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Talking Tech at the STM Conference
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Posted On May 8, 2018
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STM, the global trade association for academic and professional publishers, has 145 members from 21 countries. Its annual U.S. meeting was held April 24–26, 2018, in Philadelphia. The first day was the 4th Annual STM Society Day conference for the scholarly society publisher community. The second day was Day 1 of the official conference, and the third day was Day 2.

Customer Perspectives

On Day 1, a panel of three researchers shared what they are currently working on as a way for publishers to get firsthand knowledge of their customers. Arthi Jayaraman (an associate professor and a graduate program director at the University of Delaware) uses molecular simulations with her chemical engineering teammates, and they work with large amounts of data. One of her recommendations is for journals to require the submission of raw data with articles to aid in reproducibility.

Casey Greene (an assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania) and his team studied Sci-Hub to find that more than 90% of cited papers are on it. Going closed-access is a dead business model, he said. Jim English (director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania) argued that the industry should move away from the scholarly monograph as the gold standard, because the dataset itself (in a repository) needs to be seen as a publication.

The panel’s advice for STM publishing leaders was to focus on quality and reproducibility as most important (Jayaraman), help researchers with tasks such as writing grants (Greene), and enter into partnerships with librarians, digital scholarship organizations, and others (English).

Preprints Everywhere

At the session Pre-Publication Sharing—Friend or Foe? Louise Page (chief innovation officer at PLOS) said that publisher-driven preprints are important. Only 2% of published biomedical content is posted as preprints. In response, PLOS is launching an automatic posting option to bioRxiv, meaning that preprints will be added to the company’s publishing workflow to boost their adoption. Make preprints a trusted work product, she said. A sustainability model for preprints doesn’t exist yet, but PLOS will explore one.

Darla Henderson (assistant director and publisher of open access programs at the American Chemical Society) said that the chemistry field also has very little adoption of preprints. She and her team released chemRxiv in beta in August 2017, and there have been 250,000 downloads so far, showing that there is a demand for preprints. Alberto Pepe (product director at Atypon) said that as a researcher, he thought often about data sharing and OA, as well as the future of scholarly communication. Preprints are clearly on the rise, so publishers should look at them as an opportunity, not a threat. He predicted that in the future, there will be DOIs for everything, including preprints, and publishers will publish preprints.

Publishers’ To-Do List

The closing keynote on Day 1 was titled “Relevance, Responsibility, and Integrity in Research.” Annette Thomas (CEO of Clarivate Analytics) said that publishing is about responsibility—being trusted with brilliant people’s information. The pace of change today is the slowest it will ever be as we look to the future, she said. Publishers must help answer the question of why so much research is impossible to reproduce. Why publish so much that is read by so few? The industry shouldn’t value quantity over quality to satisfy funder requirements, and publishers can’t promote only positive results (which contributes to bias and fraud). Her thoughts on where research goes next included the need for publishers to recognize that scholarly communication has changed, add diversity in ways of thinking and new ideas, and do more to reward long-term progress, not short-term headlines.

Graphic Interface

Eefke Smit (STM’s director of standards and technology) opened Day 2 with an explanation of the STM Future Lab’s latest Technology Trends infographic, which she said has become a popular exercise from the organization. Artificial intelligence (AI) was the main theme of the Tech Trends 2022 infographic, which is titled “Entering the AI Era: Creative Humans & Smart Machines.”

Tech Trends 2022

Smit talked about each section of the brain featured on the poster. For example, the team located “Deep Publishing Knowledge” in the hippocampus, because it holds long-term memory and emotions. “Tech Takes Over” is only a small part of the brain, but it is there, because it is worth thinking about, she said. The thought bubbles surrounding the brain represent the issues publishers are currently thinking about.

AI: Nothing to Fear

The next session further explored the infographic’s focus on AI. Phill Jones (CTO of Emerald Group) said that headline technology hasn’t changed that much—what has changed is how technology will be applied and how humans use it. Publishers resist new technologies, but publishing has always been a technology business. IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg (SVP of research integrity at Elsevier) said that the industry mood has changed thanks to AI. There is less fear of obsolescence; now people ask how AI can be useful. Gerry Grenier (senior director of publishing technologies at IEEE) called AI a general-purpose technology similar to electricity. Like electricity, it will take imaginative people to exploit it. Stacy Malyil (director of strategic marketing at Wolters Kluwer Health) said that you need to know what problem you’re solving for your user in order for AI to be effective.

The Book of Tomorrow

Niels Peter Thomas (chief book strategist at Springer Nature) gave a keynote called “Innovating the Book.” He talked about some current discussions surrounding books: What is their future? Are they worth the effort? Do we need publishers? Thomas said that a world without books would not be the end of history or culture. It’s possible that they will disappear, but he doesn’t think it will happen. However, evolution of the idea of what a book is can be considered normal because technology changes what authors can produce. If you take a new perspective, a tweet is a very short book with an OA business model.

If books are going to stick around, we need to strengthen them, Thomas said. He proposed five ways to do that: Change up book formats and add features to them, add new options for book formats, invent new business models surrounding books, help authors create more book-compatible content, and change or reshape the awareness of book requirements. He concluded with some predictions: Books will always be offered in various formats and with various business models; books will be adaptive, individualized, and connected to other resources; there won’t be one single example of what a book is; and readers will jump in and out of book chapters and won’t recognize that what they’re doing is reading a book. He said that books will be different from what they are today, but they will have a future.


Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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