Great week to end a year of tumult. While politics is an aberration, the continued development of the electronic publishing networked world is a continuing delight. In a week I found myself starting the new London Info International meeting in the grey hinterland of London Dockland’s ExCel, and ending it speaking in an auditorium in the National Academy of Sciences Keck Centre in Washington DC. And the uniting theme was not for once despair at the prospects of Trump or Brexit. Instead what brought us all together was the advent of an author driven publishing world where self publishing is now the expected reality, and where the reality of toolkits to make acts of sophisticated self-publishing regularly possible is becoming more apparent daily.
Once again academic and research information leads the way, but what is happening there points as ever to wider societal changes. For me, a deeply prejudiced witness, the unifying thesis here is now clearly apparent. As I said in London and repeated in DC, the breakthrough age of Open Access is now past its zenith. This does not mean that it ends anytime soon or that it does not create new growth points in certain disciplines or geographies. It does mean however that the emerging “new normal” becomes getting an article onto a pre-print server, posting it on a repository or exposing it in services like figshare or F1000. Speed is important as is reputation. We lack good ways of underling authorial reputation, which is why services like Kudos are so important. Whether, in a world of post-publication peer review and networked assessment, we are published in a formal journal, open access or not, is becoming irrelevant. Indeed, the real emerging battleground is whether the article is the best way of communicating results, and I expect to see fragmentation around it continuing to grow. From sectors like cell signalling, where data analysis is cited, given a DOI and communicated to HSS disciplines where it remains a standard for posting results, through the many areas of life and social sciences where it is becoming hard to publish an article credibly without releasing evidential data, this pattern of differentiation is becoming obvious. Yet we still conduct discussions using format, ex-print, terms like journal, book and article as if they meant the same in all instances.
My day at London Info International was called “The Rise of the User”, which was hugely appropriate. But of course, the reason why scholarly communications is the first area always impacted by changes to the dynamics of communications is that it is here that the author and the reader are the same people. This is a world of researchers writing for the people that they themselves read. And, more obviously than elsewhere, writing, publishing and communication is an important part of the workflow of scholarship. As we know from B2B markets in particular, that workflow expression is vital. We can know see how the injection of critical information service organization into decision-making environments can have a profound effect on productivity and risk management. This is what we are squaring up to in research.
As we move to become a self-publishing society, we will automate the ways in which we add metadata and build our publishing into the knowledge structure around us. In the foreseeable future the self-publishing professor will add links which expose all of his previous communications, from blogs to books, and which also expose her experience or ranking or reputational data. It will take time for this to evolve, but as I travelled last week between places it was fascinating to see Wiley announcing a new Author Services deal to help authors get into journals, and Cambridge University Press team with Overleaf to do much the same. This is what we should expect as publishers see how far the barriers to self-publishing are diminishing. I have long watched services like www.wearefutureproofs.com work on smart applications for solving one of the bumpy parts of the road – proofreading – on the road to authorial self-relization. Librarians keep telling me how difficult it is to get researchers to engage in publishing tasks without apparently realising how large a part of librarianship in the future will be engagement in publishing support. And at London info International I was able to get some briefing upon www.authorcafe.com, a really interesting attempt to wrap up the whole package for the research team. These are early stages, but this week I have had a strong feeling of the decks being cleared for action.
And what happens in the longer term. All this week I have been repeating my October mantra from the STM conference at Frankfurt. When APCs get onerous enough Funders become publishers (F1000+ Wellcome). My 2027 market leadership forecast, that the biggest players will be IBM Watson Science, concentrating on experimental repeatability through data analytics (did anyone note the significance of the investment by Digital Science in Transcriptic?) and Gates, concentrating on a service defining reputation and trust in research, which I have nicknamed Guru until they oblige by inventing it!) remains on my slide deck. This week audiences were muted in their reactions: stunned that someone should be so dumb, or shocked at all those publishers getting sold or turned into services and solutions providers, I wonder? Thanks for reading me this year, if you have been and joyous festives before facing all-change 2017.