Laura’s talk from the Silverchair Platform Strategies 2022 session “Ed Tech Trends: Un-siloing & Digitizing Professional Education” is now available online. You can also now view David’s The APE Lecture: “Life in a Liminal Space,” which focused on our community’s transitional state. James will be chairing a session on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at the ALPSP Annual Conference in September.
In 1963, at the end of a two-decades-long stint editing The Lancet, Sir Theodore “Robbie” Fox gave a series of three valedictory lectures on the functions and future of medical journals. “And where one journal does not suffice,” he noted, “we seldom think of anything cleverer than to create another like it; and another, and another.”
Editorial priorities change over time, however. “When I became Editor in Chief of The Lancet in 1995,” Richard Horton said recently, “my hope was to expand the idea of The Lancet beyond a single journal.” The Lancet Group now includes 22 Lancet-branded journals, plus two Gold open access journals that do not have the Lancet imprimatur.
We wonder what Sir Robbie would have made of the sound of champagne corks popping in the Lancet offices when Clarivate announced this year’s impact factors at the end of last month. The Lancet Group did spectacularly well, with The Lancet overtaking The New England Journal of Medicine for the first time since impact factors were launched in 1975.
But it wasn’t just the flagship that excelled—the results were impressive across the board. The Lancet Group now publishes 10 of the top 50 journals in Clarivate’s Journal Citation Reports (JCR), with The Lancet Microbe debuting with an impact factor of 86.
One of the defining trends of the past 20–30 years has been the increase in the number and size of “branded” journal portfolios. Of the top 50 journals in the JCR, 29 have either “Nature” or “Lancet” in their titles. IEEE-branded journals dominated many of the technology categories in the JCR this year. The American Medical Association rebranded the Archives journals and launched 4 new JAMA journals during Howard Bauchner’s tenure as Editor in Chief, with 4 of the 13 JAMA journals making it into the top 100 of the JCR. The Frontiers portfolio now includes 51 journals that have an impact factor and 73 journals with a CiteScore.
Some observers may say that extending a brand dilutes its impact, but the Lancet and Nature portfolios show that brand extension can be incredibly powerful, especially when coupled with the launch of less-selective journals to create a transfer cascade.
Of course brand alone is insufficient. The Lancet Group’s impact factor success was the result of thoughtful brand extension coupled with a long-range editorial strategy pursued doggedly for the last 25 years by Horton and the Lancet team. In the past, highly cited clinical papers tended to be randomized controlled trials in oncology or cardiology, often written by researchers based within spitting distance of Boston (Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire). A London-based publication was always going to struggle to attract those papers, so The Lancet’s editors played the long game, anticipating that clinical research would become increasingly international. They became a champion for global health and engaged with researchers from China (The Lancet published 928 articles with “China” in the title between 2000 and 2019, compared with 41 articles in The New England Journal of Medicine).
There are two important lessons here for scholarly publishers who might be considering the “functions and future of journals”: 1) extending a brand thoughtfully increases its impact; 2) an editorial strategy must focus not only on where a field is now but also on where that field is going—where will the best papers be coming from in 10 or 20 years? Journals and journal portfolios are long-lived creatures (the best are measured in centuries); successful editors and publishers are thinking about the long game.
Source: The Lancet, Clarivate, IEEE, JAMA, Frontiers
Professional and Academic Publishing
Clarivate announced this week that it will issue journal impact factors (JIFs) to journals in its multidisciplinary Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) and its Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI). In the past, journals in these indexes were not issued JIFs. The previous policy at Clarivate was that a new journal would first need to be admitted to ESCI and would only be evaluated for inclusion in the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) or the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI)—where it would be issued a JIF—if it performed well enough in terms of citations to pass an additional four “impact” criteria beyond the 24 quality measures required for entry into ESCI. This meant that many journals would sit in ESCI for years without receiving a JIF (and not knowing if or when they might get one). Given that receiving a JIF is an important quality signal for authors and librarians, this state of affairs has been a source of frustration for publishers and editors. Starting in 2023, Clarivate will issue JIFs to journals in the ESCI (and AHCI). Editors and publishers can now move on from complaining about not having a JIF to complaining about the JIF they receive, which is some form of progress!
