v28 #4 Don’s Conference Notes

pdfCrossing Boundaries: The 2016 Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) Conference

By Donald T. HawkinsFreelance Conference Blogger and Editor 

Note: A summary of this article appeared in the September 2016 issue of Against The Grain v28 #4 on Page 77.

The Westin Bayshore Hotel, Venue for the 2016 SSP Conference

The Westin Bayshore Hotel, Venue for the 2016 SSP Conference

Melanie Dolechek, SSP Executive Director, Opens the 2016 Conference

Melanie Dolechek, SSP Executive Director, Opens the 2016 Conference

“Crossing Boundaries: New Horizons in Scholarly Communication” was an appropriate title for SSP’s 38th annual conference because it was the first time the conference was held outside the U.S. Meeting in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC on June 1-3, 2016, it drew approximately 700 attendees and nearly 50 exhibitors. Besides 4 plenary sessions, there were 27 concurrent ones that were grouped in these broad subject areas: marketing insight, product strategy/business models, global challenges/collaborative solutions, careers/industry, and standards/best practices. Two innovative features marked the meeting: Sprint Beyond the Book (http://sprintbeyondthebook.com), in which a team of authors (including volunteers from the attendees) collaborated to publish an anthology of publishing topics in 72 hours (watch for a full report in a forthcoming issue of Against The Grain), and posters illustrating major concepts of the meeting that were created on the fly by a graphic artist (see sample below).

Photo by Donald T. Hawkins. Reproduced by permission.

Photo by Donald T. Hawkins. Reproduced by permission.


One of the emphases of the meeting was career development for professionals entering the scholarly publishing field. A special plenary presentation on mentoring took place on the day before the regular programming began. Here are some of the points made.

  • SSP launched a fellowship program in 2016 that offered training and career development opportunities. The program drew significant interest; about 100 applications for the 12 positions in the program were received.
  • There are many opportunities for mentorship in the field; everyone is a mentor and mentee at some stage of their life.
  • Professional societies are important because they offer many programs to help people at an early stage of their careers.
  • Many organizations pair new managers with experienced ones, which is very beneficial. Mentorship is bi-directional; we learn from each other and share knowledge.
  • Consultants make good mentors because of their diverse experiences with many clients. They can also provide mentorship services to small organizations that do not have many mentors available.

Opening Keynote: The Startup Playbook

Ann Michael, SSP President Introduces the Keynote Speaker

Ann Michael, SSP President Introduces the Keynote Speaker

In his keynote address, David Kidder, author of The Startup Playbook (Chronicle Books, 2013), said that large companies can grow like startups.  Customers are transforming competition, and how we think about disruption and ways of doing new things is important. Many CEOs do not know how to create growth. In publishing we think a lot about sharing; you must get obsessed with your problems and employ an entrepreneurial mindset as a form of management. Kidder presented 5 “lenses” that must be true for success in an entrepreneurial environment:

  1. Proprietary gifts. Do you have any? We must be smart, seek advantages, and leverage them.
  2. A single big idea. Have an extreme focus and the courage to fail fast, say “no”, accept imperfect answers, and embrace patience. Most startups do not die; they fail because they run out of money.
  3. Create painkillers, not vitamins. Vitamins are elective, painkillers are indispensable. Kill biased pet and entitlement projects.
  4. Be 10 times better. Incrementalism is a path to nowhere. Don’t chase your competitors’ press releases or features; create radical differentiation.
  5. Be a monopolist. Create permanence with a customer. New growth is hard; accept that fact. Create value where permanence is a long-term outcome.
Keynote Speaker David Kidder

Keynote Speaker David Kidder

Kidder noted that the greatest companies are led by their founders and are always focused on the customer. What matters is the problem being solved, not the technology. Being right and on time is a massive art. It is important to lower the cost of failure; be 90% right before you bet on something.

CEOs must be super-administrators and super-creators. Watch customers’ actions, not their words. The CEO who learns the fastest wins. Playing not to lose is a terrible strategy; play to win. The best environment is where people can fail and keep on trying.

