Last week Timo Hannay, Managing Director of Digital Science, took part in a panel discussion at Frankfurt Book Fair. Titled, ‘What is a publisher now? Opportunities for the post-Open Access era.’ There was a wide-ranging discussion about the impact on scholarly publishing of the open access movement and other related developments. The discussion was structured around four main topics:

  • What next for venerable journal brands?
  • What happens when authors become customers?
  • Publishers as analytics businesses.
  • Content discovery in an open access world.

What next for venerable journal brands?

During the panel, Timo explained that journal brands are continuously evolving. As an example, the journal Nature doesn’t represent the same thing now as it did back in 1869 when its first edition was published. Nature Publishing Group, as well as publishing Nature, has successfully launched many new journal series, including more specialist titles and review journals. Originally people thought that these might compromise the strong Nature brand, but in practice they have only added to its strength. Timo emphasised that there is huge potential in the current research landscape to develop new brands and franchises. Digital Science’s growth within the scientific software space is a case in point.

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What happens when authors become customers?

In the post-open access landscape there has been a shift from readers as customers to authors as customers. Timo argued that researchers should welcome this change because it gives them increased economic power – authors can exercise greater choice between journals than readers can. In the long run this will force publishers to provide a better service to researchers. Timo also pointed out that the current poor author experience offered by most journals is a challenge but also a huge opportunity for innovators in this area.

Publishers as analytics businesses.

Timo discussed our own Altmetric.com as an example of an analytics business in the publishing space. Altmetrics is a nascent field but there are opportunities to provide valuable article-level data, broader indicators of research impact, improved discovery of content for researchers and greater public engagement with research.

Content discovery in a post-open access world.

The issue of research discovery is an extremely important one and so far there has been no comprehensive solution; Timo was clear that there may not be one single answer. A helpful step that journal publishers could take would be to make their subscription content open for text mining in order to facilitate external innovation. Unfortunately there has been little progress on this front despite years of industry discussion about it. From the point of view of software vendors like Digital Science, an important way to approach research discovery is to make sure that discoverability is built into the various tools that researchers use during the course of their work. As an example, Timo said he would love it if Labguru could direct users who are preparing an experiment to similar experimental data already posted on Figshare!

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