Virtual event delivers real-world interaction

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There was high praise for the fourth iteration of CISPC – this year held in an entirely digital format

More than 120 delegates from an array of institutions and countries around the world joined the organisers of CISPC for the first virtual version of the event.

Despite the pandemic – and a busy industry calendar in terms of the number of events on offer in late autumn – CISPC attracted not only a pleasing array of delegates but also an intriguing, international set of presentations and lightning talks, a series of virtual workshops, and a rousing panel discussion to round off proceedings.

The speakers were:

  • Rachel Bruce, head of open science, UKRI;
  • Martin Jagerhorn, FAIR Funder Workflow;
  • Tom Jakobs, National Research Fund Luxembourg;
  • Michelle Urberg, Maverick Publishing;
  • Liz Bal, director of open research services, Jisc;
  • Phil Gooch, Scholarly;
  • Steve Carlton, University of Manchester;
  • Anita Schjøll Brede, Iris.ai;
  • Alenka Prinçiç and Frederique Belliard, Technical University of Delft;
  • Ian Bruno, Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre;
  • Danielle Apfelbaum, Farmingdale State College, New York; and
  • Barbie Keiser, president at Barbie Keiser Inc.

The event as held over two days, with short, snappy 20-minute sessions that ran pretty-much like clockwork thanks to the team at partner organisation Info International.

Host Tim Gillett said: ‘Naturally, having never organised a digital event before, we were somewhat nervous about how the event would pan out. In fact, it worked an absolute treat and Imagine we will consider delivering at least part of any future CISPC events digitally.

’Of course there were a few teething problems at the outset, but by the time the first presentation started we were into the swing of things, and delegates quickly worked out their way around the online system, ReAttendance.

‘Our speakers were able to replicate the feeling of a live, in-person presentation, with the opportunity for questions-and-answer sessions at the end of each morning and afternoon.

‘Of course, it also gave our delegates the chance to dip in and out of sessions, press the pause button, and watch sessions at their leisure if they were not able to catch them live. All in all we were delighted with how it went.’

There was high praise from delegates as well.

One wrote: ‘Just to say that it was the first time I’d attended this event - really enjoyed it and would attend again. The programme was great, the sessions were just the right length and (once I’d figured out the platform) online delivery worked.’

Another said: ‘Don’t change anything! I applaud the successful use of the virtual platform. It worked really well, especially considering it was likely the first time most of us have organised or attended a conference in this way.’

One delegate was full of praise for the sessions on technology and artificial intelligence, describing them as ‘inspiring’; while another described CISPC overall as a ‘beautiful and inspirational event’. High praise indeed, and the organisers were delighted at the number of delegates who attended CISPC 2020 after having signed up to the event in previous years.

There were, in particular, many compliments for workshop sessions on ‘Libraries in a Covid World’ on the Monday afternoon, and a closing panel discussion on Tuesday (report opposite), for which moderators Helen Clare and Tasha Mellins-Cohen deserve the highest praise.

All hail the sponsors!

CISPC is reliant on sponsorship in order to remain viable, and the organisers were delighted to have attracted support from no less than seven industry organisations representing different areas of scholarly communications.

The sponsors for CISPC 2020 were: ISSN, Royal Society of Chemistry; Clarivate Analytics, Digital Science, MyScienceWork, EBSCO and the Company of Biologists. Our media partner was the European Database of Libraries, and CISPC 2020 was organised in partnership with Info International. Many thanks to them all!

 

Open to discussion

After two days of CISPC 2020, the event closed with a panel talk rounding up the main themes. Here are some of the questions posed by moderator Tasha Mellins-Cohen  – and a selection of the panellists’ comments

How would you like to see scholarly communications bodies work together to create an ecosystem that works for everybody?

Alenka Prinçiç, TU Delft: This is a really complex question, and it will take time. Looking at the funding situation in the EU, with the funds that are available there are geographical limitations to openness, which is actually contradictory to what we are trying to achieve. We are missing chances to increase collaboration – how can we engage Asia, Africa, and bridge the gap to emerging countries? Citizen science is certainly something that can help to bridge the gap, but we need to practice what we preach a little more in terms of inclusivity. However, I believe that the younger generation are already there in many ways, and we just need to support them in that.

Rachel Bruce, UKRI: We have as set of aligned policies emerging quite strongly in the global north, but perhaps they don’t really fit in with other environments. We commissioned research into developing countries to enable us to develop our policies an d perspectives, and it was fascinating to look at the results of that. You are to a certain extent limited in terms of levers, but perhaps certain conditions around policies should be less stringent or more open. We need to look at different solutions around the world, such as the Diamond OA model in South America, and learn from them. But developing policies that apply around the world, and taken into account different situations around the world, is a very complex matter!

Barbie Keiser, Barbie Keiser Inc: 'Merely paying lip service to the Global South isn’t going to work. If we were to include local institutions, researchers, and particularly local publishers at the start of the conversation, we would have a much better product in the end.

We’ve heard a lot over the last couple of days about FAIR data, open data, and there have been frequent acknowledgements that researchers need to understand whether the data is trustworthy or useful. How would you like to see open methodologies embraced within your fields?

