” Next Week in Harrogate ” . Sounds like a new wave movie or a British attempt at Scandi Noir crime fiction ? In fact it is the annual meeting of the UK Serials Group , guardians of the lamp of scientific journals publishing , as users and producers ,in this country . This is a segment of what was once called ” the cash cow ” that supported mighty publishing brands from Bertelsmann ( former owners of Springer ) to Wiley , from Thomson ( former owners of Chapman and Hall et al) to Informa ( Taylor and Francis ) , and , pre-eminently , the great Reed Elsevier organization as well as a host of institutions and societies , Royal and otherwise . Many a tear has been shed at the graveside of this industry already , not least in this column , so it is not my purpose to repeat all that – but simply to mark a moment , last week , which we will recall as a landmark , and which should be in the front of our minds on the road North to Yorkshire’s neoclassical city of the moors .
I have boringly prophesied the arrival of the Gates Foundation as a publisher so many times during the Open Access years that I was about to do so again semi-automatically when speaking in the opening Plenary next Monday . But then , gentle reader , it Happened! It was not hard to predict : there was always going to be a point when the cost of publishing Open Access articles in terms of APCs ( author fees ) would grow to a point where it was cheaper for larger funding bodies to do it for themselves . I am a little surprized that we are there already , but since , reportedly , Gates will be using the F1000 publishing mechanism already used by Wellcome , it may have seemed opportune to move quicker and before the cost of Open Access in terms of fees breached the billion dollar point widely seen as the signal for mass change .
But I remain fascinated that it was not , as we were all assured for a decade that it would be , Open Access of itself that did the damage . I see this as part of a wider drive to self-publishing , with post-publication peer review becoming ever easier and reputational judgement gathering in post-publication performance amongst the range of altmetrics that now become hugely influential in creating opinion around the value of research . And as publication in a timely manner outweighed waiting to appear in print within a discipline or domain branded vehicle , and discoverability made online anywhere as visible as a publisher’s database , the pressure to get it out and get it noticed outweighs most other urges , and sharpens the point of people investing in pre-print servers .
And I am sure there will be an aftermarket . And some journals have a long life to go , even if they become re-publishers ( Our Editorial Pick …the best of XYZ in 2017 etc) . But I wonder if the article itself , in its present form , is not the next point of rapid change . In other industries it has proved most constructive to concentrate in digital terms on the workflow , and it is noteworthy that very many publishers , commercial and otherwise , have spent a huge amount in providing ” self-publish to this platform ” software , whereas it might have been just as loyalty-productive , even if not fitting the publisher cost-reduction model , to invite researchers to join their community and then publish anywhere – which is of course exactly what Academia and ResearchGate will do as they develop as publishers . The bottom line here is simple . There is no barrier to entry any longer provided by the technical processes of publishing or by the former necessity for peer review . And the business of organizing content for consumption by librarians and researchers becomes increasingly problematical .
So we turn back to that researcher workflow and ask again how we can support the research process – and we find howling gaps in the provision of services . I have always admired the attitude of Kudos on sticking to the knitting of researcher existence – driven always by winning research grants and gaining or maintaining tenure . And I rejoiced in their latest survey , released this week ( https://blog.growkudos.com )which shows that while most researchers respect and acknowledge the importance of copyright , over 60% admitted that they put their stuff on social networks and give it away in defiance of any publisher copyright instructions . What , give it away in the hope of it coming to the notice of a new research team or the faculty I want to join despite my publishers instructions ? Unbelievable !
In the list at the front of this note you will have seen that many great corporations in publishing are “former ” owners of STM assets . This will speed up as the market gets more difficult and the pressures of users grow . How much longer , for example , will the great subscription services like ScienceDirect and Springer Link be able to lurk on the dark web , demanding subscriber only access , and not conforming to common principles of access for licensed data-mining ? Publishers can and do raise value – a good example this week was Karger’s agreement with UNSILO to add value though machine learning and AI to specific biomedical services .Yet these service improvements are like a rising tide , and the next generation of researchers readily assume that this is the norm for content presentation .
So the Journal will go and the Article will change , but a wonderful marketplace still remains for those willing to discover how researchers work , and and how to save them time and cost and improve their productivity . Digital Science and its peers are already deeply into this , but I still see areas that are relatively unsupported . When playing a role in bringing BioRATH to Digital Science some years ago , I spent time researching regulatory compliance in science research . Now many of the industries I looked at have moved beyond compliance – to competency . Not just to are these scientists storing the chemicals correctly and properly feeding the lab animals – but to does this team have the right components , the qualifications , the experience , the leadership , to accomplish its goals . While scientific researching funding is not diminishing globally , our expectations of results and our need to test there foundations has developed enormously . Is competancy the next reputation ? Interested in any of this ? See you in Harrogate !