Recorded at the London Book Fair 2016
For podcast release Wednesday, April 13, 2016
- Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000
- Fred Fenter, Executive Editor, Frontiers
- Fiona Hutton, Executive Editor and Business Development Manager, Open Access (OA), at John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- Phill Jones, Head of Publisher Outreach, Digital Science
KENNEALLY: Welcome. On behalf of Copyright Clearance Center, I’m very happy to welcome you to a special program of the London Book Fair. My name is Christopher Kenneally.
The commonplace book of the 17th century in fact was neither. In it, the owner – the author, really – collected important information of every kind, from profound aphorisms to proverbial folk wisdom. Politics and religion mixed within the pages, as well as scientific observations and mathematical formulae. So it was not commonplace at all, and it was also not a book. It more closely resembled a journal, though it did not function as a daily diary.
Henry Oldenburg, editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that he founded in London here in 1665, expressly compared that first scientific journal to a commonplace book. He imagined his publication as a kind of collective notebook for scientists, allowing them to share discoveries and challenge each other over new theories. What were these commonplace books, after all, if not handheld information management and storage devices? That’s a convenience everyone who owns a smartphone recognizes as immensely valuable.
Three and a half centuries may separate our eras, but after wave upon wave of innovation in publishing and in science, the next wave looks a lot like the first. Scholarly publishing in 2016 is recognizing that the rise of open access business models has opened a wealth of opportunities to serve author communities online, just as Oldenburg first did in print.
The challenge today, more than ever, is for publishers to drive success for authors individually and collaboratively. OA publishers already offer a range of initiatives that enable article discovery and promote knowledge sharing. As well as collecting article processing charges, publishers can now leverage manuscript metadata to offer authors and researchers a range of innovative business and editorial products.
We’re very lucky today to hear from a panel of publishing and technology providers in leading-edge author services, serving from submission to publication and beyond. And what should make their contributions especially relevant is that all four have backgrounds in research and science. They can talk the talk, because they’ve walked the walk.
I’d like to start by introducing them all. Moving from my far right, we have Phill Jones. Phill, welcome.
JONES: Thank you very much. Thanks, Chris. Thanks for inviting me.
KENNEALLY: We’re happy to have you. Phill Jones is head of publisher outreach at Digital Science and a regular contributor to the Scholarly Kitchen blog from the Society of Scholarly Publishers. In a former life, Phill was a multidisciplinary research scientist publishing in several fields, including physics and neuroscience.
And to my right is Fiona Hutton. Fiona, welcome.
HUTTON: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
KENNEALLY: Fiona Hutton is executive editor and business development manager for open access at John Wiley & Sons. Prior to joining the OA team in 2013, she was executive editor for life sciences at Wiley. Fiona trained as a virologist, molecular biologist, and biochemist, and she holds a PhD from Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies.
Immediately to my left is Fred Fenter. Fred, good to see you. Welcome back.
FENTER: Thank you very much.
KENNEALLY: Fred Fenter worked in environmental science before leaving the academic world for scientific publishing. He is now executive editor of the Frontiers open access journal publishing program based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
And finally at my far left is Liz Allen. Liz, welcome.
ALLEN: Hi. Thank you for inviting me.
KENNEALLY: Liz Allen is director of strategic initiatives at F1000, an innovator in the provision of scientific publishing and services to support life science research and evaluation. She is also a visiting senior research fellow in the Policy Institute at King’s College London. Prior to joining F1000 at the end of last year, Liz was head of evaluation at the Wellcome Trust.
I think I’ll start by pursuing the point about the background as researchers. And Fiona, I wonder if I can ask you – scholarly publishing is about the research, but is it a fairly exotic thing to be a researcher within publishing?
HUTTON: I think it varies from publisher to publisher and department to department. From my point of view, I moved from research into publishing to be the editor in chief of a journal. And I think, at that point, what was required for that particular position was a deep knowledge of research. A number of my colleagues had that background, as well. But of course, there’s other colleagues that move up the publishing route, which is perhaps more of the business side of things. So I think it does vary depending on whether there’s a high scientific content needed for a particular aspect of a role or whether it’s much more of a business-type role.