All told, Clarivate estimates that it will be issuing new JIFs to nearly 9,000 journals from more than 3,000 publishers (approximately 7,600 titles from ESCI and 1,300 titles from AHCI). Many of these titles are from the Global South and many employ a Gold OA publishing model (though specifics are not yet available).
It is unclear how long journals must publish before they receive a JIF. The JIF calculation requires, by definition, three full years of publication (the citing year and the previous two years of cited articles). But Clarivate has issued “partial” JIFs with just two years of data (or in some cases even less). It is not clear if it will issue all journals in ESCI and AHCI partial JIFs or require three full years of publication.
Perhaps most confusing, as Clarivate will retain ESCI as a separate index, while the journals listed there will receive a JIF score, they will not be ranked against journals in the same subject category in SCIE or SSCI. Which suggests there will now be multiple sets of JIF rankings for scientific journals in Clarivate’s Journal Citation Reports (JCR): the current SCIE and SSCI journal rankings and a separate list of rankings of ESCI titles. This is likely to lead to a lot of confusion, as publishers will claim (accurately) that they have a certain ranking on their respective list. Imagine a journal that proclaims it has the second-highest ranking in its subject category and then provides a footnote citing the “Clarivate 2023 Journal Citation Reports ESCI.” The journal is being honest and transparent but the nuance of the ESCI versus SCIE and SSCI lists will likely be lost on many authors.
Clarivate has also announced that it will cease reporting the JIF to three decimal places, and will just use a single decimal place. The three-decimal usage was always silly and implied a false precision, like Clarivate was measuring with lasers or something. While it is still not possible to receive a tenth of a citation, it is better than the fiction that a journal can receive a thousandth of a citation. (For more on the nuances of decimal places and JIF calculations, Phil Davis’s article from 2016remains an excellent primer.) That said, the new practice will result in many more ties. If your journal has an impact factor of 5.568 and your competitor has an impact factor of 5.642, in the current method your journal would be ranked below that of your competitor. In the new method, both journals will have a JIF of 5.6, which is surely justice as your competitor has no doubt been gaming the JIF and anyway it’s all due to one statistics paper they published the year before last. Thankfully your other competitor with a JIF of 5.543 is now clearly a rung below at 5.5, which is where they belong.
Source: Clarivate, The Scholarly Kitchen
Gabe Stein at Knowledge Futures Group (an MIT spin-out that creates software, most notably PubPub) has written an insightful piece on why so many start-ups struggle in entering the scholarly publishing industry. The tech press (and pages of The Guardian) are littered with examples of start-ups that are going to disrupt scholarly publishing. But as Stein points out, they typically fail because they labor under a set of faulty assumptions. He outlines the five most common misconceptions:
- The Academic Publishing Market Is Just Like Market X—How many times have we heard scholarly publishing compared to the music recording industry?
- The Incumbents Are Complacent—Publishers are all dinosaurs and if we just write some software, maybe sprinkle some machine learning on science papers, we’ll disrupt the market.
- It’s a Consumer-Driven Market—Confusing a B2B with a B2C market means you don’t know who your customer actually is.
- The TAM Is Actually…—The total addressable market (TAM) for your product is not the same thing as the total market size.
- It’s a Sociotechnical Problem—Everyone will use our new product because the user experience (UX) is better and because we don’t take “obscene” profits.
It is a well-written article, and if you have a start-up or are thinking of starting one, please read this first! (It echoes a 2016 article from Charlie Rapple at Kudos, which is also worth another look. Michael’s 2010 piece on this topic, which comes at the question of disruption from a different perspective, is also worth revisiting.)
