Tag Archives: STM

Stand Up For Science: Why STM Publishing in April is all about March?

Today we have a guest post from STM publishing professional, Emma Williams.

Emma Williams STM publishing

After completing an MA in Publishing at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies (OICPS) Emma began her career in STM Publishing almost 7 years ago at Elsevier, specializing in licensing and journal management. Emma is currently happily employed within the Health Sciences group at Wiley, helping partner societies to manage and develop their journals to their fullest potential. Also a former Society of Young Publishers Oxford Chair, Emma is a particularly keen follower of industry developments and innovation and interested in supporting early career professionals. Emma advocates The Scholarly Kitchen blog to nearly everyone she meets in Publishing, and is active on Twitter where you can get in touch via @TheRightsOne (personal) or @JournalsEmma (professional) respectively.

Stand Up For Science: Why STM Publishing in April is All About March?

You may not see it, but scientific and academic research is all around you. It helped build your house, fixed your headache, drove or cycled you to work, was mixed into your coffee and even contributed to that mysterious three lbs that you just can’t shake…

(Authors Note: This could also be the commonly practiced Schrodinger’s Biscuit Tin experiment too- if the lid is closed, are there even edible biscuits in there?)

Research in all its forms and fields is effectively the pursuit of an objective truth, often for the purpose of the benefit and/or advancement of humanity. In a time when ‘alternative’ facts and false news run riot, we must be like Indiana Jones and the Grail Knight- well informed so we can choose wisely. By this, I mean that we must try to understand and communicate the importance of well structured, methodologically sound, evidence based research practices and their contribution to defensible end results.

In the past, there have been barriers to communicating research to the public, outside of traditional scholarly journal publication.

Historically, science was commonly a pursuit for the wealthy elite and discussed in technically complex language between experts in the field firstly through correspondence, which eventually became formalized within Scholarly publishing. I would encourage everyone (especially all early career STM publishing professionals) to look at the creation of The Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions for more on the development of early scholarly publishing.

Alongside the formalization of these academic conversations around research, history has also documented public distrust of science and scientists. Perhaps this relates to an amount of disconnect from scientific conversation, but it may also be defensive (science is always a potential catalyst for innovation) against change for reasons which people may not like, be ready for, or even fully understand. This is clearly documented internationally in many cases of fear of ‘magic’ or witchcraft, religious conflict, and even cultural stereotyping.

Just think briefly for a moment on events like the Salem Witch Trials (circa 1692), or films such as Terminator (1984). Consider novels like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) or Frankenstein (1818). What about the depictions in both old and new media primarily made for young children, of Belle’s so called ‘crackpot’ inventor father in the story of Beauty and the Beast (1991) ? His eccentricity (i.e. scientific curiosity) predisposes him to such general public concern that he is nearly sent to an asylum- a particularly terrifying and often permanent commitment in past days. It is clear that in the historic public consciousness, there were very real fears that scientific curiosity, or developments, left unchecked would then get humanity ‘in over their heads’ across a variety of situations.

I believe that most people, living during even the more modern dates of some of these examples, would have thought of 2017 as sufficiently advanced into ‘The Future’, to expect better understanding, explanation and truthful rationalization of some of these fears. However, the modern citizen now faces a frightening time- we see heightened (or certainly more vocalized) opposition to evidence-based science; fear of globalization; and concerns about access to quality education.

So where can we find these trusted truths, to understand our world, communicate with each other and inform appropriate decision making for public good?

Although publishers and academia alike have recognized and begun to rectify some of the conversational gaps between academic research reporting and the general public through a wide variety of science engagement initiatives (Pint of Science events, or Publisher blogs for example) there is clearly still a lot of work to be done around mitigating unfounded fears and improving integrative discussion.

Now more than ever, the public must be able to either understand research processes directly, or to trust a third party to understand these and then report research results accordingly. Only then can we assess that end result and allow it to inform our own decisions and opinions. If we are not able to understand or we do not have access to such trusted sources, we are increasingly vulnerable to choosing poorly, and any ensuing negative consequences on an individual, national and a global level.

This is why scientists, academics, publishers and many other people gathered in various locations worldwide to March for Science on Saturday 22nd April. My personal experience of the global research community is that it is richly diverse, and full of those who have decided to embrace their curiosity about how something works, or could be improved, or could be learned from, and report back to the rest of us. I consider these people- our scientists and researchers- as an advanced guard, gathering intelligence on everything from climate change to medicine to lessons from history.

