Friday 30 September 2022

Guest Blog Post - Wiley

Research outputs beyond the PDF: Why they matter, and how to get started

Going beyond the default

While the PDF has become the de facto global standard for publishing articles online, the publishing tools of today offer a whole range of ways to publish content that is more flexible, more engaging, and more user-friendly, as well as better addresses current publishing standards. It’s time to broaden our scope beyond the PDF! 

Compared to PDF, both HTML and EPUB3 are better formats for accessibility—not just in the technical sense of image descriptions and ARIA roles, but also in the broader sense of allowing the user to resize and reflow text or zoom in on images. 

But there are also many other ways to publish both the outcomes of research and the materials that lead to those outcomes, and many compelling reasons to use them. The three we’ll focus on here are making research data and protocols available to other researchers around the world; engaging your users with more varied and interesting offerings; and translating research for non-scientists and non-specialists. 

Publishing data sets: Why, what, and how

The why of making researchers’ data available, in keeping with FAIR data principles, is well recognized: when the data behind the research is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, replication studies can be more easily carried out, and testing the replicability of published results is key to advancing science and improving research integrity. 

The how may be more challenging. “Publish researchers’ data alongside the articles or books based on that data” seems perfectly straightforward—until you start thinking about all the things “data set” might mean. Depending on the research and the discipline in question, the data behind a published article might be anything from a vast database of testing data or geolocation coordinates to computer code, from a linguistic corpus to a collection of audio recorded interviews, archival photographs, or tweets. (We won’t get into collections of cells, core samples, or water samples.) While all are data sets and deserve FAIR data treatment, each brings a different set of technical challenges to the publication process.

Using a feature, like Digital Objects on the Literatum publishing platform, that supports multiple publication formats allows publishers to offer—or even require—researchers to make their data available on the same platform and at the same level of discoverability as the publications based on it. A wide variety of data types—essentially, anything that exists in a digital format—can be hosted alongside an article or book, assigned a Datacite or Crossref DOI, and linked bidirectionally with the publication and any other data sets or research products. Depositing a DOI makes data sets easier to find and to cite, benefiting the researchers on both ends of the data-reuse transaction.

Protocols, notebooks, and more

Just as important for replicability as data sets are the protocols used in collecting and analyzing the data—from survey instruments to lab procedures to focus-group guidelines. Publishing research protocols alongside data and findings further encourages replication studies.

A related use case is that of computational notebooks, which are widely used by researchers in many scientific disciplines to carry out, manage, and share their workflows and data analyses but which most publishers can’t yet accommodate as part of the research output. Wiley and Atypon are part of the Sloan Foundation–funded project Notebooks Now!, led by the American Geophysical Union, aimed at developing a standard model for publishing computational notebooks.

Why is this important? As Shelley Stall et al. write,

Providing notebooks as available and curated research outputs would greatly enhance the transparency and reproducibility of research, integrating into computational workflows. The notebooks allow deeper investigations into studies and display of results because they link data and software together dynamically with what are often final figures and plots. [Read the full Notebooks Now! proposal at]

Publishing computational notebooks is just one way that making researchers’ data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable helps elevate both integrity and equity across research and publishing.

Access, accessibility, and knowledge translation

Data availability is critical. But publishing “beyond the PDF” isn’t just for data sets!

When we talk about Open Access, or about public access to publicly funded research, we need to consider much more than whether or not a publication is paywalled. It’s important to ask, “Can a member of the public download and read this article?” But we also need to ask, “Will a non-expert reader understand the key findings of this article?” Researchers generally write for other researchers in their field, and the typical editorial process does a good job of facilitating that expert-to-expert conversation—which simply isn’t designed for readers without that specific expertise.

This is where knowledge translation comes into the picture. What alternatives to expert-to-expert academic writing can we provide, in order to make key research findings—for example, from high-quality and up-to-date studies in public health, epidemiology, and occupational safety—both freely available and genuinely useful for non-experts who would benefit from understanding them?