Ian Bruno, Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre: 'Thinking about this across the whole research cycle, I’ll make three points. As the start, when data starts to be generated, systems need to put in place to ensure that the right things are being captured at the time they are generated. We need to make it easy for that to happen. It’s also getting researchers to think about when they have data, that should deposit it somewhere and perhaps publish it, even if it’s under embargo. There’s an interesting role, at the point at which something is going to go public, about enforcing editorial standards – publishers need to be explicit and researchers need to work to those standards.

How would you go about dealing with the recent explosion in different types of content and bringing all the different aspects of research back together?

Phil Gooch, Scholarcy: In some ways we are doing it in reverse, by taking an entire article and deconstructing it. There are some new platforms that encourage people to write in a more modular way, such as publishing the methods section as an object, writing a literature review separately. The challenge is getting authors to think that way; you don’t write papers in the order that it appears at the end. In humanities the research output is the scholarship, so it’s hard to split something like that into different chunks that you can write and publish separately. But from a technology angle its very interesting and there is a lot of value in making different parts of research available individually.

Michelle Urberg, Maverick Consulting: If we could decouple our dataset from our writing, that would be fabulous. Phil’s right, the writing is the object; the book is still the hallmark in terms of humanities publishing, but there is a lot of work behind the scenes and none of that is valued. If credit could be given to that work, and it could be organised in a way that makes whatever you are studying more accessible, I am all for that. Let’s start the revolution!

Danielle Apfelbaum, Farmingdale State College: You need to bring a community with you when implementing an OA policy or trying to change the research cycle, it’s just a question of figuring out what that incentive should be. What speaks to people, what brings them along – it’s definitely not the same in every community.

Martin Jagerhorn, FAIR Funder Workflow: We have to look at things in context. We shouldn’t be trying to drive things from the top-down, there are a lot of forces in place: the publishers want to retain their revenue and have a sustainable way forward, not every country wants to go along with Plan S – a fact that we cannot neglect. From a technical point of view we are trying to see that if we want to reduce unnecessary costs and the friction that we have in the whole system, then we quickly get into technical areas like PIDs, and establishing where possible standards that work across the industry – things that are essential but unfortunately are still some way away.

Has Covid changed your strategic planning?

Ian Bruno: A lot of the market that we serve is the pharma sector, which is exactly who you turn to in a pandemic, so in terms of that there is still a lot of value in our services. We are being cautious because we are still not sure the longer-term economic impact; of course we perceive that there will be some vulnerability in academic circles. We’ll do what we can to make sure people have access to the data that they need.

Alenka Prinçiç: We launched a new roadmap and an open science programme in 2019/20. In terms of what we want to achieve over the next four of five years not much has changed, but of course our priorities and some of the outcomes have changed a lot. There have also been some delays. Of course we are offering more services online, and many of our services have been strengthened - and our endeavours towards open science have been accelerated.

Phil Gooch: With respect to your earlier question about the Global South, maybe as a result of the pandemic there’s more of a desire forepeople to learn more about science and research in general; we’ve seen a lot more interest from students and researchers in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. It has made us realise that a large part of our market is going to be in these regions, and less in Europe and the UK.

Rachel Bruce: As a funder, we have been monitoring activity in terms of impacts across the innovation sector and the research sector, negotiating funds and rescue packages, looking at ways in which we can pivot our research funding, extend grant funding timelines, and trying to look collaboratively and in an agile manner across interdisciplinary research. We’ll be looking at ways in which we can continue to gather data and information, and tracking the impact on productivity of different groups researchers, and what that means in the longer term. We will also be looking at the lessons learned – in terms of the positives and negatives – of the last year.

Martin Jagerhorn: Due to Covid, a lot of people have tuned to preprint archives and I think going forward this will have a big impression.
Publishers have also realised that they are going to need to have a stronger digital transformation, and obviously move more towards open access.
We are also seeing from the universities that we are working with that they are facing budget cuts and are no longer going to be able to pay staff too do a lot of the manual work around open access and administering article processing charges. This will be a chance to institutions to see if they can work more cost-efficiently.

Danielle Apfelbaum: As an academic librarian, on our campus the biggest impact has been the limitation in terms of access to physical materials, as well as the fact that our budget is completely frozen – for nobody knows how long, at this point! It has been tough but in terms of our strategic planning it has allowed us to double down.

'The situation has brought visibility to many of the things we were already doing, such as educating our campus about open access, and openly-licensed materials.
It has forced many of our faculty members and instructors to really think about how the production and dissemination of different materials impact how are able to acquire them or not acquire them. It has opened up a dialogue about things that open access has the potential to solve.'

Reigning Cats and Dogs

A chief consequence of the pandemic on industry events has been the move to online conferencing, and all the associated issues it throws up.

CISPC 2020 was no different, with a couple of small technical hiccups that passed off without any long-lasting trauma, a presenter’s child walking past her computer while playing a recorder, a loud public announcement during a presentation from a university in the Netherlands – and a pet invasion that nearly brought chaos to the end of day one during a workshop feedback session.

At the precise moment conference host Tim Gillett uttered the words: ’That brings us to the end of the first day,’ Helen Clare’s seven-year-old tortoiseshell cat Trixie slinked onto her desk, while just seconds later fellow moderator Kirsty Merrett’s German Shepherd Dog Chachi followed suit and barged her way into shot – causing hilarity among the rest of the panel: Tasha Mellins-Cohen, Ian Bruno, Faye Holst and Lou Peck.

‘They know it’s time to go,’ quipped Kirsty. ‘They are saying goodbye – hurray!’

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