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SSP 2023 Day Two

by | Jun 6, 2023 | 0 comments

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by Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Hub

The Society for Scholarly Publishing’s 45th annual meeting took place May 31 – June 2 in Portland, OR. See the report on Day One here. There’s so much great content from Thursday – this is an extra long post but it’s well worth it!

Thursday, June 1:

The first full day of the meeting started with a plenary panel titled “The Evolving Knowledge Ecosystem,” moderated by Roger Schonfeld (ITHAKA S+R), with 4 panelists: Amy Brand (MIT Press), Gregg Gordon (SSRN/Elsevier), Julia Kostova (Frontiers), and Nandita Quaderi (Clarivate/Web of Science).

Miranda Walker (at podium), Roger Schonfeld, Amy Brand, Gregg Gordon, Julia Kostova, and Nandita Quaderi (seated left to right).

Following a welcome from SSP President Miranda Walker and a message from Othman Altlieb of Morressier, session sponsors, the panel opened with an introduction from the moderator, followed by four questions:

RS: What is the purpose of scholarly publishing?

AB: Academic publishing is a core part of the academic ecosystem in a number of different ways – providing services and information back to academic community, not just in terms of delivering research content but integral to the scholarly ecosystem

GG: A broader contribution to knowledge in general. Opportunity for arguing, for discourse. Challenging of ideas, opportunity to build on the knowledge of others.

JK: Beyond supporting career advancement for researchers, one of the core purposes is validating and disseminating knowledge. Frontier’s Mission – healthy lives on a healthy planet – making knowledge open to support that mission. We can respond best to manage crises with widespread sharing of knowledge at scale. New and exciting mandate.

NQ: Publishers are curators, decide what goes into the scholarly record, quality control, what’s excluded from the scholarly record. This responsibility is getting harder and harder, so we need an additional layer, like Web of Science.

RS: Of all of the strange things that have happened in the last several years, we’ve seen this sector emerge as a vehicle for research fraud. Elizabeth Bik spoke yesterday on some of the particular dynamics of how scholarly publishing has become a vector for misconduct. At the most basic level, publishers are responsible for what they publish, a shared responsibility we all should feel. Beyond what’s already being done today, what more should your organizations be doing to address research integrity?

NQ: Echoing what Elizabeth said yesterday, this is a multi stakeholder problem. 3 levels of intervention – remove the perverse incentives, over reliance on bibliometrics, and quantity over quality. We need additional measures to block bad content from entering the record, clean up the existing record, reduce further pollution. Only 15% of journals that apply make it into the Web of Science, and journals are reviewed and evaluated to determine whether they stay in. Investing in AI tools to be more proactive. Need to become more transparent – we are now publishing a monthly update with lists of journals added, journals delisted, why they were delisted. When a publisher retracts an article, we don’t remove from WoS, we flag it as retracted. There’s room for efficiencies and improvements.

AB: Standards and practices – top down ways of creating filters and best practices. How do we build in through our metadata, practices, machine level tracking of Taxonomy of accountability?

GG: Balancing act starts at the grassroots level. We are all our own editors. Spend 5 minutes to figure out whether what you’re reading is trustworthy. Not just because it has a bunch of downloads, take some responsibility to find out whether you should believe it. Don’t just wait for the publishers to solve it. (AB asked if there was time for rebuttal on this point, RS asked to wait until after JK’s response to the question.)

JK: Fraudulent behavior that erodes trust are issues the entire industry is grappling with. Wide range of responses from multiple stakeholders, not just publishers. We as publishers need to set the highest possible standards to be sure what we publish is top notch. Requires investment in tools, infrastructure. Trust in science – how we collectively make sense of new knowledge. Mistrust – sometimes manufactured doubts.

AB: Gregg’s comments about taking 5 minutes to review doesn’t scale with respect to preprints. All of us have different levels of expertise and don’t have enough expertise to do that and don’t have enough time in the day. We will always be relying on other signals for trust.

GG: I’m a big fan of preprints, not saying we should trust a preprint just because it’s been shared. The process of sharing knowledge needs to get faster. What I am saying is that I don’t think it’s fair for any of us to depend on some external source to be responsible or all of the trust in science. We all need to own some level of individual responsibility in the process.

RS: I’ve spoken recently with some analysts who said that any publishers with less that $50-100 million in publishing revenues will struggle with remaining independent in the long run. What are the consequences? How do you see the landscape with consolidation to 5 or 10 or 15 major publishing houses?

