Monday 17 August 2020

Spotlight on WordToEPUB - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

The judges have selected a shortlist of eight for this year's ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference. 

In this post, we hear from Richard Orme about WordToEPUB.

Tell us a bit about your organization.

logo DAISY Consortium
The DAISY Consortium is a global family of organizations which pool and coordinate resources to deliver worldwide change on our vision and mission, ensuring people have equal access to information regardless of their ability. 

Our work is focused on the development of solutions for accessible publishing and reading via influencing global standards, the creation of tools to facilitate accessible content creation and delivering guidance materials and training.

For over 20 years the DAISY Consortium has had a significant impact on mainstream and specialist publishing. The DAISY audiobook standard is used by organizations around the world to deliver millions of titles on a daily basis to people with print disabilities (e.g. people who are blind, have low vision, dyslexia or physical disabilities).

Our work on the EPUB standard ensured that it was built on a foundation of accessibility. The free validation and accessibility checking tools we develop and maintain are used by publishers, conversion services and retailers for almost all commercial publications.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

We are delighted that our new WordToEPUB tool has been shortlisted for the awards. Launched earlier this year, it an incredibly user-friendly tool which enables anyone with a structured Microsoft Word document to easily create an accessible and highly flexible publication in the EPUB 3 format. This can be read on any device and used with a variety of assistive technologies which people with disabilities around the world rely upon throughout their education, work and leisure.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The WordToEPUB tool was designed to offer a simple process which anyone can use, with more advanced options available to those seeking a greater level of control and customisation. The tool can be run from a button on the Microsoft Word Ribbon, or directly as an application. On activation the tool performs a series of tests on the Word document to identify significant accessibility issues which would impact the resulting document, and if found the user is notified of the issue and advised. If the document passes the initial test the document undergoes conversion resulting in an EPUB document. A menu of advanced features and customization is also available, aimed at users who are knowledgeable in ebook creation, but not hampering the ability of novice users.

The tool also automatically records details about the content language, supporting multilingual texts for accurate text to speech playback and support for reading in braille. The application and the supporting documentation has been translated from English into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish and Portuguese, with support for Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Hindi and Japanese partially implemented. Support for other languages is underway by native speaking volunteer supporters. 

The tool was developed by DAISY staff, with voluntary contributions from the global DAISY community of educators, publishers and accessibility experts, and with advice and encouragement from Microsoft.

Despite only being a few months old, the WordToEPUB tool has already shown that it plays an important role in the development of simple, practical workflows for the creation of accessible materials. The tool is now in everyday use in education establishments and specialist libraries as a primary tool for the creation of accessible education and leisure reading materials and has been used by self-publishing authors to release titles.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

EPUB is generally produced from bespoke XML workflows, complex publishing software or specialist tools. WordToEPUB was created to answer the direct needs of people who create content using a familiar word processor and needed a simple method that is just a couple of clicks. With this tool they can ensure their materials are delivered in a flexible and accessible way to meet the needs of their diverse readership. Marrying the most widely used word processing system on the planet with EPUB, the world’s most accessible publishing format, through a free and easy to use tool delivers benefits to everyone involved. Readers can enjoy EPUB publications using whatever device they own, adjusting the text presentation based on their device size or access requirements, or directly reading through audio or braille.

The powerful EPUB format is already used widely in education publishing, so enabling educators and support staff to provide education resources in the same format has proven to be particularly powerful. This is especially true since the COVID pandemic has driven many education establishments around the world to transition to delivering education content online, while meeting their moral and legal obligations to ensure the content can be accessed by people with disabilities.

What are your plans for the future?

We have seen a significant increase in the adoption of the WordToEPUB tool, and feedback has been glowing. Over the coming months we are continuing to enhance the tool and support resources, offering guidance for more complex content like equations, and translating the tool and support materials into more languages with a special focus on the developing world.

