Friday 26 August 2016

Spotlight on Wiley ChemPlanner - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This is the final post in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing finalists. Dave Flanagan, Director of Lab Solutions  talks about Wiley ChemPlanner.

Tell us a bit about your company.

Wiley is a global provider of knowledge and knowledge-enabled services that improve outcomes in areas of research, professional practice and education. We partner with over 800 societies representing two million members. We’ve been around for more than 200 years, and you probably know us for our high-quality books and journals. In chemistry, we publish books, journals, and databases, including databases of chemical reactions and different kinds of spectroscopy.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

Wiley ChemPlanner. ChemPlanner is a tool organic chemists can use to plan the synthesis of a new molecule. You draw a molecule, and ChemPlanner uses its state-of-the-art cheminformatics and high-quality data to predict the shortest, fastest, cheapest route to your target.

You can think of ChemPlanner as being analogous to IBM’s chess playing computer Deep Blue. Deep Blue learned all the potential moves in chess by parsing historical chess matches move-by-move and extracting rules that would help it win any game of chess. ChemPlanner has “learned” organic chemistry from the last 30 years of chemical reactions.

In this example, the user has drawn a target molecule (far left). ChemPlanner has predicted a two-step synthesis. Starting from the right, the first step has been predicted by ChemPlanner based on what it has “learned” about organic chemistry (light bulb icon). The second step is through a known, literature reaction (book icon). Prices under the molecules come from linked databases from commercial providers, giving you an idea of how much the synthesis will cost.

This is important because ChemPlanner can help speed up the process of making new molecules. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, teams of organic chemists synthesize thousands of molecules that could potentially become a drug. But, most of the candidates will fail in pre-clinical or clinical testing, so a team might have to synthesize up to 10,000 candidate molecules to find the one that will eventually become an FDA-approved drug. Cutting synthesis time out of the process means drug candidates get off the whiteboard and into the clinic faster.

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

Today, chemists rely on a combination of their own chemistry knowledge and searching the literature for reactions similar to what they think they need. But, this can be inefficient: database search tools require that a chemist have an idea of what they are looking for. And then, the chemist needs to piece the individual steps in a synthetic route together manually, trying to keep track of lots of variables like the availability of starting materials, the number of steps in the route, how common or exotic the individual reactions are, the yields of each reaction, and the overall synthetic strategy.

When we uncovered this in our workflow research, we saw an opportunity. We could accelerate the process with an easy-to-use tool that used promising cheminformatics technology to design optimized overall routes, including through novel molecules and reactions that are not indexed in any databases. Rather than searching the literature for similar molecules, the chemist could instead use a software application that automatically designs the optimal route for any molecule. The chemist could then fine-tune the route and decide on a solution in a matter of minutes instead of hours; this is computer-aided synthesis design.

In this approach, the software helps the chemist be more creative, by suggesting routes and reactions they may not have thought of on their own, and be more productive, by keeping track of all the variables (yield, cost, number of steps, literature support, etc.) that the chemist would have to keep track of in their head.

Delivering a sophisticated product like ChemPlanner has been the work of a talented team. Colleagues in Technology, Product Management, Marketing, Editorial, Sales, and more from multiple Wiley locations around the world have contributed to the development of ChemPlanner.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

We’re seeing the evolution of publishing, from the distribution of results in books and journals, to indexing those results in databases, to now being able to make predictions based on machine learning from those databases. It’s a real workflow tool in that a chemist working at the bench can input a question and get an answer to their problem, a real actionable answer that measurably helps our users be more creative and efficient.

What are your plans for the future?

We have a robust product roadmap for ChemPlanner with some exciting features planned for later this year. We’re not quite ready to talk about them publically yet, but if your readers are interested in what we have coming up or would like to schedule a demo, please get in touch by visiting

Dave Flanagan is Director, Lab Solutions at Wiley. He will present at the ALPSP Conference session for Awards finalists. The winner of the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing will be announced at the conference dinner on Thursday 15 September.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016 are sponsored by MPS Limited.

