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Don’s Conference Notes- SSP 2022: Building a More Connected Scholarly Community

by | Jul 10, 2022 | 0 comments


By Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor)

The 44th annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) was held June 1-3, 2022 in Chicago, IL. It was a hybrid meeting and ran on the Whova platform. I attended virtually. Attendance was 643 in person and 138 virtual.

Note: Besides the sessions described below in this article, a session on Trendspotting in Scholarly Publishing also occurred. It is summarized in a separate article on “Don’s Conference Notes” and will also appear in a forthcoming issue of Against The Grain.

Opening Keynote

Shermann “Dilla” Thomas

Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, Chicago Urban Historian and Founder, Chicago Mahogany Tours, presented a historical overview of Chicago, his favorite city, and how it has had an impact on education and academia.  Once you know the history of a place, you will respect it. He noted that it became an important Midwest trading hub, and its time zone was used in all trade. The Chicago Union Stockyards was at one time the largest employer of African Americans in the country.  Dilla has produced short videos about Chicago’s history which has resulted in him having thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram, and his website.

Think about things that come from Chicago. Even today, much of the meat packed comes from Chicago and is shipped to its consumers. The first recorded presidential debate happened in Chicago. The study of sociology was born at University of Chicago. Kindergarten classes started in Chicago. And a little known fact is that poles used in firehouses for fire responders to slide down came from Chicago.

Dilla reminded the audience that an important part of scholarly publishing is stories about history, and it is important to make information discoverable and accessible by getting it out from behind paywalls so that it will reach a wide audience.


Jennifer Heimberg

Jennifer Heimberg, Director, Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) described the system of science and how it has evolved. The NAS was formed by an Act of Congress that was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Its Strategic Council is based on 3 reports which called for a body to evaluate the excellence and integrity of research. 

The ways in which science is conducted have changed dramatically. Computers are now used to analyze data and develop models. The basic principles of science have not changed, but they lead to a better understanding of the world. Researchers work for organizations. They apply to a funder who needs to understand what they want to do. If they are successful and obtain a grant, they can do the science, write an article, and then submit a manuscript to publishers for consideration to publish. Thus, new knowledge is shared with other researchers, but the public is not part of this process.  However, cracks caused by bias, non-reproducible results, etc. have started to appear in this model. New ways of assessment to advance one’s career are needed.

With new disciplines, new journals, more articles (2.9 billion/year), and more researchers, science became big. Collaborations have become more common, especially those with other countries. The complexity of problems and interactions grew, and new measures to evaluate researchers and research, such as the H index and journal impact factor, emerged, which drove incentives to optimize science. As a result, many academics left academia, and interactions between science, policies, and politics increased.  The internet, cell phones, and media changed the way everyone interacted. 

In 2020, NAS and other academies hosted a meeting honoring the 75th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s ground-breaking report, Science: The Endless Frontier, which has led to an updated view of how science works. Now, many researchers participate in developing scientific ideas and live in ecosystems of their institutions and employers, where they are expected to teach as well as develop new ideas. The number of funders has increased, and there is often more than one for a project. In other developments, preprints have become prevalent; predatory journals are growing; and persistent identifiers are becoming powerful and making journal articles more complete. It is important that the scientific record is accurate, which has increased the need for corrections and retractions. Interacting with the public and explaining results are also becoming more important. Science ultimately influences the public, so it is important to bring them in earlier in the research process.

This figure shows the expertise of the Strategic Council.  

We need to explore and understand what is happening at interfaces, improve the trustworthiness of science, and align the policies and incentives of funders, research institutions, and journals.  Researchers do more than publish articles; they mentor, raise interest in their work, and teach. 

Much of this will be a hurdle; we need to try our goals and try again. This quotation from Massimo Pigliucci’s book, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of Chicago Press, 2010) is very appropriate.

Change is inherent in science.  It expands our world. Results should not matter on who does the science. Ideas are diversifying. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Scholarly Publishing: Looking Ahead to 2029

Jeff De Cagna, Executive Advisor, Foresight First, LLC noted that this session is taking place on Day 884 of the Turbulent Twenties, and AI will be one of the forces that will shape and reshape this decade and the 2030s. As a result of the COVID pandemic, we have seen a greater adoption of AI technologies and platforms during the past few years in most sectors of our economy. Damita Snow, Sr. Manager, Publishing Technologies, American Society of Civil Engineers, replied that these AI technologies are being used to analyze content and provide it to users based on their behavior. But while we look favorably on AI, we are not considering so much as how it will affect us in the future. Decision makers are not consulting the people who will be affected the most. We need to take a deeper dive into the decisions made and ensure that we have diverse representation in our conversations. 