Plain-language summaries, “explainer” blog posts, and static infographics are a great place to start. Translating these into other widely spoken languages takes us further. But why stop there? Publishing platforms like Literatum allow publishers to host audio, video, podcast, and interactive visual content. So consider “explainer” video or podcast interviews where researchers highlight key findings; consider how an interactive graph can help a non-expert understand demographic changes, the spread of a disease, or how languages change over time; consider how an animated map can illustrate economic, weather, or population data across space and time. 

Finally, we need to consider accessibility. Step one, of course, is to make sure that our websites are WCAG compliant. Step two is ensuring that all text content—whether articles, books, blog posts, news updates, or data files—is machine readable, so it can be interpreted by screen readers, and available in HTML or EPUB format (either natively or via a PDF rendering tool such as Atypon’s eReader), so that it’s friendly to those who need large print, reflowable text, and zoomable images. Step three is to work on making non-text content as accessible as possible: well-written descriptions for all non-decorative images, closed captions for all videos, transcripts for audio content … 

All of these elements, too, can usefully have DOIs deposited, to make citing them easier and help direct readers to the version of record.

Make time for metadata!

Whatever you’re publishing, in whatever format, metadata remains key. The challenge comes in determining what metadata are necessary and appropriate for new types of content. To maximize discovery of non-PDF content, it’s important to accurately identify in the metadata what it is (data set? interview? photo archive?), what the format is (.csv? .mp4? .jpeg? .zip?), what it’s about (few things are more frustrating than thinking you’ve discovered a good study of chess and then finding it’s a study of cheese), and all the ways it’s connected to other pieces of content. Metadata should also include information about how and where to access the content, who created it, and what users can and can’t do with it. An additional part of the metadata equation is deciding which elements are supplementary to the article, and which are effectively on the same level.

Finally, depositing a DOI (or other appropriate persistent ID) is important for everything you publish. On a practical level, using and maintaining DOI links makes citation easier, directs readers to the version of record, and ensures that whatever element of their work is cited, authors’ citation stats benefit from the use of their work. On a more symbolic level, depositing DOIs for non-article content signals a commitment to treat these content types as they deserve: as part of the published scholarly record.

So now what?

Your publishing platform provider can tell you what non-PDF content types can be hosted on your site and how to get them there, and we can also help you resolve metadata questions and deposit your DOIs.

The more challenging—and more exciting—part is up to you and your contributors: Deciding what content types best suit your contributors, their research, and your audience, and then making it happen. We’re here to help you all the way!

Author Bio

Sylvia Izzo Hunter joined the marketing team at Atypon as Community Manager in 2021 and has been Marketing Manager at Inera since 2018, responsible for content marketing and social media. Prior to shifting to marketing, she worked in editorial, production, and digital publishing at University of Toronto Press. A past SSP Board member (2015-2018), Sylvia has also served on SSP's Communications, Education, and DEIA committees and is a member of the NISO CREC Working Group.

Guest Blog - Morressier

 Today’s workflows are tomorrow’s headaches: Is it time to change?

Trust in research has never been more important. I’ve lost track of the number of think pieces and surveys, meta-analyses and pessimistic opinion pieces about the critical nature of our time and how that trust is slipping away. 

How is that trust built? It's a complex system with many stakeholders whose competing priorities make it a challenge to find common ground. The media wants certainty and stories, and scientists rely on statistics and replicating results of data sets that few in the general population can understand. But setting how science is shared and communicated to one side, we’re interested in the infrastructure of disseminating science. What about the workflows that build research integrity into the process itself, and the technologies that keep peer review and content management moving forward? 

Today those processes might be part of the problem, but they can lead the way toward a bigger solution. Each time a headline hits the news about a retraction, or fabricated clinical trials, or ethics violations, we have already missed an opportunity to solve the problem at its source in the publishing workflow. And with each headline of that nature, trust in science erodes.

