Following the successful UK publisher day held in London last year, we decided to take the plunge again – this time with a workshop hosted in Washington DC, only a day before the kickoff of the STM Conference. Our aims for the day were to bring together a varied and informed group of delegates from across academic publishing and to create an environment where everyone could learn from each other through informed discussion and collaboration. The result? A mixture of engaged and enthusiastic editorial, marketing, platform and sales staff from publishers of all sizes ensured that the conversation was diverse and that all were able to benefit from the sharing of various experiences.

The day began with an introduction from Head of Knowledge Discovery at Digital Science, Nicko Goncharoff. Nicko gave a brief history and overview of Digital Science, emphasising that our businesses are founded by researchers, and how we believe that our focus on researchers’ needs helps us connect our publisher customers to their customers, authors and readers. The introduction was followed up by lightning talks from four of the Digital Science portfolio companies; Altmetric, Figshare, ReadCube and Overleaf – who each gave an update on their developments and activities from the last year.

Likely of particular interest to a lot of attendees (we’ll know soon, we’re going to ask them), the rest of the morning was taken up with a series of presentations by several of our publisher partners. The Optical Society of America, Health Affairs, Wiley and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association all took to the stage to share their challenges and goals, motivations, and experiences working with Digital Science products.

The morning wrapped up with a presentation from one of Digital Science’s newer investments – ÜberResearch. Founder Ashlea Higgs introduced those present to the tools that ÜberResearch initially built for funders, but which are of increasing interest to publishers, particularly in areas such a finding expert reviewers, and in forecasting research trends anywhere from the next six months to five-eight years ahead.

During networking time, attendees were invited to contribute and vote on “unconference” workshop style sessions to run through the afternoon, where the attendees propose and vote on what will be discussed. A wide variety of sessions were suggested – from new ways to apply altmetrics internally, to the relevance of books, as well as the concept of “value-add” for authors and readers. In the end we narrowed it down to six, sessions with three running simultaneously in each half hour slot:

Following a series of ten-minute product roadmap updates, in which the portfolio companies shared some of their plans for the year ahead, the delegates broke into small groups to attend the unconference sessions of their choice.

As you’d imagine, after a day full of discussion and presentations, our heads were brimming with ideas; it was great to be able to better understand the challenges that some of our publishing partners face. Some key takeaways for us were:

  • Selling a new idea internally: depending on the audience, internal sales generally focus either on return-on-investment, or “value” in terms of providing services to authors and members, demonstrating innovation. We need to be prepared to help our customers demonstrate both.
  • When it comes to society publishers, one size does not fit all: different communities have very specific motivations and sometimes this means that society publishers find themselves in the middle of conflicting needs between authors and members.  For example, members may feel that their society journal content is a benefit of the fees they pay annually and wouldn’t like to see this made open; however authors published in that journal would very much welcome their articles made as widely available and open as possible.
  • There are many ways to describe “value add”: from publishers doing as much as they can to ensure both a positive end user and author experience, to keeping an eye on the competition to ensure you can always offer a bit more.  What came through clearly is that this concept is always a moving target, and a regular eye on the market, in combination with direct customer interaction via surveys, interviews and focus groups are a must.  With finite resources as publishers, this can be an ongoing challenge.
  • Cloud-based workflows: increasing productivity and easing frustration: While everyone agreed that cloud-based workflows will be a part of the future of publishing – it’s not fully agreed to what extent. Getting everyone on-board across an organization can be tricky (especially IT!). Finding solutions that fit with existing workflows will be an important first step – and making sure those solutions can grow and expand with your requirements will be important.

And what did the delegates think? A few great bits of feedback we’ve had already:

“Thanks so much for a really great conference yesterday. Everything from the venue to speakers to format were informative and interesting. I found the conversations with fellow attendees as the speakers to be very useful. “

“I really enjoyed meeting other publishers of all sizes at the Digital Science Publisher User Day event. I found the presentations interesting and informative, especially hearing real user experiences and having a sneak peek at the portfolio company roadmaps.”

We are already really looking forward to the next one!