Ramping up relevance at APE

The 2018 Academic Publishing Europe conference (APE) considered Open Science, Open Access, blockchain for publishing, AI - and more.

<< back Page 2 of 2

Relevance reimagined 

An impassioned talk by Annie Callanan, CEO, Academic Publishing Division, Taylor & Francis Group, took shots at the practical value of scholarly research. "We are leaving behind too many of our global citizens," she exclaimed. Publishers contemplating relevancy must meet the changing needs of continuous learners in the 21st century. And, in her view, "we are collectively failing." 

Looking ahead, she thinks that "technology will dissolve barriers across languages and cultures." Big Data will improve how quality is measured, since citations do not equate to quality. She is appalled that all the research that's been done on Alzheimer’s disease has still not led to a cure.

The emphasis on OA sounds to Callanan like a rallying cry from a generation that is no longer advancing. It's not access, it's the lack of critical research skills, accelerating knowledge obsolescence coupled with an exponentially growing body of information (35 million daily news updates and 40 million social status updates), and sustainability. Her rallying cry: "We need knowledge guided by humanity." 

Blockchain for publishing 

New technologies impacting academic publishing include blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). Blockchain technology powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, but that's not all it does. As a decentralised, shared and immutable, transparent but pseudonymous technology, blockchain can solve challenges in scholarly communication. Joris van Rossum, an Amsterdam-based consultant and author of Digital Science's blockchain report (figshare.com/articles/_/5607778) identified several challenges, such as reproducibility, peer review, and metrics. These are predominantly legacy problems, with metrics in particular being limited and outdated since they reflect the era of print publishing. Blockchain could also benefit publishers and librarians by making subscription business models more transparent, thus fighting piracy and predatory publishers. He sees possibilities in direct downloads coupled with micropayments and using tokens to download papers.

Soenke Bartling, founder of Blockchain for Science, thinks of the blockchain world as Web 3.0. It's a cultural change in how we manage data, identities, and computer security. He did warn, however, that even with date-stamped data acquisition, you still have to trust the sender. 

From the library perspective, the title of Digital Library Specialist, TIB Hannover, Lambert Heller's talk nicely summed up his premise: "Advanced P2P architectures will set new standards for how we take care for scholarly works & interactions." BitTorrent-based protocols "turned the client-server paradigm upside down—but how does that help with scholarly works." His recommendation is to use open protocols. The advantage blockchain brings is allowing researchers to interact with the public and each other through transparent rule sets. This leads to permissionless reuse and innovation of the scholarly metadata trail, coupled with responsible and efficient governance. 

Intelligence, artificial and otherwise 

Moderating the session on AI was John Sack, Founding Director, HighWire Press, Inc., who introduced the session by "complaining" about slow traffic in Mountain View due to autonomous cars obeying all the traffic laws. This led him to wonder what impact AI will have on publishing. Predictive analysis determining what papers a journal should accept based on the number of citations it will garnish? Autonomous writing of articles? 

Bringing the discussion back to the present, Tahir Manoori, Founder, wisdom.ai, thinks that AI plays a role in manuscript acceptance, author disambiguation, keyword assignment, identification of bogus articles, and, yes, predicting citations. He distinguished between AI and blockchain. "AI is centralised intelligence. Blockchain is decentralised control." Thomas Lemberger, Deputy Head of Scientific Publications, EMBO, discussed the role of AI is disseminating knowledge. Graph databases, semantic search, smart figures, deep learning, and neural networks will change scholarly publishing. 

Richard Wynne, VP Sales and Marketing, Aries Systems Corp, considered the opportunities in peer review and workflow deriving from machine learning. AI, "the next digital frontier," can improve reproducibility, find peer reviewers, expand altmetrics, employ facial analysis, and improve usability. But there's the danger of "post traumatic AI stress disorder," which Gary Kasparov suffered from after losing his historic chess match to IBM's Deep Blue. Wynne also asked, rhetorically I think, what happens when we trust machines more than humans? 

APE is a publishing conference. Many presentations during APE2018 focused on the Open Science subset of Open Access (OA). In fact, if you weren't careful, you'd begin to think that OA was entirely about Open Science. However, sessions devoted to OA books, metadata, and digital humanities proved that relevance is ramping up outside of science as well as inside science. 

Although there were librarians in the audience and a few appeared as speakers, how ramping up relevance applied to them was largely not addressed. One issue not resolved was that of trust. There is distrust between librarians and publishers and disagreement about what technologies are trustworthy. Although no additional bullet holes appeared in Leibniz Hall, holes in publishing and library attitudes, behaviours and beliefs appeared.

Photo by Hope House Press on Unsplash

<< back Page 2 of 2