On the development side we are working towards a command line system for batch processing and integration into established workflows, as well as a cloud-based solution which may assist educators unable to install applications. Slightly longer term we plan to release a macOS version of the tool.

Through the development of this tool we have been able to share information and offer feedback to tools supporting content authored in Apple, Google, and open formats to improve the quality of output

We will also continue to work with Microsoft and encourage the integration of this or a similar process directly within Word.

photo Richard Orme

Richard Orme has worked in the area of inclusion and accessibility for over 30 years, including many years working on innovations for mainstream and specialist publishing. 

Web links:


You can hear from all of this year's finalists at the ALPSP Awards Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September.  Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.
The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Spotlight on DataSeer - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of eight for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference. In this series, we learn more about the finalists.

In this post, we hear from Tim Vines about DataSeer. 

The idea for DataSeer comes from my time as a Managing Editor at the journal Molecular Ecology. In 2010 we adopted the Joint Data Archiving Policy – which mandates data sharing as a condition of publication – and were experimenting with how best to enforce it. We found that the only consistent approach was to check for compliance ourselves by reading every accepted article and listing the datasets the authors needed to share. After about 500 articles it occurred to me that we could get a machine to do the same job, with the advantage that the machine would be quicker, cheaper, and much more scalable.

Fast forward to 2018, when we received a Sloan Foundation grant to develop DataSeer as part of the Open Source software developer Coko (aka the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation). We’ve recently released DataSeer as a Beta and we’re working with numerous potential users to see how best to fit DataSeer into their workflows.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

Our organisation and our product are pretty much the same thing! Our goal with DataSeer is to address one of the biggest obstacles to Open Research Data: there’s no easy way to get from the generally worded data sharing policies to the actions the authors need to take for their particular manuscript.

This issue is pernicious because it both increases the time and effort authors need to devote to data sharing (often to the point they give up altogether), and prevents the stakeholders (journal and funders) from knowing what should have been done. The stakeholders then struggle to enforce their data sharing policies, such that authors have no consequences for non-compliance.

DataSeer uses Natural Language Processing to scan research texts for sentences that describe data collection, infers the type of data being collected, and provides best practice advice on how and where that dataset should be shared. Once the author has shared all of the required datasets (or given a reason why they can’t be shared), DataSeer passes a report back to the journal or funder. This approach saves time and worry for the authors and empowers stakeholders to promote open research data.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

DataSeer has three main parts - the algorithm, the user interface, and our ‘Research Data Wiki’. Our code is open source (here and here). The algorithm has been trained on about 3000 open access articles from a wide range of subject areas. Moreover, researchers tend to describe data collection with similar language regardless of their field, so training an NLP algorithm to spot data sentences is a fairly manageable problem. As with any AI application, it’s making a fair number of mistakes at the moment, but that should change as we process more and more articles.

graphic DataSeer illustration

The wiki hosts our ‘best practice’ advice for sharing many different types of data, and we encourage users to edit our advice if they feel it can be improved. Our vision is that widespread use of DataSeer will eventually lead to a global resource on best practice for data sharing across all areas of research.

As mentioned above, the idea for DataSeer stems from my JDAP enforcement efforts at Molecular Ecology. I started out as an researcher in evolutionary biology before moving into journal management in 2008. In 2014 I founded Axios Review, an independent peer review service that acted as a broker between authors and journals. I've since become a Managing Editor again (this time for the Journal of Sexual Medicine), and rejoined the Scholarly Kitchen blog. I am based in Vancouver, Canada.

Our business lead is Kristen Ratan – Kristen has been involved with developing technology solutions for the academic publishing industry for over 20 years, and has heaps of experience in bringing open science products from idea to marketplace. She has worked at HighWire Press, Atypon, PLOS, and Coko, and now runs her own consultancy on open source solutions for promoting open research. Kristen is based in Santa Cruz, California.

