The great days of Open Access are past, but the age of the Open Book is just about to begin. Witness the trajectory of the Elsevier acquisition strategy, ever the most reliable guide to trends in academic and research markets. No major journal publishing investments there. Beyond the slackening of demand for more paid for journals, the thrust went first into social media and data via Mendeley, and then towards pre-print servers like SSRN, followed by repositories like BePress. What does this tell us? That the historical demand for enhancing reputation by virtue of coupling your renown to that of the journal that accepted you is giving way to  the necessity, in a networked society, of getting quickly into the workflow of your discipline, regardless of where you may subsequently be published. Here Open Access proved a game changer that influenced, in most disciplines, less than 25% of the game. The mere fact, however that a game which was played according to many of the same rules since the 1660s could be changed, means that the next generations are fully entitled to make their own rules.

But while all this has been going on, what of the related worlds not subject to the imperatives of Green and Gold and mandates? By this I mean the world of book publishing in all disciplines, but particularly in HSS with its dependence on getting the full research answer out into monograph form, in a market that has an ever greater problem with buying books in research institutions, a growing problem over at least 50 years. What it is about HSS and books that makes its problems less attractive to public campaigns and political pressure we should leave until another time, but it really is fascinating for those interested in the history of scholarship to reflect that we have had to come through years of publishers saying that monograph publishing was untenable to what is now a concentrated attention on the facts of digital publishing as it impacts monograph production – that it is quicker, easier, cheaper and more effective than ever before, but the real problems remaining lie in circulation, discoverability and finding an appropriate business model.

The first person to demonstrate a practical business development that could march alongside the aspirations of academics and the constraints of librarians  was Dr Frances Pinter with her Knowledge Unlatched ( solution. By allowing librarians to “subscribe” to the opening of books in a proposal list to universal access. Now run from Berlin by Dr Sven Fund, this demonstrated her virtuosity as a publisher coupled with a real insight into the lives of researchers and the stresses within the scholarly communication system. In the past three years, in this infant marketplace neglected by publishers, it has grown appreciably, in a context where small commercial players (Cambridge Scholars) have begun to work on scholarly self-publishing, and a range of new University Presses, both in the US and in the UK, have created “pop-up” publishing for those who can afford it. And here lies a real threat to publishers with important book programmes in STM or HSS: the tools and processes get cheaper, the staff commitment becomes less significant (ex-librarians can do it brilliantly!), and the speed requirement, for reputational purposes, gets greater, so the need to get material into the scholarly workflow becomes more urgent.

All of which ignores a real problem on the road to open access self publishing, and it is fascinating to see how the team at Knowledge Unlatched have their teeth into this. The problem of self-publishing is discoverability. Adding metadata to ensure discovery and then placing that information in the critical junction boxes of a wired society to ensure that what is available is what is found becomes fundamental when simply “outing” content to the web results in loss of discoverability. Publishers have always known this, so the logic for Knowledge Unlatched in opening up its services as Open Services is inescapable, and will predictably lead to KU becoming a hub for this rapidly growing sector as well as a service to sector players. The data accumulation here becomes one of the important assets across the board in HSS and STM.

Predictably, now this market has kick-started, developments will move rapidly. The ability to use semantic enquiry across these texts, to cross search groups of them and to discover and explore them at sub-chapter and paragraph levels will help. Index compilation and the generation of custom-machine generated indices will follow, with automatic updating and cross-referencing , as well as linkage to related evidential data, clearly part of the trajectory. But this only happens if the sector has a hub and some standards, so the move of KU to create Open Services is really the first movement in the direction of a hub that we have seen, and one which, for that reason, is hugely welcome.

Innovation happens when you recognize it, not when people invent something. Innovation is a state of mind, not a process of will. Innovation cannot be switched on or off like a light. Innovation is not about making things anew, and then making the new as unchangeable as the old it replaced. Innovation is about looking behind you to measure the tide and the speed of flow. Innovation is knowing when to leap in and swim boldly, knowing that stopping swimming means sinking. Innovation has nothing at all to do with the concept I find described everyday in information companies: “we need some younger managers in here to innovate, then we will take the best of their ideas and go with them”. “We have set up a group to go away and do innovation and then we will see if they come up with anything”. “Our innovators are very smart but have no idea of how important the cash cow is to the company and how important it is that we do not compete with ourselves, so we have taken up the best of their ideas and used them to freshen up the existing services”.

After weeks of working with companies that can talk change but not implement it the spirits can flag. But then, like last week I have a space when every door I push open seems to exude innovation. And it is not the perk of the young or the monopoly of garage dwellers in Southern California. Innovation spreads right across the age and gender divides. It is a cast of mind, almost a type of intelligence. Last week I met two real innovators, both of whom were deeply dissatisfied by the difficulty our industry, both information marketplaces and enterprises at large, have in handling change. I would guess they were 30 years apart in age, and their ideas of innovation were radically different, but both were temperamentally discontented by the thought of leaving the status quo unruffled.

Rather than embarrass the innovators who gave me such a filip, let me describe the innovations. E-Qual ( is a competency environment. Created initially for the oil industry, it is a way of getting all the relevant information in one place in order to form judgements about whether employees have the background knowledge, the formal learning, the experience on the job, the continuing development activity and anything else they need to be judged as “competent”. In many ways, competency is the shoe that has not yet dropped in the compliance marketplace. Yet what is it about innovation that means that no one in forestry would look at what works in oil and gas, or no one in light engineering would look at how things are done in pharma. And the information players in vertical sectors are just as blinkered. Small wonder that innovation and scale are real problems.

The other innovation I encountered was, a child of the team that incubated Colwiz ( Here we. Are in a whole sector – academic research and scholarly communication – but this is one with an almost theological loathing for “not invented here a look at this Claim” continuously updating with billions of data points. Gain powerful insights about the past, present and future with the most comprehensive knowledge graph covering the entire universe of research.

50K organizations

235 countries

2.7B facts

700M citations

289M concept mappings

$700B research funding

78M publications

50M authors

28M affiliations

60K journals

150TB data

Using cutting edge machine learning algorithms, continuously generates analytics about the scientific developments that are the harbingers of our future world to progress research in the right direction, further and faster.”

A huge amount of data and some large claims, yet whatever happens here we should note that this is the first time someone has walked through the front door of the problem – finding what scholarship is best of breed, worth funding and most likely to have real impact – and said simply “let’s start by putting all the salient data in one place and then see what our best analytics can do”. While I am sure that in those analytics there is great innovation, the dramatic change here for me is a hallmark of innovation – simplicity of approach. The jury is out on whether, beyond its existing case studies and great graphics, this service will produce the insights claimed for it – but if it does it will comprehensively alter the field of vision of academics, funders, researchers in industry, publishers, and government. A big data solution in this sector at this point could be as influential as the foundation, by the truly innovative Eugene Garfield, of ISI and the impact factor. As I left their Oxford offices the most frequent thought in my head was “why hasn’t a publisher invested and acquired this yet!”

Which returns us to the beginning – no one recognises innovation until it has happened and is history – and too late.

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