Monday 22 August 2016

Fast Track Content from Author to Reader: Collaborative workflow management systems that work

Rahul Arora, Chief Executive Officer at MPS Limited, draws on many years’ experience, including the development of MPSTrak, a core component of their flagship cloud-based Digital Publishing Platform – DigiCore – that streamlines, automates, and optimizes the publishing process.

In this guest post he considers the need to implement a collaborative workflow management system to manage the complete author-to-reader value chain, and the associated benefits for publishers.

"A publishing workflow is a sequence of activities performed by individuals or groups to make the content available to the reader. Participation is required from the author, editorial team, reviewers, and production staff; with the publisher managing and owning the complete process in near real time.

In the past seven to eight years, much has changed in publishing workflow management. New technology, publishing models, workflows, demand from authors, and growing competition have created a demand for increased automation, efficiency, standardization, faster publishing, global visibility, and cost savings.

Publishers need a flexible and adaptable publishing workflow management system that deals with any existing multiplicity in publishing processes without creating any echo, supports future business workflow requirements, provides global visibility, and allows the business to make any required changes with no or minimum dependency on the technology team.

We have seen publishers struggling with various challenges in their workflows: repetitive data entry in different systems, inadequate data validation, no control on processes, challenges in managing user notifications and reminders, tracking work from author and providing visibility on work status, article-based or custom publishing, issue make-up, schedule management, managing payments, and integrating different internal and external components.

In some cases, publishers had over 30 production workflows, with more than 80% repetition in data entry. The resultant issues and productivity inhibitors with apparently simple looking processes would see staff doing something in a far more complex way than was necessary.

When we start to work with clients, we always carry out a “workflow discovery” workshop at the start of each system implementation. Invariably we find that many times staff don’t have a strong rationale behind following the existing process steps. The response to most of questions turns out to be “Someone asked us to do this way and we never thought too deeply about it”. In addition, there are always loose boundaries between editorial and production work and different teams doing the same things in different ways.

We recommend publishers adopt an automated workflow system through a capable and experienced partner without waiting for the struggle to peak and creating barriers in growth.

Because one thing remains true: successful organizations, the ones that ‘disrupt’ the old guard, are the ones that have figured out an end-to-end creative process that enables them to beat their competition.

The major things to consider are the platform’s flexibility to incorporate changes and a knowledgeable team that can lead and drive change. We advise clients to expect:
  • Intuitive user interface with global visibility across the publishing process 
  • Faster time to market 
  • Increased transparency between publishing process stakeholders 
  • Support for flexible business models 
  • Increase in staff work handling capacity.

We were delighted to hear from one of our customers who reported absorption of three year growth in production volume without adding any production staff when they implemented MPSTrak. Another reported a 46% increase in article-handling capacity of a production editor. Whichever system you work with, make sure it helps you deliver the capacity, flexibility and adaptability to deal with an increasingly complex publishing workflow."

Rahul Arora is the Chief Executive Officer at MPS Limited. He graduated from Babson College, Massachusetts and has a MBA from the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. Rahul led the transformation of his family’s print-focused publishing business to a larger, professionally-driven B2B media enterprise. He has led and grown some of Gallup’s most innovative consulting partnerships in the APAC region. As CEO of MPS, he manages the current operations in India and the United States, while continuing to actively engage with their client base.

MPS Limited has provided platforms and services for content creation, full-service production, and distribution for over 46 years. The business division, MPS Technologies, is a leading partner for global publishers and caters to the rapidly changing technological requirements of the publishing workflow. MPSTrak is a core component of their flagship cloud-based Digital Publishing Platform – DigiCore – that streamlines, automates, and optimizes the publishing process.

MPS Limited are sponsoring the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. The winners will be announced at the ALPSP Conference 14-16 September. Book now and follow #alpsp16 #alpspawards for details.

Friday 19 August 2016

Spotlight on SAGE Publishing's An Adventure in Statistics by Andy Field - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This is the penultimate post in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing finalists.

Mark Kavanagh from SAGE Publishing talks about An Adventure in Statistics.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

Traditional methods of teaching and learning are in flux, partly because attention in the digital age is a scarce resource and engaging students is an increasing challenge. When Andy Field presented his ideas for a new approach to writing a textbook, we saw the opportunity to promote innovation within our textbook programme, specifically using Research Methods as our sandpit to play with pedagogy and better understand student engagement and learning styles.

