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Information Transformation: Open. Global. Collaborative: NFAIS’s 60th Anniversary Meeting

by | May 19, 2018 | 0 comments

PDF copyBy Donald T. Hawkins 

Note: A summary of this article appeared in the April 2018 issue of Against The Grain vol. 30 #2 on Pages 68 – 72.

In 1958, G. Miles Conrad, director of Biological Abstracts, convened a meeting of representatives from 14 information services to collaborate and cooperate in sharing technology and discussing issues of mutual interest. The National Federation of Abstracting and Indexing (now Advanced Information) Services (NFAIS) was formed as a result of that meeting. Today, NFAIS is a diverse community that networks and develops forward-looking information services and products.

This year’s NFAIS meeting in historic Alexandria, VA on February 28—March 2 celebrated the diamond anniversary of the organization. It drew about 140 attendees and featured not only the usual plenary presentations and the traditional lecture in honor of G. Miles Conrad (see sidebar), but also a “startup shootout” in which representatives of four industry startup companies pitched their products and business models to a panel of judges, and a series of six 6-minute “lightning talks” on a variety of current technologies and issues.

Opening Keynote

Will We Still Recognize Ourselves? Identity and Community in a Transforming Information Environment

Cameron Neylon

Cameron Neylon, Professor of Research Communications, Curtin University, wondered if we will still recognize ourselves in an information environment where everything is rapidly changing. Are we sure who we are any more—publishers, providers, scholars, researchers, aggregators, etc? Some things have not changed; we are still here despite forecasts of our disappearance in the last 6 months. (Neylon wondered if he might be the last of a generation that remembers physically going to a library.)

By 1964, we were in the midst of an information flood, and we had no way to deal with it. The answer was found in technology; if only everyone would use a standard format for the information, we would all be able to process it, and if we could build an open network of standardized information flows, it would be a simple task to get everyone to adopt it. Unfortunately, that did not happen because people like to do things the way they have always done them.

Neylon drew attention to these two important assertions:

  1. Knowledge grows and matters. (He referred to the work of Derek deSolla Price in the 1960s in Big Science, Little Science.) We have an interest in ensuring that this growth continues.
  2. Knowledge is made by groups. Individuals have ideas but until they are shared, they will not spread. The process of knowledge transfer from one group to another is an important part of testing it. Knowledge is a product of translation, and organizations make it more discoverable and accessible, which is a translation process. The problem is that groups do not scale, but as they get larger, they fracture into subgroups. Culture and institutions do support scaling, up to a limit.

A process of innovation will emerge to try and find solutions, and may solve enough of the problem. We cannot just solve the problems and be done; there will always be a next crisis. Robert Maxwell saved scholarly publishing because he brought a scale of distribution to it, significant growth resulted, and scholarly publication was finally able to make money. Many discussions about the future end with the question “How will we ever keep track of such a large project?”

The next big problem we face is one of trust. How do we know what we should use in a body of information? What is “scholarly” culture? Even in the earliest days of scholarly publishing, the idea of reproducibility was appearing. “Science” is an old culture that has survived over a long period. Gradual, limited, or imperfect openness is also an old aspiration. We must continue to open up our institutions or communities to include people that are under-represented. Diversity is a first-order principle for knowledge creation, which means that translators are key. The more boundaries we can cross and the more general or powerful the knowledge under development is, the better will be the community identity. We need to build institutions that support productive conflict and a culture of openness and result in a network that we can all trust. Who might we be well placed to do that? Neylon suggested that NFAIS members are.

Plenary Sessions

Regina Joseph, founder of Sibylink (http://www.sibylink.com/) and co-founder of pytho (http://www.pytho.io/), consultancies that specialize in decision science and information design, said that we are gatekeepers of knowledge and information. Information has never been more accessible, in demand, but simultaneously under attack. There is both a challenge and an opportunity in information system availability and diversity. News outlets have become organs of influence, and social networks are changing our consumption of information (for example, 26% of news retrieval is through social media). We are willingly allowing ourselves to be controlled. How will we be able to harness the advantages of open access to information when the ability to access it might be compromised?  We need people with multiple areas of specialist knowledge but who are also connected with broad and general knowledge. There is also a need for an evidence-based system for verified and vetted systems. We still need technical and economic resources to simplify information extraction, training to hone information skills, and an awareness of common interests between cognitive assist tools and information systems to maximize human information potential.