There is orthodoxy around scholarly publishing and our decisions. Orthodoxy is detrimental and dangerous to us because AI is accepted as wisdom and often limits beliefs. We tend to consider where we have been rather than where we are going—how AI is developed, implemented, and used ethically in our organizations. 

Here are 3 reflection questions for consideration:

  • What orthodox beliefs do you hold about artificial intelligence and scholarly publishing?
  • What role do you think that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should play in the implementation of AI?
  • What is your personal responsibility for ensuring the ethical use of AI in your organization?

Getting Authors and Publishers on the Same Page: A Global Conversation

This session focused on bringing industry professionals and authors together by bridging the gap between author motivations and needs. 

Christopher Hollister, Head of Scholarly Publication, University of Buffalo, a researcher interested in publications authored by faculty members, said that it would be helpful for publishers to have a better understanding of authors’ motivations in publishing their work. Motivations can be either extrinsic or intrinsic, as shown here.

Domain knowledgePersonal interests and
  (academic freedom)
Professional practiceProfessional satisfaction
Professional advancement
  (promotion and tenure)
Altruism (open access)
Disciplinary publicationsStudent success
Post-tenure reviewDisciplinary or scholarly affinity
External funding

Journal prestige and impact factors are involved. Publishers may have a little less understanding of intrinsic motivations than extrinsic.  Allowing authors to pursue their interests is significant. Much OA publication is often squelched by APCs. Authors care about the future of their fields and have little loyalty to publishers; publishing is considered the business end of the authoring lifecycle. 

Annie Gering, Publishing Editor at RTI Press, which was born digital in 2007, noted that RTI is small and thus can be nimble. It works with researchers to experiment with the form and content of their articles. RTI’s Scientific Stature Hub provides education for researchers about developments in scholarly publishing in these ways:

Luke Barrett, Head, Content Development at Hindawi, one of the world’s largest fully OA journal publishers, noted that all of Hindawi’s content is published in Gold OA. An open science publishing infrastructure is used in all of its journals. Researchers want to know what OA means for them as an author, what their funders or institutions require, why they must pay APCs, and how OA might affect the peer review process. In response to these concerns, Hindawi transparently reports peer review metrics for all of its journals; educates authors, editors, and reviewers; publishes a guide to scientific communication; and provides services to authors such as free AI language editing, and pre- and post-publication services, and fosters innovation with an OA switchboard, and a partnership with ResearchGate.

In the discussion period, the following issues were raised.

  • Many faculty members do not understand APCs and feel they should not have to pay to publish their own work; however, many journals clearly state on their home page that APCs are required and are used for the costs of OA publishing. APCs are nothing but trouble at the University of Buffalo. It is not in the core mission of the library to pay for research to be published. They do not have money in their budgets for that. If articles are put in an archive, the requirements of the government are fulfilled, so why would we pay an APC? If authors are paying an APC, are there other services beyond dissemination that publishers can provide to them?  What are we getting in a journal with a large APC? 
  • Do society memberships have an effect on deciding where to publish? It usually does not make a difference. Choosing where to publish often depends on who is the editor of the journal and how they treat students. 
  • What would be attractive about a new journal that would make it attractive to publish in it? The journal should build some prestige from the outset by assembling an Editorial Board that would take its job seriously. 
  • Is the journal the right way to disseminate information to the public? Yes, we currently live in an anti-intellectual society, and anything we can do to help the public understand their lives is good. Some people who are not academics may benefit from our research. Could we repurpose journal articles in other types of information? Is it realistic to ask researchers to take on another job? It may not be possible to recast articles for the public because of the extensive jargon in them. Is there anything that publishers can do to help? 
  • Are there pain points you are experiencing? The biggest one is the differing format requirements of journals. 

How to Build a Lasting Culture of Innovation (and What Not to Do): A Conversation With the Experts)

Kelly May, CEO, May Strategy Group noted that the average lifespan of Fortune 500 companies decreased from 90 years in 1935 to 32 years in 1965 and is predicted to be 17 years in 2030, which is why innovation is needed. The 3 pillars of innovation are people, processes, and philosophies. Leadership philosophies for creating an environment that fosters innovation are:

  • Establish an environment of psychological safety,
  • Communicate with intellectual honesty, and
  • Promote smart risk taking. 

