We live in fevered times. What happens at the top cascades. This must be the explanation for why  revered colleagues like Richard Poynder and Kent Anderson are conducting Mueller – style enquiries into OA (Open Access). And they do make a splendidly contrasting pair of prosecutors, like some Alice in Wonderland trial where off-with-his-head is a paragraph summary, not a judgement. Richard (https://poynder.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-oa-interviews-frances-pinter.html). wants to get for-profit out of OA, presumably not planning to be around when the foundation money dries up and new technology investment is needed. Kent defends vigorously the right of academic authors to make money from their work for people other than themselves, and is busy, in the wonderful Geyser (thegeyser@substack.com) journal sniffing the dustbins of Zurich to find “collusion” between the Swiss Frontiers and the EU. Take a dash of Brexit, add some Trumpian bitters, the zest of rumour, shake well and pour into a scholarly communications sized glass. Perfect cocktail for the long winter nights. We should be grateful to them both. 

But perhaps we should not be too distracted. For me, the month since I last blogged on Plan S and got a full postbag of polite dissension, has been one of penitent reflection on the state of our new data-driven information marketplace as a whole. In the midst of this. Wellcome announced its Data Re-Use prize, which seems to me to exemplify much of the problem.  (https://wellcome.ac.uk/news/new-wellcome-data-re-use-prizes-help-unlock-value-research?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=o-wellcome&utm_campaign=). Our recognition of data has not properly moved on from our content years. The opportunities to merge, overlap, drill down through, mine together related data sets are huge. The ability to create new knowledge as a result has profound implications. But we are still on the nursery slopes when it comes to making real inroads into the issues, and while data and text mining techniques are evolving at speed, the licensing of access and the ownership of outcomes still pose real problems. We will not be a data driven society until sector data sources have agreed protocols on these issues. Too much data behind paywalls creates ongoing issues for owners as well as users. Unexploited data is valueless. 

It’s not as if we have collected all the data in the marketplace anyway. At this year’s NOAH conference in London at the beginning of the month I watched a trio of start-ups in the HR space present, and then realised that they were all using the same data collected differently. There has to be an easier way of pooling data in our society, ensuring privacy protection but also aligning clean resources for re-use using different analytics and market targets to create different service entities. Lets hope the Wellcome thinking is pervasive, but then my NOAH attention went elsewhere as I found myself in a fascinating conversation about a project which is re-utilising a line of content as data that has been gratuitously ignored. And in scholarly communication, one of the best ploughed fields on the data farm. 

Morressier, co-founded in Berlin by Sami Benchekroun, with whom I had the conversation, is a startling example of the cross-over utility of neglected data. With Justus Weweler, Sami has concerned himself with the indicative data you would need to give evaluated.

Progress reporting on early stage science. Posters, conference agendas, seminar announcements, links to slide sets – Morressier is exploring the hinterland of emerging science, enabling researchers and funders to gauge how advanced work programmes are and how they can Map the emerging terrain in which they work. Just when we imagined that every centimetre of the scholarly communication workflow had been fully covered, here comes a further chapter, full of real promise, whose angels include four of the smartest minds in scholarly information, morressier.com is clearly one to watch. 

And one to give us heart. There really are no sectors where data has been so eked out that no further possibilities, especially of adding value through recombination with other data, in fact, in my daily rounds, I usually find that the opposite is true. Marketing feedback data is still often held aloof from service data, few can get an object based view of how data is being consumed. And if this is true at the micro level in terms of feedback, events companies have been particularly profligate with data collection, assessment and re- use And while this is changing it still does not have the priority it needs. Calling user data “exhaust” does not help: we need a catalytic converter to make it effective when used with other data in a different context. 

When we have all the data and we are re-combining it effectively, we shall begin to see the real problems emerge. And they will not be the access and re-use issues of today, but the quality, disambiguation and  “fake” data problems we are all beginning to experience now and which will not go away, Industry co-operation will be even more needed, and some players will have to build a business model around quality control. The arrival of the data driven marketplace is not a press release, but a complex and difficult birth process. 