Here’s my vision for the future of research integrity: 

  1. It all starts with early-stage research. By the time a journal article is submitted for publication, years worth of research have already gone into those conclusions, and that science is hidden away or ephemeral in the form of a conference presentation two years ago. Imagine having a record of early-stage research, one that was already peer reviewed for a conference, and then workshopped and validated by the peers in the room. And, thanks to an integrated infrastructure, the record of those review stages are linked to the submitted manuscript. 
  2. It relies on technology to automate the process so human focus can be reapplied to important matters. Organizations should be able to set up the workflow they need with simple technology solutions, and sit back and watch the infrastructure they set up work for them and not against. Peer review is too important to waste time by sending out and managing manual messages or prompts. Imagine a re-designed workflow infrastructure that never requires leaving the platform? That’s the future, freeing up the time and resources of staff to use workflow data to build pools of new reviewers and authors, or to forecast trends for the discipline. 
  3. It is user-friendly and flexible. As valuable as a streamlined workflow is for organizations like publishers and societies, it's equally valuable for reviewers and authors. It's well known that peer review takes too long, these time-intensive contributions are not well recognized or rewarded, and it's frustratingly technical, with standards and policies that can be different for each journal or conference. Peer review should be something researchers line up to do, because it helps move science forward and validate discoveries that could become tomorrow’s innovations. Peer review is the foundation on which trust in science is built. But when the process is cumbersome, hard to justify in terms of the career growth it promises, and all the processes and stages are impossible to remember, it becomes less appealing. Workflows and infrastructure can solve this problem, leaving the path to trust simpler. 
  4. Our values are enforced at every step of the process. Infrastructure is a balancing act, and we have to keep our values close as we build. If we focus solely on efficiency, for example, then we might cut publication times but lose some of the rigour of close review. Workflow technology needs to be designed to uphold research integrity. Only by embedding the values and principles of the research industry in the infrastructure built to support it, can we find the right balance and success.

Publishing workflows cannot exist in a vacuum. They need to talk to each other, share data and insights that help human reviewers make informed decisions. We need to stop wasting time on tasks that technology can take over, but we need to retain the most ethical and integrity-rich practices possible. 

Author: Sami Benchekroun, CEO and co-founder of Morressier

Monday 5 September 2022

Guest Blog - Frontiers Public Trust, Societies and Open Science

Public Trust, Societies and Open Science 

In the context of extreme global events, I find myself turning more and more to the possibilities of a collective response. Scientists have made enormous efforts in recent years for deeper and faster collaboration. And scientific research publication bears a profoundly important social responsibility. On both these fronts, society publishers are in the vanguard.

The context for their efforts is stark. Too frequently, in an often poor-quality, binary public debate, public trust in the veracity of science, in its intentions and its cost, falls away. Political accountability grows weaker when we don’t have the science, the trade-offs, and the difficult choices in view.

At Frontiers, we want to help change that. We are a fully open access publisher. We want all science to be open. To us, global, existential threats call for scientific breakthroughs at pace, based on full and immediate access to the latest research.

Now the move to open access is underway across parts of the publishing industry, and I know the appetite for it is building. But in my view, the pace of change does not match the aspirations I sense in society publishers. As the campaign group cOAlition S itself points out, more than half of the two thousand transformative journals enrolled in the Plan S program have missed their annual targets in the move to full open access. Meanwhile two thirds of the world’s science remains behind a paywall.

Add to this the arrival of transformative agreements – "read and publish" or hybrid deals – which have in our view sown confusion and opacity, and of course, societies are looking hard for certainty and clarity. With a decision to publish open access – and the commitment to deeper and faster scientific collaboration – I believe they can find both. It is possible to find the right fit. It is possible to meet the appetite for open access while protecting, and growing, sustainable income.

At Frontiers, we offer a platform that is industry standard while also being open to a tailored approach to a society’s specific needs. We can extend the brand, dissemination, and financial future of societies. We support societies with guaranteed minimum incomes, when necessary. We are building partnerships and agreements with funding institutions across the world to broaden opportunities to society authors. And we work hard to be financially transparent with our partners, to share our evidence and expectations of sustainable profit. We believe the traditional subscription model leads to excessive costs. It is still the case that the average price of an article in a legacy journal is significantly higher than it is in open access journals.[1]

So, we need to realign expectations. And with flexibility, ambition, and focus, I think commercial and society publishers have an enormous opportunity to drive change that is both good for business, and good for society. As we face down global challenges, open access science can grow our chances of success. And it can help meet public appetite for accountability, transparency, and trust.