Our lead developer is Patrice Lopez, who has spent the last ten years developing open source NLP tools for research articles. His pdf parser, Grobid, has been applied to over 1.6 million articles and is incorporated into workflows at many large academic publishing organizations. Patrice is based in a small village in France.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

DataSeer’s innovation is to use the efficiency of machine learning and Natural Language Processing to automate a really difficult step in enforcing data sharing policies: working out what the authors of a particular article need to do, and helping them do it. At some journals this step is performed by PhD level data curation experts, but as each article can take them between 30 minutes and an hour to process, this approach is only practical for accepted manuscripts at well-resourced publishers. By making this process much cheaper and quicker, DataSeer will enable many more journals to adopt data sharing policies.

Moreover, because DataSeer is cheap and highly scalable, it enables journals to require that all submitted articles share their data, so that the datasets can be scrutinised during peer review. This in turn will prompt researchers to be more rigorous with their data management throughout the research cycle, which should ultimately improve the overall reliability of published work.

DataSeer will also ensure that a much higher proportion of articles share their data, and also do a better job of sharing all of their datasets. Articles will become more reproducible, and many more datasets will be available for testing new hypotheses, conducting powerful meta-analysis, or just verifying the authors’ results. This is the crux of DataSeer’s innovation: by fixing an apparently minor stumbling block in the peer review process, we can usher in a revolution in open science.

What are your plans for the future?

In the immediate future, we’re focused on working with our current partners to ensure that DataSeer is doing everything that they need it to do. Longer term, we will 1) allow authors to deposit their data in the most suitable repository directly from our User Interface; 2) promote reproducibility by detecting mentions of code and data then helping authors share both correctly; and 3) expand DataSeer to numerous other use cases and workflows, to ensure that we’re helping as many groups and stakeholders as possible.

photo Tim Vines

Tim Vines is a researcher, journal manager, and entrepreneur. His research has motivated and informed many aspects of the open data movement.


You can hear from all of the Finalists at the ALPSP Awards Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September. Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.

The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Spotlight on Rigor and Transparency Index powered by SciScore - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

In this series, we hear from the finalists for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced at the ALPSP Virtual Conference on 16 September.  

In this post, we hear from Anita Bandrowski and Martijn Roelandse about the RTI, Rigor and Transparency Index, powered by SciScore.

logo Rigor and Transparency Index

Tell us a bit about your organization.
We are a group of inventors that come from a long tradition of breaking technology and social barriers. We have a technology toolbox, but always ask “is the answer technology or culture?”

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

In a way, we have something similar to the impact factor, however it scores different things. The RTI, Rigor and Transparency Index, is the average rigor criteria completeness score for each journal.

graphic SciScore illustration

What is included? The rigor and transparency criteria (sex/gender as a biological variable, randomization of subjects into groups, investigator bias reduction through blinding, group size determinant via power calculation, identification of statistical tools, as well as the identification and authentication of key biological resources such as antibodies, cell lines, and organisms). Authors, funded by several funding agencies such as NIH or submitting to various journals such as Nature, are expected to address these criteria in their work, but some may not. The RTI is the average number of these criteria found in journal articles in a given year. 
We think that if journals know where there are particular problems or where they stand compared to their peers, it may inspire them to work with authors to improve the quality of manuscripts.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The RTI is based on our tool, SciScore, which has now been integrated into eJournal Press and will be available in Editorial Manager in the fall. This tool acts as an automated reviewer, which can check whether rigor criteria are addressed. It looks for sentences that discuss the particular criteria, for example “experiments were performed on both male and female mice, with subjects balanced for sex in each group” fulfills the “sex/gender as a biological variable” criteria. The authors or reviewers can then determine if the criteria are met in the context of the study, something that automated tools really can’t do at this point. While SciScore acts as a reviewer, the RTI index is the average SciScore for papers published in a given journal and given year.

