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ScholarOne Publishing Software Goes to Thomson Scientific
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Posted On September 11, 2006
With its recently announced acquisition of ScholarOne (http://www.scholarone.com), the Thomson Scientific and Healthcare Group (http://scientific.thomson.com) seems to have set a strategy of intercepting scholarly content at an early stage of maturation in the research-publishing process. ScholarOne supplies Web-based work-flow management software for authoring, evaluating, and publishing research to its subscribers. According to William Carden, Jr., president and CEO of ScholarOne, the company currently services more than 1,600 editorial installations affiliated with approximately 150 publisher clients of all types. Keith MacGregor, Thomson Scientific's executive vice president for academic and government markets, stated that Thomson planned to integrate ScholarOne with its Web of Knowledge and Web of Science services, as well as the EndNote bibliographic database management software—soon to launch a major Web version—from its ResearchSoft subsidiary.

ScholarOne offers a series of software packages that simplify the production of journals, as well as meeting abstracts and conference proceedings. According to Carden, 1,500 of the 1,600 installations it serves focus on journal production, while only 100 use the academic meeting services. ScholarOne covers the production management, editorial, prepress, and composition stages of publication. Appropriately, the flagship software from ScholarOne is Manuscript Central, which supports the online submission and review of full-text manuscripts and graphics, receiving more than 40,000 submissions each month. 1stEdit, a pre-editing software program, can support electronic preprints for publishers looking to put up advance digital copies of articles. The Article Registration Center (ARC) supports the distribution of articles, metadata, or other document segments in multiple formats, while Production Central tracks the journal production process. ScholarOne's support for meetings and conferences builds around Abstract Central, designed to handle abstract submission, peer review, program creation, publishing output, administrative control, and even speaker management. It also offers an Online Itinerary Planner, an Abstract Viewer for searching multiple years of conference presentations, Abstracts on CD-ROM, and Proceedings Central as a stand-alone or in tandem with Abstract Central and the Planner. (For a set of links to individual product descriptions, go to http://www.scholarone.com/products.html.)

ScholarOne does not sell or license software for delivery to desktops. Instead, it is an Application Service Provider (ASP), delivering its hosted Web-based services via Internet browsers. Clients do not have to install or maintain software on their own equipment, nor do they have to buy into the full suite of products (though enriching the services with content supplied by Thomson Scientific should make buying the whole set more attractive). Vin Caraher, president and CEO of Thomson Scientific, pointed out that "ScholarOne has built an impressive portfolio of publishing products which complement our own world-class research platform for scientific and scholarly communities." Carden observed, "We are excited about the outstanding content, analytical tools, and innovative product solutions that this transaction will bring to customers of both companies."

ScholarOne's current clients are commercial publishers, scholarly societies, university presses, and government agencies. One major partner, Blackwell Publishing, publishes more than 800 journals and approximately 6,000 books in partnership with some 665 academic, medical, and professional societies. Blackwell announced a collaboration with ScholarOne and Thomson Scientific in July to integrate elements of ScholarOne's Manuscript Central with Thomson's Web of Science and EndNote into a set of tools for reviewers working with scholarly manuscripts. Blackwell signed a 5-year extension of its contract with ScholarOne for peer-review system support in January. MacGregor said that the "collaboration with Blackwell and working with other publishers was the opening stage. We're also looking for assistance with EndNote and ScholarOne, which we sell to individual researchers. If we can integrate it with article submissions, we can alleviate some pain points."

Begun in Y2K as a spin-off from the Carden Jennings Publishing Co., ScholarOne tapped into venture capital money in 2001, according to Carden. The decision to join with Thomson Scientific now stemmed from two factors: First, time was beginning to run out on the initial commitment to the venture capitalists that they would see a return on their investment within 5 to 6 years. Second, according to Carden: "A company like ScholarOne is the type of entity that needs a larger organization to take it to the next level. It also offers an excellent career path for our employees." The announcement of the acquisition indicated that all 76 employees of ScholarOne would join Thomson Scientific. As to why Thomson Scientific was in the market right now, MacGregor stated: "The timing was right for this kind of acquisition as we continue to build out our tools and resources and integrate them with the Web of Science, the Web of Knowledge, and ResearchSoft products, especially EndNote."

Software Equity Group, LLC (SEG), a San Diego-based software industry investment bank and M&A advisory, handled the transaction for ScholarOne. According to Carden, SEG specializes in advanced software companies and their industry analysis found the sector of service companies such as ScholarOne to be particularly strong at this juncture.

As for future plans, Carden looks forward to improving the peer-review service offered to clients by building in checks using Web of Knowledge and Web of Science content. He also expects the enriched content to improve the ability of editors and administrators to identify potential peer reviewers. At present, publishers do not form a major customer base for Thomson Scientific's two Web services, but Carden points out that the editors working for publishers often operate out of academic settings and do have campus access. However, he expects the publishers to become a new customer base for Thomson. MacGregor said that "some publishers do purchase Web of Knowledge and Web of Science. Web of Science has been out there for almost 10 years and it has good market penetration in the academic and government research market. So, lots of publishing authors already have access. We're looking to facilitate other access points."

As for introducing a business model beyond the existing institutional subscription concentrated on universities, Carden said it was too soon to make any promises. But he "would be very surprised if we did not provide a model of affordable access to publishers for independents." MacGregor would not discuss competitors such as Elsevier's Scopus and, in response to an inquiry about Google Scholar, responded, "Google? What's that?" Carden was not familiar with Scopus. However, it seems obvious that publishers might turn to Thomson Scientific products as integrated with ScholarOne. Thomson divested itself of its primary publishing role in scholarly publishing some years ago, while Elsevier is still primarily a publisher. Scholarly publishers dealing with ScholarOne might feel more comfortable reaching for Thomson Scientific's content tools than those supplied by a competitor publisher.

MacGregor felt that some of the prepublication or early alert services from Thomson Scientific (for example, an e-First product from Current Contents, which announces future publications) would benefit from the new ScholarOne connection. However, his immediate focus seemed to be on improvements to EndNote. "ResearchSoft has already announced plans for later this year of an EndNote Web connection to all Web of Knowledge users worldwide. We are aware of what researchers want and are looking to provide robust, Web-based tools. We want to innovate on the desktop as well for both Windows and Macs in a variety of ways. We foresee ScholarOne for desktop versions too."


Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.


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