KENNEALLY: One of the points about open access is the way that it is closing the distance between researchers – between the authors and the publishers. Is that something that you’re really watching closely? I would imagine it is.
HUTTON: Well, I think with open access publishing, what happened when really PLOS launched was that –
KENNEALLY: That’s the Public Library of Science.
HUTTON: Yeah, the Public Library of Science. When they launched their mega journal, it became much more about looking at the article. So the author was very engaged in what am I getting for the money I’m paying an APC for. Whereas before that point, really researchers were publishing in journals, and it was all about the journal and whether that university library wanted to subscribe to a particular journal. So the relationship has become much more focused with the move to open access publishing between the author and the publisher themselves, and what value the publisher brings to the author.
KENNEALLY: And in a sense, then, the author is the customer, and that’s a point we’ll talk about a little bit more. But Phill Jones, I want to ask you as, again, someone who comes out of the science world – open access is about access, but it’s also about accelerating science, and that’s the point that Digital Science itself is concerned with.
JONES: Absolutely. I like to think of this as not just being about open access as opposed to a subscription business model, but also open access as a part of the broader framework of open science, which is about enabling researchers to communicate much more of the work that they actually do on a daily basis and much more of their results, much more of their ideas, so that they can communicate and interact and collaborate much more effectively.
KENNEALLY: Really, I would emphasize the acceleration part. I’ve brought up Oldenburg. We are far beyond his model, of course. But in some ways, for quite a long time, that model persisted. And we are really in a very dynamic environment precisely because the digital world enables that kind of acceleration.
JONES: Yeah, and I think that’s absolutely true. There are increasingly these large multinational collaborations occurring in science. The biggest one that I always point to is GenBank, where you’ve got scientists from all over the world who are contributing to this genetic database. And in a sense, that contribution to that database is scholarly communication on a literally more fundamental level. And all that a researcher really has to do to be able to contribute is to generate that dataset and then submit it.
So there is a new form, if you will, of data sharing and data communication – data scientific communication, which is increasingly important for individual researchers to be able to contribute to that joint collaboration. And as you say, it results in a much faster transmission of information, because you don’t have to wait for the formal version of text, if you like, to be queued up through an editorial system and to take its turn in the publication cycle of the journal.
KENNEALLY: Beyond that, though, the community of readers has expanded. We’re accelerating the science that the researchers who actually are engaged in it have to have access to, but you’re also opening it up to a far larger world. It’s a point we’re going to hear about a great deal more from everyone here on the panel. But speak to that point. There’s going to need to be – and this is what, again, Digital Science looks into, which is a variety of digital outputs for a variety of audiences.
JONES: That’s right. And when I talk about data or when we talk about data inside of Digital Science, we’re not just talking about raw experimental output. Really, we’re talking about any digital research object. So that’s absolutely true.
Aside from that, that kind of broader marketplace, I think that’s absolutely accurate. Increasingly, there are, for example, patients who are interested in looking up research and review articles on medical conditions, and they want to feel more informed and they want to get more information that way. There’s also a large number of practitioners in fields like engineering, and there are also students particularly in places in developing countries that perhaps their institutions can’t afford subscriptions.
So there’s a much wider potential audience out there for consuming literature. And that may, over time – and is, over time, affecting the forms of the outputs that scientific literature, that research literature, and that journals can take, because you have this need for perhaps an encyclopedic level. Things like UpToDate are a great example of this. Something that’s curated and – I wouldn’t say layman’s version of it, but something that’s more practitioner-oriented rather than researcher-oriented.
So in a way, there’s different levels, from the very peer to peer data stuff to the more review article and encyclopedic and practitioner-oriented stuff, and then finally the public outreach level. So I see this stratification appearing, yes, absolutely.
