Tuesday 21 November 2017

Signposts from the Future - scenario planning at BMJ

In this guest blog, Katy Alexander, Head of Strategic Marketing for Journals at BMJ takes a fascinating look into the future.....

It’s 2037, the fourth industrial revolution has come and gone. The medical research landscape is highly automated and cloud based. Medical researchers are required to combine scientific qualifications with advanced programming and policy/communications expertise, patients are driving the healthcare research agenda and the very nature of disease is disrupted by technology. While some of this may seem implausible, I’ll bet that a number of us would have said the same in late 1990s when the scenarios of the time were pointing towards a potential future when the publishing industry would become a technology industry, prey to small disruptive innovations companies.

As with many industries, the publishing and healthcare industries operate within a complex, rapidly and consistently changing environment. In the past five years alone, the medical research and healthcare space has been influenced by a range of disruptions brought on by digital technologies, political and social unrest, and shifts in customer behaviour.  Wearable patient-monitoring devices and apps like Sea Hero Quest  have started to offer access to unprecedented data sets, often in real time. This period of rapid change has presented wide-ranging uncertainties.

While scenario planning is far from a new discipline, companies are increasingly incorporating scenarios practice into strategy processes as a means of surfacing and managing these uncertainties more systematically.  The process pushes us to think more expansively about potential futures in order to inform today’s strategic choices and the signals and underlying trends we may see in the future that could indicate which scenarios are playing out and how we should adjust to them. Practically scenarios are a structured way for companies to paint divergent versions of the future, they offer possible views of the world in the form of a narrative or “story”.

In November 2016, BMJ embarked on a scenario planning process based on the Saïd Business School’s Oxford Scenarios Programme (OSP).  We didn’t set out to predict the future; I think we can all agree that isn’t possible. However, we did want to think more systematically about the future, strengthen our abilities to cope with unpredictable shifts in the landscape and plan for innovation. Led by our Competitive Intelligence team and Director of Strategy, the process took just over eight months. During this time, we identified our two critical uncertainties - (Technology Adoption / Dominant Funding Model) - and defined a set of forces that could influence the direction of medical research. We carried out over 50 interviews with internal and external stakeholders as well as global thought-leaders from a wide-ranging list of industries, hosted three workshops and developed four varied and plausible scenarios describing the range for the future of Medical Research.  An overview of our four scenarios is provided below:

Techtopia: The fourth industrial revolution has rid the need for entire medical disciplines and many roles previously carried out by medical researchers are now done by machines. Researchers are required to develop expertise in programming, engineering, and software & informatics. While a small private ecosphere, driven by philanthropic organisations, is paying for research to be undertaken in neglected areas private technology corporations monopolize all elements of medical research. Medicine is highly personalised, health wearables are abundant, patients are triaged in the cloud and medical facilities are small and owned by large corporations.

Sustainable health 2037: Governments have come together to address the big, global issues. A combination of regulation and taxation has encouraged a diverse and highly collaborative research ecosystem. Medical researchers progress in their careers by producing high-quality data sets in areas prioritised by governments. Machine learning provides real-time analysis and interpretation of datasets, and technology is making lifestyles healthier, even in once-remote regions. However, the replacement of human-to-human interaction by technology is exacerbating mental health problems associated with social isolation and loneliness.

Post West power shift: Economic and social instability and volatility in the West have curtailed international movement, and political agendas now focus narrowly on issues of national security and economic health. The West no longer dominates the medical research landscape, Easternisation and the rise of the Global South is causing a geographic shift. Medical researchers are employed by public research and healthcare facilities.

Neighbourhood science: The voice of the people drives the setting of medical research priorities. There is increasing investment in medical research at the boundaries of health and social care, and the data comes from mostly from social networks and community apps that share personal health information. Clinical research is a niche interest collected by crowd-funding and pockets of small investors, and are driven by public appeals.