Kathy Cristian, CEO, Altmetric, said that 70% of people are disengaged from their work, and 19% are actively disengaged. Here are 3 ways to combat this:

  • Engage: make people happy at work—see Alive at Work by Daniel Cable (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018). Three areas to work on are: experimentation—focus on learning process, self-expression, and purpose.
  • Empower: Let people use their brains; ensure that everybody knows where they are going. Delegate problems, not tasks. Clearly communicate the strategy and direction of the company, company priorities, and establish individual responsibilities and priorities.
  • Address the disengaged: Focus on the positive things but take care of negatives as well. 

According to Ann Michael, Chief Transformation Officer, AIP Publishing, innovation equals inquiry (for everyone!). We need to determine the true effect of the question at hand.  Inquiry is at the heart of ambition: you do not get to know people if you do not ask questions. Coaching is reciprocal; why don’t mentors participate? You coach teams, but they are teaching you, too. There is a natural tendency to ask how things will work, how much money do we have, etc. The only way we will get to know things is to do experiments.  When we clarify roles, we are less likely to hurt people. 

During the pandemic, there were an enormous number of meetings. It is important to say no to too many meetings. Time is needed to do things and accomplish things.


How do we engage in self-reflection? Is there something that did not go the way we thought it should? Is something annoying you? The word “just” can make people feel bad. 

Try to understand what is driving questions. If you judge a question, you show that you are not open to them. If you think you know a lot, questions tend to shut down.  If you can proactively bring in diverse opinions you will expose yourself to different thoughts. It is OK to put a question back on the questioner. Experts are the most vulnerable to being left behind if they do not continue to expand their knowledge. If you want to expand questioning on your team, you can appoint someone to be devil’s advocate

Think about things in your organization and think about your workflow. See how other people do things. It comes down to time, so figure out things that have to stop. 

If you were redesigning your job, what would you add and what would you leave out? You may need to redefine your interest. What is getting in the way of your engagement? Take time to ask questions and figure out how your job can be tweaked. There is a big world out there and maybe you need some help. A good manager will figure out how to help you. Are we finding things that help us get better or happier? Ask what I can do for you that will help you? Or, what am I doing that is undermining you? How can we help you to progress in the organization? 

Previews Session—New and Noteworthy Product Presentations

This popular session featured 5 minute lightning reviews of 12 new products. This year’s selection of products was based on broad innovation. Innovation is at the center of every healthy industry. The audience voted on the best innovation product, and an award was given at the end of the session.