AB: We’re going to see more ongoing consolidation in the industry, but those of us who work with more mission driven organizations need to build hedges against it. Unintentional but unholy alliances between big publishers and their profits and the stronger voices in the OA movement that call for “Open at Any Cost.” Incentivizing quantity over quality, my biggest concern – campaign for more institutional investment for bibliodiversity. Exacerbated by LLMs, but even putting that aside not all the data being made available through OA. Become content fodder for other tools and platforms for sale. Need to be really careful and discerning about what’s going on.

GG: Elsevier’s been grown in part through acquisitions. Don’t disagree with anything Amy said. Elsevier is successfully run by a bunch of smart people, its objective is to be a profitable company so it can continue to support science and do all the things it does. The industry we’re in is really hard and it’s really expensive. The amount of money that Elsevier spends to combat fake papers would bankrupt a smaller company.

JK: The purpose of publishing is to disseminate research widely and openly Competition spurs innovation, it prevents the incumbents from becoming complacent and losing focus of the needs of their customers and authors. Important piece in a competitive landscape all publishers need to maintain high level of quality. Consolidation on the scale you’re talking about would prevent that.

NQ: Interesting point – look at how consolidation has ended up concentrating content from the biggest publishers at the journal level vs the article level. Top 5 publishers contribute 42% of journals in the Web of Science, and the top 10 publishers have 51%. If you look at the article level, top 5 have 54% of content and the top 10 a whopping 67% content come through the big publishers. Unit of value has shifted from journal level to article level.

RS: Final question – living through a mania about generative AI. Just because it’s a mania doens’t mean it won’t have effects on the industry. We’ve long been seeing a transition to machine communication. What is your organizations’ strategy for enabling machine to machine communication. What opportunities do you see?

GG: I see it as more of a spike that you do Roger. We have no idea how much generative AI is going to affect our jobs, too early to tell.

AB: There’s no way that a modest-sized UP will be on the cutting edge, but we are one of the leading publishers on AI and we’re doing a lot of publishing in this area. Work with the UP community on developing best practices, requiring authors to disclose the use of AI. Less concerned about AI writing that the effect on public trust and perceptions.

JK: Too early in the game to draw meaningful conclusions. Working to facilitate discussions and discourse around it. Pragmatic angle – tech has the potential to be transformative. Not just glorified search.

NQ: Increasingly seeing journal output that’s designed to be machine readable and the atomization of the journal into discrete parts. Less serendipitous human reading. As the range of publishing outputs evolves, we’re trying to evolve our indexing and data with a preprint index.


Charleston Trendspotting: Forecasting the Future of Trust and Transparency (Lisa Hinchliffe, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Leah Hinds, Charleston Hub)

This was the sixth iteration of the Charleston Trendspotting Initiative, which is designed to offer a chance to proactively examine trends and issues facing the library and scholarly communications world. I opened the session with some background, context, and the session agenda, and Lisa Hinchliffe defined what we mean by “Futures Thinking” and gave instructions for the Futures Wheel small group activity.

Lisa Hinchliffe (L) and Leah Hinds (R)

There were 8 round tables with large sheets of paper, colorful post-it notes, and colored markers for the group activity. After Lisa explained the activity using the steps above, the following trends/topics or events were chosen:

  • Open is the “Destination”
  • Increasingly Challenging Peer Review Process
  • Increase in Content Submitted in Journals
  • Degrading Trust in Research Integrity
  • AI (x2)
  • LLM’s Enable AI Authorship
  • Increase in Co-Authorship Over Time

The groups each selected one person to report back to the room. Lisa then closed the session by thanking everyone who participated, and inviting them to attend the next session at the 2023 Charleston Conference.


One session that I wasn’t able to attend, but had a tremendous amount of buzz (pun intended), was Metadata! The Musical: The Tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper, created by Heather Staines (Delta Think) and a huge cast of inset characters. “What better way to highlight the significance of metadata than to transform songs from classics to pop to Broadway musicals into witty highlights on the value of metadata, PIDs, and standards. Borrowing a rough plot from the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, our creative cast will not only entertain you, but will raise awareness of key issues that metadata can or should solve, like author name disambiguation, consistent taxonomies for language, and persistent identifiers. Our determined ant researcher will restore order to the chaos of research output through her re-discovery of ancient “hoo-man” information science. This mini-musical, brought to you by a cast including researchers, vendors, publishers, and librarians, will be followed by an expert roundtable that will connect our drama back to metadata challenges that when solved will make the world a better place for humanity (and insects)!” This is one I definitely want to check out the recording on the app later!

Photo by Jennifer Gilbreath in the Whova app

The Poster Sessions were well attended, and there were several time slots available to ask questions of the presenters in addition to watching the videos online through the app. There was also a poster competition with voting on a range of metrics to select the best poster presentation. The winner was titled “Building and Maintaining an Open Editorial Board” by Adrianna Borgia, Managing Director of American Society for Microbiology.

Poster Sessions

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