A reinvention of the classic textbook model, An Adventure in Statistics demonstrates SAGE’s commitment to putting the authorial voice, ideas and talents at the heart of what we do, and to responding to the changing needs of students today.

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

It is designed to work in the same way any textbook would. There are chapters on all the key areas covered on typical introductory statistics courses, there are pedagogical features throughout, and there is an online website offering complementary teaching and learning resources.

Where it departs from the traditional textbook model is in conveying statistical concepts through the interactions of characters in a novel length story – a science fiction love story in which Zach searches for his beloved Alice in a futuristic world, where every character he meets in his quest wants to teach him stats!

Great focus was placed both on the visual and story elements of the text to ensure that it worked as ‘academic fiction’. Andy always had the student reader firmly in mind from the beginning, but when he delivered the script, the SAGE product development team adopted a “bottom up”, user focused review process to better learn how this unique approach worked in practice, to build up student testimonials, and to help create more innovative sales and marketing strategies.

Andy engaged an Illustrator – James Iles, of Doctor Who fame – who helped initiate bringing the story to life. In house, Ian Antcliff worked on creating a design consistent with the artwork, adding value to the visual experience.

The array of illustrations bring another dimension to the figures, tables and pedagogy scattered throughout the book, fully immersing students into Zach’s world and making a one of a kind reading and learning experience.

In addition Andy worked with fiction editor, Gillian Stern, who provided feedback on the story elements of the text, helping to release Andy’s hitherto latent literary talents.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

An Adventure in Statistics rethinks the way that knowledge can be acquired, embedding statistical concepts into a highly illustrated, fictional narrative to motivate student learning. Using the medium of a science fiction love-story – not explored within teaching before – Andy have taken a creative approach to a long established model to create a more effective learning experience.

We’ve invested significantly in adapting a traditional model and format of dissemination to appeal both to changing learning styles and the ways in which students want to engage with educational content. It puts the reader at the centre, challenging their preconceptions about style and learning habits, appealing to their creative nature, demystifying content and teaching through a novel format.

In addition the story element of the product gives us much more scope to play with new ways of engaging students via social media, fostering and sustaining “fandom” and product discoverability.

An Adventure in Statistics is the expression of Andy’s vision for better engaging students and symbolises our willingness to invest significantly in the ideas of those at the forefront of HE teaching.

What are your plans for the future?

An Adventure in Statistics represents our most far reaching foray into understanding better student engagement, but we’re undertaking a range of innovation in pedagogy initiatives of varying scale throughout our textbook publishing programme. Adopting the “digital” mind-set of learning by doing and iterating, we’re conducting a series meaningful experiments across print and digital to learn more about how to be as relevant as possible to students at a time when they are increasingly influential in what teaching material they use.

Tell us a bit about your company.

SAGE Publishing is a leading independent academic and professional publisher founded in 1965 by Sara Miller McCune. SAGE is widely credited with helping to found early fields in Research Methods, and over its 50 year history has developed to further support the field in academic content, teaching resources, and innovative new products (e.g. SAGE Video Research Methods). We are committed to continuing our tradition of innovation within the Research Methods sphere, and the new textbook by award winning author Andy Field is a key example of how SAGE’s textbooks are breaking the mould of pedagogy, research methods and teaching.

This post was updated 5 September 2016.

Mark Kavanagh is Executive Publisher at SAGE Publishing. You can watch Mark present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

Monday 15 August 2016

Spotlight on ORCID - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing shortlist. Laure Haak from ORCID tells us more about their work.

Tell us a bit about your company.