Listen, Engage, Repeat: Lessons from the Front Line of Engagement

How are publishers actively engaging with their communities to support and grow a dialog with them? Sara Rouhi, Director of Business Development, North America, Altmetric, said that Altmetric uses several avenues to communicate with its users, including peer pressure (who else is using your content), webinars (an easy sharable means of educating), an “ambassador” program in which users (not sales people!) explain how to use services, an advisory board of key stakeholders to represent many sectors of the market, and a social media presence that is compelling when it is not exclusively promotional. She noted that free tools hook customers and generate a lot of trust.

Grace Constantino, Outreach and Communications Manager, Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), said that BHL’s goals are to understand who is using their collections and how they are using them. Two new tools, Altmetric and Disqus, have recently been added to help transform BHL into a social digital library:

  • The Altmetric “donut” badge has been added to records to provide detailed data on books and help readers explore articles and chapters, find people with similar interests etc. A new dashboard was created to focus on the top 10 books each week which is useful in discovering emerging trends or events taking place.
  • Disqus (https://disqus.com) is a system that allows users to add comments to a web page; libraries and publishers can build a community and grow their audience. In BHL’s environment, for example, comments added to transcriptions of scientists’ handwritten field notes can be searched by researchers. Names for plants shown in a book can also be directly linked to the page of the illustration.

Tara Robenalt, Director of Product at the Public Library of Science (PLoS), described how PLoS provides services to users beyond publishing journals. For example, its blog network (http://blogs.plos.org) covers not only specific journals but also subject areas and established research communities, as well as one for early career researchers. Special collections are created for significant events; for example, a landing page to a collection of articles on the Zika virus was quickly created and promoted after the current outbreak emerged. Article-level metrics are promoted as the author’s story of the impact of their research (see http://plos.org/article-level-metrics). PLoS channels arranged around content, people, and technologies are being developed as a new way for communities to publish and disseminate research. When an article is accepted in a channel, grey literature, Twitter feeds, and other related content will be curated and added to it by the channel editor. Robenalt gave the following advice for attracting visitors to a website:

  • “Build it and they will come” is not a viable strategy.
  • If nobody knows about a site, no community will be built, and the site will be an island.
  • Make sure that Google can discover the site.
  • Promote the site to make sure that colleagues know the community is available.
  • Have social tools available for sharing.
  • Serve the researcher (which is most important).

Tracey DePellegrin Connelley, Executive Editor at the Genetics Society of America (GSA), said that some of GSA’s current challenges are to reach multiple disparate audiences on a limited budget, cultivate loyalty, and reposition its 100 year old journal. GSA’s culture is to treat authors, readers, and reviewers well; help authors promote their work; pay attention and listen to what people say; and focus on being a resource and a partner so that authors can attain maximum impact. For example, GSA’s editors send thank you notes to each author submitting an article for publication and provide rapid first decisions on acceptability. Engagement can be effective, but it requires a willingness to understand what stakeholders need and want, not what you are trying to sell them.

Small Data/Big Benefits: Mining for End User Relationships

Budget pressures in the library marketplace are continuing, and the publishing environment is becoming more complex. Publishers have therefore begun to promote their products to end users as well as libraries because the end user is the person who needs the information. This session explored this evolving relationship.

Christine Orr, Sales Director at Ringgold, said that a publisher’s data is potentially its most valuable asset, but it must be of high quality.  In fact, Ringgold, founded to solve a problem with poor source data at Oxford University Press, has created an identifier database of 400,000 scholarly institutions, each classified with metadata terms, and now is part of the scholarly infrastructure helping publishers turn their data into an asset. End users and institutions can play multiple roles, and when individuals and affiliations are joined together, publishers gain valuable knowledge and capabilities, such as:

  • Market intelligence,
  • Knowledge about research funding,
  • Reduction in the time necessary to calculate open access charges, and
  • Ability to avoid or resolve conflicts of interest (such as authors and reviewers from the same institution).

Orr urged publishers to clean up their data retrospectively and ensure that new data being added has been thoroughly cleaned.