As much as we liked this article, we have two quibbles. The first is that it contains an implicit assumption that in order to find success in scholarly publishing one must “disrupt” the market. Disrupting the market may be, of course, the entire point of a start-up. Many start-up founders want to disrupt the industry because they think the profit margins are unfair and academia should “take back control.” And sure, it would be nice to assemble a crack two-pizza team in a garage and take a substantial market share from Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, and so on because you can do peer review with blockchain, or have some machine learning algorithms, or will accept more virtuous profit margins. The technology start-ups that have found success, however, are typically those that do not set out to disrupt the industry but rather to solve a specific problem. The Digital Science portfolio, for example, is full of such products. Companies like Kopernio (which sold to Clarivate), OurResearch (which has found success with a not-for-profit model), Cadmore Media, Morressier, Code Ocean, Kanopy (not involved in scholarly publishing but is taking money from academic libraries for content delivery), Kudos, LibLynx, and Hum (and many others) offer products that set out to solve problems that were not addressed in the market—not to “disrupt.”
Our second (and more substantive) quibble is that Stein conceives of “start-up” fairly narrowly as “technology” start-ups. The most successful start-ups in the industry, while making smart use of technology, are largely content companies. Here we are thinking of Frontiers, MDPI (well on its way to being a unicorn if it is not already), PLOS, JMIR, JoVE, Hindawi (recently sold to Wiley for an astronomical multiple), and so on. These are companies that have built successful (and substantial) publishing businesses by innovating around business model, technology, marketing, or service level (or some combination of all four). Sometimes disruption is hiding in plain sight.
Source: Gabe Stein, The Scholarly Kitchen
Two recent additions to the long-running efforts to separate the peer review process from formal journal publication caught our eye this month. First, cOAlition S announced an update about what constitutes a compliant research publication. In the original Plan S, “scientific publications from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms” (emphasis ours). The reference to “platforms” has always been odd, but now we have some more clarity around this term. cOAlition S now states that peer-reviewed publications include manuscripts found on non-journal/non-platform services like PREreview, PCI, and Review Commons, among others, provided that certain conditions are met. The manuscript must have been reviewed by at least two reviewers who observe COPE guidelines and who do not have a conflict of interest with the authors. The paper must also be “validated” in some manner, either “implicitly” by the reviewers declaring their necessary conditions are met or “explicitly” by the editors or community running the service declaring the manuscript to be validated (although if there are editors making an accept/reject decision, doesn’t that make the service a journal?).
Although we don’t expect to see much uptake of this route, its availability is likely a beneficial option for some researchers. While cOAlition S recognizes these manuscripts as having “equivalent merit and status as peer-reviewed publications that are published in a recognized journal or on a platform,” it is unlikely that tenure or hiring committees will see things the same way. But these venues aren’t necessarily meant for showcasing one’s top work. Like megajournals (e.g., PLOS ONE) before them, journal-independent services offer a solution for the “file drawer problem,” where valid but seemingly less significant research results get buried rather than made available. If I am a researcher with a negative result, for example, it makes little sense for me to spend months writing up the paper and going through a rigorous peer review process at a major journal only to have the paper rejected. What I need is a fast, simple process that gets my work published and makes my funder happy. Even better, many of these services charge no fees, removing a hurdle for poorly funded authors or those with little motivation to spend research funds on lackluster papers.
Via Publish Your Reviews, ASAPbio offers a different reason for separating peer review from journal publication. Here the goal is to add context and transparency to the peer review process, or at least to speed those additions along as journals slowly move toward more open forms of peer review. Under this initiative, peer reviewers are asked to seek out a preprint version of any article they’re reviewing and publicly post their reviews on that preprint. This is perhaps more complex an undertaking than it would at first seem, as questions of confidentiality of the journal peer review process, reviewer anonymity, and thwarting double-blinding efforts come into play. As the burden on peer reviewers continues to increase, we’re skeptical of anything that creates additional work. But, the overall goal here is valuable—helping provide context for articles to aid in reader understanding of whether they’re valid.
