the last few years, it also seems there’s still a lot to do.

Luckily there are several opportunities coming up to extend and develop our understanding of and strategies for adapting to this changing landscape. As well as the aforementioned IDCC later this month. And look out for the ALPSP Seminar on research data, digital preservation and innovation in March. Standing on the Digits of Giants is co-organised with the Digital Preservation Coalition and is designed to orientate and empower publishers, research managers and researchers to navigate and flourish in the new landscape.

Another key space to continue these discussions is in the context of the Force11 community, which aims to bring together many of the stakeholders needed at the table to effect change: policy makers, funders, researchers, technologists, publishers, informaticists, lawyers, etc. Force16 promises to be an exciting venue where we’ll be pushing scholarly communications into uncharted territory. Hope to see you there too.

Fiona Murphy, February 2016

Now associated with the Maverick Publishing Specialists, Fiona Murphy has held a range of production and editorial roles at Wiley, Oxford University Press, Random House and Bloomsbury Academic. She specializes in emerging scholarly communications (including Open Science and Open Data) and works to raise expertise and activity levels across the wider research and publications communities. Fiona has written and presented extensively on the research landscape, data and publishing. She is Co-Chair of the World Data System—Research Data Alliance Publishing Data Workflows Working Group, an Editorial Board Member of the Data Science Journal and enjoys organizing meetings. orcid.org/0000-0003-1693-1240

This post was written by Fiona Murphy with the support of Melissa Haendel.