The team behind this endeavor includes Anita Bandrowski who heads the Antibody Registry and the RRID initiative; Maryann Martone, one of the architects of FAIR; Martijn Roelandse, a former head of content innovation at a major publisher; and Burak Ozyurt, a computer scientist that has just taken the Google BERT AI, and made it run ...on a laptop ….in his spare time. We bring varied skills to find interesting solutions to very difficult problems.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

Innovation is a tough thing to assess. Certainly there are plenty of ways that someone can score journals. However, as far as I am aware, all ways of scoring journals are based on the data around the article itself, i.e, how many times it is cited or tweeted about. The RTI delves deep into the science described in the paper and attempts to assess how good that is. It seems to me that this is something quite different, therefore potentially innovative.

What are your plans for the future?

“Pinky we are going to take over the world!!!” - The Brain (...or maybe not)

We are passionate about making science a little better, and a little more efficient. We want every study to be done in a rigorous way, we want every reagent to be explicitly specified so people reading scientific papers can quickly replicate key findings. If successful, this should accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, not just the rate of publishing.

photo Anita Bandrowski
Anita Bandrowski works in the department of neuroscience at UCSD taking part in the daily operations of projects such as the Brain Cell Census Network and the SPARC project (tracing the neural to organ connections). In addition, she runs the RRID initiative (, heads SciScore development efforts, and appreciates the finer intricacies of both wine and cats. 

photo Martijn Roelandse
Martijn Roelandse is founder/consultant at and has worked with the SciScore team for over 10 months now. He has a PhD in neuroscience, worked for 10+ years in scholarly publishing with a major publisher and 2015 ALPSP Award finalist with Bookmetrix. With friends he owns 4 barrels of whisky and he is really fond of his dog Bo.

COVID-19 Project Twitter bot 

You can hear from all of this year's finalists at the ALPSP Awards for Innovation Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September.  Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.
The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Spotlight on Open Library of Humanities - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

The judges have selected a shortlist of eight for this year's ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference. 

In this post, we focus on the Open Library of  Humanities, a Consortial Funding Model for Gold Open Access in the Humanities Without Publication Fees 

Tell us a bit about your organization.

The Open Library of Humanities (OLH) is a charitable organisation dedicated to publishing world-leading open access humanities scholarship with no author-facing article processing charges. Launched in 2015, our free-to-read, free-to-publish model was set up to revolutionise the field of open access publishing. Five years on, our sustainable business model has attracted nearly 300 supporting institutions, with further revenue generated through hosting on our in-house open source publishing platform Janeway, enabling us to establish a thriving platform of 28 peer-reviewed open access journals. Our mission is to support and extend open access to scholarship in the humanities - for free, for everyone, for ever.

logo OLH Open Library of Humanities

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

The Open Library of Humanities (OLH) is a scholar-led, gold open-access publisher with no author-facing charges and was launched by Martin Eve and Caroline Edwards in 2015. With initial funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the platform covers its costs by payments from an international library consortium, rather than any kind of author fee. We are part of a growing global community of not-for-profit publishers that explore different business models and innovative approaches to open publishing. OLH was established to challenge the costly, limited routes to open access publication in the humanities, and find a sustainable business model to enable academic journals to publish peer-reviewed research without charges to author or reader - making world-leading research accessible to anyone. 
Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The model proposed by the OLH is one where publication costs do not fall on the institution or researchers but are instead financed collaboratively through an international library consortium. Each member pays an annual fee according to the country and size of the institution, reducing and distributing the costs of publication across our members, with an economy of scale that improves as more institutions join. Our idea is that research organisations and libraries make a relatively small contribution that covers the costs of running a publication platform on which peer-reviewed scholarly journals can then be published as open access. All contributing libraries and individuals are given a place on the OLH Library Board, which will consult with the OLH Academic Board in the future admission of journals and other governance and budgetary decisions. 

