…or the capital of civilisation reaches the capital of Flanders. For those of us who have been many times through Lille by train but never stopped to look, this was a very pleasant surprise on many fronts. And if, like me, you were checking into the 19th Fiesole Retreat, a unique conference which brings librarians, academics and publishers together to communicate in a group small enough to allow that to happen and large enough to be representative, there was double pleasure. Vieux Lille is fascinating, and the city has the second great art collection in France, laid out with huge imagination at the Beaux Arts. This edition of Fiesole, as ever meticulously managed by the Casalini team working with the Charleston Conference, was hosted by Julien Roche, director of the brilliant LILLIAD learning centre and innovation on the new university campus, which housed the retreat.

As soon as I arrive at a Fiesole Retreat I wonder why other conferences do not have this feel. During the days of the Retreat this really does feel like peers explaining to peers how all this new digital stuff is working out in academic life. The opening session was named “Linked (Open) data – Big Data” and reminded me at once of why I really enjoy these meetings – whatever the questions raised there is a chance here to develop your own agenda and pursue it in discussion at breaks and lunches with people who are unlikely to share your background and the limitations of your experience with experts from both the French and German national libraries on the roster we were bound to get differences of approach. What i found rather unexpected was the unanimity around the basic concepts of a data driven research world, and the underlying, central importance of text and data mining in sustaining that world. And as the concepts build from the experience in the room, one realises the gulf between the world into which Retreat members are emerging and the one from which they are departing. Between a world where licensing text and data mining is still non-standard, and where the corpus of knowledge can be searched in a single sweep, where barriers of ownership and control and location frustrate at every turn.

I have found this regularly happens to me at Retreat meetings. Once a theme has become apparent to my mind, I find it recurring in every subsequent session. The agenda went on to consider Reshaping Collection Development for 2025, but the issues that grabbed me came from Laurent Romary from Switzerland discussing “How to open up Digital Libraries for Digital Scholars”. Similarly when the session on “The Changing Scholarly Communication Ecosystem” came along, absorbing sessions from Jayne Marks (Sage) and Bas Straub (Konvertus) began to sharpen my view on the sustainability of current academic publishing practice. Anna Lunden from the Swedish National Library, describing the huge effort they have made to accommodate Open Access in one country alone, and then Frank Smith of JStor addressed the comparative poverty of the Open Books effort, despite Knowledge Unlatched, And then Michael Keller, librarian at Stanford, summed up in his crisp and masterful way. If Stanford spend $2.1 million on APCs this year then the argument about Open Access begins to collapse as cheap, effective publishing software turns every researcher and his librarian as the publisher of source. As Charles Watkinson reminded us, the growth of US (and UK, I would add) university presses has been remarkable. While the traditional Journals market players have tried to defend their branded journals, their requirement for copyright, and their control of the market through peer review, the smoke seems to me to be clearing, revealing a very different picture.

So when you can submit an article with reviews, ready for publication on a pre-print server or a university repository or figshare, will we be too concerned about the publisher of record as long as the metadata is in place? As long as the metadata is properly organized by libraries working together will we worry about brand or journal? Will today’s publishers become tomorrow’s organisers of reputation, ranking scholars and reviewers and contributions to the scholarly communication chain in terms of what other researchers did as a result – cited, blogged, downloaded, annotated etc? And will this turn into a rating system that helps to guide investors in governments and the private sector, or universities making appointments? And will the article cease to exist in the new workflow of scholarship, at least as something read only machines, or will it be replaced by conclusions directly annotated on the data and cited? And obviously, while every discipline and geography is different, where will the first movers be?

No one knows, of course, which is why a Retreat, particularly one focussed on what we are going to collect, store and search in the future, is so valuable. I clearly see now that Open Access is not the answer, but part of a journey, and part of the next stage will be the emergence of funders (Gates and Wellcome are there already) as publishers. But I am hooked – and will be at the 20th Fiesole in Barcelona to debate the issues with colleagues I have come to trust.


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