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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From open access to open science

Other speakers at APE 2012 weren't in complete agreement, particularly when it came to determining what qualified as 'bells and whistles' and what was basic. Biophysicist Daniel Mietchen, EvoMRI Communications, spoke not from slides but from his Wikipedia page. He contended that open access is the first step towards open science. Reinforcing his argument that the journal of the future reflects research as a process with ongoing changes in findings, Mietchen embedded images, video and audio in his presentation. Alternative publishing platforms may not be readily adopted by established publishers-there's been no move on the part of Springer or Elsevier to publish on wikis-but search innovations are inevitable.

Semantic enrichment

Steve Pettifer, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, pointed out that epidemiologists might find 6,000 papers per month relevant to their work, but obviously, they can't read all of them. A fundamental problem is that computers and human beings speak different languages. It's the role of publishing to solve this and to keep scientists publishing within the system. TEMIS's Stefan Geissler took on Haank's "bells and whistles" comment, stating that semantic enrichment is a "sober part of a modern publishing infrastructure", not bells and whistles, and gave case studies on a "rescuing lost data" project for Thomson Reuters, a semantic linking project for Springer, and an interactive case law knowledge base for Editions Francis Lefevre.

Director of Standards and Technology for the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, Eefte Smit, said that as articles become longer, with more figures, tables, and authors, supplementary materials are being excluded from the original article. These data sets appear only on the web, where some, such as the editors of Cell, characterise as 'data dumping grounds'. She sees a future where data and multimedia become separately citable and articles are interactive.

The death of the semantic web?

Richard Padley, Managing Director, Semantico, was deliberately provocative when he asked, "Is the semantic web dead? Was it ever alive?" Semantic technologies are the bridge between what humans see and what the browser sees, but how necessary is it to STM publishing? A panel, comprised of Denny Vandrecic (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Wikimedia Deutschland), Stefan Gradmann (Humboldt University, Berlin), Sven Fund (De Gruyter), Michael Dreusicke (PAUX Technologies), and Felix Sasaki (DFKI/W3C), reacted to Padley's provocations with considerable emotion, both on the pro and the con sides of the argument. Neither side "won", but they did avoid a fistfight.

A dynamic future for publishing

After two days at APE 2012, I came away excited about the future of STM publishing, not only in Europe but also globally. Publishing as a business has its challenges, but technological changes are pushing scholarly literature in fascinating directions. I was particularly intrigued by the notion that electronic information is 'infinitely malleable' and dynamic in nature.

Publishers agreed on the inevitability of open access, but expressed skepticism about some of its manifestations. To me, the opportunities intrinsic to data mining, research sharing via social media, content enrichment, incorporating audiovisual media, and deconstructing the traditional journal article portend interesting developments in academic publishing.

Marydee Ojala edits ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals and is a frequent speaker at international conferences such as Internet Librarian International.  Marydee also provided the photograph of the Semantic Web Session panellists at the conference.

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