KENNEALLY: And researchers are very aware of that. They want to communicate not only with their colleagues, but they want to communicate to the world at large. Fred Fenter at Frontiers, again, that’s something that the services you provide at Frontiers, an open access only journal, sort of a native open access group of journals, really – the services you’re providing are also first to get the science out in the world, but then also to help the scientists share that science beyond their own network and into that larger universe.
FENTER: Right. The way I like to think about it is that with a publication, when the publication is over, you have to think about informing basically three types of groups. You have to inform your peers, and so we think very carefully about the types of products that inform peers, the social networking, and through other mechanisms. You also have to inform the greater public, and for that, we have also – I won’t talk about it right away – but we also have programs and projects that actually take scientific content and make it digestible for the larger public. And then the third group that needs to be informed are actually the computers, the machines themselves. For that, we work on preparing protocols, use cases for text and data mining, for example. So I think it’s interesting to think about it in terms of informing those three groups.
KENNEALLY: And gauging the various sciences is really critical and very difficult, I would imagine. There’s a flood of scientific material being published. How do you take an approach that zeroes in on the right audience at the right time?
FENTER: I think if we’re talking about, for example, the specific case of informing your peers, the idea is to work with powerful semantics. At Frontiers, we’re developing a series of semantic engines, and the idea is, first of all, to use it internally if we’re doing things like matching reviewers to articles. It’s all about matching content to people in a context where the number of people involved and the amount of content available is exploding.
So there are a couple of answers to this problem. But I think the one that is most powerful right now is using semantics, using these types of tools in a way that is seamless, that is integrated into the processes that people are used to using on a day-to-day basis in any case.
KENNEALLY: Because getting people to use the tools is always a challenge. You can create the tool, but getting them to use it is very difficult indeed. Liz Allen at F1000, you’re fairly new there. You come out of the Wellcome Trust where working with scientists was critical. You were funding their research. But you were also pushing them, encouraging them, mandating them to make their research open and available to the world. At F1000, you’re sort of promoting that, but you’re going beyond open access to a kind of open science platform. Tell people briefly what F1000 is about, because it sounds like that commonplace book I was talking about with a collection of everything.
ALLEN: F1000 basically provides services for scientists. One of the key things that we’re developing at the moment is an open science publishing platform. It’s actually been running for three years, and it basically aims to change the landscape for how we publish, particularly focusing on life sciences. But it’s around changing the way people publish. So we publish within – the editor role is changed completely. If researchers submit anything to us, as long as we do some quick hygiene checks on them, but as long as the work is bona fide, it’s been funded, we will publish it.
It’s accompanied by immediate post-publication peer review, so we do have quality associated with that work. But we also version the work, so users can access that work. They can see what stage it’s at. We accompany it with open data. We will only publish work that is accompanied with data and is stored in designated repositories. And yeah, we publish quickly, so we’re aiming to turn on its head the concept of people delaying being able to publish their work. We had the recent outbreaks with the Zika virus and the Ebola virus really provide the moral imperative to change the way that we publish and speed it up and provide access to data across the world openly and for others to build upon.
KENNEALLY: Your founder, Vitek Tracz, is something of a godfather of the open access movement. He’s always identifying problems with publishing and trying to change things, and he certainly did that with BioMed Central. The view into peer review is what concerned him particularly. He didn’t find peer review, in his view, at least, working right.
ALLEN: Yeah, there’s a lot of challenge around peer review. I think it’s not an exact science, anyway. We have that when you’re funding grants. You have it when you’re looking at what papers to publish. But I think the concept of having peer review essentially to critique and help editors select what is funded and what is published is possibly not the way we should be going. We think peer review should be helping the science. It should be part of the constructive process of helping researchers know how to build on the research that they’re doing, and it should be for science generally.
And I think the concept of open peer review is really, really interesting, because you therefore open it out. You can get credit and you can be rewarded for all that time that you spend doing peer review. From working in a funder, that is really, hugely a time consuming task for a lot of researchers, and there is no credit for it in the current system. So I think, again, we want to try new models, and I think that’s something that others could be looking towards, as well.