Jenni Rankin, Marketing Manager, Annual Reviews, said that her organization aims to communicate with end users through the creation and sharing of quality content. It used to be easy to provide content marketing by simply getting a book to users; now success is based on being in the right place at the right time, and we must continuously work to understand our users. (Rankin referred to a useful graphic entitled “101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication” from the 2015 Force11 conference—see https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:InnoScholComm_poster_Force2015.pdf.) She noted that users happily provide a lot of personal information to Facebook which publishers can use. Annual Reviews tries to drive marketing campaigns through clever content and smart data. Data can help us attract and retain users and know how we should be dedicating our resources. Marketers must make sure to make their content available everywhere. Social platforms can be very powerful marketing devices.

Laura Kane, COO at BioOne, said that marketing to end users is a recognition that libraries have many priorities and promoting a single product is probably not high on their list. The best approach is a collaborative one that respects the essential role of the librarian but also emphasizes the necessity of strong relationships with end users. Because of the need to have its brand recognized in the market, BioOne began to market to end users; in today’s environment, a publisher that does not have a relationship with end users does so at its own peril. However, it is important not to let gains with users come at the expense of a loyal long-term relationship with the library. Here are some lessons learned:

  • Keep messages simple and tailored to the audience.
  • Choose words carefully and have a call to action.
  • User marketing is more than an e-mail campaign; it involves everything that will solidify a relationship with the users.
  • Make every approach specific, courteous, and personalized.

Wendy Wise, Assistant Director, Content Marketing at the American Chemical Society (ACS), said that ACS has had success with its content marketing blog, ACS Axial (http://axial.acs.org), in communicating with readers, announcing new open access journals, and generating new data about current customers. Its strategy has been to set goals, clear out the clutter in its marketing databases, and analyzing the data for use in future campaigns.

Flip the Script: Moving Subscription Journals to Open Access

This session presented some considerations on collective funding models for OA. John Willinsky, Director of the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University (PKP, https://pkp.sfu.ca/), noted that libraries are already cooperating in the scholarly publishing area; for example, 3,000 libraries are buying physics journals from 10 publishers. In Canada, 43 journals that were formerly purchased on a subscription basis have been changed to OA, and publishers have decided that it is in their best interest to cooperate with the libraries because they provide a platform of support and do some publicity. They are perfect partners because they are in touch with their users.

The PKP project has developed the concept of a subscription-equivalent-transition (SET), in which libraries would commit to pay a fee equivalent to 3 years of journal subscription costs into the cooperative, which becomes revenue for the publishers while the journal is being converted to OA. The SET is revenue-neutral to both parties; the journal loses no money, and the library spends no more than previously. This model relies on trust and commitment, allows for membership in the cooperative to grow, and will result in improving the quality of scholarly publishing. Several journal publishers are interested in the concept, and in Ghana, libraries and journals have committed to explore the possibilities of having a national basis for forming a cooperative. At the end of the 3-year development period, the libraries have the option of reverting to the subscription model.

SET seems to be a promising strategy because it begins with libraries that already subscribe to the journals and gives time to develop the new model. It involves minimal financial impact and demonstrates a commitment to OA. The challenges are that it does not offer any relief to already strained library budgets and does not provide publishers with a way to meet increasing costs, which may result in significant resistance from them. These factors are working against the SET model:

  • Free Riders: Some universities may opt to wait until the journals become OA, when they will be able to access them without having to contribute to the cooperative.
  • Inertia: Promotion and tenure requirements are based on traditional publishing models and have not caught up with OA.
  • Lack of incentive: Unless libraries and funders are willing to abandon subscriptions, there is no reason for publishers to participate.
  • Sustainability: What happens when the 3 years are up?
  • Governance: Libraries might need to participate in multiple cooperatives, which would be an administrative nightmare.

Despite these challenges, a feasibility study has begun. In an audience poll, over half of the respondents recommended exploring a SET strategy for converting journals to OA.

