What would you say to Elsevier?
In a week or so’s time I have been invited to speak as part of a forward planning exercise at Elsevier. To some this may seem like an opportunity to go in for an all guns blazing OA rant or perhaps to plant some incendiary device but I see it more as opportunity to nudge, perhaps cajole, a big player in the area of scholarly publishing in the right direction. After all if we are right about the efficiency gains for authors and readers that will be created by Open Access publication and we are right about the way that web based systems utterly changes the rules of scholarly communication then even an organization of the size of Elsevier has to adapt or wither away. Persuading them to move in right direction because it is in their own interests would be an effective way of speeding up the process of positive change.
My plan is to focus less on the arguments for making more research output Open Access and more on what happens as a greater proportion of those outputs become freely available, something that I see as increasingly inevitable. Where that proportion may finally be is anyone’s guess but it is going to be a much bigger proportion than it is now. What will authors and funders want and need from their publication infrastructure and what are the business opportunities that arise from those. For me these fall into four main themes:
- Tracking via aggregation. Funders and institutions want more and more to track the outputs of their research investment. Providing tools and functionality that will enable them to automatically aggregate and slice and dice these outputs is a big business opportunity. The data themselves will be free but providing it in the form that people need it rapidly and effectively will add value that they will be prepared to pay for.
- Speed to publish as a market differentiator. Authors will want their content out and available and being acted on fast. Speed to publication is potentially the biggest remaining area for competition between journals. This is important because there will almost certainly be less journals with greater “quality” or “brand” differentiation. There is a plausible future in which there are only two journals, Nature and PLoS ONE.
- Data publication, serving, and archival. There may be less journals but there will be much greater diversity of materials being published through a larger number of mechanisms. There are massive opportunities in providing high quality infrastructure and services to funders and institutions to aggregate, publish, and archive the full set of research outputs. I intend to draw heavily on Dorothea Salo‘s wonderful slideset on data publication for this part.
- Social search. Literature searching is the main area where there are plausible efficiency gains to be made in the current scholarly publications cycle. According to the Research Information Network‘s model of costs search accounts for a very significant proportion of the non-research costs of publishing. Building the personal networks (Bill Hooker‘s, Distributed Wetware Online Information Filter [down in the comments] or DWOIF) that make this feasible may well be the new research skill of the 21st century. Tools that make this work effectively are going to be very popular. What will they look like?
But what have I missed? What (constructive!) ideas and thoughts would you want to place in the minds of the people thinking about where to take one of the world’s largest scholarly publication companies and its online information and collaboration infrastructure.?
Full disclosure: Part of the reason for writing this post is to disclose publicly that I am doing this gig. Elsevier are covering my travel and accommodation costs but are not paying any fee.