KENNEALLY: I may be trying to lump you in with publishers here. I think of it as a publishing platform. But I imagine you kind of push back on that. You’re really about services for scientists.
ALLEN: We’re kind of looking at that at the moment, but essentially, services for science, services for scientists, yeah. We don’t class ourselves as a journal. We class ourselves as a platform. And what we’re increasingly seeing, particularly in the life sciences, and following up what Phill said around lots of data production going on now, there’s a lot of data-driven science going on, and maybe one slice of publishing does not fit all. But I think there’s a real opportunity to change the way that we allow researchers to share their information.
Platforms – they’re emerging all the time now. So I think it’s part of us as an industry or a collective to work to actually serve science and work with scientists and funders, and I think there’s a new paradigm – that’s my favorite word – to maybe change the way that we all work together to progress science.
KENNEALLY: I think we need to readjust our definitions of things. Platform may be just another word for publishing, frankly.
ALLEN: Maybe. (laughter)
KENNEALLY: And I think it is. We were talking about digital products and digital audiences, and Fiona, I want to ask you about one that you’ve just begun offering for Wiley, which is from Research Square, and it’s video summaries. These do two very interesting things, I think. What they do is they offer a way for scientists to quickly share their discovery with their peers, but because it’s the form that everyone is so accustomed to, it opens up the audience, as well. Tell us why video is important.
HUTTON: Well, I think as we look at what kind of services that we provide to authors, we want to look about how they can cite and share their articles and how they can get greater impact value from their article. So with a number of other initiatives that we’ve got ongoing, we are partnering with Research Square to provide video summaries of basically research articles, and then the author will be able to take that summary away and then use it when they’re having discussions or they’re at a meeting with other researchers in their institute. So it’s a way, really, of showing that their article can have this further impact to an audience that perhaps wouldn’t understand the research in its original context.
KENNEALLY: I’ve watched a couple of them, and I have to say I’m not a scientist, so one or two, they lost me after about the first slide. But then there was one on global warming that was very engaging. So I can imagine that the impact and the availability – one of the things that’s happened is that not only is open access making science available to us in a way we might think of, which is by text, but because so many people are consuming content today on video, on devices, on the go, it really makes sense to move in that direction.
HUTTON: Sure. Well, we’ve just launched a journal called Global Challenges, and within that journal, we basically have many scientists from different backgrounds, and it’s actually just a real challenge getting them to discuss things with each other in the same language, never mind across to policymakers. So everything that we create is to enable our authors and our researchers to get their message out there to others.
KENNEALLY: Phill Jones, Digital Science is a portfolio of a variety of technology providers, some of which the audience will be familiar with. Figshare, certainly, which allows researchers to share data in a very open way. But the one that perhaps everyone would recognize, I think, is Altmetric, that colorful little donut. What it is doing is moving us beyond the impact factor, to put it on a phrase. And that’s important for science again because it has so much moved beyond the research lab and the institution, and that Altmetric is measuring the kinds of things like Fiona was just speaking about.
JONES: Absolutely, yeah. And that’s part of a very big discussion about – and it draws on where we started from, the challenges that individual researchers face. Part of that challenge is an increasing amount of pressure from funders to show a broader sense of societal impact. So simply getting cited or publishing in high-impact journals is still very important to researchers, but it’s by no means the only measure of their success, and it’s by no means the only thing that their funders are expecting them to be able to do.
Also at the institutional level, there is a drive from various governments and from funders, again, for institutions to show the level of impact that they are themselves having. So in a sense, the environment that they create to foster innovation, to foster research breakthroughs. So there’s an institutional level of credit and assessment that’s going on.
