London Day 11: New Publishing Models and Their Discontents

Screen Shot, Ubiquity Press Home Page
Screen Shot, Ubiquity Press Home Page

This morning, we had a rather spirited discussion on open access and various other publishing business models. We keep coming back to the same ones: the traditional subscription model, which often results in readers not being able to afford access to read journals; the author-pays model, which potentially flips the situation such that some authors may not be able to afford to publish in journals, and various models in which publishing activities are subsidized by various governments, trusts, or other sources, which is sustainable as the long as the source is both willing and able to continue to supply the funds.

There are also various attempts to reduce disparity, in which access for institutions and researchers who cannot afford it is subsidized in some way, either by institutions who can or by another funding source, which unfortunately are not a cure-all, especially for institutions and researchers who find themselves not meeting the criteria for subsidized access, but not able to afford access on their own.

As the entire discussion seemed to revolve around solely academic researchers, I asked around, and nobody seems aware of much research done on the ways various publishing models impact those researchers who aren’t affiliated with an academic institution.

After this, we had a presentation by Caroline Wilkinson of Ubiquity Press, a researcher-led publisher of open access academic books and journals. One of the models they’re experimenting with is the metajournal, which contains data papers, as well as papers for research products such as software. The data paper includes a DOI and information about the dataset, which is not published as part of the journal, but rather archived elsewhere in a repository. Wilkinson acknowledged that this isn’t so much a new and unique thing, but rather a way to fit data publication into the traditional model of academic publishing and citation with which researchers are familiar, and for which they are traditionally rewarded. Ubiquity is not the only publisher trying the data paper model, and I’m interested to see if this sort of attempt to fit data sharing into traditional research communication patterns will ultimately be successful. Unfortunately, conditions in the room made it difficult to hear the entire presentation, but I’ve signed up to receive more information about Ubiquity’s various efforts online.

After an extremely hot bus ride, as London is in the middle of an unusual heat wave, we finished the day at Elsevier, where we heard presentations on a variety of products, including Library Connect for librarians and Publishing Campus for early career researchers.

These seem to be similar to what Bloomsbury is attempting to do with the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, offering free content and building community, only here not around a specific product, but around Elsevier as a publisher. I am hoping to get more information about how people in the targeted communities are currently using these resources, or even if they are in substantial numbers, especially as I realized at some point during the presentation that I had actually heard of Library Connect back in my practitioner days, but can’t remember if I ever signed up for the newsletter or visited the site at any point.

Supplementary: Yes, it does actually get that hot on London public transportation.

To read:
The Battle for Open: How Openness Won and Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Victory, Martin Weller (open access book about open access from Ubiquity Press)

London Day 11: New Publishing Models and Their Discontents

London Day 3: Digital Publishing and Digital Humanities

Apocalyptic book display at Waterstones , stating The End is Nigh
Is this the end of scholarly publishing as we know it? Probably not. (Apocalyptic book display at Waterstones)

My third full day in London was actually the first full day of the course proper. We spent the morning talking about digital publishing and the afternoon learning about the research being done in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. This was followed by a reception in which we had the opportunity to mingle with a few of the researchers we had met earlier.

First up was Anthony Watkinson, who discussed the history, present and possible future of digital scholarly publishing, including the pressure on publishers to meet increasing user expectations for digital products and functionality, the role of (green and gold) open access, the Force 11 Manifesto, and some of the research CIBER Research Ltd. has done on trust, in which it was found that scholars still tend to place trust in traditional peer-reviewed journals, and less in sources such as social media and repositories.

Next, Michael Mabe from the International Association of STM Publishers gave a talk on the future of journal publishing, in which he noted that technology has changed researcher behavior very little and has not changed people’s motivations for publishing scholarship. In the publishing world, we are still “using new tools for old purposes.”

He also discussed the fundamental needs of researchers, and how these differ when a researcher is in author mode versus reader mode, which explains much of the variation between the results librarians and information scientists get when we study researchers and those publishers get: we’re studying the same populations in different modes, where different sets of needs dominate.

It is difficult to say at this point how the changing public and political attitudes towards open access Mabe discussed will ultimately change scholarly publishing or scholarly behavior. Certainly, the increasing number of mandates for sharing the results of research do force change in the behavior of many of the researchers to whom they apply. They also require technical solutions for the problems of storage and access.

But will these replace or even fundamentally alter traditional scholarly publishing? As Mabe pointed out, institutional repositories and pre-print archives exist, but neither fill the function of the scholarly journal. Researchers who use these tools are still publishing their research in traditional ways.

Is the end near for traditional scholarly publishing? From a researcher behavior standpoint, it would appear not, as most researchers who use tools such as repositories, preprint servers, and social media don’t seem to be using any of them as a substitute for traditional peer-reviewed publication. The business models for publication may be changing in some significant ways, however. I look forward to learning more about this in the coming weeks.

Things to read later:

And now for something completely different…

The afternoon’s presentations in digital humanities at KCL Drury Lane highlighted some impacts of technology on research that I hadn’t previously considered. Department Head Sheila Anderson notes that researchers there are studying not just digital humanities, but “the digital human,” and how technologies are changing both human lives and the way we produce culture.

As my focus for the past several years has been on STEM research and researchers, I’ve thought less about how new technologies are changing the kinds of research that can be done in the humanities, but we learned about some truly nifty things being developed and used, such as Faith Lawrence’s tool for annotating and analyzing fictional narratives, and the DigiPal tool for analyzing medieval handwriting. At the reception, I got to talk to many of these researchers about their dissertation work, and how communication and information sharing varies by discipline and by environment (academia vs. industry).

Finally, a group of us departed for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, then home.

London Day 3: Digital Publishing and Digital Humanities