Source: The Scholarly Kitchen, cOAlition S, Psychological Bulletin, ASAPbio, LSE Impact Blog
Many academics are expected not only to do world-leading research but also to explain how that research benefits wider society. A recent news feature in Research Information outlines some of the challenges in measuring societal impact. Traditional bibliometrics (e.g., citations or usage) are a poor way of judging impact outside of the academy, which doesn’t necessarily mean that funders and universities won’t use bibliometrics in their assessments. Different fields of research will need very different ways of assessing their socioeconomic contributions.
Some companies, such as overton.io, are providing software to measure policy impact; Clarivate recently announced a new InCites tool to track publications related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A critique of these initiatives is that they are still measuring proxies for impact. Overton is measuring citations in policy documents and not the impact of policies. InCites is merely measuring topical alignment with SDGs. An example of actual impact would be something like patient outcomes or carbon reduction. That is a tall and admittedly unrealistic bar, and proxies do make sense but should not be confused for real-world impact.
Meanwhile, Emerald Publishing is attempting to bring the publishing community together to focus further on the problem of tracking social impact via its impact manifesto and its “Are you in?” campaign. So far, the list of signatories is largely limited to academics and includes relatively few publishers. That said, we applaud Emerald’s attempt to convene professional and scholarly publishers, who in addition to being well-positioned to address this issue are under intense scrutiny to demonstrate the value they provide.
Such coalitions have demonstrated they can deliver results. Over the past 2 years the Royal Society of Chemistry demonstrated the leadership role that academic societies and independent publishers can play by bringing together a range of stakeholders to support its joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing. And 2 weeks ago, the American Chemical Society and the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences signed a memorandum of understanding that aims “to solve environmental issues that affect all humankind.” A similar effort on social impact tracking could bring similar awareness and forward momentum on an important problem.
Source: Research Information, Overton, Clarivate, Emerald Publishing, Royal Society of Chemistry, American Chemical Society
The slowing of the pandemic (or at least society’s collective decision to ignore it) has ushered in the much-welcome return of in-person meetings and conferences. Lessons learned over the pandemic point toward a future of hybrid meetings as the inclusion, reduced environmental footprint, and health and safety benefits of online meetings are weighed against the benefits of interpersonal networking in face-to-face meetings, which are impossible to recreate virtually. However, organizations that rely on meetings as an important revenue stream should keep an eye on a change in European Union (EU) policy that may potentially increase taxation and management overhead on hybrid and online meetings. In short, current rules state that the place of supply (i.e., the meeting location) determines whether EU value-added tax (VAT) comes into play. If your meeting is taking place in a region under EU jurisdiction, then it does. If it takes place in Miami, then it does not. But starting in 2025, the designation of the place of supply for the event will shift to the place where the customer is based. This will have no effect on in-person meetings, but if you’re providing hybrid or online meeting access to customers in the EU, you will now be responsible for collecting and paying VAT for each such attendee, regardless of where the meeting is actually held.
It’s unclear exactly how this is supposed to work or how the EU expects to monitor and enforce this regulation. How would the EU know whether any of its citizens attended a virtual event, particularly one hosted by a society with no physical presence in the EU? Regardless, this seems like a bad idea in that if it actually functions as intended, the new legislation will reduce incentives to host hybrid events, thus reducing diversity of attendees and further worsening the environmental impact of conferences.
Source: The Scholarly Kitchen, Boardroom
The Book Business
As the search for sustainable models for OA book publishing continues, MIT Press has announced the expansion of its Direct to Open (D2O) approach for its full 2022 list of monographs and edited volumes.
As author Neil Gaiman once said, “A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.” Thus The New York Times offers good news for towns, as bookstores are booming and becoming more diverse.
Similarly positive indicators can be found in the Charleston Hub’s “Reading in the 21st Century” post, with details on the increases in Americans’ time spent reading and 2021 UK book sales being “the highest in a decade.” While much of this can be attributed to behavioral changes wrought by the pandemic, we remain hopeful that new habits forged will continue.
RBmedia has acquired Upfront Books’ audiobook publishing business.
Karger Publishers has acquired the science communications agency Research Publishing International.