Driving How We Do Business

Jason Priem, Co-founder of Impactstory (https://impactstory.org/), spoke on thriving in an era of ubiquitous open access (OA), as illustrated by lessons learned in the development of the Unpaywall system. He noted that OA is the new default model for information access, and the number of OA articles has grown significantly in the last 18 years. (In the mid-1990s, 75% of articles published were behind paywalls, but by 2015, nearly half of them were OA.) Based on current growth, by 2040, all articles published will be OA. Even now, the most widely used articles are likely to be published as OA. The value is in moving from articles to groups of articles.

Unpaywall is a system that gathers data on the articles that people actually read and cite. Although the future is in adding value to the OA corpus, the articles may not be widely available. OA articles lurk in thousands of journals; Unpaywall aggregates them and makes them accessible. It contains data for every Crossref DOI (95 million articles), features 98% accuracy (compared with 75% for Google Scholar), and is being used by many systems and link resolvers.

Sari Francis, Manager, Digital Licensing Compliance, IEEE, reviewed the impact of digital piracy on publishers and libraries. Piracy is a threat to the entire publishing community, and Sci-Hub is the biggest global threat. IEEE has taken a leadership position in detecting and combatting this piracy.

The goal of Sci-Hub, which was created in 2011, is “to collect all research papers ever published and make them free”[1] It is popular because it is free to use; today’s culture is one of openness; and it has aggregated a very large volume of content. Francis listed several harmful results of using Sci-Hub:

  • Declines in the usage of publishers’ products lead to cancellations, so publishers will not be able to support their mission.
  • Illegal sites may acquire users’ personal information.
  • Users of Sci-Hub may not be getting accurate or complete information.
  • Usage statistics become skewed.

IEEE has taken these actions in response to Sci-Hub:

  • Tracking and alerting users.
  • Requesting compromised users to provide data on the sites they accessed. Over 100,000 IP addresses have been collected and put into an “IP intrusion” database.
  • Collaborating with other publishers to stop misuse of their data.
  • Educating libraries, users, and other publishers about their efforts.
  • Partnering with the academic community to protect electronic resources and personal data.

Jan Reichelt, Co-founder, described Kopernio.com (https://kopernio.com/), another way to provide rapid and convenient access to publishers’ websites and databases. Most users simply want a PDF of an article (the version of record) and resist logging into different systems, each with different password, which may take several clicks and two to three minutes, resulting in frustration and turning to sites like Sci-Hub.

Reichelt estimated that by making access convenient for users, we have an opportunity to delight them 2.5 billion times a year. The concept of Kopernio is to provide access with a single click and give them a consistent user experience, thus increasing the reach of the publisher, journal, and article. If openly available resources are available and can be integrated into the user’s workflow, library budgets will be extended, and there will be no frustration, no paywall, and no annoyed researchers. Kopernio is a win for the user and also for the publisher because content gets out into the community and is used.

Shirley Dexter-Locke, Publishing Director, Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN), Elsevier, discussed the role of preprints. She said that the scholarly world is under intense pressure to produce research that is open, accessible, collaborative, measurable, useful, and quickly shared. Preprints (articles written but not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal) have existed for a long time, but they have recently become more recognized as acceptable proofs of research in scholarly publishing. They also have the advantage of exposing early stage research. Published journal articles are like gourmet meals that have been perfectly prepared; preprints are convenient like food trucks. Users want both options. Even though preprints are not peer reviewed, there is a place for them in disseminating information.  Sharing early stage research globally helps authors demonstrate their productivity, establish priority of their discoveries, and obtain feedback from other authors.

Thursday Plenary Session

Transforming a Backward Business Model in a Fast Forward World

Ralf Schimmer

Ralf Schimmer, Head of Information, Max Planck Digital Library, presented a strong denunciation of today’s paywall system. He likened today’s whirlwind of change, velocity, and turbulence in the information industry to a storm and noted that like many storms, there is an eye where there is no change. For us, that is a stagnant paywall system. Even after 15 years of OA, the paywall system has been largely unaffected. It is the antithesis to a world of openness, comes with excessive costs and outrageous price increases, restrictive copyright, and budgets still based on print legacies. It is a barrier to digital publishing, an avenue for piracy, and hinders use, reuse and interoperability.

