Academic Publishing in Europe 2016 -- Notes from Day 2

Yesterday, I wrote up some notes and observations from Day 1 of the APE 2016 meeting in Berlin. Naturally, there's a bit more to say after Day 2.

Day 2 consisted of three major pieces -- a discussion of the STM Consultation on Article Sharing; a session devoted to pitches from five start-ups with audience evaluation; and a session on publication and research ethics. 

Richard Padley of Semantico facilitated the session on the STM Consultation on Article Sharing and the Voluntary Principles for Scholarly Communication Networks. Fred Dylla, who led the taks force that assembled these, was front and center, while I and Grace Baynes from Springer-Nature filled out the representation from that group. Charlie Rapple from Kudos and Hannfried von Hindenburg from Elsevier also joined the panel.

The session revolved around a few main points -- everyone's acceptance that article sharing and scholarship go hand in hand; that online sharing requires some additional thought and considerations, especially if it is organized for scale; the effective and open process used to generate the voluntary principles, and their subsequent adoption by many scholarly communication networks and publishers; the positive side-effects of the effort, including improvements and softening of language on many major publishers' sites; and the ongoing concern that publishers were playing catch-up with the scholarly communication networks in some respects.

A lack of research into what actually occurs on these scholarly communication networks -- the big three being, ResearchGate, and Mendeley -- was noted. However, research results from work being done by Carol Tenopir and Anthony Watkinson and others is apparently imminent (a preliminary report is here). In lieu of this, some data were shared by people with experience with these networks, and some key attributes were discussed. The main message was that we need to continue to understand the users of the literature as well as the authors, and that perhaps our attention slipped during the past few years in the midst of "author as customer" emphasis.

The session spotlighting five new startups included Overleaf, Bookmetrix, Dryad, Publons, and Zapnito. It was an interesting set, with focus on a number of gaps in the market. In my estimation, four of the five represent "wide" plays -- you need a lot of customers paying small fees each to make it work financially. Only one -- Zapnito -- represented a "tall" play, wherein a few customers using their integrated media platform robustly can represent a lot of revenue and market penetration. Of the five, three had working business models -- Overleaf, Dryad, and Zapnito -- while the other two were in various stages of early development. Having personally tried the "wide" approach a couple of times, it's clear that proper positioning within the market is critical. In this regard, Overleaf has a clear advantage, as it is part of Digital Science. Bookmetrix is being cultivated by Wiley, so it probably also can benefit from the heft of its parent. It will be interesting to see the results of one question the moderator posed -- Which do you think will be around five years from now?

The final session on research and publication ethics was moderated by Bernd Pulverer from EMBO. Covering the concerns emanating from an increasing number of papers, decreasing funding for science, and the competition for short-term reputation this can drive, the session also tackled the place of journals, editors, and publishers in the research ethics system. This is a topic that needs constant updating and attention, so it was good to have a robust set of speakers and an in-depth discussion of these issues. A main theme centered around the issue of addressing ethical breakdowns farther up in the process, so that they don't arrive on journal doorsteps or, worse, in published articles, which journals then have to deal with.

Once again, this Berlin meeting seems to be a good kick-off to the year, and the energy level -- either because everyone is rested from the long holidays, or because there is the renewed optimism of a New Year, or because budgets are fresh and untroubled yet -- is generally better than at other meetings later, when people are more travel-weary, overworked, and grappling with projects going sideways.

Until next year, Berlin . . .