Second Day Keynote: Encouraging Diversity in Scientific Communication

Margaret-Ann Armour

Margaret-Ann Armour

In her second-day keynote address Margaret-Ann Armour, former Professor of Chemistry and now Associate Dean of Science, Diversity at the University of Alberta, emphasized the importance of diverse leadership in scholarly publishing. She said that when a society becomes sensitive to diversity, it spreads to many leadership roles and brings an increase in creativity and innovation. When women reach their full potential in the workplace, the workplace becomes respectful and inclusive towards all employees, there is an increase of innovation, and the financial performance of the company is increased. About 62% of those in the academic publishing field are women, but only about 32% are CEOs, and 21% are Board Chairs. In the Fortune 500 companies, only about 4.8% of the CEOs are women. Reasons for the lower numbers of women in leadership roles include persistent underlying attitudes and stereotypes, subconscious biases, and differences in male and female styles such as:

  • Women are less assertive in communication. They must be encouraged to talk about their ideas.
  • Men are expected to lead and make decisions; women are generally expected to support and nurture. We need to give men more opportunity to develop nurturing skills. Women prefer more democratic management; men prefer hierarchical.
  • Women are less willing to take risks.
  • Women tend to have lower self-confidence. There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive. We need to learn to believe in ourselves and not be afraid to fail.

Diversity leads to a higher collective intelligence and increased innovation potential. Diverse groups are more likely to generate creative ideas, draw from multiple perspectives and experiences, and to devise more robust solutions to problems.

Armour described Project Catalyst, an initiative to help women with their careers. Some of its activities include holding career discussions with female graduate students; examining policies for parental leave, flexible work hours, and day care; and facilitating mentorship. She chairs the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT, http://www.winsett.ca), a non-profit organization that recruits, trains, and advances women in the SETT fields, and helps them overcome challenges in their workplaces. WinSETT has developed a series of workshops based on women’s needs in areas such as communication, leadership, negotiating, mentorship and workplace politics. Its ultimate goals are to help women reach their full potential in areas where they are under-represented.

eBook Wars: The Libraries Awaken

October Ivins, Principal of Ivins eContent Solutions, noted that the first e-book collection was created by NetLibrary. Most of its books were from backlists, and publishers were scared of it. Libraries responded by removing non-permanent books from their catalogs. New purchases are governed by these 3 licensing terms (called the Charlotte Principles because they were developed at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC)—see http://guides.library.uncc.edu/charlotteinitiative):

  1. Irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights,
  2. Unlimited simultaneous users, and
  3. Freedom from any digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

According to an article by Sharon Farb of UCLA (“Libraries, licensing and the challenge of stewardship”, First Monday, Vol. 11, No. 7, July 3, 2006), libraries are beginning to realize that they have ceded some of their cultural roles of stewardship and are relying on third parties to perform this important function. In response to this concern, the UNCC library formed a working group of representatives from 20 “like-minded” institutions (13 libraries, 4 consortia, 3 university presses, and 1 non-profit vendor) to study how faculty use e-books, the user experience, licensing principles, platforms, and preservation. Ivins conducted an “environmental scan” focusing on business models, pricing, and terms to promote adoption of the principles to publishers. According to the UNCC library’s website, a conference on the results of the study will occur in early 2017, with the final report to be published shortly thereafter.

Rachel Frick, Business Development Director at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), said that DPLA currently has over 13 million records. It launched a Cultural Heritage Metadata aggregation service in 2012. Lessons learned from that effort are that libraries have an opportunity to expand their curation skills beyond their immediate community; we need to take advantage of strategic points of collaboration between academic and public libraries; and while there is a golden opportunity now to restore some balance to the e-books ecology, it will be necessary to work across our communities to do so.

Here are some of the e-book projects in which DPLA is involved:

  • The “Readers First” movement was launched to improve access to e-books for public library users and to advocate standards so that e-books can be downloaded to any type of reader.
  • Library Simplified (SimplyE), a mobile reader for content from any source, has been developed and will be launched shortly. It will allow readers to access e-books in no more 3 clicks or taps, make them available to visually impaired readers, and use open source standards.
  • The Library E-content Access Project (LEAP) is a coalition of access partners led by the New York Public Library to provide a national exchange for open and licensed content. One of its efforts is to create e-book collections for children with special needs, and those in overseas military families.

The common goals of these projects are to serve researchers and readers, increase the universe of readers, and support curious inquiry and knowledge creation.

