Thursday 29 February 2024

University Press Collaborations Connect People and Ideas

By Annette Windhorn, Association of University Presses – Drinks Reception Sponsor for University Press Redux 2024.

The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) embraces this year’s University Press Redux theme of connecting people and ideas. As a global community of 160 mission-driven scholarly publishers, we celebrate and support our member presses’ essential work of connecting readers with authors’ ideas as well as their connecting with each other to collaborate and advance ideas of best publishing practice. 

We asked representatives of our UK and European member presses to reflect on the question, “How does AUPresses help your press connect people and ideas?” This is what they had to say: 

AUPresses President-elect, Anthony Cond, Liverpool University Press (AUPresses member since 2013)

“The University Press Redux conference was founded originally by Liverpool University Press to connect the people and ideas involved in university press publishing in the UK and Europe. Since that time, the Association of University Presses has expanded to become a genuinely international organisation, offering that same audience a point of global connection. Liverpool University Press has benefitted from AUPresses membership in budgetary terms—particularly through participating in shared stands at book fairs and conferences—and through knowledge-sharing that has ranged from accessibility guidelines to best practice in peer review. Above all, though, it is AUPresses’ collegiality that we value: presses thousands of miles apart are willing to share with and learn from each other. No two university presses are the same but most prevalent among their common threads is generosity.”

Charlotte Mason, Edinburgh University Press 
(AUPresses member 2004-2007, 2021-present)

“At the 2023 Charleston Conference, we participated in a successful, shared AUPresses stand. Not only did AUPresses reduce the cost and stress of organising and setting up the stand, they also helped facilitate the co-ordination of joint branding initiatives for the participating presses. Librarians appreciated having a central place to meet multiple publishers and our presses collectively had a visibly larger presence, and it was also a wonderful networking and collaboration opportunity to meet and talk to colleagues from other presses, libraries, and vendors. We greatly appreciate this and all support AUPresses offers us in delivering our vision of connecting people and ideas.”

Annemie Vandezande, Leuven University Press
(AUPresses member since 2005)

“As a European publisher, we are happy to take advantage of the rich range of AUPresses resources. 

“We participate in the University Press Week blog tour and gallery and reading list, using the week’s chosen theme as an opportunity to connect with our readers as well as our authors. 

“We submit books when appropriate to the AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show to underline the importance of book design. Academic work, we believe, also deserves a beautifully published book. It is a wonderful reward for both our authors and designers to see their creations selected.

“We advertise with AUPresses in the Academic Presses issues of the London Review of Books. Witnessing our titles alongside other notable publications from fellow university presses fills us with pride and strengthens the interconnectedness of our shared endeavors.

“In addition, AUPresses discussion listservs and its virtual and in-person Annual Meetings are invaluable for forging connections within the industry. These platforms provide a forum where we not only meet other professionals but also discover shared challenges and trends. While each press has its unique characteristics, the common ground fosters an environment for mutual learning and collaboration.”

Valarie Guagnini, Cambridge University Press 
(AUPresses member since 1950)

“Working with passionate people from various universities and colleges globally over the past few years—as a member of what was initially the AUPresses Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee and then as a co-chair of the Equity, Justice, Inclusion and Belonging Committee in 2022-2023—has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. The ability not only to contribute my own ideas and experiences but also to hear and learn from my (now) friends and colleagues is very gratifying. I feel excited about the growth of AUPresses within the global community and am exhilarated by the future of what it represents in the university press sector.”

Jo Greig, Bristol University Press (AUPresses member since 2020)

“One of the challenges for UK-based university presses is building a brand reputation in the United States, so coming together as an AUPresses collective at the 2023 Charleston Conference was a win-win. The event provided a valuable introduction to industry experts and library consortia that will help shape our ongoing business strategies; it also gave us excellent networking opportunities through the generous AUPresses community, who are always willing to share advice.  

“University Press Week also offers us an incredibly valuable opportunity to showcase our press’s impact in the scholarly ecosystem. We enjoyed planning and contributing to the event whilst using it as the perfect time to profile our press through our own university communication channels as well.  

“We regularly consult AUPresses member resources when we need a non-UK point of view on sales and marketing approaches. Very often, serendipitous conversations pop up in a listserv or UP Commons channel that will spark an idea in the team, which is invaluable.”

Simon Ross, Manchester University Press 
(AUPresses member since 2013)

“We’ve participated in a few AUPresses collaborations like the TOME open-access monograph pilot, but I see the value of AUPresses in soft benefits like being able to meet with marketing, editorial, directorial, or other peers to share ideas and thoughts on industry issues, or how different university presses work with their home institutions, or how we as a group can function more efficiently and effectively to promote the distinctive value and relevance of university presses in a crowded, competitive market. It’s through addressing these wider issues in a collegiate and supportive community that we can fully serve our authors in connecting people and ideas.”

About the authors

About University Press Redux 2024

The 5th ALPSP University Press Redux returns as an in-person event on 15 & 16 May 2024, in partnership with Edinburgh University Press. This is part of EUP’s 75th anniversary celebrations and will be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Book your place.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

It’s not about the AI

By Simon Linacre, Digital Science – Silver sponsor of University Press Redux 2024.

With the hype about artificial intelligence reaching fever pitch, it is easy to forget that the importance of this technology is what it can do for you. To understand more about how publishers can benefit from recent advances, Simon Linacre spoke to Digital Science company Writefull about their AI-based academic language service

In late 2023, Digital Science announced it had fully acquired Writefull, which aims to support users worldwide with all aspects of scholarly writing. Writefull had been part of the Digital Science stable for a while after it won Digital Science’s Catalyst Grant award in 2016, being part-owned by the parent company since 2018. As such, the startup represented Digital Science’s first major investment in AI language models, and shows just how long AI technology has actually been around before its Generative AI entered people’s consciousness in late 2022.

