IDS’ Publishing and Research Data Manager, Alison Norwood, shares the pace of academic publishing and reflects on how being nimble and adaptable to change can benefit both authors and readers alike.
Starting off reflectively
If there’s one thing that’s become increasingly clear over the last five years or so it is that academic publishing is no longer only about robust research, peer review and reputable journals. It’s also about openness, worrying about the credentials of journals which seem to crop up out of the blue and promise the earth; it’s about demonstrating specific impact rather than just usage figures, and much of the time it’s explaining all of the above to others.
Whereas at one stage the key point of interest in a publisher’s day would be around working with an author to help clarify central arguments, craft perfectly formed sentences and efficiently paced articles, now such niceties can seem as if they belong to a different, pre-social-media pre-immediate-gratification age. Or at least it is when you’re working in IDS – a vibrant research, teaching and communications institute – where how something is published and the impact it has is as important as honing the content itself.
In one day an academic publishing manager can juggle lots of competing priorities – from sourcing new specialist suppliers around accessibility for disabled users, to chasing schedules for academic publications in production, reporting back at high-level meetings on how open access has been embraced thus far and how open data is the next step, and then grabbing a coffee and concentrating on writing a long-term strategy to consider how digital publishing is going to affect both publishing staff and research creators in the future.
Picking up pace mid-day and responding to many questions
Digital publishing isn’t just about factoring in readable typefaces across any medium, or allocating payments to commercial publishers to enable gold open access, or monitoring pdf downloads, or keeping tally of journal article submissions to journals with impressive impact factors – it’s also about adapting the writing to the mind of a reader who may not want or need to get immersed in a lengthy tome on a single social science subject but instead prefers to receive concise delivery of policy recommendations. On their mobile phone, while they’re on the go.
In the Knowledge, Impact and Policy team at IDS we are adept at developing innovative research communications products and bringing people together to share knowledge and build networks. It helps a great deal to talk these things through, so in a conversation with colleagues over a quick break it can become apparent that debates around open access are just as sparky as they were in the early days of open advocacy. As publishing professionals we must recognise that authors have a requirement to publish in quality journals of whatever stripe, and yet there are all the benefits of publishing openly with a Creative Commons licence to consider, as these allow viewers worldwide to access and re-use material without having to rely on library or individual subscriptions to reach the material they need.
Overcoming the afternoon slump by thinking about key recommendations
The suggested transition period to mainstream open access publishing ends in 2018, and while figures have increased markedly in the UK over the last five years, it is by no means a standardised process for anybody concerned. The recent Inside Government seminar on ‘Moving Towards Full Open Access in Higher Education’ was interesting in that participants and speakers alike appeared to have acknowledged a reality check in achieving ‘full’ open access – it hasn’t happened, and it may take a good few years yet before it does.
A day in the life of a publishing manager in a research institution means keeping up with the debates in the outside world, feeding back these insights to communications colleagues who can use them to inform their own knowledge work and further promote the best publishing outputs for the specific research in hand, in order to reach the right audience – whether that be online only, or in print for events, or depositing in an institutional repository to meet green open access requirements such as through IDS’ OpenDocs, or (whisper this) even sometimes publishing behind a paywall.
Preparing for what will come next
As in so many walks of life technology has influenced the day-to-day thought-processes and actions of a whole industry – in fact two industries, publishing and research – and the communication and dissemination of these which are inextricably linked. If this is where we are now, having come from where we were in a closed publishing environment, what will a day-in-the-life look like in the next five years?
Alison Norwood is the IDS Publishing and Research Data Manager. Working with colleagues, she leads IDS’ own scholarly publishing and research data management, including the IDS Bulletin. These are produced in accordance with open access principles and best practice.