 Aside from informing our strategy process, as a company we have benefited from scenario planning in three main areas:
  1. Scenario planning has widened the conversation at BMJ. It has stretched teams at all levels and in all departments, bringing us together and enriching conversations, leveraging expertise and knowledge from across the business and challenging everyone’s assumptions. 
  2. Our thought process has collectively moved further away from a linear, preordained and operational path to understanding that linear concepts are not the only way to think about time. We are setting up early warning indicators that can be monitored and contingency plans implemented. This means we can revisit the scenarios and if necessary, revise them.
  3. Scenario planning draws on a wide range of disciplines and interests, including economics, psychology, politics and demographics, it has engaged us all to think outside of our industry and to remember that even modest environmental changes can have enormous impact

We don’t know exactly what 2037 will look like; it may have some aspects of these scenarios or possibly none. However, we can and should be asking ourselves how key uncertainties and broader trends affect our industry and business. Through this process, we should constantly be looking for ways to innovate and shape the future that we wish to see.

If you want to read more about the scenario planning narratives and the key forces we believe are impacting and shaping medical research  please visit our site www.bmj.com/company/scenarioplanning

If you are interested in learning more about our process and the thinking behind our scenarios, keep your eyes open for “The​ ​future​ ​of​ ​global​ ​research​ ​-​ ​a​ ​case​ ​study​ ​on​ ​the​ ​use​ ​of​ ​scenario planning​ ​in​ ​the​ ​publishing​ ​industry​” in a future Issue of the Learned-Publishing.

Katy Alexander is Head of Strategic Marketing for Journals at BMJ and has over 15 years experience in the publishing industry, serving in a variety of marketing and strategy positions. She is always happy to discuss anything related to publishing or disruptive technologies so reach out on twitter @kla2010

Website: www.bmj.com/company
Twitter: @bmj_company
Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/bmjcompany

Tuesday 14 November 2017

University Press Redux: The Return

In this guest blog, Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press and the curator/host of next year's conference, tells us the story of University Press Redux so far and her involvement in the next chapter.

For me, and I think for many others in the university press sector, the first University Press Redux Conference in March 2016 marked a sea change in the way UK university presses are seen, and see themselves.

Kick-started by the momentum generated by the Academic Book of the Future project (a two-year research project into the scholarly publishing industry, funded and supported by AHRC and the British Library, 2015-2017), the first University Press Redux Conference in Liverpool in March 2016 was launched by Anthony Cond, Managing Director of Liverpool University Press (winner of both the Bookseller and the IPG Awards for Independent Academic Publisher of the Year in 2015).

I use the word ‘launched’ deliberately, since 'organised’ does not fully convey what Anthony achieved in that first conference. Attended by over 150 delegates from around the world and with speakers from the US, UK and Europe covering all aspects of university press (UP) activities, and with representatives from all levels and functions, the conference offered an opportunity on this side of the Atlantic for university presses to meet, discuss and exchange ideas and information. The mood was buoyant, the presentations were stimulating, and we all learnt a huge amount.

Redux 2016 happened at a particular moment, which also helps to explain its success. Scholarly publishing is undergoing significant change, with a challenging market, changes in library supply, digital distribution, new HE policies, and changing university missions which have led to a reexamination of the purpose of university presses. At the same time, many new presses have been springing up, signaling a desire on the part of institutions to do things differently. Redux was an opportunity to share those challenges and changes with all those who work in the sector – not just the UPs, but also the affiliated sectors that we work with: libraries, authors, academics, suppliers, policy makers, funders and our own institutions.

The things that shone through clearly to me during that conference were threefold:

1) that we are a ‘thing’, with distinct skills, responsibilities and challenges, quite different from scholarly publishing generally, even though we share many similarities
2) that despite our shared identity, we are also remarkably diverse in our outputs, activities, practices, sizes and missions
3) that we should be incredibly proud of what we do, and that our parent institutions should also be incredibly proud of what we do for scholarship and for our universities’ brand recognition

And what also came through very clearly was the feeling that we must do this again.

And so Redux was born as a regular event on the conference calendar. The University Press Redux 2018 takes place on 13-14 February 2018, at the British Library Conference Centre. It will take place every two years, and it is now ably supported by ALPSP, putting it on a firm footing for the future. Each conference will be hosted in a different location by a different university press which is responsible for organizing the speakers and the programme.

I volunteered for Redux 2018 for the main reason that having only launched in 2015, UCL is very new university press with a fully open access model which is still very unusual. As such, UCL Press is keen to collaborate as much as possible with other university presses - to help establish itself, to learn, and to share its experience of its OA model. But also, I volunteered because it’s fun. I think we are incredibly lucky to work in such a collegial sector. There is a genuine eagerness to collaborate and help each other which really stands out.