And Altmetric is just one of those parts of that larger picture, and Digital Science, as you say, produces a number of technologies and a number of products which are designed around helping various stakeholders show the value that they are submitting. The other one is Symplectic, which is our tool for – it’s called a CRIS, current research information system, which is about understanding the total research output of an institution and enabling them to figure out what they – to report back to their funders, to report back to government based on how much performance, how much impact they are able to help their researchers have. So yeah, there’s Altmetric and then there’s the aggregation of that information, and yes, it’s all part of that increasing accountability.
KENNEALLY: And what’s remarkable about that is we could imagine the discussion even 10 years ago on scholarly publishing, and it would have been about publishing. Today, the discussion is about publishing, it’s about authors, it’s about the institutions, it’s about the funders. Liz Allen, because you’re here, these kinds of various services that are being offered that allow the researcher to expand his or her audience – was that the sort of thing that Wellcome Trust welcomed?
ALLEN: Funders are definitely interested in a range of things that happen and the research products and things that come out of research that they funded, and how to reach different audiences – the ultimate aim is to have impact. I think what we have to be a little bit careful about with tools like Altmetric – which I really think is great, and it does show a real alternative view of impact – is using metrics in the right way, not letting metrics drive the system so that people aren’t playing the metrics, which is a challenge. And if you have a wider range, that’s obviously harder to do. But also making sure that you use the right metrics for the right thing.
So if you’re trying to measure scientific excellence or the excellence and track record of a scientist, you might not necessarily value some of the metrics that are included in Altmetric. If you were trying to look up public engagement and community building and reaching policymakers, then Altmetric absolutely does give you a view.
So I think we have to be a little bit careful in our rush to not rely on the journal impact factor, which we all know is not a useful measure for measuring scientific quality, and everybody more or less agrees that. But we haven’t had a great alternative until open science is starting to open that up. Things like Altmetric are also opening that up. But we’ve got to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and jump into something else that’s not accurate. So I think we have to be careful how we use metrics, but yeah, it’s a great thing to have in the basket.
KENNEALLY: Now, Fred Fenter, you’ve got a new network yourself called the Loop Network, which captures information about authors. Perhaps you could tell us briefly about it, but address that point that Liz was just making about metrics. What are the kinds of things you are measuring and what are the ways that you’re using that measurement, those numbers, to push the science?
FENTER: Loop started out as the research network at Frontiers in the spirit of transparency. So the idea was that for every article, for every editorial board, for every person involved in the organization, you’d be able to click and find a profile of that person. So it started in that spirit of transparency. From that, it rapidly developed into something which became a little bit more ambitious, and now what we’re trying to do is make with Loop a universal profile that anyone can come in and use and integrate into their own web environment.
KENNEALLY: So a researcher could do this. A publisher could do this.
FENTER: Well, more at the institutional level. Publishers can do it. For example, there are a certain number of Nature-branded journals that use Loop as their profiling service. ORCID has integrated Loop as a profiling service, etc. So the idea is that it’s not a closed ecosystem. The idea with Loop is that it’s open and it can be integrated, so that when you come to an article at Frontiers or some other place that’s using Loop, if you click on the profile, you go to the person’s profile, and the idea there is to take the person, in the spirit of discoverability, to wherever they want to go. It’s not inside an ecosystem.
So if you go to the person’s profile and you want to see their Nature paper, if you click on the Nature paper, you go back into the Nature environment. It doesn’t go to a reprint. It goes into the environment. If you want to see the person’s funder, it goes into their funding environment. It goes to their university. It goes to their institution, etc. So really, the idea is to have this universal profile that everybody can hook into.
KENNEALLY: What’s been the reception? We’re talking about a variety of author services, some of them being developed by publishers themselves, some of them by technology providers or startup publishers like yours, Fred. And I wondered what’s been the reception to this kind of new network? You have a partnership with Nature. But publishers, let’s be honest, are about control of their material and control of their authors. Do they feel as if this might be loosening that bond?
FENTER: Well, no. That’s exactly the point. The idea is that in this network, we’re always taking the person who’s navigating back to the website of the publisher. So actually, people are quite happy about this, because we’re not trying to create a separate ecosystem that is reproducing all of the available content. You always go back to the validated version at the publisher’s website.