The Open Library of Humanities is co-directed by Professor Martin Paul Eve and Dr Caroline Edwards, both at Birkbeck, University of London. We also have two full-time Senior Publishing Technology Developers, Andy Byers and Mauro Sanchez, who lead the development of our Janeway Platform and the OLH website. Dr Rose Harris-Birtill serves as Managing Editor across the Open Library of Humanities platform of 28 Open Access scholarly journals, and Editor of its flagship journal OLH. Paula Clemente Vega is the Marketing Officer for the Open Library of Humanities where she is in charge of increasing the visibility of the OLH through outreach, content marketing and advocacy. 

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

The OLH has been internationally recognised as an important development in open access for the humanities and for its innovative business model. The platform was initially funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and now, five years after its launch, entirely covers its costs by payments from its international library consortium. The international consortium of libraries comprises nearly 300 institutions including Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Princeton, and many others. With this model, the OLH has expanded from 7 journals in 2015 to 28 journals in 2020, has four full-time staff, funds two external commercial university presses (Ubiquity Press and Liverpool University Press) to convert their journals to open access, and has developed and launched in 2017 Janeway, its own field-leading innovative open source publishing platform developed fully in-house. 

Part of the OLH model that makes it so appealing lies in our journal ‘flipping’ programme, where we have sought to convert existing subscription titles to an open access model without fees. One of our most popular incorporations was the high-profile transfer in 2015 of the editorial board of Elsevier’s journal Lingua to a new title, Glossa, published by Ubiquity Press but funded by OLH and LingOA.  

We are delighted that OLH won a Coko Foundation Open Publishing Award in 2019 and we were pleased, recently, to be able to publish an article in Liber Quarterly on what we have learned from the first half-decade of running the Open Library of Humanities. In just five years, we have established a platform of 28 peer-reviewed academic journals, whose scholarly articles have received over 360,000 downloads worldwide. Last year, in 2019, we published a total of 532 articles (74 more articles than in 2018) – without charging any APCs. We have worked hard to change the field of open access publishing by encouraging other organisations to use our model as the basis of their own Open Access publishing frameworks. Other businesses have also adopted our novel economic model, resulting in over $4 million of worldwide revenue generation; according to Jisc Collections, library crowd-publishing company Reveal Digital has based its UK financial model on OLH, and has raised $4,258,681 to date. We may be a small digital publisher, but as these sizable achievements show, our vision goes far beyond one company.

What are your plans for the future?

We have demonstrated that a model for high-quality open access publishing without article processing charges is possible and also sustainable in the long-term. During these first five years, the Open Library of Humanities has made thousands of articles open access under our no-author-fee system funded by our member libraries. We have shown that academic libraries are willing to pay for open infrastructure as part of their mission, and that scholars in the humanities do not oppose to high-quality peer-reviewed open access when there are no financial barriers along the way.

When Martin Eve and Caroline Edwards began to devise the project, one of the first things that they did was to ask academic libraries if they would continue to pay for the subscriptions if they became open access, and the answer was and continues to be a resounding ‘yes’. This has allowed us to celebrate five years and became financially independent. What we need now is for other publishing houses and academic societies to experiment with this model and adapt it to their respective needs and realities. The main beneficiaries of a greater diffusion of consortial models like ours will always be, in any case, researchers and universities and their increasingly tight budgets. 

There have been several exciting new developments in the recent months. Earlier this year, the Open Library of Humanities launched the OLH Open Access Award 2020, a fund dedicated to promoting the benefits and impact of open access to humanities scholars and disciplines and to knowledge worldwide. Our open access awards were awarded to two organisations in recognition for their exceptional open access scholarly projects: the National Library of Kosovo and the Open Access Digital Theological Library.

We’ve also invested in improvements for our Janeway scholarly publishing platform to ensure accessibility for a wider range of people with disabilities, as well as making our software compatible with major publishing software systems to make it easier for journals to join us. 

