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  • APE2016: Where is the elephant?

    The conference on academic publishing in Europe APE is a great meeting for the global publishing industry. Publishers of all sizes meet here with societies, service providers and startups. Three days, about 200 people and a decent location in the very center of Berlin are perfect for networking and the exchange of thoughts. Beside the usual suspects from Europe and North America (plus Egypt and India), there were even people from Russia and China welcomed in Berlin this year.

    Copyright in times of sharing economy

    In recent years the conference was looking for the „elephant in room“, i.e. the (next) big thing for publishing that is already there but maybe not obvious to everybody. Of course, a good organizer can not raise the same question every year, so this year the search for big trends and changes followed a slightly different notion. Still, I asked myself – what’s the big thing we should think about this year? Hannfried von Hindenburg (Elsevier) mentioned that copyright compliance in a sharing economy is a very important issue. It was two years ago when Elsevier chased academia.org , and others . It was part of a discussion and he did not go into details, but obviously it remains to be seen, what big publishers can and will do to defend their assets in an atmosphere of constant pressure from different parties to allow more access to the pay-walled scientific record.

    „Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.“

    This is a quote from Peter Sondergaard of the Gartner Group. I was reminded to that point when listening to Ralf Schimmer from the Max Planck Digital Library. They have collected about 50 million meta-data records of scientific papers. This compares to the 77 million items registered in crossref. You can do much with such data, just think metrics… Schimmer talked about a very specific application of this silo: It was about his experience in the transition from subscription models to open access business models. He saw it as a transition from journal collection based prize models to article based models which require a different model of value attribution. At MPDL they developed weighted models to do so using various data they collected over the years. As I understood, they could offer publishers rather precise numbers for the valuation of single journals and even articles based on their models. I recognized the big issue of transition of subscription based business models to Open Access and the direct financial value of data therein. He also mentioned that an average fee of 2000 Euro for an open access publication would not only appear reasonable to be paid. He pointed out that this would be part of a distribution with a long low-price tail and the option of singular high-price peaks in the beginning. 25.000 Euro for a nature OA publication appeared possible in this model. The latter statement is my personal interpretation of this model and not an official statement from Ralf Schimmer, I have to add before this makes too much furor in social media.

    More big data

    Big data will be an ‚elephant‘ anyway. So far, silos such as scopus (Elsevier) or WebofScience keep a lot of metadata behind their paywalls. The selection there is incredibly slow – it takes years to include a new journal into one of their lists. And access for automated processing of those data is limited if not prohibited at all. Google analytics has opened the door to a more general access to all this data, but on a rather simple level. Community related sites such as Researchgate, Mendeley or more recently ScienceOpen offer more and sometimes sophisticated search options, but I think that is just the beginning. Scientists need the full record of current research for a literature search. They need it up to date and they need it for free. And they need an access for sophisticated (probably semantic) searches. This is a strong need and we may see what offers the industry may develop to deliver solutions.

    See you next year!

    Surely, these were a few picks from my personal list. There were more big animals around and one idea even sparked a discussion in the German Börsenblatt. There you may also find the official wrap-up of the conference with 5 main topics. What it doesn’t tell you: the next ape will be on 16.-18. January 2017. See you there!

    PS: Today’s Scholarly Kitchen blog post offered its own view on predictions for trends in 2016.