Please can we have some more?

Please can we have some more?

A few months ago, I had the honour of joining the planning committee for the new Researcher to Reader conference that will be held for the first time this year in London on the 15th and 16th of February. I’m very much looking forward to the conference because I think it will fill a gap in the conversation surrounding scholarly communication.

I began this blog almost a year ago because I’m interested in the kinds of discussions that bring publishers, librarians and researchers together. Particularly, I think we need to talk about common problems and address misconceptions and misunderstandings. As I wrote in my opening post:

…there are a lot of people out there on all sides that want to break down the walls of their respective echo-chambers and get to know each other a little better.

Based on the programme, Researcher to Reader feels like exactly that sort of discussion.

One panel that caught my eye is happening on the first day. It’s called ‘Show me the Money’ and is about the financial implications of Open Access, a topic that is in sore need of rational discussion. The panel brings together Paul Harwood of EBSCO, Rick Anderson who is associate Dean at the University of Utah Library and contributor to this blog, Toby Green of OECD, and Stephen Hall of IOP who will both represent publishers. Critically, there will also be James Evans, who’s a professor at University of Chicago and Danny Kingsley of University of Cambridge who works in research management and brings an institutional administration viewpoint.

The inclusion of those last two voices is what I find so encouraging. It’s unusual to see academics included so centrally in discussions of publishing outside of meet the researcher panels like the one I myself organised at the Frankfurt STM conference in 2014. Those sorts of panels are very useful but they are inevitably limited in scope.

Along those lines, I’m very much looking forward to Evans’ presentation on the second day ‘Considering the Sociology of Research’. I’ve written in the past about how I believe researchers behave and think. As I mentioned in that post, conversations between publishers and researchers are tricky because they’re coloured by assumptions that both sides bring to the discussion. You really have to dive deeper into what researchers are saying to understand the frustrations that lie beneath the apparent straightforward desire to publish in high impact journals.

Researcher to Reader is a re-launched conference, thanks to the efforts of the conference committee chair, Mark Carden, of Mosaic Executive Search. It follows on from the Association for Subscription Agents annual meeting. Last year’s conference happened while the dust was still settling from the SWETS collapse and before the ASA itself closed its doors. I have to say, I was personally concerned about the way that some attendees at the conference seemed to want to go back to a pre-internet age and have their traditional business models be as profitable as they once were. In contrast, many of the speakers were urging adaptation to the new market realities. Derk Haank, CEO of Springer was the keynote and was particularly strident in urging subscription agents to find a way to stay in business as he put it.

With a fresh start and a new perspective, I’m confident that the conference will live up to its promise to bring together members of the research, library and publishing community and span the complete workflow of creating, validating, publishing, supplying, finding, consuming and storing research information. That conversation isn’t really fully happening anywhere else and is absolutely necessary if we’re going to improve the way that research is communicated in a sustainable way.

To the conference organisers of the world I say, more like this, please.