Our OLH EmpowOA programme, an initiative we launched in 2018 to support scholars and librarians working in the humanities, keeps growing with the addition of multilingual advocacy resources and the publication of new Open Insights interviews and blog posts from a rich variety of scholars and librarians within the humanities and open access communities. We have also recently started hosting live chats with our academic editors, you can watch our latest webinars here.


You can hear from all of this year's finalists at the ALPSP Awards Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September.  Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.
The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Spotlight on Jus Mundi - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

The judges have selected a shortlist of eight for this year's ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference. In this series, we learn more about the finalists.

In this post, we hear from Jean-Rémi de Maistre, CEO & Co-founder of Jus Mundi. 

Tell us a bit about your organization.

logo Jus Mundi The Search Engine for International Law and Arbitration
Paris-based Jus Mundi strives to make International Law & Arbitration easily accessible and understandable to lawyers worldwide. We built a multilingual search engine by publishing the most comprehensive international legal database. We collect and structure global legal data that is otherwise dispersed across multiple restrictive sources or simply not available. Our intuitive, user-friendly interface powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning allows lawyers to do their research quickly and efficiently with legal filters.  We partnered with Brill to distribute Jus Mundi to academics. Jus Mundi is featured on Forbes Top Machine Learning Startups in 2020.

What are the main features of Jus Mundi?

Unique Content: Jus Mundi offers the most comprehensive collection document of public international law, investment arbitration, commercial arbitration, international trade law, international economic law, law of the sea. All documents are interactive. The text has been extracted from the original PDF version (including poor quality scanned copies), manually corrected, automatically structured by paragraph or page with an interactive table of content, and enriched with keywords. 

Multilingual Search Engine: When a legal query is entered in English or French, the search engine finds relevant results in all languages available in the database. Searching on Jus Mundi is more comprehensive and relevant due to the quality of the documents.

screenshot multilingual search engine

CiteMap: Our innovative feature CiteMap is developed with an algorithm that presents the list of relevant case law on our database in multiple languages for a particular paragraph of a document when you hover the cursor.

graphic Citemap

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

As we cater to the international market, we ensured that the company’s strategies align with it. Today, we are proud to say that we have 11 different nationalities from all around the world. We have data scientists, engineers, web designers, and of course, lawyers. Our team adapted quickly during the times of COVID19 as we were already working remotely pretty regularly. We also onboarded a few recruits online to adapt to the situation.

Alain Pellet, one of the most recognized lawyers in international law, advised us on the legal data part since the beginning, and we are grateful for his help all along.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

Our solution is innovative because it combines advanced technologies, such as machine learning & artificial intelligence, with collaborative human intelligence. Recently we published commercial arbitration awards that are exclusively available on our website. We have developed an algorithm that explores worldwide case laws to extract the relevant international legal data (for instance, international awards) for our users. Our database is updated weekly, so the lawyers are always up to date with their legal knowledge. Our solution is significant because we are filling up the current gap between the dispersed legal data and lawyers who are looking to access this data by providing them on our platform. Thanks to our search engine, lawyers and students can extract essential information from legal documents in a few clicks.

We are also offering easy accessibility to our data, e.g. Jus Mundi’s Wiki Notes — a directory of concept notes published by lawyers globally - are accessible freely without requiring an account.

What are your plans for the future?

Jus Mundi's ambition is to make the entire body of international law accessible. Therefore, we are going to extend to all other areas of international law (human rights, the environment, international criminal law, private international law, etc.). We also plan to make our platform available in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.
We have also started working with "traditional" publishers, such as our partner Brill, to index their content and interconnect it with the Jus Mundi database. There are a vast number of books and articles in international law that are produced all over the world. The problem is that it is very challenging for researchers to find what they need quickly. The specific algorithms developed by Jus Mundi can meet this need.

Jean-Rémi de Maistre is CEO & Co-founder of Jus Mundi and has practised for several years as a lawyer in international law. 