KENNEALLY: Fiona Hutton, I know that one of the challenges – we’re talking about solutions here, and I like to think that we have to know what the question is, what the problem is that we’re solving, right? Some of these solutions are about the challenge that authors have in this new environment. There’s a lot going on. The world is changing in front of their eyes, and they have to still do the research in the lab. And so with a variety of new licenses, of Creative Commons and so forth, and mandates coming from Wellcome Trust, and all of the changes in government policies, there’s got to be one place for them to go, and Wiley’s developed just that.
HUTTON: Wiley have developed a number of tools, really, for the author to provide a seamless process when they come into our system. They can go into Wiley author services and they can track where their manuscript is, and it has links to author instructions and where they submit their manuscripts. But we’ve also developed Wiley Author Licensing Services, where an author would come in and we would guide them to what license is appropriate according to whichever funder that they’ve got money for their research from. We also developed a tool, really, that’s for – it’s really a funder picker tool. So the author –
KENNEALLY: A funder picker tool?
HUTTON: Yeah, funder picker tool. (laughter)
KENNEALLY: Can I use that for my next vacation? laughter)
HUTTON: That’s probably not the right name. But basically, the author comes in and they can look to see which country they’re from and what funding they’ve received, and it has links to the websites where those policies are held. And the author can then tell, also, whether they’re able to access certain funder accounts, if they’ve set up a Wiley funder account with a particular funder.
So we’ve created a lot of tools to actually just help the author move through the system. And I think that will continue to develop and evolve as we have more data and more policies come around, and more policies about open data come around, as well. So we need to continually evolve our systems for authors.
KENNEALLY: Phill Jones, authors move through this workflow, obviously, and need to be assisted along the way. But then post-publication, there’s also a question about where the work ends up. ReadCube has an interesting solution there that is one that serves the authors, but I think one that publishers would find very attractive. It’s taking the portable out of the portable digital format.
JONES: Yeah, our work with the content sharing stuff that we’re doing with Springer Nature. Yeah, it’s a really interesting project, that. In a sense, it’s connected with the STM taskforce, I think they’re calling it, on content sharing. And it’s inspired a little bit by the importance of scholarly sharing networks and how they’ve evolved over the past few years.
What is clear is that it’s important for researchers to be able to share content that’s required to do their research with their collaborators. So they can either do that by downloading a PDF and e-mailing it, which is a little bit inconvenient, and it also prevents publishers from knowing when that’s happening or how that content is being used, so it really doesn’t serve any of the stakeholders particularly well. Or they can use a mechanism like the one that ReadCube has built, where a shareable link can be generated and then sent to that collaborator, who can then read the article within the reading environment, which both enables the researcher to share the content quickly and seamlessly and easily, but also enables the publisher to know that that content has been shared and to understand the downstream usage, if you like, for that content.
KENNEALLY: And that information opens up a wealth of opportunities to develop new services and products and so forth.
JONES: Absolutely, yeah. And it’s really important, I think, that when content is used in various ways, that publishers are able to capture that usage on aggregate so that they can, if you like, get credit for it. That’s a rather crude way of saying it, but essentially, that’s it. For libraries, as well, that’s also important, because if researchers are increasingly back-channeling content because they’re finding that they don’t have mechanisms to obtain it through subscriptions or things like that, it’s disintermediating both publishers and libraries.
So I think that having a system that everybody gets their requirements and their needs met in a mutually beneficial way – I think that’s really what we’re aiming to try to achieve with that. And it’s been very successful in the trial that we did with Nature. We found that there wasn’t any decrease in usage and subscription revenue. In fact, I think usage and maybe even subscription revenue went up during the period of the trial. So I think it was very helpful for people to be able to get that information, to be able to share that content in that way.
KENNEALLY: Fred Fenter at Frontiers, knowing who’s reading what led to an interesting product that you worked with MIT Press to develop, and that was regarding kind of a what’s hot. You identified a variety of articles – am I correct – that then became part of a new anthology of top articles in a certain field. Tell us about that.