Registration for Redux 2018 bookings is now open and well underway – please join us for two full days of stimulating conversation and presentations. We look forward to seeing you in February! 

Lara Speicher is Publishing Manager at UCL Press, which launched in June 2015. She set up the Press from scratch as the first fully open access university press in the UK. The Press has gone on to publish over 50 books which have been downloaded over half a million times round the world. The Press won the UCL Brand Ambassador Award in 2017 for the global reach of its publications and was also shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards in the Digital Innovation Category

Lara has worked in publishing for over 20 years and has previously held publishing roles at British Library Publishing and BBC Books. She sits on the HEFCE/UUK Open Access Monographs Working Group and on the School of Advanced Study (University of London) Publishing Advisory Board. 

Thursday 12 October 2017

Innovation starts with HighWire’s Intelligent Publishing Platform

In this ALPSP guest blog, John Sack, Founding Director of HighWire Press shares how how Highwire are working with their user community to drive innovation.

We help scientific and scholarly publishers stay ahead of research and education trends, adapt to changing user demands, and increase revenues across channels. HighWire continually invests in data science across all our products to offer integrated analytics and insights that drive digital innovation.

The evolution of print and digital publishing is accelerating. Publishers work with us to bring innovative products and services to market faster and deliver the very best user experiences and business outcomes with our Intelligent Platform. Our customers tell us that the evidence we offer, via our Strategic Business Consultancy Services, transform conversations about content development and product strategy. Working together as a strategic business partner, our goals are to advance innovation and best practices, inform successful editorial and business decisions, and create great products and services and business outcomes.

Insights drive innovation across the industry

At HighWire Publishers’ meetings, our community shares analysis, insights, and practical advice to address the challenges they face as well as a future focus on strategies to keep ahead of the curve in the ever-changing publishing ecosystem. Conversations at our meetings focus on delivering what users want, improving workflows to attract readers and leading authors, and creating new revenue opportunities. You can watch brief video excerpts of presentations at recent meetings now available for the first time on our web site outlining specific achievements working collaboratively with HighWire.

Joe Puskarz, Director, Division of Journal Publishing, American Academy of Pediatrics shares the strategic process, data insights, and success metrics around a dramatic change in AAP’s Pediatrics print strategy and online publication gateway to better serve readers and advertisers while improving profitability. See videos Optimizing a publications gateway with reader feedback and analytics and Pediatrics Print Strategy: User behavior drives product development.

HighWire’s Intelligent Platform includes end-to-end publishing solutions from strategy to delivery. Machine intelligence and predictive analytics are applied across all our products to help understand user behavior patterns to attract target readers, authors, and advertisers and inform product development. Kim Murphy and Nandhini Kuntipuram from American College of Cardiology (ACC), describe their journey to develop customer personas, define product requirements and optimize the user experience, leading to the successful launch of ACC’s journals with JCore. Watch Using field research in UX to inform and measure website success. Don’t miss brief case studies on more recent journal launches with JCore.

Our industry's need to improve workflows for efficiency regularly generates discussion and innovation. HighWire collaborates with publishers to develop and implement innovative approaches that support researchers who require faster times to publication while continuing to meet rigorous editorial and content management requirements. Stuart Taylor, Royal Society; Claire Rawlinson, BMJ; and Claire Moulton, Company of Biologists; each contributed a recent London session on “Emerging Trends in Academic Publishing." Issues and opportunities addressed included pre-print servers, post-publication changes designed for an online world, overlay journals, and post publication peer review.

Highlights from our previous Publishers' Meetings

Publishers recently presented on a range of topics at our Fall Meeting in September, including our session on the “Bibliometric Intelligence” product pilot with Meta which illustrated the opportunities offered by predictive analytics. 

Read about past presentations by Valda Vinson, AAAS; Suzanne Rosenzweig, Society for Neuroscience; Keith Gigliello, American Society of Hematology; and an illustrated case study using Impact Vizor to compare article citation levels across disciplines within a journal and to other journals.

Getting in touch with us is easier than ever! Click Talk to Us and connect with industry thought leaders and experts like John Sack regarding emerging trends you think should be addressed in our 2018 meetings.

John Sack is the founding director of HighWire Press and focuses on market assessment, client relations, technology innovation, and the kind of thought leadership and industry-forward thinking that has helped defined the Company's mission since 1995.