  • Barry Bealer, Access innovations: We are still having trouble finding the right information—50% of Google searches resulted in 0 clicks! Data Harmony is an explainable AI system (what you got and how you got it) that can change “search” to “found” and produce confidence in searches. The Data Harmony Hub provides knowledge domains that can be integrated into workflow and enrich content. 
  • Chelsea Tharp, BioOne was founded in 1999 and contains over 217 titles in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences from 158 publishers. It is used by 3,500 libraries. With over $200,000 in sales, the complete archive has generated a big ROI. Subscribing libraries retain permanent access to the backfile.  Challenges included declining subscription revenues, lack of revenue streams for publishers, and no product diversification. The solution was to create a complete archive which allows use of one-time revenues, appeals to subscribers, and provides support for small publishers. New tricks can be learned by taking a fresh look at procedures, following the mission of the company and its values, and involving partners.
  • Arley Soto, Biteca. Provides consolidated reports from Open Journal Systems (OJS—a system for managing and publishing scholarly journals), Crossref, and its Mail Server and produces indicators for managers and journal editors. Next steps include development of an alpha version, looking for new partners, and including more data sources.
  • Charles Hemenway, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC): Publishers need access to accurate and complete OA data sets to turn data into something actionable. Everybody is trying to resource around analysis, but current data cleaning and modeling processes are manual, time consuming and error prone. It is a struggle to represent data with bios and access multiple data sets from different sources.  Publishers spend most of their time cleaning the data and presenting it to customers. CCC will soon release an OA Agreement Intelligence process for modeling institutional agreements.  
  • David Myers, Data Licensing Alliance (DLA) makes AI fun and smarter to solve real world problems. AI will have its biggest business and societal impact in healthcare. The AI market has exploded and is expected to grow from $29.5 billion in 2019 to $349 billion by 2027. The market is fragmented with numerous active players; we are at an inflection point in the industry. Licensing data will soon overtake subscriptions, but the time and cost to license data can be painful. The DLA makes licensing data more efficient because it automates 70% of the steps in the licensing process, increases licensing efficiency by a factor of 6, and provides a collaborative platform to increase the reach of published research. Are you ready to join the alliance now and make data more accessible?
  • Tim Vines, DataSeer: Significant problems in the industry today include: the ease of publishing fake science, readers being unable to check articles because raw data and code are almost never available and systematic reviews that are based on summary statistics, not raw data. The solution to these problems is to enable open science and make data, code, and other output available alongside of the articles. Stakeholders want open science, but we have not made much progress yet. DataSeer produces open science audits, and high fidelity article checks that show authors how policies apply to their articles. 
  • Elizabeth Blake: Inera: A tool for checking reference lists before submitting an article to a journal.  Problems arise in reference lists because predatory publishers playing games with names of journals and also because authors refer to a journal several different ways in an article.  Inera’s Edifix interface uses Cabell’s reference checking system.  It is not a prescriptive service but an informative one; users must decide what to do with the data.
  • Charlie Rappel, Kudos: Research needs to be summarized and made easy to understand for users within and outside academia. Then the summaries must be showcased and promoted so they can be acted on. Kudos helps people find, understand, and use research by adding plain language summaries and promoting research on social media.
  • Lettie Conrad, Maverick Publishing Specialists: Essential publishing requires online users whose usage generates citations that can expand into new platforms using Maverick’s Essential Business Performance toolkit.  Readers can only use what they can find, so we need to optimize the discoverability of our content through scholarly SEO. Standard SEO is not sufficient for scholarly publishing. We must serve the workflows of all users. Maverick offers a suite of specialty services to match the new information needs of our industry—standards, metadata, user research, analytics.  Metadata drives your business, optimizes web and content data, through indexing strategy, maintenance, and metrics. 
  • Kieran Prince, OpenAthens: Poor user experiences impact engagement. Publishers are losing revenue because users can get access to stolen content on pirate sites, so OpenAthens developed Wayfinder in collaboration with SeamlessAccess.org to enable easy, simple sign on and improve the user experience. 
  • Brian Cody: Scholastica: Scholastica modernizes the journal publishing process and is used by 1,100 journals, university presses, and similar organizations. Each journal is unique, and existing workflows are not flexible. The industry is in a flux, OA is growing, and more metadata needs to be added to Crossref.  It takes a lot of time to vet vendors and figure out what they offer. Publishers like knowing what they are getting quickly. Using Scholastica, a single journal at a time can be upgraded to cut costs and use top-tier digital-first production to get high quality output and enrich references, proofs, and edits, so that the PDF and XML are always in sync. Pricing is transparent with no minimum volume or contract terms.  This is a production solution to produce modular journals while maintaining quality output. 
  • Nina Tscheke, ScienceOpen creates book metadata for an OA world using its BookMetaHub.  Metadata from publishers is aimed at distribution channels, while that book and article content is aimed at indexing in a digital environment, which has created a disconnect.  In looking for a solution for publishers, ScienceOpen developed a user interface with combined linkage provided by Crossref and DOIs.

The Best Innovation Award was given to Tim Vines.

“Back to the Future” of Digital-First Publishing: Where We Are and Where We Are Going

Since the early 2000s, scholarly communication stakeholders have been exploring the potential of XML-first production workflows to streamline digital publishing and improve metadata management across the research ecosystem. If we were to travel “back to the future,” what would we find?  How far have we come in implementing XML-based or similar digital-first production approaches? What past predictions could we still learn from today? And where are we headed? In this session, 3 panelists focused on the following questions:

  • What is the current state of digital-first production and how does it compare to early projections, opportunities, and challenges?
  • Why is digital-first or single-source production critical to realizing more rapid research dissemination and consistent, rich metadata?
  • How can we create a culture of innovation to support the development of digitally-driven production workflows?

