The Permanent Record

Issue 42 · May 2022

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See you in Chicago?

The 2022 Annual Meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) will be held in person next week in Chicago. While there have been a handful of notable in-person meetings since the onset of the pandemic, the SSP annual meeting feels like a grand reopening of the scholarly publishing industry. Many of us from C&E will be there. If you’ll be there in person, drop us a line (info@ce-strategy.com) to schedule a meeting. 
 
We highly recommend session 5B, Publishing Services Agreements: Impact of OA and Other Industry Trends, organized and moderated by C&E’s Pam Harley. There is a fantastic lineup of speakers for this session: Darla Hendersen (FASEB), Nicki Augustyn (American College of Chest Physicians), and Alison Denby (Oxford University Press). The session is 10:30 am (Central) on Friday, June 3. That same day at 1:00 pm, David Crotty will be moderating the meeting’s closing session, a panel of Scholarly Kitchen Chefs discussing Challenges for Equity in Scholarly Communications. (The full meeting program is here.) 
 
Also, get running (or walking or rolling)! C&E is a proud sponsor of the SSP Virtual 5K – and C&E’s Laura Ricci is the race chair this year. Thanks to everyone who has registered (and it’s not too late, there’s still time if you’d like to participate)!

The Permanent Record

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The notion of “The Permanent Record” is at the heart of scholarly publishing, and in an age where digital storage space is cheap and new technological tools abound, more and more effort is being made to capture and preserve additional components of the research workflow (“going upstream”). Preprints add early drafts of a manuscript to the historical record of a research project, and Registered Reports bring permanence to experimental design and research plans. More and more businesses are being built around bringing long-term preservation to conference presentations and posters (see also Item 4 below, on Underline’s “Pre-Series A” funding round). This last effort (preservation and dissemination of conference presentations and posters) was the subject of a cautionary correspondence in Nature Ecology & Evolution published late last month.
 
While ecological research has field-specific concerns about public exposure of locations of endangered species or sensitive geographies, the Nature Ecology & Evolution letter raises broader points about the potential value of ephemerality for some aspects of research. Beyond the bar and hallway conversations, the primary reason one goes to a research meeting is to hear about work in progress—if everyone just presents what’s in their published papers, attendees come away with little in the way of new knowledge. Presenting work in progress, however, has become increasingly precarious in the era of social media, where any statement made during a talk can be immediately tweeted out across the globe absent context and nuance. A tentative finding can instantly be transformed into an established conclusion, no matter how carefully it is presented. This can be problematic, both in terms of spreading unintentional disinformation and harming the reputation of a researcher perpetually identified with an idea that is proven to be wrong. This can be particularly damaging to those early in their careers. Turning talks into permanently available, discoverable research outputs further compounds this problem. 
 
The Nature Ecology & Evolution authors argue that the drive for more openness actually inhibits the timely public sharing of new information. If talks and posters become formal, permanent research outputs, they will be treated as such, and work that is not sufficiently established for publication will be withheld and the value of meetings diminished. Research careers have long required the careful balancing of openness and secrecy, and ever-increasing levels of competition for funding and jobs are likely to encourage more and more conservatism when it comes to talking about one’s work.
 
There is also a social aspect that comes into play with indefinite scrutiny. What if you give a talk that goes spectacularly poorly? What if your slides don’t work or there is an aggressive questioner in the audience? Or you were jet lagged, ill, or otherwise just off your game? How many of us would enjoy having a hiring committee review the first talk we ever gave, even if it happened decades ago? Does public permanence also discourage audience members from asking questions for risk of appearing (in front of a wider audience) to have misunderstood something or risk of unintentionally embarrassing their colleague giving the talk?
 
The solution offered by the authors of the Nature Ecology & Evolution piece is to allow speakers to opt out of having their talks recorded and made publicly available. Speakers could also request that audience members not post about their presentation on social media. This is a sensible solution but perhaps not sufficient in cases where social media sharing and recording are the default. If speakers are required to request that the audience not post about their talks on social media, the result can be public shaming for that decision, and having their results and motivations questioned. Additional challenges are present in the case of hybrid or virtual meetings, where recording is necessary and long-term preservation policies are often unclear, making opting out more challenging. 
 