Twitter: @highwirepress

Highwire is a proud Silver Sponsor of the ALPSP 2017 Annual Conference.

Monday 9 October 2017

The Emotion of Data – Your Child Is Always Beautiful

In week’s guest blog we hear from Kent Anderson, the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, on the emotional pull of well-presented data….. 

An Excel spreadsheet or data table isn’t usually enough to rouse the emotions. Rigid rows and columns crammed with shapes are difficult to bond with and even harder to get worked up over. Trends are concealed in there somewhere, meaning lurks, yet our senses are stymied by how raw data are assembled.

Over the past 18 months, guiding RedLink, a data company with the slogan “See What You’re Missing,” has opened my eyes to the wonderful emotional pull of well-presented data – what we might call the ultrasound of data, when a real emotional connection begins to occur. I’ve attended dozens of sessions in which we reveal to new customers their data in our products, and every time there is a strong emotional response – the “ooh!” and “wow!” – because they are seeing something of great interest clearly for the first time.

Visualization isn’t the only way to create emotional connections for users. There are other techniques, such as gamification, personalization, and connection.

Visualization – Seeing Is Believing

Turn a set of columns and rows into a set of interactive curves or lines or bars, and suddenly meaning leaps out. Making these trends clear is powerful for sales people, business leaders, managers, and purchasers. There is also the ability RedLink has to import data for libraries and publishers, saving them days or weeks of effort, that liberates time to look at the data and think about its implications.

Gamification – It Makes Data Engaging

Games are great ways to make complex subjects approachable and more understandable. We’ve adopted some aspects of gamification in our products, adding Unlocks and clever names and treasure maps to business-specific products that otherwise would be officious and off-putting. These conceptual candies help to sweeten the experience, adding memorable and pleasant dimensions to the user experience while boosting utility.

Personalization – It’s Your Data

Increasingly, personal data are viewed not as commodities but as elements you have a right to manage. The EU has been more proactive on this front than the US, for example, with initiatives like “the right to be forgotten” and data portability. This places new constraints on data companies. Yet, constraints drive design and innovation, so new services like Remarq – which allows users to put a lot of data about their usage of the scientific and scholarly literature in one place  – are on the leading edge of the data personalization trend.

Connection – Relevance Matters to Meaning

Data matter the most when you can immediately do something with them. We focus a lot on making this happen, whether it’s allowing users to only see data for customers they manage, to see trends across disciplines instead of just around products, to view the macro (consortia, bundles, titles from multiple sources) and the micro (individual institutions, individual titles, individual sources), giving quick paths to relevant views is crucial to making data matter. These views connect the user with the data so that decisions can happen quickly and confidently.


As an independent data company, RedLink helps libraries, consortia, publishers, and end-users “see what they’re missing.” By using visualization, gamification, personalization, and connection, data can become powerful, efficient, and even enjoyable sources of information to help publishers, librarians, administrators, researchers, editors, and authors make better decisions.

Redlink is a proud Silver Sponsor of the ALPSP 2017 Annual Conference.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Breaking Down Barriers in Scholarly Publishing

In this ALPSP guest blog, Craig Griffin, Solutions Engineer at Silverchair Information Systems discusses a two-prong strategy to help scholarly publishers optimize the use and functionality of their content.

We in scholarly publishing have visions of a future powered by Artificial Intelligence. Self-learning applications. Powerful discovery techniques. Machine-based learning tools. Change is a constant in any industry, but the rate of change within scholarly publishing is increasing rapidly on all fronts.  Journals and books, long the bread and butter of publishers, have now been joined by an explosion of additional content types such as video, data sets, grey literature, and learning formats.  Optimizing the use and functionality of this content in light of researchers’ needs to author, publish, and discover highly varied content sets alone presents a challenge.

A second challenge is found in the sheer volume of content being pushed through ever greater numbers of channels.  Discovery of content, regardless of channel, occurs off-platform on the servers of Google, PubMed, Crossref, or any number of social media platforms that no publisher, society, or author controls. With content in myriad formats and fractured delivery channels, it’s challenging for even the most capable power-user to be sure that their research is exhaustive or to stay on top of the latest developments.

A solution to this problem involves a two-prong strategy.

First, publishers need to Standardize the entire content set. Of course, content formats have evolved over the years, sometimes in a prescribed, documented evolution, and other times completely organically.  Since the software to display this content needs to handle all these variations, the content itself then becomes monolithic—it works in this one specific way, with this software layer above it, but does not function correctly outside of the content structure/software pair. It’s completely locked in its database.