Workaround systems like Unpaywall and Kopernio are relieving the symptoms and helping to make our lives easier, but they are not curing the cause. Real innovation will come only in an open environment. Schimmer said that Sci-Hub and RA21 are the evil twins of the system. They are symptomatic of a dysfunctional and decaying system. RA21 is unneeded and unwanted. OA is the only legitimate resource access at the present time. The principle of openness must be adopted as the default in the scholarly communication system. For that, the paywall must come down! It is the primary roadblock to openness, innovation, and sustainability. Do we really think that we can do business as usual? The underlying business model of today’s information industry must be changed and reorganized, and journals flipped to a truly open model. It is time to unplug the paywall system, leave the subscription model behind, and find new ways to finance the system. Publishing and reading are two interrelated sides of the same model and should be combined in service agreements with publishers.

OA2020 (https://oa2020.org) is a global alliance committed to accelerating the transition to OA. Schimmer estimates that there is more than $5,000 per research paper being spent currently in the worldwide publishing model, which could be made available to support a move to OA2020. Over 100 institutions, including all German research organizations, have already signed an Expression of Interest in OA2020 (the list is available on the website).

Examining Models in Support of Research

Impact of OA on Access and Subscriptions

Michael Levine-Clark, Dean of University Libraries, University of Denver, asked what OA means to library budgets and workflows and how open is the scholarly literature. Journal subscription models are generally based on print spending (often over a period of time) and are often negotiated at a consortium level. As a result, it has become difficult to understand costs at a single journal level and even more difficult at an article level. Cost per use pricing assumes that all use is good, which may not be true. It is hard to move beyond subscriptions, so it is time to move to a new model linked to outcomes.

Even though there is an uneven distribution of publishing and subscriptions, can we flip journals to OA? Levine presented several considerations:

  • If someone pays for an article to be open, it should benefit all subscribers, but everyone’s subscription costs are different.
  • If one library in a consortium subscribes to a journal and another one does not, how can the discount for the subscribing library be calculated?
  • As more journals become OA, the institution may reduce the library’s subscription budget? Is this a bad thing?
  • What is the resulting role for library discovery? Will we pay more for it?

One possible solution to the problems of transitioning to OA is to renew big deals, and devote a portion of the costs to opening up all articles to authors at subscribing institutions.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, and his wife, Pricilla Chan, was described by Katja Brose, its Science Program Officer. CZI focuses on education, science, and opportunity. Part of its efforts focus on scholarly communication and open science. Discovery is fostered by collaborations between scientists and engineers, enabling tools and technologies, and building support for science through changing its culture. Knowledge sharing and AI-enabled literature discovery are important aspects of discovery, as are open data and open resources in a sustainable infrastructure.

Margaret Tait, Research Associate, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), described its funding models and projects. Its approach to OA research involves engagement with other funders, working with a group of funders and other stakeholders (the Open Research Funders Group), and conversations with grantees and staff. Approximately $66 million in grants are made each year. For example, in the OA area, the Foundation invested in converting the Annual Review of Public Health to OA and gave a grant to two leading universities to advance OA annotations and the credibility of research. Its future plans include continued exploration of a Foundation-wide policy, conversations with publishers, and continued engagement with other funders and grantees.

Startup Shootout

Three startup company representatives made 10-minute presentations of their products and business plans to a panel of three judges, following which the judges and audience members had the opportunity to ask them questions. The judges then retired to deliberate and determine the winner, who received a plaque and will be featured in future NFAIS events. The contestants were:

  • David Celana, Science Prose on-Demand (POD, https://sciencepod.net/), a cloud-based digital content creation system that translates articles into abstracts that tell stores. Its market is writers, readers, and editors who have PhD degrees. Using SciencePOD, they have access to a dedicated content creation team that can work either in a managed creation mode, managing the entire process for the user, or as a content commissioning platform, which helps the user create personalized content bundles with the assistance of the SciencePOD staff.
  • Mads Holmen, Bibblio (http://www.bibblio.org/). Bibblio helps solve the discovery problem by recommending the right content to the right person at the right time. The system generates metadata, models topic, and clusters content. Bibblio’s content recommendation system increases engagement on web pages by suggesting other relevant content from across the user’s site. Quality engagement results in better metrics and increased revenue.
  • Craig Tashman, LiquidText (http://liquidtext.net/). Research is the heart of knowledge work. It has been estimated that 40% of a researcher’s time is spent reading and analyzing documents, and 80% of knowledge workers want to print their documents and read them. LiquidText is a platform allowing knowledge workers to make reading more efficient and enjoyable, helping them to understand what they are reading. It collects information from diverse documents, creates a personal semantic web, and then creates an aggregated document for the user. Currently, LiquidText is only available as an iPad app; development of a desktop version is its next step.