Transformative Publishing Platforms for Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

A panel of 4 speakers discussed how humanities scholars are applying digital technologies in their research and how publishers are using new tools and technologies to meet their demands.  All of the speakers presented lists of problems in the scholarly publishing area; here is a consolidated list of them:

  • Technology is rapidly evolving, but many publishers are burdened with a legacy infrastructure.
  • Scholarship has become increasingly digital, and scholars want their books to reflect that trend.
  • Business models for monograph publishing are shifting, and no single format prevails.
  • Monographs cost anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 to publish and do not sell enough to cover those costs.
  • PDF and most e-publishing formations are replications of print which extend but do not transform scholarly publishing.
  • Authors want media in their works, and university presses are constrained because they do not have developers on their staff or funding for R&D.

Catherine Mitchell, Director of Access and Publishing at the California Digital Library (CDL), said that one solution to these problems is to find efficiencies and shrink the costs of publication. Authoring and peer review today involve many e-mails and sending files back and forth. In a partnership with the University of California Press and the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation, CDL has identified workflow areas needing restructuring and is working on developing a new system to eliminate time-consuming and tedious tasks. Features of the system include the ability to take in MS Word files, centralized task management, rich metadata support, production of texts ready for publication on the web, and open source code. Authoring, revisions, and editorial workflow will be conducted on the web using web standards and open APIs. The focus will be on flexibility, with support for many different types of books.

Susan Doerr, Assistant Director, Digital Publishing and Operations Manager, University of Minnesota Press, described the Manifold project, a partnership between the Press and the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the City University of New York (CUNY).  The Manifold project seeks to create efficient and scalable procedures for effective electronic publishing on the web, including archives of other digital materials and interaction with scholarly communities. Manifold is a new dynamic publishing tool (not an authoring tool) that seeks to transform static scholarly publications into living digital works using HTML; its technology is described in an article available at http://manifold.umn.edu.

Jeremy Morse, Director of Publishing Technology at the University of Michigan, said that the university wants to be in the “forever” business as a publisher and has built a durable platform, Fulcrum (http://www.fulcrum.org), where content can be hosted and presented. Print and digital books can be hosted on the same platform, which solves the “author website” problem, where the author puts a book on a personal website and it dies from lack of publicity. Fulcrum includes a publishing module for users, libraries, and university presses, which provides preservation and durability of access. Its first implementation is expected to be released in 2018.

Monica McCormick, Digital Scholarly Publishing Officer at New York University (NYU) Press and Libraries, noted that NYU’s approach is to put books on a network that is open source and standards-based. Semantic terms from 110 e-books were compiled on a topic map; 36,000 terms, many of them duplicates, resulted. A reading interface using the Readium reader (see http://readium.org/) was built. Ongoing challenges are designing the interface to locate a spot in the text or annotations and converting the index terms into linked open data.

Riding the Technology Wave: How to Avoid a Wipeout

In introducing this session, Ann Michael said that form follows function, technology lives to serve the customer’s business strategy and needs, and it is always a balancing act. The session featured presentations from two organizations describing how they have navigated the tradeoffs and implemented appropriate technologies, and what questions we should ask ourselves when creating a technology decision framework.

Mark Johnson, Director of Marketing at the Public Library of Science (PLoS), discussed the “build or buy” decision. He said that the reason for technology is to fill a need, but many people find a technology and then try to figure out how to use it, which leads to disaster, heartbreak, and frustration. One of the core principles of PLoS is to provide innovative and forward-looking solutions that remove barriers to scientific communication. The first thing to do is an introspection and determine your resources, what you are good at, the depth of your organization’s pockets, and the guiding principles to help you make a decision. And before doing anything, ask, “How does this help the researcher?” PLoS’s approach to technology is:

  • Is there an open source solution available that can be cost-effectively leveraged to meet the need? If so, use it.
  • Would an “off the shelf” solution meet the needs? If so, choose cheap or free solutions.
  • Do we have unique needs that require a custom solution? If yes, then build it.

PLoS has learned that advertising is not core to its mission to transform research communication; it wants to use its resources to further its core mission. Circumstances change; a solution that seems useful today may not be so appropriate in a few years. “Free” still has a cost; a free solution may take a non-trivial amount to launch. And partners should be chosen carefully; for example, Google knows a lot about advertising.