Standardized formats allow content to reside in a more efficient database.  With a clearly defined data and database structure, the software layer above can extract and display information across content eras and handle associations easily.  Standardization also allows content types to be related in a far more efficient and flexible manner.  A video and a journal article, for example, with separate but standard structures can be related via metadata, content elements, or any other association desired by the publisher.  Additionally, Standardized content becomes much more accessible to machines, which as of now are the primary consumer of content. This can be via discovery bots, search engine crawlers, or Text and Data Mining apparatuses.  The rate and volume of these automated tools is the only true match to the explosion of content.

Once Standardized, publishers can then deploy the second strategy:  Breaking Down Silos.  This is achieved by bringing all the Standardized content—of any type—into a single platform. Once the unification of content has occurred, with discovery, display, relational associations, and third-party linkages all coming from one technology stack, content can then become substantially more functional for the end-user.  Content can then be organized by editorial concepts rather than simply by types or titles.  By improving the organizational options of standardized content, publishers can then tailor (and sell) collections targeted at infinitely narrower user groups.  This achieves the direct benefit of presenting specific content to a user at the exact moment of need.

It’s important for publishers to think of the user’s journey to their content (via any number of discovery methods): think of the user’s purpose in accessing the content. Although AI tools have begun the work of meeting the user at the right moment on their path, publishers can accelerate this process to the benefit of both their audience and their bottom line. By following the strategies of Standardization and Breaking Down Silos, users will be rewarded with an experience that works for them, rather than solely for the content.

About Silverchair: Silverchair integrates and delivers scholarly and professional content from a single platform – journals, books, video, custom formats, and more. The Silverchair Platform delivers advanced semantic technologies and publishing platforms to STM and humanities publishers, professional societies, and the federal government. We collaborate with publishers to propel their content to greater reach and impact.

Silverchair is a proud Silver Sponsor of the ALPSP 2017 Annual Conference. Hear from Chief Product Officer, Jake Zarnegar on his takeaways from the ALPSP conference in this insightful video blog.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

The Ability to Capitalize on Timely Research

In this guest blog, Mr. Srinaath Krishnamachari, MD of UI Tech Solutions, draws on his experience of over 17 years in the publishing industry to write about the changing face of content creation. As the Chief Evangelist for technology-driven publishing solutions, he seeks to address the need of publishers to provide relevant customized content separate from freely available information.

In the last five years, publishers have seen readers’ relationship to content change dramatically.  A 2016 Pew Research study stated that a majority of the public—62% in the US—get their news from social media rather than traditional media outlets.  A 2016 BioMed Central study states that physicians are rapidly turning to social media in order to immediately share health and research information with their patients and each other.


The constant access to breaking news, studies, and research through websites and social media, often for free via social media or open access, has challenged the timing of traditional publishing cycles and threatened the methods by which publishers tend to generate revenue. Researchers are turning to publishing directly themselves to publicly accessed websites, as Nobel Laureate Carol Greider did last year, or via other channels in order to get the information out into the world, taking valuable information out of the hands of traditional publishers.

As publishers try to adapt to this changing face of their audience and the industry, they must focus on trying to release research more quickly in order to respond to time-sensitive issues and creating sophisticated metadata that allows for content to be easily found amid the deluge of content.


To help publishers adjust to this brave new world, PageMajik has created a product suite based on the personal consulting model their parent company S4Carlisle has offered publisher clients for nearly two decades.  PageMajik allows publishers to automate significant portions of the publishing process from author submission to final production in order to improve efficiency and timeliness of content. Current publishers using the system have noted that their efficiency has improved by an average of 40%.
For publishers and authors publishing time-sensitive research, cutting the publication cycle in half can not only make their research more relevant but also speed up technological advances, scientific discovery, and medical breakthroughs.


By simplifying the publishing process and automating some of the more detailed and time-consuming technical work, publishers can focus more directly on the much more important task of identifying notable research.

PageMajik simplifies the process by optimizing and organizing existing content and resources while adapting to a publisher’s current systems and workflow.  Working in a web-based authoring environment and InDesign, PageMajik does not require additional training and allows everyone along the publishing cycle to work on the document.  PageMajik also performs a number of detailed tasks that are time-consuming for publishers, such as identifying inconsistencies and anomalies in usages and forms of words (hyphenations, allowed prefixes, precise usages) using pattern-based rules, and grammatical discrepancies using built-in English language rules.


