This is the season of the year for predictions. You will find little of that here. I feel like a fortunate seer in that none of my predictions have actually failed. I feel like a disappointed seer in that very few ever happened within the timeline of prediction, and indeed a few are still out there, ready to come screaming into focus on the “I told you so” arc of probability, in order to demonstrate once again that if you just forget the timing, everything you can envisage does eventually happen. And I don’t like predictions that follow the “whatever was beginning to happen last year will go on happening next year”, since I regard this as the province of newspapers with holiday space to fill. In its turn technology prediction is a mug’s game, and ever since I heard Alan Kay say that “everything that will be launched in the next 15 years has already been invented” I have resolved to steer clear.

Which only leaves us markets to talk about, and since they are ever-present prediction becomes a matter of when they come into focus rather than anything else. When we invented BRICS (and that last capital S is important if we are recognizing South Africa, as we should be) we were really saying, five years ago, that the long age of US global economic imperium was drawing to a close. A host of new nations was about to challenge that supremacy, and while the US was not minded to give it up easily, as demonstrated last year by its role in leading the global market once more out of cyclical downturn, economists now have a clear handle on when, in the next few years, China will resume its historic role of global market leadership, which it last held in the fourteenth century (think paper, gunpowder, printing and language).

This poses vital questions for information marketplaces. The Information Revolution has been led from the US both in terms of technology and in terms of services and languages. China seems well-equipped in the latter area, with players like Alibaba and Baidu, and the ability to use English very effectively – or buy its use. However, both India and Korea show more promise as the next hub of Silicon Valley proportions. And of course the US will not go away, though it may find it easier to go protectionist and isolationist in some aspects, living off its huge and wealthy internal marketplace, and no longer allowing itself to be the place where all information market prospects have to be proved. In many ways we are already seeing this, since success in the US no longer means automatic global market success. But if this is the outcome then it leaves the rest of the world with an issue – where do I go for growth if not to the USA?

Well, there is a very specific information markets answer to that. There is still huge and dynamic growth in BRICS. And beyond that, look at every country where half the population is under 25, and coming up to half of those are smartphone users. Markets where the smartphone is already the most important network connector and bridge to cloud-based computing, because there is no infrastructure around small populations of laptops or tablets that performs the role that we have identified in Europe, Russia, and the US for embedded network connectivity. These new fast-growth markets will teach us a great deal about cloud-working which we will bring back to the old world. For reasons best known to the economists, the first of these markets to show have been christened MINTs – Malaysia (or should that be Mexico? Or are Mexico and Canada too much part of a Greater US economy?), Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey. If it were not for sanctions, Iran would head this list. And note that we do not have Korea, the best networked country I have ever visited (10 Mbit broadband on a railway platform in Busan!) on either of these lists.

The ITU statistics tell the story (,although they are now a year old. But if half of the world’s population is under 25, and if only 25% globally have smartphones at the moment, then we are looking at one of the most exciting growth prospects that any industry has ever seen in global history. It may astound some that 40% of the world’s population is now online, but it seems to me vital to concentrate both on the services we supply them with now, and the way those services draw more of the remaining 60% online as well. And as we look at that 2.7 billion online total, it is as well to remember that in a global population of 7 Billion, the planet supports 6.7 billion mobile/cellular subscriptions. As we go along, each of the cultures that come into play will add something distinctive and exciting to our knowledge of the way in which information services and solutions work to change society.

Finally, what about the Old World? Well, as I have indicated, much of the market that we are discussing was created in the US, and will continue to flourish there. And do not write off Europe. Just imagine what it would be like, in ten years time, if politicians had cast aside the petty nationalisms and regionalisms that bedevil progress today, and a really integrated marketplace was emerging. A trading entity from Ireland to the Ukraine that thrived from being the world’s largest free trade zone, which was utilizing new memberships amongst poorer Eastern Europe to drive growth and using the technology – Europe is the most online region of the world – to regenerate itself. Stranger things have happened – though not much stranger. I admit! Meanwhile, pour another libation, accept my very best wishes for every success in 2014 and venture out into those newly MINTed global marketplaces!

