Lessons learnt

Next up to the 1:AM conference stage were Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director at PLOS, and Geoff Bilder, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Crossref. Contemplating the question ‘What have we learnt’, the one thing they could come up with for sure was the sage advice: “Don’t eat paste” (it never ends well).

The session moved on into an overarching review of the academic publishing industry as it exists today. Of particular focus was the way that infrastructure is developed, built, and ownership established. Neylon and Bilder discussed the challenges involved in having the time, money and motivation to dedicate to building sustainable, open services that can be used across all platforms and all publishers – and contemplated what principles should or could be put in place to ensure their success.

They commented on the importance of these structures to transcend boundaries – across disciplines, countries and institutions – and suggested that embarking on such endeavours requires what they have affectionately termed the ‘Hotel California clause’ – whereby you can get in but not leave!

All of this requires an immense amount of buy-in from the rest of the community – and it is they who should perhaps drive the majority of the progress:

The speakers noted that in order for such resources to be truly integrated they demand not only the support but also the defence of the wider audience:

There was a general consensus that publishers, funders, institutions and researchers need to stop blaming each other and work together to create trust and an open environment in which data can be shared and enriched – although an acknowledgement that engaging stakeholders across those groups would in itself not be easy.

Neylon went on to further discuss how the responsibility of the development of such tools tends to fall to industry – these are projects that require money and innovation which are not always available in an open community.

Already, Neylon suggested, the development of altmetrics are starting to mimic the cycle events that led to the private ownership (on the part of Thomson Reuters) of the Impact Factor:

The hurdles (particularly costs) involved in the collation of data to build the necessary structures are a major blocker at the moment – is there a possibility that a structure could be put in place to better support that?

And an issue often faced by commercial and other organisations alike – how do you ensure that the work you are doing is consistently tying in to your mission? And how do you plan for and know when you have achieved that mission?

Sustainability was the buzz word for the session. Both speakers reiterated the point that these services need to be robust and built to adapt. Using time-limited funds for development of core infrastructure is a very risky way of doing things if we are to ensure its continued existence – and mission driven organisations need to avoid becoming self-serving, and equally:

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