The winner of the shootout was LiquidText.

Members-Only Lunch

Creating Connections and Tying Preprints to NIH-Funded Research

Neil Thakur

One of the benefits of NFAIS membership is admission to a special lunch presentation during the annual conference. This year’s speaker was Neil Thakur, Special Assistant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Deputy Director for Extramural Research. He began by noting that we have much more research that can be funded, and there is strong competition among researchers for grants, which is distracting them from doing their research. Fortunately, recognition is growing that preprints may be an answer to this problem because they speed the dissemination of science, even though they may report only interim results. In some disciplines, particularly the sciences, preprints have been in use for years. NIH has therefore changed its policies and, because of its interest in fostering a stable infrastructure to advance science, is now permitting citation of preprints in grant applications, providing that the preprint is permanent (i.e. has a DOI), contains a statement that it has not been peer reviewed, and acknowledges its funding source.[2] This policy change has been welcomed by scientists.

Problems with research and career information include:

  • Duplicate data and wasted effort,
  • Poor tracking and measurement,
  • Inefficient research networks, and
  • Bad incentives resulting from inadequate measures of research productivity.

The current publication tracking structure could be applied to grants and contracts to help solve some of these problems, and NIH is therefore considering assigning DOIs to grants. In addition, ORCID has developed the ORCID Reducing Burden and Increasing Transparency (ORBIT) project to enhance its data model and

  • Reduce burdens on researchers when applying for grant funds,
  • Track research impact through open data,
  • Support collaboration and networking services,
  • Maintain researchers’ control of their own data and its use across platforms, and
  • Encourage development of better productivity measures and incentives.

Innovative Library Projects Impacting Scholarly Communications:

We Are the Change We Want to See

Carl Grant, Associate Dean and Chief Technology Officer, University of Oklahoma Libraries, began with a quote from former President Obama:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”

We need to move up the value chain. Libraries are being squeezed in ways that hurt their abilities to serve. We must do something about this. It is important to recognize how change is happening; here are three paths:

  1. Information containers need to be further opened to unleash its value.
  2. Major new value creation is happening now on top of open information and products.
  3. Collaborative environments will fuel the creation of that value.

Major changes happened about 11 years ago. Grant quoted Thank You For Being Late, by Thomas Friedman[3] and showed an amazing list of many of those changes, which include such familiar systems as the iPhone, Kindle, Android operating system, and Twitter. He said that it was one of the greatest leaps of technology in history.

The average laptop can store about 500gB of information, but the average person has only 1gB! We are therefore totally dependent on tools to filter information and get what we need. Information is at commodity status; additional value is locked away in database silos, document containers, behind paywalls, in legal contracts and restrictions, and difficult access protocols.

Many people do not know how to unleash the value of e-books. Unless we can see our future in a broader context, we may not have a future. The cost of information is now far exceeding its value, because of OA initiatives and OER initiatives. Grant funders and governments want open research data, and researchers want greater impact, all of which is resulting in large amounts of information to be used. To create new value, we need to move from seeing information as the source of value to unleashing its full potential via virtual tools and physical spaces. Academic libraries are the best environments for this; they have a strong set of campus relationships, are experienced in change management, and generally have a physical presence at the heart of the campus. They have a large repository of open content as well as access to a lot of licensed content and are constantly experimenting with new formats of information. Libraries are the test lab for the entire campus.

Ken Parker, Co-founder and CEO of NextThought (https://nextthought.com/) said that connections are everywhere, and we must use them. Connections in nature range from the minute (nerve cells, 10-7 meters apart) to the vast (the cosmic web, 1025 meters). There are similarities in these widely varying dimensions. Our brains are made to connect; how do we harness that to let people connect and add value to information?