FENTER: Well, I’m not really sure – it wasn’t with MIT Press.
KENNEALLY: I’m sorry. I may be mistaken.
FENTER: Yeah. But we do very much go down that road.
KENNEALLY: I may be confusing that with someone else. (laughter) I apologize.
FENTER: (laughter) No trouble.
JONES: That’s my case.
KENNEALLY: That’s your case. I’m sorry. I knew there was someone. OK. Phill, why don’t we stick with that, then, and I’ll get back to Fred. So forgive me, Fred.
JONES: But this wasn’t content sharing. Do you want me to just tell the MIT Press story?
KENNEALLY: I would love you to tell, because I think it’s an important point about the way that metrics can be used in all kinds of creative ways. That’s really the point.
JONES: So part of what we’re doing at Digital Science is creating tools that provide business intelligence to publishers. I should imagine there are a lot of – how many publishers do we have in the room? Quick show of hands. Quite a few. Yeah, so some of you may be thinking, well, this is all well and good. This is what researchers and libraries need. But what’s in it for us, right? That’s the question that we get asked a lot.
And the answer is that this data, this business intelligence, can be very valuable in terms of making actual business decisions. The MIT Press story is my favorite, because it’s really very clear, the connection between that data and that increase in revenue.
So what they did is they wanted to put together these anthologies of content that they call Batches, and they have a two stage process to do it. They went to their audience, their community, and they said, what are the subjects, what are the areas that you want us to put together anthologies in? And they kind of polled everybody and they got a list of like 12 or something like that. And then they used the Altmetric data from a product that we call the Altmetric Explorer, which allows you to do all sorts of analyses of the Altmetric data. They figured out what were the most interesting of those articles in that field for researchers, and they put them into anthologies, and they sold them under this name Batches. And they found they had a two to four times increase in circulation for those issues. So this was really using data-driven or data-assisted editorial practices in order to really solve a business need.
KENNEALLY: Fred, you are doing innovative things. You’re not doing that innovative thing, but you’re doing something else which I think is also about pushing things out in new ways. And you are watching – your metrics watch initial views and downloads of the open access articles, and then after a period of time, three or four months, you collect the information and see what’s hot, essentially. Then you go back to the original author and say, how would you like to write again?
FENTER: That’s right. So the idea there is it’s one of the ways – I mentioned it at the beginning – it’s one of the ways that we actually try to – the hot word is crowdsource. We have a review process, so we try to be objective and look for sound scientific contributions. But then we let the community come in and decide, depending upon the usage on how the metrics are playing out, which of the articles are actually the ones that are making a difference in those communities.
So we go back to that author and we say, look, your article is actually getting a lot of traction in your community. How would you like to write a focused review about that article and take that article and address it to a broader audience? Address it not to the colleagues working in your niche area, but let’s say to the broader field. We refer to these as the tiers, which is the origin of the word frontiers. So you have this specialty tier, and then that’s the focused review tier.
KENNEALLY: Finally, I want to ask about the notion of disruption, because open access was greeted a few years ago as this great disruptive force that was going to remake scholarly publishing. It has changed scholarly publishing, but the question at this point now some years in is really just how disruptive is it?
Liz Allen, I want to ask you about that, because you saw it from one perspective at Wellcome Trust as a funder, which, again, I would say going back to 2013, if my numbers are right, was when they really said the mandate is a mandate and we mean it, and that got everyone’s attention. There was great concern that suddenly this was going to be overturned. But here we are, 2016. We’re at the London Book Fair and we’re talking about scholarly publishing very calmly and expecting a kind of evolution. Do you see this as disruption? Do you see this as pushing boundaries? How do you view what’s gone on in scholarly publishing over the last few years?