Twitter: @JusMundi

You can hear from all of the Finalists at the ALPSP Awards Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September. Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.

The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

Monday 3 August 2020

Opening Content for COVID: What Comes Next?

By Will Schweitzer & Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen,  Silverchair - Silver sponsors of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020

To enable researchers, students, and faculty to easily access scholarly content remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many publishers removed paywalls from their content. As those free access periods begin to expire, how are publishers handling the reinstitution of paywalls, both logistically and from a messaging standpoint? How has this period changed customer relationships and how will it change future sales approaches? And how has the race to open content affected intellectual property protections and guarding against cyber criminals like SciHub? In July, Silverchair assembled a panel of publishers and service partners to discuss the ways they are approaching these challenges. A summary of the insights follows, and a recording of the full webinar may be found online.

As the pandemic crisis took hold globally early in 2020—first slowly, and then all at once—the scholarly publishing community was quick to respond, adapting their products and sales strategies and opening access to their content to support the newly remote world. Now more than halfway through the year, we begin to ask which changes are sustainable or here to stay.

Portland Press publishes five hybrid journals, of which about approximately 20% of their content is currently open access, and two fully open access journals. Portland is endeavoring to sustainably transition their entire program to open access. So, when the crisis hit, the move to open their content was a natural one: any previously published content that had relevance to the outbreak was made freely available, then any related content submitted thereafter was published fully open access with no charge to the authors. However, although coronavirus-related content was freely available, they began to wonder whether this would actually be enough for the community. As more and more countries were going into lockdown and institutions were closing, they, like many, were concerned about how researchers would access the content.

Clare Curtis, Publisher of Portland Press, said, “We knew that we had remote access options set up for our content, including institutional authentication. But we weren't really sure how this workflow fit in with the user journey. Was it straightforward for users? And we also realized as more and more research was being done on COVID-19, it was becoming very clear that a number of areas of the molecular biosciences would be of relevance to the disease. So where did we draw the line as to what research is of relevance to the coronavirus outbreak?”

And so, in April, after surveying societies, institutions, and researchers, they suspended paywalls across all of their content until further notice.

The practice of providing free access to content—whether for coronavirus-related content only or across the board—was widely adopted by scholarly publishers. MIT Press opened access to their 3000+ ebooks on MIT Press Direct. That move, and the communications that accompanied it, fostered new relationships and allowed the press to gather data and insights that may support future sales opportunities.

“We found there to be a lot of collaboration in the crisis, a lot of appreciation and a lot of flexibility in working with libraries to make sure that we were getting access to students who needed it and faculty who needed it,” said Emily Farrell, Library Sales Executive at The MIT Press. “But we also were able to gather a lot more data on our own platform than we have in the past. With the 800 institutions that we brought onto the platform, we had an incredible array of institutions that were now able to access content that hadn't been in a position to purchase before, or hadn't really considered trialing it because they didn't feel they would be able to. So, we've had community colleges, we've also had art museums, as well as larger libraries. It's also opened up an amazing channel of dialogue with libraries to be able to answer questions directly.”

The open content has also provided larger patterns of content and institutional usage that provides publishers with a better understanding of where value lies and how content is being used.

Andrew Pitts, CEO of PSI, has been working with publishers to ensure that key data from this period is accessible and actionable down the road: “We've been looking at the log files during the period where everybody's got their access controls down, to make sure that when you are about to put your access controls up, you know which organizations who are not customers have been using your content a lot, so you can actually advise them, and you can talk to them about options for accessing your content when the paywalls go back up.”

The AMA captured similar access information by keeping PDF registration in place on their freely available COVID content, which has led to a wealth of data to feed their sophisticated digital marketing programs, and which also informs new sales and productization opportunities.