Randy Townsend, Director, Publishing Technology, PLOS, discussed PLOS’s transition to an XML-First workflow. During the pandemic, we had to operate in one of the worst possible environments. XML gives us the ability to deliver a great experience for authors; however, we are still in a very print-centric world where we talk about page counts, so it is hard to move forward. We are still trying to figure out the financial effect on our operations. XML-First gives us the ability to streamline processes. Production issues are still left out of our conversations but they should be considered first. 

Charles O’Connor, Business Systems Analyst, Aries Systems, noted that the early promises and subsequent excitement for XML have not been fulfilled, but now with the development of XML-First, maybe they can be so that other products can be developed. To be able to identify problems, you could create XML and a PDF, but you must know XML to be able to edit it. The technology to create PDFs out of XML is a form of XML that nobody could read, but it produces a PDF at the end.  To convert Word documents to XML, an investment in a high-end system was necessary. Now we have tools to do this, such as TypeFi. A production system and a peer review system are needed to integrate these tools. 

Brian Cody, CEO and Founder of Scholastica discovered that amazing things are possible with XML—it is not just a new form of HTML. Most questions from users of Scholastica are about generating a PDF layout and the role of XML-First. The pain points are in finding errors earlier in the process; problems must be fixed during it. Humans want the PDF, but scholarship needs XML. Print is expensive and difficult to lay out. We have a long way to go to understand that it should be primary. Publishers are producing scholarship that is published quickly, so troubles occurring during the process are a huge problem. 

The Cookie Trail: Where is it Leading Us? Can We Measure Effectiveness Without Infringing Privacy? 

In his introduction, Tim Lloyd, CEO, LibLynx, mentioned the impending death of the cookie in 2023 and asked the audience how many were aware of it and how many of the organizations represented are ready for it.  Many in the audience knew about it, but far fewer organizations are ready. 

Amanda Ferrante, Sr. Product Manager, EBSCO, said it is possible to deliver services without collecting any personal identifiable information, but it may be necessary to collect certain information to deliver functionality in today’s complex information world. For example, a user can use a discovery service to find information, but if the user wants to save the information and return to it in the future, it may be necessary to share some personal data to achieve that functionality. 

Lisa Hinchliffe, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted that a recent Mellon grant is looking at data protection and disclosures to users of such practices. What data is required to make our tools work? If data will be captured, do users understand what personal information they are providing to get that functionality? In a print world, it was possible to keep personal information separated, but today’s readers want more from the promises of the digital age—saving time and being able to do new things. The problem with data is that once it is out, it stays there, which is a huge challenge for publishers and data architects that are developing working processes. If we want these types of protection, we must think about them from the beginning of development as well as what it means to architect systems that way. 

Tim Lloyd said that LibLynx collects personal data on behalf of libraries and service providers, which means that they must be very involved in data protection. When the web was first developed, it was stateless, which meant that we could not identify every user’s browser because that would compromise privacy, so it was difficult to do things like manage a shopping cart. First party cookies cannot be used except in very special situations because they are created and stored by the user and used for customization of their browser, but they are generally useless for advertising. Third party cookies are created in the background by advertisers and are invisible to users. Users can delete third party cookies, but most of them do not have the technical skills for that. Apple now blocks third party cookies by default.

Emerging Products in Nontraditional Formats: Responding Creatively to Changing Audience Needs

The scholarly communication environment is changing in significant ways that were accelerated by the pandemic. Digitization and easy access to online publishing tools have led authors to explore new ways to present research findings and create educational resources; organizations outside of academia are publishing research in ways outside traditional processes; and faculty have pivoted to video and virtual reality to improve teaching and connect with students. How can publishers respond productively and creatively to meet the needs of their audiences and create sustainable revenue? 

Erin Landis, Managing Director, Origin Editorial, described a project she did while at the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). AGA was founded in 1897 and now has 16,000 members. It publishes 5 journals (3 hybrids), and has over 60 editors supported by 13 staff.  Two of AGA’s journals are OA and are supported by APCs. Current challenges include declining commercial revenue and evolving reader and member needs, which highlighted the need to move into non-traditional content. Revenue sources included membership dues, registration fees for meetings and conventions, educational offerings, sponsorships, and publication royalties. Although journals were the largest sources of revenue, revenue from hybrid journals was declining. Journals were highly valued by AGA members and were regarded as the most important benefit of membership; surveys showed that:

  • Readers did not have the time to read the amount of information that AGA was publishing, which created a barrier to staying informed,
  • Content categorized by specialty is critical,
  • New types of content (videos, podcasts, etc.) are preferred, and
  • Ease of use and navigation is key.