PLoS built Aperta, a manuscript and peer review submission system to streamline the publishing experience for authors, editors, and reviewers (see http://youtu.be/yKDTqOryWhk). Manuscript systems can be a barrier to scientific progress, but so far, feedback on Aperta has been very promising.  Here are the lessons learned from the experience:

  • Manuscript submission and peer review are core to the PLoS mission: the goal is for an author to be able to upload a manuscript in 10 minutes or less.
  • User focus is important: authors are first, followed by editors, reviewers, and then PLoS staff.
  • Agile works. Steady communication is effective.
  • Be flexible on cost and timeline.

Alison Belan, Assistant Director for Digital Strategy at Duke University Press, titled her presentation “Let’s Buy Something”, and said that there can be an overwhelming number of choices. She noted that books are just containers, but they are still valued by people. There are significant differences in how they are produced, bought, sold, and consumed.  The most recent problem at the Duke Press was a brittle website that could not support the business and was inflexible and vulnerable to being hacked. Decision factors in a purchase decision include:

  • Organizational character. Which aspects of the culture are healthy and which are harmful?
  • Existing systems and partners. Know about your systems and question if they are the right ones.
  • A system must be customizable while remaining maintainable.
  • Compliance with local security procedures. Open source systems can be a security risk.

Belan said that build vs. buy is a lie! Almost everything today is built except standard systems like MS Office.  It is complex and hard to build a system; development costs are massive and do not change.

Closing Plenary: Change is Already Here: Revolutionary Examples

Closing Plenary Panel (L-R): Stephanie Dawson, Alison Mudditt, Kent Anderson (Moderator), John Maxwell, Faye Chadwell

Closing Plenary Panel (L-R): Stephanie Dawson, Alison Mudditt, Kent Anderson (Moderator),
John Maxwell, Faye Chadwell

The closing plenary session was a panel discussion moderated by Kent Anderson, CEO of Redlink, Inc. and former president of SSP. Panelists were:

  • Faye Chadwell, Oregon State University Librarian and Press Director;
  • John Maxwell, Associate Professor and Director of the Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University;
  • Stephanie Dawson, CEO of ScienceOpen, Inc.; and
  • Alison Muddit, Director of the University of California Press.

Here is an edited transcript of the conversation (questions posed by Anderson are in italics):

What did you see of interest at this year’s meeting and what are the biggest trends in the industry?

Panelists identified several trends such as persistent identifiers, standards, and ways to make content more interoperable. It is important to find and attract an audience and engage users, so trust and collaboration are vital. Publisher-librarian partnerships bring value to different approaches in publishing.

The focus seems to be shifting away from journals and toward articles; it is questionable whether journals will have a future as the container of articles. Thus, it is important to focus on articles at a granular level and make sure that they have ORCIDs, altmetric badges, etc. to promote text mining and similar analysis techniques.

What are some futile trends you see currently?

The value is not just the content but the connections between it, and the connections between people.  The danger is in trying to wall off information. Science and scholarship deserve to be wide open. Researchers want to get their information out on an article level, and open access is the way to do that.

Publishers have outsourced services like manuscript submission and camera-ready manuscripts to authors, which may be leading to the growth of pre-print servers and self-publishing outlets in response to these pressures and developed capabilities. These function differently in the book and journal spaces. Where do university presses fit into this?

Authors express a strong preference for a formal publication process and want the imprint of the press on their books because it is valuable to their career progression. Although there is a continuum of publishing from less formal to more formal publication products, the emphasis is towards books.  Presses and libraries are beginning to think about how they can collaborate.

Researchers have called for data publication to become part of the university infrastructure, like email or faculty webpages. Is this a new role for libraries? Would it require new forms of cooperation?

Yes, and this is an area where libraries may need to hire people without an MLS degree. It is imperative for libraries and researchers to be collaborative.

We have moved from “digitalization” and “globalization” to “platforms, networked systems, and next-gen tools.” Are we reaching a plateau of digital content distribution? What might the post-digital marketplace look like? What is the next level?

