The sunny but sometimes chill air of Harrogate this week was a good metaphor for the scholarly communications marketplace. Once the worshippers at the shrine of the Big Deal, the librarians and information managers who form the majority of the 950 or so attendees now march to a different tune. From the form of the article to the nature of collaboration this was a confident organization talking about the future of the sector. And at no point was this a discussion about more of the same. Three sunny days, but for publishers present there was an occasional chill in the wind.

I started the week with a particular purpose in mind, which was all about the current state of collaboration. I was impressed by the announcement with Highwire ( There are now some 3000 journals using open source annotation platforms like the not-for-profit to encourage discoverable (and private) annotation. Not since Copernicus, when scholars toured monasteries to read and record annotations of observations of the galaxies in copies of his texts, have we had the ability to track scholarly commentary on recent work and work in progress so completely. And no sooner had I begun talking about collaboration as annotation than I met people willing to take the ideas further, into the basis of real community-building activity.

It seems to me that as soon as the journal publisher has imported an annotation interface then he is inviting scholars and researchers into a new relationship with his publishing activity. And for anyone who seeks a defence against the perceived threat of ResearchGate or the answer must lie in building patterns of collaborative annotation into the articles themselves, and becoming the intermediary in the creation of the community dialogue at the level of issues in the scholarly workflow. So it seemed natural that my next conversation was with the ever-inventive Kent Anderson of Redlink, who was able to show me Remarq, in its beta version and due to be formally launched on 1 May. Here discoverable annotations lie in the base of layers of service environments which enable any publisher to create community around annotated discussion and turn it into scholarly exchange and collaboration. We have talked for many years about the publishing role moving beyond selecting, editing, issuing and archiving – increasingly, I suspect, the roles of librarians – and moving towards the active support of scholarly communication. And this, as Remaeq makes clear, includes tweets, blogs, posters, theses, books and slide sets as well as articles. Services like and Remarq are real harbingers of the future of publishing when articles appear on preprint servers and in repositories or from funder Open Access outlets, where the subject classification of the research is less important than who put up the research investment.

And, of course, the other change factor here is the evolution of the article (often ignored – for some reason we seem to like talking about change but are reluctant to grip the simple truth that when one thing changes – in this case the networked connectivity of researchers – then all the forms around it change as well, and that includes the print heritage research article). Already challenged by digital inclusivity – does it have room for the lab video, the data, the analytics software, the adjustable graphs and replayable modelling? – it now becomes the public and private annotation scratchpad. Can it be read efficiently by a computer and discussed between computers? We heard reports of good progress on machine readability using Open Science Jupiter Notebooks, but can we do all we want to fork or copy papers and manipulate them while still preserving the trust and integrity in the system derived from being able to identify what the original was and being always able to revert to it. We have to be able to use machine analysis to protect ourselves from the global flood of fresh research – if the huge agenda was light anywhere then it was on how we absorb what is happening in India, China, Brazil and Russia into the scholarly corpus effectively. But how good it was to hear from John Hammersley of Overleaf, now leading the charge in connecting up the disconnected and providing the vital enabling factor to some 600,000 users via F1000 and thus in future the funder-publisher mills of Wellcome and Gates, as well as seeing Martin Roelandse of Springer Nature demonstrating that publishers can potentially join up dots too with their SciGraph applicationfor relating snippets, video, animations sources and data.

Of course, connectivity has to be based on common referencing, so at every moment we were reminded of the huge importance of CrossRef and Orcid Incontrovertible identity is everything, I was left hoping that Orcid can fully integrate with the new CrossRef Events data service, using triples in classical mode to relate references to relationships to mentions. Here again, in tracking 2.7 million events since service inception last month, they are already demonstrating the efficacy of the New Publishing – the business of joining up the dots.

So I wish UKSG a happy 40th birthday – they are obviously in rude health. And I thank Charlotte Rouchie, closing speaker, for reminding me of Robert Estienne, who I have long revered as the first master of metadata. In 1551 he divide the bible into verses – and to better compare Greek with Latin, he numbered them. Always good to recall revolutionaries of the past!

PS. In my last three blogs I have avoided, I hope, use of the word Platform. Since I no longer know what it means, I have decided to ignore it until usage clarifies it again!


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