It therefore became apparent that AGA could not simply keep publishing traditional forms of content.  Readers wanted it fed to them in different ways and categorized by their areas of research. After conducting surveys and brainstorming ideas using a design thinking process, a new product: AGA Clinician’s Companion was developed to meet the needs of clinicians who are busier than ever before. It is a quarterly, online-only digest highlighting the most impactful research from AGA’s journal Gastroenterology and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (CGH). Each article is accompanied by a summary that highlights the clinical utility of the findings, easily translating complex research into patient care. It is sold as an annual subscription for $59/year for AGA members and $79 for non-members. 

The Clinician’s Companion was launched in 2020, and over 150 subscriptions have been sold. Feedback has been very positive; the renewal rate is 25%. Next steps are to develop a version 2.0 based on feedback. 

Next steps and tips:

  • Do your research and engage in design thinking.
  • Be creative with marketing; it takes time for the market to understand the value of a new product.
  • Be prepared for members to ask why a new product is not included as a member benefit.
  • Use the content you have and experiment with it. 
  • Never lose sight of your community (your customers) and how your content could be enhanced to be of value to them.

Emma Vodden, Director of Publishing, Bone & Joint Publishing noted that her organization is a small publisher and a registered charity with 21 staff members based in London. They publish 2 OA and 2 “traditional” journals. As with AGA, it became evident that they needed to expand beyond traditional publishing models and diversify to ensure their long-term survival, especially because users were accessing quality content from other publishers. Several options for online digital offerings were considered which would have to be implemented by partnering with an organization that could furnish the necessary technical skills. 

Proliferation of virtual conferences in 2020 led to an idea to create a site to host talks presented at them. Valuable content was being lost after those events ended. Bone & Joint’s unique position in its community and its relationships with many organizations made curation of the content under a single umbrella a valuable resource. The technical partner was identified as Cadmore Media, and their platform was customized to Bone & Joint’s needs. The goals of the project were:

  • Create a video archive of searchable conference presentations, broken down into individual talks accompanied by a transcript,
  • Enrich the talks with metadata, 
  • Assign a DOI to each video, and
  • Offer the content hosting free to their partner organizations and end users.

The service launched in June 2021 with 3 conferences and now includes 9 conferences. When they found that users were loading content themselves on YouTube, they incorporated it into the service. The current focus is on building awareness of the service and increasing usage. Challenges are monetizing the service and adding new partners. 

After a year, OrthoMedia has helped strengthen Bone & Joint’s partnerships by adding value to its services, raising the profiles of the conference speakers, and building the brand so it will make revenue from advertising. 

Toby Green, Co-Founder, Coherent Digital, said that its mission is to tame wild content. Emerging products is what you get when authors are turned loose with self-publishing tools. Web 2.0 allowed publishing without a publisher. For example, 

  • One blog is very interesting and full of citations, but it contains 108 tweets and is difficult to find and cite. Its author has 341,000 followers on Twitter and he has had 515 comments, 8,492 retweets, and 16,900 likes. 
  • Another author writes a blog entitled “Brexit and Beyond” that was launched in 2016 and has over 330 posts. The author has nearly 70,000 followers on Twitter, and his blog has amassed nearly 7 million views.  It will become a key source for historians, but it does not contain a single DOI or other identifier.  
  • The memoirs of Britain’s ambassador at the time of Brexit were published as a series of podcasts, but podcasts do not have citable identifiers.
  • Some “groundbreaking” studies have their own websites but do not have an ISBN or a price on Amazon, so they are called “reports” and dismissed as “grey literature”.
  • Some websites such as the OECD Better Life Index invite users to contribute data and shape their conclusions. It has had over 13 million views in the last 10 years.

Are these examples “publishing”? At least some of them have won awards from the Association of Learned and Professional Scholarly Publishers (ALPSP), but many of them are hard to find, cite, catalog, and preserve and thus become part of the scholarly record. There is much high quality research being published as non-traditional content. Trustworthy organizations have their works reviewed before publication to preserve the author’s reputation and lead to funding. 