[1] It is not transformation if nothing changes, 2022 (figure 2), Frontiers, 2022

About the Author

Robyn Mugridge

Robyn joined the Open Access publisher Frontiers in 2018. In 2019 she moved onto the role of publishing partnerships manager and established the Publishing Partnerships department. Promoted to head of publishing partnerships in 2022, her work now focuses on strategic collaborations with societies and associations, supporting them as they engage with their communities and develop their publications by transitioning to open access publishing models.

Further Information


Frontiers Publishing Partnerships @FrontPartners

Frontiers @FrontiersIn

Robyn Mugridge @MugsPubs



Robyn Mugridge

Guest Blog from ALPSP Conference sponsor - Silverchair

Why Having Independent Partners Matters

We at Silverchair recently announced that we have received a significant growth investment from our new capital partner (Thomson Street Capital Partners) to help us continue to scale our business and offer even more valuable products and services to learned and professional society publishers (i.e. the LPSP of ALPSP).

One of the crucial and most desirable aspects of the investment is that enables Silverchair to remain an independent, non-conflicted partner for society publishers. The feedback of the society publishers in our community has been resoundingly positive, as the investment is designed to increase the breadth of products and services available to them as well as attract additional society publishers into their community—with our ultimate goal of assembling and supporting a strong, sustainable community of independent publishers who can leverage Silverchair’s services and their peers’ knowledge and experience to react and thrive together as industry conditions change.

ITHAKA’s Roger C. Schonfeld recently provided his (independent) analysis of the TCSP investment in Silverchair in SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog, under the title of “Keeping Publishing Infrastructure Independent,” noting that “Silverchair remains vital infrastructure for some 400 scholarly publishers, which can feel a sense of relief that it remains independent.”

But Why Does the Independence of Your Key Partners Matter? 

As our President Will Schweitzer says (a lot), “Our top priority is to support our customers’ top priorities—in everything we do we must help publishers make money, save money, and best achieve their missions.” 

Maintaining independence allows Silverchair to avoid 1) conflict of interest or 2) conflict of priorities with our independent society customers. To expand on these two types of conflict:

1.     Many forms of partner conflict of interest are obvious – such as using platforms or services from a publisher that also publishes journals in your field and thus competes for finite authors, manuscripts, OA dollars, and subscription dollars. It is questionable how these partners can fulfill their legal responsibilities to their shareholders and yet also put society interests ahead of their own in the long run. However, there are legal structures and financial constructs that societies can use to try to identify and control for these obvious conflicts, so they can be seen as at least somewhat manageable.

2.     A partner’s conflict of priorities are less obvious (and more dangerous). An owner can put their own product development priorities above that of their customers’ needs when determining their forward roadmap or can cut back partner-facing resources, such as account management or client services. They can slow down the pace of product development in one area in order to refocus resources to other technology platforms (especially if they are a large organization with a variety of platforms). They can gather and use data about your submissions, authors, and registered readers to further their own author recruitment and sales. They can throttle support services to customers in order to have more staff to pursue these other strategies, which can disrupt operations or delay a society’s own product development plans. Crucially, these conflicts of priorities are not easy to name and control for in legal/financial terms, and thus the society may have little recourse if partner priority conflict worsens mid-relationship. (Worse, these examples are all drawn from real experiences society publishers have shared with us.)

This is why Silverchair puts such emphasis on our independence. We serve no other corporate parent or funder strategies. We run an open roadmap so that all of our customers can watch in real time (and have meaningful input into) the priorities and development of our platform. We succeed in the long run only if our society customers succeed in the long run, and so we are laser-focused on making that happen.

Silverchair believes that thriving, independent society publishers are an essential component of an optimal scholarly publishing future, and the lack (or diminishment) of these publishers would be a huge loss for researchers, professionals, and science writ large in society.

Independence matters – for you and your partners.

Want to learn more about our plans? Jake and other members of the Silverchair team are excited to be attending the ALPSP meeting and would love to set up a time to chat. Get in touch:

Jake Zarnegar

Chief Business Development Officer