SAGE has acquired Sciwheel, a research discovery tool for library patrons founded by Vitek Tracz.
Othman Altalib has joined Morressier as Senior Vice President, Strategy & Growth.
The American College of Cardiology named Dr. Melvin Echols as Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
John Martin has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Brill.
Alex Robinson has been named Chief Commercial Officer at Taylor & Francis.
Clarivate announced the retirement of CEO Jerre Stead and the appointment of Jonathan Gear as the new CEO.
Michael Hayes, former Manager of Art Direction and Production at the American Academy of Pediatrics, has died.
Mark Heineke, Marketing Manager at the University of Nebraska Press, has passed away. Mark previously held positions at a number of presses, including Northern Illinois University Press, Getty Publications, and the University of Chicago Press.
Our heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of both Michael and Mark.
A new proposal for a change in UK copyright law would make commercial text and data mining (TDM) of copyrighted materials allowable without requiring the copyright holder’s permission (or offering any payment). One potential unintended consequence, suggested by Roy Kaufman of Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), is that publishers will abandon all efforts to enrich content to make it more useful for artificial intelligence (AI), thus increasing TDM costs and lessening its value. After all, why invest all that time and effort for something that no longer offers any return on investment?
The seventh annual Wiley Society Member Survey results have been released, and this year includes a striking result, showing satisfaction levels with representation within societies declining significantly over past years. Much of this can be attributed to the growing recognition of the inequities present in academia, learned societies, and publishing and the exacerbation of those issues by the pandemic. Particularly noteworthy is the strong dissatisfaction from early-career researchers, who represent the future of these organizations. If diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility improvements are not yet near the top of your organization’s priorities, this report should serve as a call to action.
Each year, we at The Brief look forward to the annual release of Ithaka S+R’s faculty survey, and the 2021 edition is worth your time. This year there’s a clear recognition by faculty that there are some problematic issues in the research communication sphere but still a reluctance to do much to resolve them. Interest in OA continues to grow, as long as someone else (in this case, the institution’s library) pays for it. And concern about research fraud is on the rise, as is stated support for availability of research data, although faculty behaviors suggest that this is more about other researchers’ data, rather than one’s own.
On the subject of research integrity, the US House of Representatives held a hearing on the subject of paper mills and scientific misconduct. This is an encouraging development—for too long, publishers have struggled with the realities of enforcing any sort of penalties for author fraud or misconduct, often running into lengthy delays or complete roadblocks from universities loath to undertake any activity that would reflect poorly on their reputations. But as more research stakeholders, particularly funders, recognize the seriousness of the issue, one hopes that better practices will emerge.
Oxford University Press and Informa released their annual financial reports, both showing a strong recovery from the pandemic.
A fascinating contrast in opinions (and the business strategies behind them) can be found in last month’s dueling editorials, one from Springer Nature’s Chief Publishing Officer Steven Inchcoombe, which declared that transformative agreements are speeding up OA, and another from Frontiers’ CEO Frederick Fenter, which argues that transformative agreements reinforce the status quo and suppress innovation. The key to success, each suggests unsurprisingly, is more funder investment in the business approaches their companies happen to have chosen.
COUNTER has released a significant update to 2017’s Release 5 of the COUNTER Code of Practice. The new update is designed to better facilitate OA reporting, among other matters, and the work is now open for community consultation.
We often say around here, paraphrasing Kurt Vonnegut, that everyone likes to build and no one wants to do maintenance. And so, we were pleased to see this maintenance-focused initiative, from Eric (former Google chief) and Wendy Schmidt and the University of Washington, aimed at preserving scientific software.
Is attending graduate school biologically inheritable? A new study shows that, particularly for economics and for elite schools, most graduate students have at least one parent with an advanced degree. While we recognize the privilege this study points out (it is increasingly difficult for anyone without significant financial resources to attend graduate school), we also appreciate the idea that the pursuit of a doctorate is a curse passed down from generation to generation.
Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it. —Marie Curie