Distribution is no longer hard; we have figured out the mechanisms. Technically we have it solved, but the social and cultural problems still remain. The problem is how to gather an audience for whom the material is relevant. Publication is the gathering of a public around a work for whom it makes sense. It is easy to make things public (we do it all the time on systems like Facebook); reaching an audience is more subtle.  Even though Amazon has an incredible reach, just getting things into its marketplace is not good enough; the landscape has shifted.

There are many linguistic barriers. We rely on logic, knowledge, and data, but many cultures depend more on trust. We have come to believe that nobody cares about publisher websites any more. Google and Google Scholar are where you find the content in western cultures, but in Asian cultures, publisher websites are where researchers find the content. There are specific differences, and we need to understand them to help people find the content.

What are you trying to improve on or fix in traditional publishing models? Why do they need fixing?

We are trying to improve search and discovery. We are not listening to scientific voices outside of our northern sphere. We may never have heard of journals from some other areas of the world, but we must proactively push their content out after publication. Starting to move content after publication can solve many problems in the industry.

Can you manage to wear both the “publisher” and “librarian” hat at the same time? How do you resolve conflicting demands of these communities?

It is easy to fall into a functionalist model where the functions are black boxes, but the library could do some of them.  Publishing is an ecosystem, not a functional model. The publication idea is an achievement that happens out of the ecosystem.  We need to respect and value what each entity brings to the table. Presses and libraries are separate at many institutions, but when they are in the same ecosystem, what happens at the press will affect the library.  It is very important to recognize the values of each and take a collaborative approach.

Given the correlation between “scarcity” and “prestige,” do we risk destabilizing the monograph system if we move to the OA  approach? If these approach the “mainstream” level, will the value propositions that hold monograph publishing together be threatened?

It is easy to feel threatened by anyone and everyone. University presses tend to face more toward the universe of scholars; libraries are more focused on services to the campus community. It is hard work to be a publisher. Some libraries think they can publish their own journals, but there are not many success stories.

If a change to all or even much more OA is inevitable, who is left after the revolution? What kind or level of collateral damage would be acceptable?

Traditional value propositions are holding monographs together.  OA models, prestige, and quality are not mutually exclusive. There is no reason why an OA monograph cannot be reviewed, win prizes, etc. When we understand how OA monographs are used, we will be getting more data that creates higher prestige. We continue to sell copies, and we see higher usage from countries like Mexico, Brazil, etc. Readership and usage will be a better way of assessing the value of a monograph. Value comes from quality, editorial, and peer review processes.

If OA ramps up, we will have much more scholarship at the monograph level and much more work in circulation. In the journal world, different review processes lead to downward pressure on content published. But publishing more does not have to mean this. In some small fields, it is hard for researchers to get their work published because the market is so small.

What research questions related to changes in scholarly publishing would you like to see the community pursue?

We need more focus on the needs of readers, authors, and scholars. Scholarly publishing is about a community: where are students as knowledge contributors and creators? How are libraries and presses contributing to student successes? We have come from an ivory tower paradigm. The interesting research to be done is who cares about scholarly research.  How do we mine social media to find how people are using scholarly content, including the public who have an interest in science, health, etc? How do we know what students are finding?

The usage data we get does not tell us much about the demand.  We do not have tools to help us measure it. We need tools to help us with deep mining and to help us read papers before they are published. People are not going to be able to read all the research being published in their field. We are still far away from the machine as reader; more research in that area would be useful.

The SSP meeting was enjoyable and provided an insightful look at a wide variety of topics related to the scholarly publishing industry.  Organizing the meeting around several broad subject areas made it easy for attendees to focus on their specific interests if they wished.  The exhibit hall was well attended and provided a good look at innovative products and services, for example, translation and editorial services from Crimson Interactive and Editage, Squid Solutions’ Inqwell analytic and visualization of product usage metrics, and  Inera’s eXtyles editorial tools to help automate document production.  And of course, the beautiful venue greatly added to the enjoyment of the meeting.

The 39th Annual SSP conference will be held May 31 – June 2, 2017 in Boston, MA.


Hawkins-150x148Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI website (http://www.infotoday.com/calendar.asp). He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 40 years.

Pin It

Leave a Reply