The growing prevalence of virtual and hybrid meetings has increased the urgency of adopting clear standards and protocols across (or at least within) scientific and scholarly communities. Communities and meeting organizers may wish to reexamine which aspects of the research workflow are worth permanently preserving and where it is better to allow them to exist temporarily and then disappear. Does formalizing the meeting talk or poster as a research output destroy its inherent value? Meeting organizers may wish to ask whether there is value in encouraging some conversations to avoid broader public exposure. And what is the best way to provide incentives for researchers to share their work in progress, and to enable conversation about that work, without creating ticking career time bombs in the future?


Source: The Scholarly Kitchen, Nature Ecology & Evolution

Professional and Academic Publishing

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Last month we wrote about the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) 20th anniversary declaration, where the top recommendation was that research should be hosted on open infrastructure, free from the control of commercial organizations. This recommendation is in keeping with a chorus of calls for the development and use of open, community-controlled infrastructure. 
 
This month, the acquisition of Ringgold by the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)presents a case study in the uses and limitations of such open, community-developed infrastructure. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Ringgold was a successful data business and likely negotiated some multiple of revenues. CCC (likely) paid millions of dollars for Ringgold’s institutional identifier data business, despite the existence of the open, community-developed Research Organization Registry (ROR).  
 
Phill Jones, Roger Schonfeld, and Todd Carpenter analyzed the acquisition and provided a cogent comparison between the two services (Ringgold and ROR). Ringgold has put an enormous amount of work into building a continuously evolving and interconnected set of metadata, connecting not only organizations and institutions but also mapping suborganizations and internal departments and institutes (and their variant names and spellings). Because of relationship mapping, Ringgold is integrated into the billing and sales systems of many publishers and other organizations (CCC being one). Ringgold data, for example, helps connect a corresponding author to the right transformative deal. ROR is a much simpler, “flat” identifier that connects an institutional name with a persistent Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). It does not offer the depth nor the web of cross-references found from Ringgold and is not as integrated in current workflows (although it is expected to better connect with ORCID in the near future).
 
There is a strong rationale for the purchase of Ringgold by CCC, particularly given CCC’s increasing role in payment infrastructure related to transformative agreements between publishers and universities. Given the prevalence of such agreements, mapping these complex relationships was essential, and those mappings are not (yet?) available in ROR. 
 
The acquisition of Ringgold by CCC is hard to shoehorn into any stock narrative about competition with community-led infrastructure. It also doesn’t fit the standard “commercial consolidation” story with which we are all so familiar, given that CCC is, at least partially, a not-for-profit organization (it is, unusually, a registered not-for-profit at the state level even as it is considered a for-profit corporation by the federal government). CCC is, importantly, a neutral (publisher-agnostic) third party whose services and products are already deeply embedded in many publishers’ systems. Given the importance of Ringgold’s data to the business models of many publishers (and essential to transformative agreements preferred by a growing number of institutions), it would be hard to imagine a better fit in an acquisition other than CCC.


Source: BOAI20Business Wire, RORThe Scholarly Kitchen, ORCID: Registry Backlogy & Evolution

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Nine and a half years after its initial release, Wiley has signed on to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)DORA will see its 10th anniversary in December, and we at The Brief expect to see a lot of retrospectives on what has been accomplished over its first decade. To be certain, DORA has raised awareness of the flaws and absurdities in how some universities and funders have evaluated researcher performance. But has DORA significantly changed the decision-making process for hiring, tenure, and grant awards? Signatories to DORA now include most major publishers (who continue to feature the Impact Factor heavily in their marketing) and many universities (who continue to base decisions on the Impact Factor and, in some instances, go so far as to include Impact Factor requirements in their job postings). Since there is no monitoring or enforcement of the terms stated in DORA, signing on has been used by some organizations to signal virtue rather than to mark actual change. 
 
The issue remains that while DORA points out what should not be done, research communities have yet to coalesce around viable (and convenient) alternatives. Telling people to “read the article” is not an effective strategy for a professor on a hiring committee with a stack of 500 applications for a tenure-track position. The same goes for someone who is asked to make a decision on hiring or promoting a researcher yet lacks direct knowledge of that researcher’s field. 
 