Vida Damijonaitis, Director of Worldwide Sales at the American Medical Association, noted “Out of 730 pieces of content, we've had close to 33 million engagements year-to-date. Google has always been the biggest driver of traffic to our websites, and that has actually fallen off slightly. Traffic is increasingly coming from social media. That has increased by 159% year over year. Access through email alerts has increased by 82%. And we're actually seeing more and more traffic coming from mobile devices instead of traditional computers and laptops.”

The insights that come from a wealth of data are only as good as the data itself, however, and malicious actors have also upped their activity during the crisis, as revealed by PSI.

“Sci-Hub has been very, very active during this period. All cyber criminals have been, but Sci-Hub have gone into overdrive to attack universities and publishers during this period. Our data has shown that there was an 828% increase in attacks in April. What we were seeing before was about 800 attacks per month in the year previous. And in April, we had 7,424 attacks. The effect on you as publishers is that they have been downloading your content massively and taking everything.”

This means that without the proper alerts and protections in place, some of the usage publishers are seeing on their open content may be misleading. The pandemic will no doubt be seen in the future as a turning point for open and free access to content, as both users and publishers alike have been forced into a situation that has revealed both the positives and negatives of the models in a much less hypothetical conversation. For many, the crisis has simply accelerated existing plans for a full transition to OA.

Emily Farrell of MIT said, “We're certainly at a point where there's clear value in the push to open, and all publishers and societies are examining ways that we can make more content open. Also, particularly as a university press that has a mission alignment with the university, the dissemination of research is central to what we do. MIT Press has experimented with all sorts of open access models for quite a long time now. It has required us to consider what model is most suitable for each journal, in part as a consequence of the wide array of subject areas that we cover, since some disciplines just don’t have access to the funding needed for OA.”

As paywalls begin to come back up, many publishers are questioning how to communicate this change to their customers and stakeholders, especially as the pandemic appears far from over. How do they inform librarians as well as general site visitors that subscription access controls have been reenabled?

For Portland Press, said Curtis, “We will be having targeted messaging to our institutional subscribers. There will be general messaging as well to our members and our users. We have to do that quite carefully. Because obviously, we did this to support the community, but with the understanding that we cannot keep paywalls lifted indefinitely (as we require this income to be sustainable and support the Biochemical Society).”

For MIT Press, they made their libraries aware through use of public and direct messaging when the expiration date was coming nearer. As part of that messaging, they also sent information about the top 10 titles that were most used during the open period, and options for purchasing either individual ebooks or full collections.

And of course the conversations won’t end there, just as remote access and changes to user behavior won’t end when the open content periods do.

“We will be listening to our community as to how they have been and continue to access and use content, whether that be back in their institutions or remotely, said Curtis. “We will be assessing where usage from this period has been from and what people have been accessing (e.g. HTML versus PDF). An immediate action is to assess the user journey and access options to ensure that whether someone is working remotely OR accessing at their institution, this is as seamless as possible. I don’t think that the molecular biosciences research community will be back to ‘normal’ for a long time, so we need to work with that community to find a new normal, and support in any way that we are able to.”

As Damijonaitis said, “It'll be interesting to take a look back a year from now and see what sticks, what doesn't stick, and what's going to be developed between now and then.”

For more on how publishers responded to the crisis and how partnerships enabled their adaptability, check out Silverchair’s recent report.

Silverchair are silver sponsors of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.

Will Schweitzer Silverchair
Will Schweitzer,
Chief Product Officer, Silverchair

Will Schweitzer 

As Silverchair’s Chief Product Officer, Will Schweitzer is responsible for developing and managing Silverchair’s scholarly and professional products, including the core Silverchair Platform. He has a deep knowledge of scholarly publishing having worked in the industry for over 16 years in product and publisher roles for the American Association for the Advancement Science (Science Magazine), SAGE Publications, the American Psychological Association, and Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen
Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen Silverchair
Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen,
Senior Marketing Manager, Silverchair
Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen is the Senior Marketing Manager at Silverchair. She has worked in the publishing industry for 14 years, including at the University of Virginia Press and Clarivate Analytics.