  • Sharing: Everyone creates and it is all shared: code, knowledge, judgement, photos. Facebook is the top consumer for human attention and now has over 2 billion users, growing at 17% year over year. Those users are the most connected nation ever on the same platform.
  • Education: Education is less hierarchical because knowledge comes from everywhere. Technology increases access by removing much of the friction. Now everyone can get content and people are connected with resources. Learning communities have incredible power for an organization, especially students and alumni, which goes far beyond just content. Education leverages connections and increases information value

David King, Founder and CEO, Exaptive (https://www.exaptive.com/) discussed how to increase researchers’ productivity and thus increase value. The most successful innovation engines of today are the Web, crowdsourcing, and incubation labs. Cities are where innovation develops, and the internet creates a virtual city. Cognitive cities use metadata from content. Innovation does not happen unless people find common ground to connect. Graphs give us the possibility to shift between different views and create a multidisciplinary way of looking at the data. They are able to reach across disciplines and bring people together who would never ordinarily know about each other or communicate.

Friday Plenary Sessions

The Next Big Paradigm Shift in IT: Chatbots and Conversational Artificial Intelligence (CAPs)

Matthew Devapiryam, Director of Technology, ProQuest, said that ProQuest curates content, simplifies workflows, and connects communities, so that finding answers and deriving insights is straightforward and leads to extraordinary outcomes. Everyone is now talking about digital reinvention, creating new experiences, and disrupting business models. Although many processes are expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction (for example, Devapiryam suggested that by 2020, 80% of the buying process will occur this way), it is important to recognize that some things must be the province of humans, such as common sense decisions, morals, immigration issues, compassion, or abstractions. Other operations such as locating knowledge, pattern identification, natural language, and machine learning can be done by cognitive systems. Uses for conversational agents include customer service, mobile apps, messaging channels, the internet of things, and robots.

A chatbot is conversational software that can be interacted with using text. ProQuest has developed a beta version of a chatbot, Aristotle, to interact with its data conversationally, asking questions such as “What was our revenue last year?” Training or expertise is not required for seamless rapid access to data. Aristotle is now being used with internal ProQuest sales data, and it will eventually be made available to customers.

Big Data and AI Technologies Coming of Age

Ruth Pickering, Co-founder of Yewno, said that AI stands in a long line of human innovation to help people find what they are looking for, but every time progress is made, we encounter huge challenges. The first one is knowing how to look; many times it is necessary to know what you are looking for. In an AI environment, one needs less advance knowledge; AI can help find connections to information, making researchers more productive, starting by applying filters and eliminating irrelevant information, but as the information is narrowed down, the context may be lost. We cannot talk about the future of information without introducing the tools powered by AI. For example, a book must be looked at on a chapter level because frequently, there is information in chapters which is outside the domain of the book.

Transforming 50 Years of Data: A Collaborative Approach to Creating a New Revenue Stream

Jonathan Griffin, Head of Product Development, IFIS Publishing, and Jignesh Bhate, Founder and CEO, Molecular Connections (MC), collaborated in this presentation to describe how IFIS and MC worked together to add new value to data and create new market segments. Griffin noted that about 50 years ago, two trade associations founded the International Food Information System (IFIS) to produce an A&I database on food and nutrition that is largely used by academic and corporate organizations. Recently, usage has not increased because younger researchers prefer to use Google Scholar. IFIS staff are specialists in content, not technology, so they formed a very successful partnership with MC. The relationship started with indexing the database and then grew to workflow solution development and new products.

Bhate described market research which revealed that IFIS users were having difficulty finding important food regulations from different geographical areas. The research also indicated that people wanted to receive their information in different ways. A new product, Escalex, was created by combining IFIS legacy content with information freely available on the web. Domain expertise is critically important to ensure that the quality of the content is not compromised.

The collaboration between MC and IFIS enabled creation of a unique new product which meets users’ needs:

  • It has a user friendly interface with visual presentations of key information, and dedicated search techniques are available for different information needs.
  • Navigable tabulated data is included.
  • Users are guided to other relevant content.
  • The overall average quality of indexing is over 95%, with over 30 ontologies containing more than 100,000 terms.