Big numbers

Writefull’s AI language models are trained on billions of sentences taken from millions of journal articles. This scale of training has to be matched with a strong commitment to data privacy, which means its models offer the best possible assistance to its users in activities such as academic writing, copy editing and making revisions.

In its first few years, Writefull has expanded its language services to students and researchers at more than 1,500 institutions. Having such support available helps academic publishers down the line, of course, as they see improved standards of article writing eventually being submitted to them. However, Writefull also works directly with publishers and their copy editors through integrated workflows, including the American Chemical Society (ACS), Hindawi, the British Ecological Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). In addition, Writefull’s APIs are also integrated with Digital Science’s collaborative LaTeX editor Overleaf.

Multiple benefits

As part of an interview to learn more about where the idea of Writefull came from and how technology can help shape improvements in scholarly communications, CEO and co-founder Juan Castro says the idea for the company came - like many Digital Science founders - when he was studying for his PhD in artificial intelligence.

“I have always been interested in linguistics, and the interface between artificial intelligence and how language is generated, understood, and how it can be analyzed,” says Juan.

“The idea of Writefull came all the way back to when Hilde [Writefull’s Applied Linguist Hilde van Zeeland] and I were doing our PhDs. Hilde was doing her PhD in applied linguistics, and there was always this question of: Couldn’t we use artificial intelligence to help authors with their academic language? And so it all started from there.”

Juan says the first versions of Writefull were based around how people have used different ‘chunks’ of language in the academic setting. This version enabled users to search for phrases and see how often they would appear in published papers, or what synonyms were used frequently instead of certain words.

Publisher applications

It was the development and application of deep learning techniques that opened up the first possibilities for Writefull to work with publishers. As Juan says, “The first use case we identified for publishers was to improve the language of author’s manuscripts at submission. Hindawi was the first publisher to integrate Writefull this way. Later on, we realised that we could also use Writefull’s language models to evaluate the language quality of manuscripts, either at submission or later in the pipeline.”

“That really took us all the way to where we are now, where we've developed language models in-house that are very tailored to academic writing, and are applicable across a publishers’ portfolios. It helps them cut costs and increase efficiency, especially around timeliness.”

Now that Writefull is fully part of Digital Science, Juan and the team are looking forward to more conversations with publishers to understand their problems and see if Writefull can help them with their AI-based solutions. Juan believes that a lot of publishers have problems around language that could be tackled using Writefull’s AI. For example, the categorization of manuscripts by language quality is one area where he believes that Writefull could help. It can help to evaluate the editing needs of submitted manuscripts, to evaluate the copy editing work done, and more: “By using Writefull’s categorization service, you can better budget for copy editing needs and time, and you're also reducing the time to publish.”

“Through our conversations with publishers, we have seen that many do not categorise manuscripts by editing needs, or they do it manually. Manual categorisation is very time-consuming and therefore hardly scalable, and may also lead to inconsistencies.”

Future perfect

Another benefit of paying more attention to the varying quality of manuscripts at the point of submission is that it levels the playing field earlier on for papers that may represent excellent research but poor quality English, which can disproportionately impact authors from Global South countries. As we see AI and related technologies develop quickly around us, Juan sees more benefits feeding through to publishers in the future.

Juan thinks that, overall, we will see an improvement in quality. “Another use case we have is with one major chemistry publisher where they're using our Metadata API. The publisher has checks in place to ensure that the XML of the copyedited manuscript corresponds to the original docx or PDF. Before, a human would check all required fields manually: check the authors’ names and surnames, their affiliations, their address details, etc. One of the things the publisher wanted to do was to improve the quality of this process. They now use Writefull’s Metadata API to extract all the metadata to compare the original with the XML, and if there are any differences it will pop it up for a human to manually review.”

“I think in general this and other processes will be more automated in the future, and that as a result, less manual checking and editing will be needed. As more and more material is submitted for publication, such automated services will become even more valuable in the future.”

It is clear, then, that the AI hype in scholarly communications that we have witnessed in the last year or so has actually been a quiet revolution for many years, with startups like Writefull in the vanguard. However, it also appears that this is just the beginning, and the impact AI will have for academic publishers will be far-reaching in 2024 and beyond. 

About the author

Simon Linacre, Head of Content, Brand & Press, Digital Science 

Simon Linacre has 20 years’ experience in scholarly communications, has lectured and published on the topics of bibliometrics, publication ethics and research impact, and has recently authored a book on predatory publishing. Simon is an ALPSP tutor and former COPE Trustee, and holds Masters degrees in Philosophy and International Business.

About Digital Science

Digital Science started in 2010 by looking for ways to solve challenges they were facing as researchers themselves. Today, their innovative technologies empower organizations with insights, analytics and tools that advance the research lifecycle. Their six different product solutions - Dimensions, Altmetric, Writefull, Figshare, ReadCube, and Overleaf - help scholarly publishers to analyze data more effectively, track research outcomes, enhance author services, streamline workflows, and make collaboration more seamless.

About UP Redux 2024

The 5th ALPSP University Press Redux returns as an in-person event on 15 & 16 May 2024, in partnership with Edinburgh University Press. This is part of EUP’s 75th anniversary celebrations and will be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. Find out more.