“When the Spin slips, change the name!” as British Spin Meister, Alistair Campbell, almost said but didn’t until I put the words into his ever-open mouth. When I look back over the past 15 years of science publishing, I see more spin and less change than I would ever have believed possible. Yet when I try to look forward 10 years I see a wave of fundamental change more threatening than the games we have been playing in these Open spaces. For me, a good proof of the failure of the almost political campaigning around Open Access to carry the day beyond some 12-15% of users (check the latest Outsell market report, Professor Harnad) is the name switch game – with PLoS now talking “Open Evaluation” and being used by 5 million scientists who believe in Open Science. The fundamental change is about self-publishing and post-publication peer review: this will upset the applecart of commercial publishing, if it does not adjust in time, and the ersatz Fundamentalists of the Open Access movement of a decade ago, who wanted to preserve peer review as much as they wanted to destroy commercial ownership and restriction.

Since we are talking Science, lets try an experiment. Take any other broken, mis-used and meaningless hackneyed term and place it in this context where “Open” is now in terms of Science and Access. For example, take “Socialist”. Or “Community”. Or even “Public”. See what I mean? All meaningless, or, like those eye tests, you see the same through each lens that the optometrist puts into the frame before your eye, and end up lying about the difference between this one and that – because there is no discernible difference but you do not want to disappoint. Real change is not to be described by this means. It concerns the wish of young scientists to be noticed in the network as soon as possible on completion of their work – and before that where conferences, posters, blogs and other mentions begin to build anticipation. Real scholarly communication is now available in several different flavours, from Mendeley to Since I have been solemnly assured for 30 years by senior scientists and publishers alike that scientists will not share I have to be amazed by the size of these activities. These newcomers are not less worried about attaining research grants or tenure than their predecessors, but they live in a networked scientific world where if you are not quickly present in the network you are not referenced in debate – and being part of the argument is becoming as critical to getting grants and tenure as a solid succession of unread papers published two years after the research ended used to be.

These convictions are much strengthened by this week’s announcements. The announcement from F1000Research (December 12) that their articles are now visible in PubMed and PubMed Central gives a complete clue to what this is all about. Users want to publish in five days, but they want to be visible everywhere where a researcher/peer would expect to look. And increasingly they will expect that the article will collect into post-publication peer review all those earlier references in conference proceedings, blogs and elsewhere. So while people like F1000Reaeach will handle “formal” post-publication peer review, informal debate and commentary will not be lost. And the metrics of usage and impact will not be lost either, as we look so much more widely than traditional article impact to discern what this author/team/ findings/ideas have had. “Open Evaluation” from PLoS aims just there, as it recently launched its second evaluation phase from PLoSLabs ( This post-publication article rating system reminds me very precisely that PLoS One was not in any sense a traditional peer review process. It was a simple methodological check for scientific adequacy (“well-performed” science), and while the volume of processing solved a multitude of financial issues, the fuller rating of these articles still rests with the user. We shall see PLoS One as the turning point to self-publishing when the history is written.

And so we move towards a world where original publication of science articles is no longer the prerogative of the journal publisher. While review systems will flourish and abstracting and indexing will remain vital, that tangled mass the second and third tier journals, the most profitable end of traditional STM, will slowly begin to disperse. Some databases will adopt journal brands, of course, and the great brands will survive as ratings systems themselves. “Selected by Cell as one of the 50 most influential research articles of the year”, or “Endorsed by Nature as a key contribution to science” will be enviable re-publishing, increasingly with datalinks, improved access to image and video and other advantages. This is where semantic enrichment and data analysis will first become important – before it becomes the norm. But these selections will be made from what is published, not what is submitted for publication. And a clue to what the future offers was indicated by a Knovel (Elsevier) announcement this week. Six publishers with either small, high quality holdings in engineering research, or activities in engineering that can use the Knovel platform, entered into collaboration agreements to make their content available via the Knovel portal. Amongst these were Taylor and Francis (CRC Press), as well as specialists like ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers) or the American Geosciences Institute. As novel is in a directly competitive position with IHS GlobalSpec, it is relevant to ask how many engineering research portals that marketspace will need. It now has two – and I seriously doubt that there will ever be more than two aimed at both research and process workflow, though their identities may change (see Thomson-Reuters/Bloomberg/Lexis in law). Increasingly then small science publishing will be re-intermediated – and we do not need a business degree to imagine what that will do to their margins, as well as their direct contact with their users. “Open”, whatever else it means, connotes “contraction” for some people.

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