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Academia on the rise at Olympia

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London Book Fair had an extra focus on academic publishing this year. Here, we report on some of the highlights from Olympia

London Book Fair’s events have not traditionally catered much for the scholarly publishing community, but that changed in 2015 with the launch of the Research and Scholarly Publishing Forum, says Suzanne Kavanagh. Access All Areas: Global Trends in Research and Scholarly Publishing was a seminar coordinated by the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers, the Publishers Association and LBF.

What happens to academic and scholarly publishing when digital removes physical barriers? Fred Fenter from Frontiers, Phill Jones from Digital Science and Tahir Mansoori from Colwiz considered how researchers use technology and are inclined to disseminating research output themselves.

The scale of emerging research markets was highlighted in sessions on understanding the cultures involved and the drivers of research output. Sanjiv Goswami from Springer India said a projected 46 million students by 2020 will mean an additional 800 universities and 35,000 more colleges. In an overview on the Gulf states, Jill Hawthorne from Wiley articulated the transition to a knowledge economy.

Caitlin Meadows from Charlesworth Group outlined how R&D spending in China is starting to outstrip that in North America. This was reinforced by Gu Bin from Zhonghua Book Company, who described a large regional market with steady growth.

Jonathan Adams from Digital Science spoke of a fourth age in international research networks, where research as an individual remains but where the structure of success has evolved. Different approaches to funding make life difficult in an age of international collaboration, as described by Glenn Swafford from the Association of Research Managers and Administrators.

Toby Green from OECD and Alicia Wise from Elsevier pointed out that international collaboration will be key in the future. The Research and Scholarly Forum is one small part of sharing ideas to make that happen.

Victoriano Colodrón spoke on ‘the copyright conundrum’, where copyright is under pressure due to accusations of restraining access to knowledge and stifling creativity. He argued that, in fact, copyright stimulates innovation; it is a fundamental driver of creativity that enables consumers to benefit.

He said: ‘Today the publishing industry confronts a pervasive puzzle. Copying and sharing content is second nature for anyone with an electronic device, and most of today’s consumers of content give little thought to the implications of their sharing.

‘With our increased ability to access a wealth of information and knowledge comes the responsibility to honour the system of permissions, protections, and balances we call copyright. This remunerates creators; it supports and promotes innovation, creativity, and access to knowledge.’

Colodrón challenged the assumption that copyright law hampers innovation and asserted that instead it fuels creativity and innovation: ‘As Adam Mossoff wrote in a paper for George Mason University School of Law, “publishers exemplify the benefits of copyright by successfully investing hundreds of millions of dollars in distribution mechanisms that disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed, reliable research to researchers”.’

Publishers also met to discuss their roles and responsibilities as members of the wider academic community, reports Amy Bourke. With wide uptake in open access both start-ups and traditional publishers, panellists were asked: what next? Where should publishers go from here, and what are the trends to watch? In terms of new markets, publishers are still focused on China, India and Brazil, said Michael Cairns, CEO of Publishing Technology, who noted growth in South Africa, Mexico, Pakistan and Chile.

‘Don’t be fooled by buzzwords, or business claiming to be disruptive’ said Steven Scott, head of research tools at Digital Science.

‘True innovation will take place via evolution,’ he added, highlighting micro-payments as a possible revenue stream for publishers. Steven Inchcoombe, managing director of Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan agreed, citing NPG’s porous paywall as one example, adding that the industry will increasingly see publishers recognising their weaknesses and partnering with start-ups to close the gaps and deficiencies in their workflows, or to help them innovate faster.

Martin Wolf of University of Liverpool Library predicted that librarians would be increasingly involved in the administration of open-access payments, and that publishers mustn’t be afraid of encouraging green open access, as he doubted any library would cancel their subscriptions if the author had to comply with an embargo period. However, he also said that open access had made librarians’ jobs, and the publishing process, increasingly complicated.

There was consensus that open access, open data and open code would continue to present challenges for the academic community, but Inchcoombe warned that we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of open access; to improve scientific communication and research.

About the authors

Suzanne Kavanagh is director of marketing and membership services at ALPSP

Victoriano Colodrón is senior director for international relations at Copyright Clearance Center

Amy Bourke is corporate communications manager at Nature Publishing Group