Upbeat and opinionated at European publishers meeting

Positive predictions, future opportunities and lively debates at the Academic Publishing in Europe conference.

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Enthusiastic publishers in Europe

With the well-publicised turmoil in the publishing industry, you'd think a gathering of European publishers would be a grim affair. How wrong you would be! The Academic Publishing in Europe conference, held for the seventh year in Berlin on 24-25 January 2012, attracted several hundred upbeat, enthusiastic publishers, all eager to exchange information and investigate new technologies for publishing. Organised by Arnoud de Kemp, this year's theme centred on 'Semantic Web, Data and Publishing'.

Get back to 'the basics' of scientific publishing

Derk Haank, CEO of Springer Science+Business Media, set the tone when he told us, in his opening keynote speech, that Europe is ahead in scientific publishing and enjoys the support of Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe. Haank acknowledged the effect of the internet on publishing, noting it brought with it both fear and excitement. However, he thinks there will be no more revolutions and it is time for publishers to "get back to work". By which he means concentrating on the basics, not the 'bells and whistles' of social media and new technologies peripheral to scientific publishing.

When it comes to open access, Haank has some definite opinions. "Open access is not the devil's work. Gold OA is the only acceptable format for making publicly funded research accessible for free. Green OA is not sustainable". Furthermore, he doesn't think open access is the solution to the funding crisis, although he admits it may be more appropriate in some disciplines than others.

Funding challenges and new business models

Haank is also outspoken when it comes the Big Deal. He fully supports it. According to Haank, the cost per article has come down in subscription products, but it's gone up for open access journals. He sees a two-sided funding challenge. On the one hand, "the volume of published research far outpaces the growth of library budgets". However, "price increases have been below that volume growth and below inflation for the past ten years". Librarians would undoubtedly like to see proof of that latter statement. Even more controversially, Haank then declared that some emerging market countries-Brazil, China, and India, in particular-should begin paying their fair share of the costs for scientific articles.

One piece of good news, said Haank, is the increase in sales to industry, which is growing faster than the core academic market. Success will come from publishers focusing on content and learning to live with library budgets that increase only marginally. "Be open to new business models. Don't put all your hopes in technology".

Science 2.0 and big data

Echoing Haank's optimism was Jean-Claude Burgelman, representing the European Commission. Applauding the potential of information and communications technology (ICT), he predicted an explosion of scientific research that is web 2.0 facilitated.

Science 2.0 will result in an explosive growth of data, authors, and publications. Institutions' facts of scientific life, such as curricula development, impact factors, and funding, will change. Data mining will grow in importance, particularly as scientists begin to mine social media. Big data will influence data and knowledge sharing, while citizen science will open up research. We will see a globalisation of science, both in the "old centres" of Europe and new regions, such as China. Open access research sharing and publishing will become more prevalent, although Burgelman called Green OA "a joke".

The policy implications of cheap ICT and web 2.0 technologies are profound. Science will get faster and scientists will find new ways to determine reputation. New gatekeepers will appear and data visualisation will become more prevalent. These changes imply the need for new curricula. Burgelman ended by suggesting that data intensive science creates a new paradigm that is inductive and computational. Scientists, confronted with evidence, will then develop hypotheses.

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