On Friday March 2nd, 60 society leaders and editors battled the drama of #Snowmageddon, the #BeastFromTheEast and #StormEmma to gather together at the Law Society in London, UK for our annual Wiley Society Executive Seminar. As the snow fell outside, our speakers highlighted the disruptive changes that arise from there being ever-more journals and articles, yet still only 24-hours in a day, alongside the continued pressures on library budgets and research funding, and the plethora of ‘new’ technologies that serve often to baffle or distract us, but could well offer new solutions to help learned societies and scholarly publishing thrive.
If the number of phones pointing at a presentation screen is a valid metric, author and global leadership expert Terence Mauri’s keynote session got everyone thinking, and certainly talking, about where they see the immediate challenges and where they might then find the opportunities for their societies. There seemed to be general acknowledgement that, as Slack’s Search, Learning, and Intelligence team has reportedly found, growth creates complexity, but complexity stifles growth. It is undoubtedly hard to break out of old patterns of thinking and to consider how new technologies such as Blockchain, which Wiley VP of Society Marketing Bill Deluise highlighted in his talk, might provide new solutions to the challenge of managing research outputs, or how societies might expand into new areas of activity and indeed business, as Executive Director Hetan Shah and the Royal Statistical Society have done with their data visualization courses.
Digging our collective heels into the sand won’t work. Even if we believe that at the end of the day, researchers really just want “the damn pdf,” scholarly publishers and societies need to find ways to stay relevant which, as Oxford librarian Sally Rumsey suggested, might mean acknowledging the changes in the dissemination tools now being used by researchers, and finding easier ways for researchers to share articles in a legal way. As Wiley’s VP and Managing Director for Research, Guido Hermann, shared, a study of more than 3000 researchers by Nature found that 26% of researchers use Twitter to access and share research. David Wilding, Twitter’s UK Director of Planning, suggested one common mistake people make is thinking that using social media means they must talk about themselves all the time; he argued Twitter is about what you chose to share, but also a way of getting different perspectives and learning what’s happening around you, including within your scholarly community.
Standing still is never a sustainable strategy, but as one attendee put it, when faced with the demands of the To Do list, it’s often hard to find time to devote to proper reflection, assessment and strategic planning. It was great to carve out a day to listen to others’ perspectives on the challenges facing both learned societies and academic publishing, to ask questions and to share ideas that have, or could, work in the future.
Ask yourself, what must you preserve for your community? What should you let go of, and what might you create? When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Photo credit: Simon Bayliss