Social Changes Impacting Our Future

Spanning Boundaries, Transforming Fields: The Growing Impact of Community Networks in Scholarly Communication

Katherine Skinner, Executive Director, Educopia (http://www.educopia.org/), said that the Educopia Institute is a “network builder” that works with “knowledge diffusers”—libraries, archives, museums, publishers, and their service providers. It focuses on structure and behavior, engages in incubation activities, and helps them make informed decisions about government and business models. The result is a community of communities that learns from the experiences of each other through a network of common experiences, strategies and models for different stages of growth, scaling of support services, and healthy community development. One of Educopia’s partners is the Library Publishing Coalition which helps support ongoing activities of libraries in the publishing space.

Building a New Ecosystem for the Scholarly Communications Infrastructure

Kristen Ratan, Founder and Executive Director, the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (Coko, https://coko.foundation/), noted that Coko is a community-based open source solution to improve how knowledge is created, produced, and shared. Problems with research communication today include costs, incomplete or missing data, long publication times, and closed systems. Coko believes that no single platform can solve all the problems; instead, we need an ecosystem of tools and software with modular and interoperable components.

Most content is being produced today with proprietary tools. The systems are rigid and contained, holding back our ability to improve readily. Coko’s open and modular architecture enables innovation and cooperation. We must consider ways to create collaborative web spaces, build for change, and enable innovation and cooperation. It is important to share the infrastructure early and often in the development process.

Lightning Talks

Each participant in these 6 Lightning Talks had six minutes to present a focused presentation on a critical issue of interest to them.

Libraries are Really AI Services: Improving Discovery Access to Library Special Collections

Marjorie Hlava, President, Access Innovations, Inc.

Libraries of today have an emphasis on storage, not discovery and retrieval. The challenge of discovery was exemplified in a project done with the Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida to create the Portal of Florida history. Over 14 million pages on microfilm were digitized, increasing access to the digital collection. Improved and consistent metadata practices are necessary. New options included:

  • Use of XML instead of MARC headings,
  • 23 fields instead of 900 in the MARC system,
  • Implementation of the JSTOR Thesaurus instead of Library of Congress Subject Headings,
  • Metadata records created in an XML Intranet System which could then be exported as needed. (Catalogers became metadata librarians.)
  • Installation of new tools: Data Harmony XIS and MAIstro.

Through application of automated processes such as digitization and OCR that supported indexing, the increase in search accuracy was persuasive and impressive.

Rapid Digital Product Innovation

Michael Cairns, CEO, Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation helps companies make transitions from legacy environments and execute on their strategies. Problems have arisen when executions do not deliver on the strategy because of lack of clarity, silos, lack of transparency, shifting priorities, and accountability. The dPrism system offers a solution and provides a team to guide people, processes, and technology. A project for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) developed a new and responsive website with 700 pages (instead of 7,000 with poor search and navigation) that provided improved customer visibility, and a user-centric content governance process.

Open Infrastructure: Come On In, The Water’s Fine

Jennifer Kemp, Head, Business Development, Crossref

When an infrastructure is open, everyone can benefit from it; the process is no longer “DOI and Done”. Event data like blog posts, feeds, etc. and other new content types can added to a system as useful enhancements. Metadata is powerful for libraries, authors, and editors. Some elements are requested very frequently by users; CrossRef receives 632 million metadata inquires per month, which is 28% more than last year.

CHORUS Institution Dashboard Services: A Collaborative Solution to Article Access

Susan Pastore, Director of Business Development, CHORUS

CHORUS is creating a future where the output from funded research is easily and permanently discoverable, accessible, and verifiable by anyone in the world. It maximizes interoperability by employing widely used standards and infrastructure, and supports funder policies, OA business models, and diverse publishing systems. It also broadens engagement among participants in the research ecosystem. The CHORUS dashboard is used by authors to help institutions comply with funding requirements. Lessons learned from pilot projects:

  • Accurate article metadata can be hard to obtain.
  • Linking authors to a university can be a complex problem.
  • Faculty research is being deposited, but it is not necessarily compliant with funding agency requirements. Researchers need help in this.
  • Preservation in perpetuity has value.
  • Researchers are confused by their usage rights and funder obligations.