It is my opinion that we should fund and support research and engage with scientists and academics wherever possible in order to ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes, help people faster and preserve our world for generations to come.

For more information, please see:

https://www.marchforscience.com/
https://hub.wiley.com/community/exchanges/discover/blog/2017/02/16/values-have-no-borders?referrer=exchanges
Want more? Please see the below articles that the author came across while writing this, for ‘interesting’ further reading:

1. ‘Fake research’ comes under scrutiny, by H. Briggs, BBC News, 27th March 2017. Accessed via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39357819 on 18th April 2017.

2. 8 Hilarious Historical Fears That Seriously Delayed Progress by P. Carnell, Cracked, March 11th 2015. Accessed via http://www.cracked.com/article_22224_8-plainly-stupid-fears-that-held-back-human-progress.html on 17th April 2017.

3. We have always been modern, and it has often scared us by R. Higgitt, The Guardian, 24th June 2013. Accessed via https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2013/jun/24/technology-history-modernity-speed-fears on 18th April 2017.

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Open Access

I recently went to an evening hosted by OPuS, entitled “Open Access – Three Shades of Gold” and I wanted to share a little bit with you.

Before I go any further, I am going to say that this is a fascinating topic, brighter minds than mine have already said a lot of well-considered things, and there is just too much to go into here – but if you are looking for more in depth information, please see the links at the bottom of this post to start you off.

Open Access, or “OA”, is a huge topic that not only affects the academic community, but everyone in publishing to one degree or another. OA is the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. OA is also increasingly being provided to theses, scholarly monographs and book chapters. Laird Barrett has already talked a little bit about it here. Ernesto Priego of the Comics Grid journal also talked about the challenges of Open Access in his interview here.

A recent survey by Wiley Open Access of their authors showed that over 80% felt that OA was more prevalent in their field than three years ago. 1; The Finch Report, released this summer, says that open access is the future of academic publishing. 2.; and the UK government announced in July that it plans to make all research open access by 2014.3

Simply put, OA publishing, turning as it does the traditional journal subscription-based publishing model on its head, has got a LOT of people talking and trying to work out what comes next.

As an academic whose thesis was all about the democratization of content, review, and it’s accessibility to readers, OA has the potential to make me happy. As someone who’s worked in publishing and who understands that what we do is a business and that someone has to pay to get a journal published, OA makes me nervous. So you can imagine I was fascinated to hear from some key industry players on their experiences.

Deborah Kahn (@deborahatbmc), Publishing Director at Biomed Central (the largest OA publisher) gave a really good overview of the state of OA publishing as it stands, primarily as it relates to science and medical journals. She quoted recent research which has looked into the state of OA – and because it is open access, I can share it with you. 4

David Ross, Publisher at Sage, then gave an overview from the humanities angle. The differences in funding structures between the disciplines really do make for some challenges and it was clear that what works for STM might not be what is best for the humanities.

Finally, Brian Hole, CEO of Ubiquity Press (@ubiquitypress) gave us a glimpse into the possible future, with his emphasis on humanities journals and how they can be developed to fit in with the needs of scholarly communities.

Open Access clearly has the potential to affect us all. The snowball has started rolling and Academic and STM publishers are trying out various different approaches to make it work. But looking to the future, and across into trade publishing and the “e-book revolution”, I can see parallels. Simply put, how DO you monetize content in a world that sees digital as “free” or at least “cheaper”? How do you value intellectual property as opposed to a physical object? I can’t even pretend to have ANY of the answers, but I will tell you it is a truly AWESOME time to be involved in publishing and I cannot wait to see what is around the corner.

Footnotes and links:
The Guardian has done a good round-up of the open access debate: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/aug/10/uk-open-access-research-debate-round-up

1Slideshow of results of Wiley Author Survey on Open Access 2012: http://www.slideshare.net/WileyScienceNewsroom/wiley-14895586 (found via @publish_advice)

2 Guardian article on the Finch Report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/19/open-access-academic-publishing-finch-report. The full report can be found here.

3Department for Business Innovation and Skills: Government to open up publicly funded research press release.

4 Anatomy of open access publishing: a study of longitudinal development and internal structure. Mikael Laakso* and Bo-Christer Björk. BMC Medicine 2012 10:124 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-124 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/124

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