A challenge that publishers and researchers alike face upon release of published research is how to reach the audience for the work.  Significant studies have been done on the lag between publication and discovery of research, with academics struggling with how to find the right information amid the deluge of content.

PageMajik has created the ability for publishers to do chapter level metadata tagging, allowing for a deeper level of search functionability and, thus, easier discoverability.

As the audience for research and scholarly publishing expands and changes even more toward the digital and direct outreach, publishers must find the ways to work quickly and easily adapt their current systems to stay not only competitive but viable.  PageMajik provides a simple, cost-effective method for publishers to continue to be a vital part of the publishing and research process.

About PageMajik:  PageMajik is a publishing workflow management system that combines all of the individual steps of the publishing process into a seamless product suite to improve workflow and efficiency.  PageMajik’s product suite has an in-built Content Management System that facilitates storage, retrieval and reuse of data at any given time. The CMS has been customized to suit publishing workflows, with version control features and user access control.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PageMajik-145323369390543/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeArePageMajik
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/13394487/

PageMajik is a proud sponsor of the ALPSP 10th Anniversary Annual Conference 

Friday 8 September 2017

Spotlight on SourceData - shortlisted for the 2017 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

Last but not least in our series of blogs on our 2017 Awards Finalists is EMBO – the creators of SourceData. We speak to Project Leader Thomas Lemberger to find out more:

Tell us a bit about your organisation

EMBO is an international organization that promotes scientific excellence in Life Sciences.It has over 1700 members elected from the leading researchers of Europe and beyond. The organization is funded by 29 member states to provide support to scientists through events, networking opportunities, funding and fellowships for young researchers and shaping science policy. EMBO also publishes four journals reporting important discoveries from the global bioscience community: EMBO Journal, EMBO Reports, Molecular Systems Biology and EMBO Molecular Medicine.

What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

SourceData is a technology platform made up of several tools that extract information about published figures and make scientific data more discoverable.Through EMBO’s work at the intersection of research and publishing we realized there is a disconnect between the way research data is published in scientific papers and the way researchers typically want to interact with it.  Most scientific papers report the results of carefully-designed experiments producing well-structured data. Unfortunately, during the publishing process this data is typically summarised in text and graphs and “flattened down” thus losing a lot of valuable information along the way.   As a result, it can be very difficult for researchers to find answers to relatively simple questions because data is inaccessible.

For example, it is currently very cumbersome for a scientist to find specific experiments where a certain small molecule drug has been tested on a specific cancer cell line or to look at the results of a published experiment and find out whether similar data had been published elsewhere. These are the kinds of scenario where SourceData can help. SourceData goes to the heart of the scientific paper - the data - and extracts its description in a usable format that researchers can access and interrogate. It then goes on to link this data to results from other scientific papers that have been through the same process.


SourceData - Making Scientific Data Discoverable from SourceData on Vimeo.

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

With SourceData, EMBO has developed a way to represent the structure of experiments. The principle of SourceData is rather simple: we identify the biological objects that are involved in the experiment and then we specify which objects were measured to produce the data and which, if any, were experimentally manipulated by the researchers. Despite its apparent simplicity, this method allows us to build a scientific knowledge graph that turns out to be a very powerful tool for searching and linking papers and their data.

The development of SourceData has been a collaborative process involving the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics who provided their expertise in developing software platforms in the field of Life Sciences and the curation of data.  After this we worked with Wiley to implement SourceData within a publishing environment. Nature also contributed content to the initiative.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

SourceData transforms the way that researchers can interact with scientific papers by getting to the heart of the paper - the data, and putting it into a highly searchable form. It then takes this a step further by linking this data with relevant results from other scientific papers so that researchers can explore these connections.SourceData can give readers a new level of confidence in finding more of the research that is relevant to their questions. It can give scientists more opportunities to have their publications found and cited and can allow publishers to expose more of their content to interested readers by making it even easier to search and explore.

What are your plans for the future?