CHORUS works with Scopus and the Web of Science—see https://www.chorusaccess.org/

The New Dimension in Scholarly Communication: How a Global Scholarly Community Collaboration Created the World’s Linked Research Knowledge System

Ashlea Higgs, Founder, ÜberResearch

Higgs described recent work with the Dimensions system in which over 100 global research institutions have been collaborating to solve challenges in the existing research environment. Dimensions is no longer just a database of awarded grants; it now includes patents, articles, and over 4 billion links between them. Further information on this work is available on Figshare[4] and at https://app.dimensions.ai/discover/publication

Flipping the Script

Joseph Lerro, OA Sales Executive, Routledge, Taylor & Francis (T&F) Group

T&F has embarked on a project to convert, or “flip” scholarly hybrid titles to full OA. Twenty subscription titles and over 70 society-owned journals were flipped in 2017. The goals of the project are to accelerate OA conversion and make it as easy as possible for researchers, societies, institutions, funders, and governments to achieve their open scholarship aims.

It has been interesting to note that the number of submissions of articles to editors has decreased, possibly because researchers may be averse to the conversion of journals to OA because they fear a decrease in the impact factor, and editors may fear an increase in difficulty of commissioning papers. Readers must therefore be advocates for OA. T&F regards conversion to OA as a rebirth of journals, not returning to a paywall for them.

Closing Keynote

Academic Publishing, Blockchain and Shifting Roles in a Rapidly Changing World

Joris van Rossum

Joris van Rossum, Director, Special Projects, Digital Science, began with a quote from Aldous Huxley in 1956:

“Our technology produces a state of chronic revolution”

It is amazing to realize how fast things are changing; for example, Elsevier used to be no more than a printing press. Our purpose is to do what scientists cannot do or do not wish to do themselves. Publishers are managing reputations by

  • Registration: Enhancing the author’s precedence and ownership of an idea,
  • Certification: Ensuring quality control by peer review,
  • Dissemination: Communicating the findings to the relevant audience, and
  • Preservation: Preserving a fixed version for a future audience and citation.

We are successful not because of our technology but in spite of technology. But we are not technology companies! Now, alternatives to these roles are emerging, and our roles are getting smaller.

Certification is increasingly relevant because of:

  • Reproducibility (only ⅓ of published articles can be reproduced).
  • Peer review crisis: transparency and recognition. People are not recognized for peer reviewing; they are recognized for what they published. Peer review is a legacy of the print era. Fraud and manipulation, and lack of transparency and trust in the process are issues.
  • Limited and outdated metrics. Everything that went into the research is not known which causes many problems.

Blockchain and scholarly communication

Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology of bitcoin.[5] There is a connection between payment and money flows to scientists. Processes are not rewarded; can we introduce a cryptocurrency for science, a token which one can use to buy services? Some initiatives are emerging to create tokens to reward researchers.

Blockchain lets us move from the internet of information to an internet of value. It establishes ownership, prevents double spending, and is therefore the ideal technology for DRM. Micropayments, which are presently very expensive, open the way for a new business model. On today’s internet, links point to the content but not back to the owner. Blockchain is a very special kind of data storage and a new way to think about databases. They can be decentralized (everybody can have a copy), shared and immutable (they cannot be changed), and transparent but pseudonymous (real identities do not have to be revealed). We can know everything that is done to the databases by users, and can track the data that the scientist has used to build the database. There is no need for a middleman to do this.

What do we do as an industry? We have a history of adopting new technologies. New entrants want to disrupt the industry and eliminate publishing. We should remain partners and successfully adopt this technology like we adopted the internet.

Digital Science is starting an initiative around peer review to develop a complete, authoritative, and decentralized store of reviewer data using the blockchain technology. The data storage will find, validate, and recognize reviewers; respect confidentiality and privacy requirements, and it will be shared by everyone. Thus, the process will become more robust and transparent, foster developments of applications to recognize reviewers, and comply with requirements of confidentiality and privacy.



Donald 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 45 years.


[1] “Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia’s “Illegal” Copyright Paywalls, TorrentFreak , June 27, 2015. (https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-tears-down-academias-illegal-copyright-paywalls-150627/)
[2] See https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not-od-17-050.html for further information.

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Being-Late-Accelerations/dp/1250141222/ref=sr_1_2

[4] https://figshare.com/articles/A_Guide_to_the_Dimensions_Data_Approach/5783094

[5] van Rossum is the author of a report on blockchain: Blockchain for Research, Digital Science, November 2017.




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