Publication in a journal, notably, provides an independent, third-party validation of a researcher’s work. Citation measures broaden this external validation further. It is true, of course, that poor research is sometimes published in journals with good reputations (and high Impact Factors) and conversely great research can be published in journals with low Impact Factors. Citations to the researcher’s paper, and not other papers published in the journal, are what matter here. A metric for average citations to the journal a paper was published in, over a two-year window, is indeed a ridiculous method of evaluating a paper that was published years ago. But what about a paper that was recently published and has not yet had time to accrue citations? In such cases, a journal’s reputation (of which, Impact Factor is a component) can be a useful leading indicator (but yes, at a certain point, you just have to read the paper to know if it is good). 
 
One timely thing to consider is that DORA suggests a range of alternative metrics, many of which no longer exist, one of which now links to an online gambling site, and one of which is the widely used Altmetric site, which noted researcher Cassidy Sugimoto has observed primarily provides a measure of author and publisher marketing efforts, not scientific impact. At a moment where an eccentric billionaire is on the verge of buying Twitter (until recently run by another eccentric billionaire) and changing the way it works to best suit his whims on a given day, how much stock should the research community put in metrics weighted so heavily to activity on that platform? If ever a case were to be made for open, community-controlled infrastructure, perhaps it is the source material for alternative metrics.


Source: Wiley, DORA, Altmetric, Cassidy Sugimoto (@csugimot) via Twitter

Dealmaking

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American Chemical Society announces the first of its kind—a “California-wide” transformative deal. The deal encompasses “the 10-campus University of California (UC) system, the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system, and 25 subscribing institutions represented by the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC). 
 
Copyright Clearance Center acquires Ringgold for an undisclosed sum (see item 2 above).
 
Springer Nature has signed its largest-ever open access book deal, through the Max Planck Digital Library. All Springer Nature book imprints are covered. This is Springer Nature’s fifth open access book partnership and the second and largest OA book deal at the national level.
 
Underline closes a $2.5 million “Pre-Series A” round of funding, led by South Central Ventures and the Dutch Founders Fund. Jure Mikuz (South Central Ventures) and Laurens Groenendijk (Dutch Founders Fund) will join the Underline Board of Directors.

People

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Julia Kostova has joined Frontiers as Director of Publishing Development.

Amanda Ward has been appointed Director, Open Research at Taylor & Francis.

Todd Ware has been appointed VP, Publishing at American College of Physicians.

Briefly Noted

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The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) has released its annual Tech Trends 2026, which takes a forward look at likely trends over the next 3 to 5 years. The theme of this release is “The Beauty of Open at Scale,” which may be one of those “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” things. Don’t get us wrong—there are a lot of benefits to interoperable, openly accessible content built on scalable platforms. But scale comes at a price: continued industry consolidation. It also comes with the (continued) diminishment of the role of editors, who once labored in handcrafting each journal issue (some still do!). The Tech Trends 2026 graphic uses the term “processing” with regard to research information (“Creators of research information seek trusted places where they can be certain of reliable processing.”). The industry is indeed in the midst of a shift from publishing to processing (article processing charges are another notable usage of the term). We are not nostalgic about the past here at The Brief (OK, maybe a little nostalgic). Research and scholarship published in the current, interconnected, scalable ecosystem are much more discoverable and accessible than ever before. This is an unmitigated good, and there is a kind of industrial beauty there (like the beauty of interstate interchanges or factories in motion) to be sure (and a beauty to the balance sheet), but we find it hard to wax poetic about processing
 
Publishers and other organizations have agreed to forgive $1M in loans to ORCIDin order to fund a global participation program meant to further spread use of these persistent identifiers.
 
A reminder that much scholarship does not involve data (open or otherwise), involves no collaboration software, and is often based around analog workflows
 
Marshall Breeding’s 2022 Library System Report has been released. The acquisition of ProQuest by Clarivate took center stage, in and of itself and by triggering a wave of consolidation in response. Breeding notes that the “emergence of such a large business at the top of the industry has accelerated consolidation among mid-level players that aim to increase scale and efficiency to remain competitive.” For anyone who cares about library systems (or whose content is indexed by such systems), the report is worth reading in its entirety. 
 
The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) has released its 2022 Annual Report.
 
Atypon has shut down its Scitrus discovery service (we will miss lampooning the name of this service).

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The details are not the details. They make the design. —Charles Eames