Our work to date has involved a lot of manual work so we are now working to automate this process. We are developing artificial intelligence algorithms using deep learning to extract the structure of an experiment from their descriptions in natural language.  Our vision is to provide access to our technology to as many publishers as possible and encourage the widespread adoption of SourceData. In doing so we hope to facilitate access to the data behind more and more journals over time and ultimately accelerate Science in the process.

Thomas Lemberger is leading the SourceData project and is passionate about the importance of scientific data and structured knowledge in publishing. Trained as a molecular biologist, Thomas is Deputy Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO and Chief Editor of the open access journal Molecular Systems Biology.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/embocomm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EMBO.excellence.in.life.sciences

See the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing Finalists lightning sessions at our Annual Conference on 13-15 September, where the winners will be announced. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2017 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Spotlight on Escalex - shortlisted for the 2017 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

Escalex LogoIn the third of our series on our Awards finalists we catch up with Rhianna Jones to hear about Escalex. 


Tell us a bit about your company


Escalex is a joint venture by two companies, Molecular Connections and IFIS Publishing.

Molecular Connections is a leading supplier of manually curated databases and informatics solutions to major pharmaceuticals, high throughput data analysts and systems biology companies across the globe.

IFIS Publishing is a global, not-for-profit information provider in the sciences of food and health. IFIS publishes FSTA, a comprehensive database of scientific and technological research and information relating to food, beverages, and nutrition.

What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

We submitted Escalex, a one-stop knowledgebase for authoritative regulatory information on food and drink.

To give some background, Escalex came out of discussions with the academic and industry food communities. We kept hearing how difficult and time-consuming it was to find essential food regulatory information and keep-to-date with changes. Food law is a very complex area. Even within one country, regulations can be managed by a range of government departments, with information stored in different places and with varying levels of standardisation. When you need information across multiple geographies, it becomes even more challenging.

Furthermore, many regulatory documents are hundreds of pages long. A frequent pain point was that even when one has the right document, it can still take a long time to find a specific piece of information within it.

IFIS and Molecular Connections recognised that together we could make a real difference in this area. After three years of research, development and testing, we launched Escalex in April 2017.

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

Escalex's strength comes from the combination of IFIS' expertise in managing complex scientific food and beverage information, and Molecular Connections' innovative information discovery and mining capabilities.

For example, we discovered that throughout food regulations globally, there is no standardised format or categorisation of the themes for regulatory documents. As part of Escalex’s development, in-house experts in food law and food science created categories and subcategories for deep-indexing the content, which have been specifically designed for optimum granularity.

Escalex screenshot
With a user-friendly interface and dedicated search lenses, Escalex facilitates multiple ways to navigate content, including tabulated data. Every record is indexed in-depth using a commodity-based and regulations-enriched thesaurus, which enables high granularity of search results.  



Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

From our research, it was clear that there was no solution available that met the complex information needs of the community.

Escalex was built from scratch using real-life use cases, resulting in an efficient research tool to mine and digest food regulation content.

We recognise that every user is different. Some like to browse, others like keyword searching. Some will be experts in food law, others will be beginners. Some people will want the full, original document, while others will want a snippet. We developed Escalex with this in mind, providing users with a choice of routes into the regulatory information: Dashboard, Explore, Limits, Definitions and Documents. Escalex also provides annotated, bookmarked versions to make the full documents easier to navigate.

Escalex screenshotWe have also designed Escalex to point users in the direction of additional relevant information that they may not have been aware of, such as related documents, validity dates to help manage transitional periods, and the option to open up an easy follow on search in another lens.

These are just a few examples of innovation within Escalex, aiming to make food law research easier and more effective.

What are your plans for the future?

We have an exciting development roadmap in place. In line with feedback from the community, we are currently working on Brazil, India, Malaysia and Singapore as the next countries to be added, as well as GRAS reports and US state level regulations.

We also have lots of ideas for additional functionalities, so Escalex is going to be keeping us all busy for the foreseeable future!

Rhianna Jones
Rhianna Jones is Senior Marketing Manager at IFIS Publishing, and an active volunteer with the Special Libraries Association and Institute of Food Technologists, British Section.

Website: https://www.escalex.org/
Twitter: IFIS Publishing – http://www.twitter.com/IFIS_foodinfo
Molecular Connections – http://www.twitter.com/MC_InnoHub

See the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing Finalists lightning sessions at our Annual Conference on 13-15 September, where the winners will be announced. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2017 are sponsored by MPS Ltd.