Next week is the beginning of Freshers’ Week, I beg your pardon, ‘Welcome week’ at Edinburgh University and the students are already pouring in. Today the ALPSP conference kicks off in London (#ALPSP15), followed by the SSP fall seminars, the Frankfurt STM conference and Book Fair are not too far away as well as a host of other great conferences and events. In the meantime, the SSP conference planning committee is getting underway and plans for this year’s STM tech trends brainstorm will be kicking off soon. There’s a definite sense that the silly season is over and it’s time to get back to work and have some new and original discussions.

So what does this conference season have in store? I certainly can’t speak for everybody, but here are some of the things that I’d like to talk more about this season.

Research Assessment

The roles of publishers and librarians are overlapping more and more, at the same time, the needs of researchers are evolving because funder expectations are changing. In the future, researchers are going to need more support tracking and collating the impact of their work, not just within academia, but on society in general. I think that we’re going to be getting more input from people who work in informetrics, like Diana Hicks and Paul Wouters of Leiden University who co-authored the Leiden manifesto along with three other researchers based at Leiden University.

The question that we have to ask is how do we, as a society measure that impact in a way that is both fair to researchers and maximizes the benefit to society, and what must we do as both publishers and librarians to facilitate that assessment and support researchers so that they can spend more time doing their actual work. The idea of reputation management is a somewhat related topic. The desire or otherwise of researchers to manage their online personas and maximize their personal impact is something that we may be hearing more about.

Quality Control and Ethics

The debate around predatory publishing has matured in recent weeks. Even before the recent inflammatory post by Jeffrey Beall that compared SciELO to a favela, Rick Anderson raised his concerns that the label of predatory publishers is too binary and that a deeper understanding of quality control issues and ethics in scholarly communication is needed. Publishing has until recently been fairly self-policed, but at this point, diversification of business models has led to a proliferation of new entrants to the marketplace. This is good because it encourages innovation, but brings new challenges.

Donald Samulack of Editage has been giving a series of talks about the scholarly communication landscape in the developing world, particularly in China, where he outlines some of the challenges that researchers face and the conditions that make it ripe for exploitation by disreputable companies. Samulack recently announced an initiative aimed at tackling the problems of quality control, ethics and predation from an international perspective. Meanwhile, on the Scholarly Kitchen Blog, some of the liveliest discussion sections of the summer have been about this issue, here and here. I imagine that the major professional societies and associations, as well as organizations like COPE, ICMJE and even ORCID might end up playing a part in this.

Redefining Engagement

We’re coming to the end of a period in publishing platform design and innovation that was intended to keep users on platforms for longer. The idea of making a platform ‘sticky’ is heading out of vogue as new concepts of researcher engagement emerge.

Last year, David Burgoyne of Taylor and Francis made the point to me that the most successful website in the world built its fame on sending people elsewhere. The example of Google goes to show that it’s better to give end users what they need so that they will return, rather than maximizing the time that they spend on your site each time they visit. In other words, if the reader feels like the proverbial rat in a maze, they’re going to want to look for alternative places to source content.

Workflow tools are going to be key to the new strategies. As Micheal Clark pointed out in his round-up of the SSP conference, there are a number of companies working on collaborative authorship tools that promise to enhance the flow of information from author to author and from authors to publishers, as well as helping publishers connect with authors earlier in the process. Publishing is becoming an increasingly author-centric world, but readers remain important. Publisher’s still struggle to keep contact with readers once they have downloaded the PDF and saved it to their own hard drive. The readership side of the engagement problem isn’t new, but across the industry, people are still working on it because it’s important. Do we make the HMTL version more attractive, to tempt people to stay on platform, like Wiley’s Anywhere Article or Elsevier’s Article of the Future, or do we try to find a way to connect with readers downstream by merging the online and offline experiences.

What have you been thinking about?

Those are just three things that I’ve been thinking about over the summer. I’d be very interested to hear what’s on everybody else’s mind. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think the big story will be this conference season.