ORCID is an independent non-profit organization that was founded by and for the research community. Our vision is a world where all who participate in research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely identified and connected to their contributions across disciplines, borders, and time. We aim to achieve this vision by providing an open registry where individuals may obtain a unique identifier they may use with their name as they engage in research, scholarship, and innovation activities. We also provide open tools that enable transparent and trustworthy connections between researchers, their contributions, and affiliations.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

We actually submitted our whole organization for consideration for the Award! We highlighted a few specific projects that we believe demonstrate innovation in publishing. These included:
  • Recognizing peer review. Organizations may use ORCID iDs and APIs to more publicly acknowledge the contributions of their reviewers and editors. This functionality, launched in summer 2015, started with a CASRAI community working group co-chaired by ORCID and F1000 to define how to cite peer review, and developed into a pilot project collaboration with publishers to test out the data model and API-based workflow. Now, a number of organizations - publishers, funders, and system providers - are collecting ORCID iDs of reviewers and editors and, with their permission, integrating these identifiers with information about the review and using APIs to connect it all to the reviewer’s ORCID record. The information added can be very sparse (for double blind peer review) or complete (for fully open peer review) or anything in between. In keeping with ORCID's commitment to user control, an individual may make this information visible, private, or share it only with specific parties such as their employer or funding organization. It increases the visibility of - and ultimately, recognition for - the substantial contributions that peer reviewers make to the research process.
  • Auto-Updating Researcher Records. In collaboration with Crossref and DataCite, we have worked with the publishing community to connect contributors and streamline the flow of information about journal articles and datasets from the point of submission to the contributor’s ORCID record. This not only significantly decreases the reporting burden on contributors but also creates an automated workflow for managing metadata updates from one source record. Connecting the dots has required work with publishers and data centers to ensure submission and production systems can collect ORCID iDs, and include them in their metadata deposits to Crossref and/or DataCite. In turn, Crossref and DataCite have worked with ORCID to create a workflow and notification service for ORCID record-holders to manage permissions for the update process. Now, authors and contributors need only use their iD when they submit a work, and provide permission once to Crossref and/or DataCite, and their ORCID record will be automatically updated with information when their work is made public. Auto-update was a huge collaborative effort and a big step towards our goal of 'Enter once, re-use often'.

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

As a community-led organization, our projects involve a deep collaboration with the research community and across teams at ORCID - communications and support, technical operations, membership, back office operations, and strategy. For peer review, we engaged in a formal community working group process to define the data model for citing a peer review activity, tested this model with Early Adopters before launching formally, and spearheaded Peer Review Week to monitor community engagement and adoption of this functionality. For Auto-Update, we engaged directly with Crossref and DataCite to design and test notification processes and, through those organizations, with their communities to define processes for metadata deposits.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

These two projects illustrate how we can think - and act - beyond the traditional workflow “box”; in this case, of journal article citations. Review and indexing are critical factors in publishing but have typically been treated as “back office” activities. At the same time, the community is concerned about the decreasing participation in peer review activities, and the difficulty in maintaining metadata quality across the research ecosystem. Working with the community, we have created workflows that enable peer review activities to be cited - and that incentivize participation. Similarly, we have created workflows that enable interoperability between data systems - and sharing of high-quality metadata. These projects demonstrate how we help the community work together to innovate and build solutions for long-standing challenges in publishing - and other research - workflows.

What are your plans for the future?

In addition to peer review and autoupdate projects, we are currently working with the community to support acknowledgement of contributor roles, to enhance the identity management process, to clarify the processing of unique identifiers in the article publishing process, to improve the identification of organizations, and have just launched a community project on use of ORCID iDs in book publishing workflows.

Laure Haak is Executive Director at ORCID.

You can watch ORCID present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Spotlight on the Crossref Metadata API - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This is the third in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing shortlist. Ginny Hendricks from Crossref tells us more about their Metadata API.

Tell us a bit about your company.

Crossref is a not-for-profit membership organization for scholarly publishing working to make content easy to find, cite, link, assess, and re-use. We do it in five ways: rallying the community; tagging metadata; running a shared infrastructure; playing with new technology; and making tools and services to improve research communications.

We’ve been around for sixteen years primarily for storing and registering identifiers that enable persistent linking between research articles. We’ve since grown to almost 6000 publisher members. This makes us not so much a Start-up as a ‘Scale-up’. We are seeing over 150 new publishers joining every month, international in scope and location, and many of these are library publishers, scholar publishers, and organizations exploring new publishing models.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

It’s the Crossref Metadata API, which is becoming a significant focus for us. We always describe APIs as machine-to-machine interfaces, but as more of us, including researchers, grow our developer mind-set, more of the services that we and others build need a dynamic way to integrate and use the cross-publisher metadata registered by Crossref. Put simply, the API lets anyone search, filter, facet and sample Crossref metadata related to over 80 million content items with unique Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

We’re a small team of fewer than thirty people total, about a third in Oxford, UK and two thirds in Boston, USA. This, like most Crossref initiatives, started with the R&D team led by Geoffrey Bilder and has been extensively developed by Karl Ward.

