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.

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