Closing Plenary: The Scholarly Kitchen Live! Challenges for Equity in Scholarly Communication

The closing session at SSP meetings has traditionally featured presentations by “chefs” affiliated with SSP’s blog, The Scholarly Kitchen (TSK), and this year was no exception. David Crotty, Senior Consultant, Clarke & Esposito and TSK Editor, said that recent efforts to make TSK more equitable have been undertaken, so this year’s subject is equity, which is related to inclusion.  Four of the chefs gave presentations, which were followed by a discussion period. David also noted that like any journal, TSK likes submissions; attendees were invited to submit articles for consideration.

There are many equity challenges in our environment, and many of the resulting changes are positive. We have experienced market consolidation; many proposals have been received from societies wanting a publishing partner. It is difficult for a small nonprofit organization to remain stable. Another challenge is an increasing shift toward OA publishing; open does not automatically mean equal.  It is worthwhile to read the Berlin OA Declaration again.

We need a diverse system that can readily adapt to big changes. As the market scales, smaller organizations will get shut out. Is it possible to have an equitable participation in publishing? New models are eliminating many inequities and offer an intriguing bridge to OA. We are far from the end of our journey; OA journals are starting to emerge and are in between what was and what’s next.

Robert Harrington, Associate Executive Director, Publishing, American Mathematical Society (AMS), discussed what is happening in mathematics publishing. AMS exists because it does things for the mathematics community. We are there to stimulate the whole enterprise. Including all voices in math is a priority, and all sectors of the community are important. OA journals are not achieving that end. AMS members are given a waiver of APCs in AMS journals. Transformative arrangements are taking us in the wrong direction. Some other good models are intriguing but are they sustainable? Are they scalable for everyone? There are no barriers to publishing other than the quality of the work. Our job for the next few years is to develop an equitable OA business model.

Lisa Hinchliffe, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said that everyone is trying to figure out how to move the payments from authors to libraries. Faculty researchers value libraries for their role in buying content. Transformative arrangements are transforming library spending, not publishing. A great thing about them is that they operate equitably across the campus. There is an increased equity in those agreements. The only goal that gold OA journals have is a waiver of publishing fees. Campuses have purchasing departments, so is a library the right organization to purchase journals? Nationalism is emerging; the EU is concerned about knowledge exchange: “if you agree with us, we will share data with you”.

Angela Cochran, VP, Publishing, American Society of Clinical Oncology, noted that we require many services to publish. We have seen big changes in our infrastructures and core vendors; smaller companies are being published by larger ones. Do we want to be paying our competitors, even though they say they will respect firewalls? Does it matter if your main competitors are now owned by a big publisher? Many society publishers are going over to commercial publishers. We have seen consolidation with small publishers being bought by others. What happens to innovation?  New technologies have been publishers, which could be great. Smaller societies are being deleted from their publisher agreements and have nowhere to go, so what will happen to their content? 

Lettie Conrad, Senior Associate, Product R&D, Maverick Publishing Specialists, noted that equity has been very strong in the information space. Exclusions are easy when we are not following the status quo. When we design tools in our own world, we are guaranteed that someone will be left out. Not questioning principles is a path to biases. Mindfulness will bring a level of intellectual humility to what we do. Slow down enough to listen to the experiences around you. If we bring mindfulness to our work, we are widening our lens of inclusion and will become more innovative. Cycles of exclusion are easy to miss. We are often leaving some people out by not being mindful. If we have a more diverse employee base, we will make more money. 


Which infrastructure should be open? We are not there yet with open data. We find ourselves policing the open environment. The infrastructure cannot get compliance from the authors. Open does not have to be separate from commercial.  We still have a little ways to go to make services more practical. 

It would be painful if there was more than one DOI system or ORCID identifier. Is there still a role for intermediaries? Can we remain independent and still build to scale? A transformative deal does not work if you do not scale. We are seeing a shift where the structure of a contract is negotiated with a consortium, and then individual libraries also negotiate their own agreements. 

How aware are faculty when deals are made? Are they happy with them? Most faculty members do not know what is happening with libraries and publishers. Once the agreements are in place, there is a heavy educational burden placed on the faculty who must decide who should be the corresponding author, and make sure they use their .edu email address so readers will know where they are from, etc. Many faculty members do not want to consider this at that point; they just want to be done with the project and move on to something else. 


The 2023 meeting of SSP is scheduled for May 31 – June 2 in Portland, OR.

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. 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 50 years.


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