The API was initially conceived to support funders who wanted to be able to find and report on the outputs of the research they funded. This was information publishers had started to provide Crossref, but to make best use of it, funders need to be able to access the most up-to-date information from publishers to be able to filter and facet their searches to look for specific subsets of information to report on the KPIs they were interested in.

Then it grew - with the introduction of funding data we started to see the API being used extensively. Coupled with that, the increased breadth of the metadata that publishers can provide Crossref with has also been growing - letting it be interrogated and used in lots of interesting ways. As such, the API has been developed to support the different information that users might ask of the metadata: asking for things like licence information, ORCID iDs, full-text links, clinical trial numbers and being able to filter on and combine these to get the specific sub-set of data they’re looking for.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

For its openness, its wide applicability, and it’s growing user base. Also because it’s used solely by developers who are looking to innovate themselves. As a communications person it’s been really interesting to see how the developer community has engaged with the API. The kind of use cases we’re seeing include text-mining, simple reporting and tracking, notification services, search interfaces (including our own) and integration in online editing and blogging tools.

What are your plans for the future?

Robustness! We have plans to scale up the technology to handle the growing usage the API is experiencing and make sure we can wholeheartedly support and grow the community that is using it. Of course, the API is only as valuable as the information that publishers provide Crossref with, and we’ll also be encouraging publishers to deposit the best, most complete metadata they can to improve the discoverability and usability of the research they publish.

Ginny Hendricks is Director of Member & Community Outreach at Crossref.

You can watch Crossref present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2016 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Spotlight on Cartoon Abstracts - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

Ben Hudson, at work, visualising research
In this, the second in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing shortlist, we talk to Ben Hudson from Taylor & Francis about Cartoon Abstracts.

Tell us a bit about your company

I work as a marketer in the journals division of Taylor & Francis. We’ve been cultivating knowledge since 1798.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

Cartoon Abstracts, which are a fun new way of visualising academic research. These act primarily as a marketing tool, and are making a big impact on social media as well as having other applications.

See the cartoons for yourself at

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

Marketers are already using many different ways to promote individual research articles, and attracting the attention of an audience is an ever-evolving challenge.

I wanted to create something that stands out from the crowd, so I worked with a number of illustrators to combine the storytelling of a good press release with the highly visual nature of infographics. The end result is both concise and engaging – perfect for today’s marketing environment.

Once created, individual cartoon abstracts are promoted by T&F through social media, online, and via email. In addition, printed comics are proving very popular as a conference giveaway.

The original authors are provided with printed posters of their cartoon. These can be used at the authors’ place of work, at conferences, or even in poster sessions. Authors are also encouraged to self-promote their cartoon abstract through blogs and social media.

This combined promotion generates significant downloads and fantastic PR for the original research articles. This also increases the potential for citations.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

Each individual cartoon abstract summarises the original authors’ work through illustration, harnessing the overwhelming power of images over text.

Illustrations can aid the understanding of difficult concepts, broaden the appeal of niche topics, and transcend language barriers.

Authors enjoy being included as characters, which encourages them to share their cartoon via their own networks, thus increasing our communications reach. The author characters also resonate with the audience.

Elements of humour, intrigue, and parody can be found throughout many of the cartoons, which further increases audience engagement.

Cartoon Abstracts truly has gone viral, winning resounding organic praise from the academic community and beyond.

What are your plans for the future?

Cartoon Abstracts continues to gain exposure and awareness in the wider community, bringing written research to new audiences. I would like the concept to inspire not only current academics, but also the academics of tomorrow. As stated in the cartoon abstract Are Comics a Good Medium for Science Communication?, “Science comics have the potential to develop lay people’s ongoing interest and enjoyment for science”.

Ben Hudson is Associate Marketing Manager at Taylor & Francis and Founding Editor of Cartoon Abstracts. Watch him present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.