Jo Wixon

On a cold day in Frankfurt, a record number of staff from publishing companies large and small, publishing consultants, suppliers and a smattering of self-publishing societies met for a day to network and catch up on important initiatives in publishing.

After a blue sky keynote speech by Robert Hariri, Co-Founder of Human Longevity Inc. about the time being right to take personalized medicine further, with the aim of extending human lifespan, by early detection of the propensity for disease and treatment or lifestyle modification to tackle it, we came back down to earth to cover important matters directly related to publishing.

Presenting the results of STM’s consultation on article sharing, H Frederick Dylla pointed out that publisher's advice to authors on article sharing needs to be clear, and consider scholarly collaboration networks. He urged everyone to review the STM Principles, and, if you think they are reasonable, to sign up.

Caroline Sutton also appealed for support from scholarly publishers, and societies who own journals, to spread the word to authors: “Before you submit your work (particularly to a journal you have never heard of that has contacted you out of the blue), visit, and follow the guidance to evaluate the journal.” For more information, see our recent post on the organization.

An array of inspiring case studies of advances made by researchers, clinicians and librarians due to Research4Life access to journal content, from Richard Gedye, moved all to agree that we must tell this story more widely, as it shows that what we do as scholarly publishers makes a difference.

Laurel Haak explained that ORCID is a hub that connects identifiers for people, places and things; it provides 'plumbing' and used properly, can lead to trust. For this, publishers must require authentication when asking authors to supply ORCID IDs with their submissions, which could allow for automatic updates of ORCID and other author profiles with their new publications.

Michael Jubb reviewed the findings from Monitoring the Transition to Open Access a study into the effects of RCUK’s open access policy following the Finch Group Report. He too stressed the need for more clarity from publishers on their policies regarding article posting, and stated that the STM Principles are critical for improving this. Key observations from the data were:

  • Gold OA journals made up just <17% of titles in Scopus by 2014
  • UK authors showed a stronger preference for hybrid OA titles over gold or green OA than global authors
  • A strong correlation between mean APC paid by UK universities and the impact factor of the journal
  • Of the 280 learned societies in the UK, 63% published one journal and 22% two or more titles
  • Of those UK learned societies with journals, 24% are self-publishing and 76% work with a publishing partner
  • For more than 50% of UK learned societies with journals, their journals income funds more than 50% of their charitable expenditure
  • 24% of articles had a free version posted online regardless of publishing model, with about half of these being illicit

Next came an amusing, but sobering demonstration from Roger Schonfeld of the frustrations for some academics of off-campus access to newly published journal articles, and the continued difficulties that can be experienced upon reaching campus and using a PC. The takeaways from his report on Streamlining access to scholarly resources were: understand the use of your platform in the library system environment and off-campus; set expectations for how quickly your new content appears in discovery services; eliminate mobile user interfaces; and enhance single user accounts, perhaps using single sign-on.

The day was rounded off by a CEOs panel of Brian Crawford (ACS), Tracey Armstrong (CCC), Ron Mobed (Elsevier), Steven Hall (IOP), and Philip Carpenter (Wiley).

Most of the panelists agreed that the sources of competitive advantage lie in service levels (to authors, readers or society partners) and technology (but only by keeping moving!) This chimed with a question on whether publishers are becoming technology companies, and was it worth investing in new journals if so; here all felt that it was not an either/or situation, but rather that we need to make the best use of technology to help readers find the information they need faster, and also that content, albeit perhaps in a different form than journals in the future, will still be key, as will publishers’ role in filtering it for quality.

CHORUS received multiple plaudits as the most impressive new entrant, with nods also to CrossRef for great collaborative work and continuing to have good ideas; and to the importance of analytics offerings.

On the effects of green OA and 12-month embargoes, it was felt by all that although commonly perceived as workable, a 12-month embargo period does in fact have an impact and there would be some titles that could not survive it, since much of an article’s usage happens beyond 12 months after publication.

Other questions mainly focused on the publishing workforce, including recruiting and retention of top performers. Steven Hall voiced a concern about a dearth of top class talent in our industry; Ron Mobed said they tackle this by recruiting outside our industry, pulling in bright people from other areas who would rather work for a company with a purpose. Philip Carpenter recognized the need to invest in top performers so they’ll want to stay, and for the job to be worthwhile and valued, with their contributions noticeably appreciated; this was echoed by Tracey Armstrong who advised giving people something intellectually stimulating to work on as that is highly motivating, with the whole team being close to the core mission. Brian Crawford felt similarly, that individuals who work for societies want to serve the field, and feel closely tied to the mission, a point also acknowledged by Steven Hall.

Speaking on gender diversity in the workplace, all acknowledged the issue of the scarcity of women at the top, as exemplified by the make-up of the panel itself, and all parties are actively working on this, some with outside help from consultants. Tracey Armstrong quoted an advisor who had told her it could take 7-10 years to diversify. She said that finding great mentors was key, and advised finding out what it’s like for women at lower levels of your organization: “talk to the women below the ceiling”.

The discussions left us all with quite some food for thought, and the women in the room departed with inspiration from Tracey Armstrong about advancing their careers and acting as leaders. Coupled with the insights into key initiatives from the morning, and all the great networking done at lunch and during coffee breaks, we all left richer for the experience.