Lets start with the Flight. At the end of last week came that rare luxury and respite – the NOAH show! For two whole days, since 2009, the investment community have been able to lounge in Old Billingsgate and make up their minds about what is likely, what is imminent and what wont happen in eCommerce and Internet services. On three stages and in front of some 600 investment outfits, over 500 early growth players say “its me you were really looking for”. The cases, the comparitive performance, and the real knowledge on display is hugely heartening. Something tells me that London as the start-up centre of Europe is now a bit off the top of the curve. NOAH advisors, who run this show, have opened a Berlin show and intend one as well for Tel Aviv next year, and if I were them then I would also be looking at Barcelona when the current crisis subsides. But location is not the most important thing here. Innovation in services cultures in a networked society goes viral – and comes out of a global market to start with, as the Dallas, Texas, based founder of Bumble demonstrated as she appeared on stage with her Russian tech partner, Badoo. They were interviewed by the founding partner of NOAH, and its Master of Ceremonies, Marco Rodzynek, in a session. That reminded me that behind the apparent strength of seemingly impregnable network market leadership like Facebook there always looms a lither, smarter competitor who grows very quickly, and who must be emulated or acquired if seemingly impregnable positions are to be maintained.

Then if you waited till the end of Marco’s Show you got to fly. Featured there were Volocopter and Lillium, a full week before NASA and Uber announced their deal, adverting the glories of investing in autonomous air taxis. Lillium, a vertical take off jet solution, can land on a tennis court and can take you 300 km at 300 km per hour. Volcopter, as its name suggests, is driven by a ring of small rotors, is also battery driven but shorter in range. Both are German, both do huge information-based navigation work, and Lillium has been extensively experimented with in urban conditions in Dubai. Although they were a surprizing find in this context, for those of us who lead a screen based existence, they were a welcome reminder of the real world significance of all the data crunching going on around us. And as I rode home comfortably on German owned Chiltern Railways, I reflected on leaders in my country prepared to invest $75 billion on a new railway line, not yet begun, which will, when it opens in 2033, clip a life and job saving 22 minutes off the train schedule between London and Birmingham. Mercifully I shall not be here to see it – I shall be in the air taxi!

Another visionary with a loaded gun full of ideas at NOAH was Ali Parsa, the founder of Babylon healthcare. Within days of the show he had announced another big leap forward in supporting Britain’s overworked healthcare system with voice and video medical practice extensions, allowing computer supported diagnostics for those who cannot or need not get a consultation in person. as this gets better and better, and has more intelligent systems support, it offers the only real hope we have of getting the NHS back on track as a national free-at-the-point-of-use system. And as the network gets better the diagnostic session will improve, and the analytics will deliver more insight. Listening computers will be able to prompt the doctor with more questions, and produce a range of answers and probabilities, and a treatment schedule for the doctor to consider and turn into prescriptions, patient notes and records for the regular GP. By using this for minor ailments the system may survive – if we do not use it outside of London then it certainly won’t, but it does point again, in a tiny country like Britain, towards a need for equality in what is rapidly becoming a human rights issue – access at home to superfast broadband. We should be giving every citizen regardless of where they live at least 40 megabits of upload and download. The fact that we are not (yet the South Koreans are) was graphically demonstrated by the village in Devon who, on 5th November, the traditional Bonfire Night , burnt in effigy not Guy Fawkes, but a British Telecom Superfast Broadband van. Not much diagnostics down there, then, and not even a high speed train in 15 years time to take them to the next NHS bottleneck much quicker. The future is here, as William Gibson so wisely said, but its not very evenly spread.

Much more to say about journals and funders and scholarly communication next week. After the Great Debate at the Stationers company this week, we all decided that regulation under Brexit was only going to get worse, and as we thought of data regulation and copyright we felt better off where we were than where we might be going. And I am chairing the session on “whose Research is it Anyway” at London Information International on December 5-6. More warming than mulled wine, I assure you!

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