ALLEN: I actually don’t like the word disruptive, because it’s got negative connotations to me. I think it’s all about trying to do things to either address challenges, but actually, at the moment, the whole open science thing for me is an opportunity. It will address the issues that we currently face, but I almost think the issues that we face around open access and access credit and incentives for researchers are part of an old system. And if we have a different basis on how we share and make research available, a lot of that will go away. I am an eternal optimist, just to throw that in.
So I think initially, that’s how they were framed, a lot of these changes around open access, to try and change and challenge some of the issues. But I think technology and the way research is done now has accelerated and changed so much. I think we don’t need to be disruptive in the same frame of mind anymore. I kind of think we’ve got an opportunity to do things differently. And so yeah, we should.
KENNEALLY: And Fiona Hutton, today, some of the largest open access publishers are “traditional” publishers like Wiley. Open access articles have just blossomed within your journals.
HUTTON: That’s right. We started our open access program about five years ago. We have currently over 61 fully open access journals, and we have nearly 1,500 journals that we term as hybrid journals, which are basically subscription journals that offer an open access option. That’s led to about 10,000 papers in open access being published in 2015. So it’s really grown massively.
It’s obviously different with different communities, because we’re such a large publisher. We publish across all fields. Within the medical and life sciences, there’s a real strong direction towards open access, but that’s not the case in some of the other subject areas in the social sciences and the humanities. So we see a real mix.
KENNEALLY: Well, Fred Fenter, you are going to be moving into humanities and social sciences. But I want to ask you that point about disruption. At the end of the day, how disruptive has all this been? You see this in an interesting way.
FENTER: Well, I think that in terms of disruption, I think that as the scientific literature moves more and more firmly into the area of open access, people are going to want to participate fully in the benefits of open access in terms of having that content integrated into all the repositories that are available, into all of the platforms that are going to be doing things like text and data mining. And so in order for the content to benefit from the open access dynamic, in my view, it has to be a full-throated open access action.
KENNEALLY: Phill Jones, last word on disruption. You see it from outside of publishing, but partnered with publishing, so you get a Janus-like view of it. Tell us about that.
JONES: I absolutely agree that I’m not terribly fond of the word disruption, because I think it’s far too much of a loaded term. I prefer to talk about opportunity, just as you said. Yeah, I think we share exactly the same views on this.
And it is interesting, what you say about some publishers having fully embraced open access as a business opportunity. Do you remember when the Wellcome Trust put out those figures where they broke down where the APCs that they were directly paying for – so if anybody doesn’t know, the Wellcome Trust, a number of years ago, said that they were prepared to directly pay the article processing charges for people who are publishing in gold open access journals. Didn’t have to be part of the grant line item like it does with the NIH or anything like that. They would just go ahead and pay it.
As a result, there was a large uptick, particularly in the UK, of people publishing in open access journals. And when the Wellcome Trust broke down where all their money was going, they found that a significant and possibly the largest chunk was going to Elsevier. So it’s not true that open access has disrupted the industry, because it hasn’t done so at the expense of the incumbent players. In fact, they have adapted to that environment very well.
The people who I think sometimes struggle – the publishers who I think sometimes struggle to adapt to that environment are the smaller learned societies, perhaps those who publish one or two journals. It’s much harder for them. For a large commercial publisher, you can afford to experiment and dabble, flip a couple of titles, see what’s going to happen. But if you’re a small learned society and you only have one or two journals, are you going to flip your only revenue source and make it open access overnight? You can see why people are concerned about doing that and reluctant to do that.
So I think then it can sometimes be important to look at the other opportunities that are available in open science. That kind of brings us full circle to this concept of let’s not just think about open as being open access and this change of business model, but what are the ways in which we can add value to the research cycle, enable researchers to do their work, to collaborate better, and how can that be monetized? And how can that allow us to solve our own business needs as publishers?
KENNEALLY: With that, we’ll have to close this discussion on open science and open access. I want to thank my panel, Liz Allen from F1000, Fred Fenter with Frontiers in Lausanne, Switzerland, Fiona Hutton at John Wiley, and Phill Jones at Digital Science. Thank you for joining us today.