The Future Of Scientific Publishing


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This is a presentation I gave at the 3rd WLE Symposium in London in March 09. It is a discussion on how science publishing can evolve and take full advantage of the Web.

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  • Hello.

    My name is Charlie.

    I might be from a big mobile phone company, but I think I have a lot in common with all of you:
    - I think about the fusion of mobile and Web all the time
    - I’ve been talking about, thinking about, and designing services and software for years
    - I was an academic researcher for about 10 years, with 18 co-authored papers

    What I’d like to do today is tell you about a personal journey, a problem that has grabbed my attention and which I see in many places. This is but one area.
  • About a year and half ago I met Matt Cockerill from BioMedCentral, an Open Access publisher of scientific papers.

    He had a sort of embarrassment of riches - servers full of papers, videos, info. The problem was how to take all that info and make it work, derive relevance, give value back to the scientists.

    That got me thinking. I framed it as a problem - how to make it easy to find-navigate-recombine-share? Suddenly, I saw this as one of the big challenges for the Web at the moment.

    I see it everywhere, but science publishing catches my attention because of one gap in my solution thinking, which I will mention at the end.
  • A brief note about science publishing:
    Scientific papers arose about 450 years ago as a way to distribute public letters and correspondence on findings and reports. The natural scarcity of publication and distribution made this a necessity.
    From this arose lead publishers (Nature and Science) and all that entails - star editors, reputation, authority, impact factors, and so on.
    But that’s so Web 1.0
  • Oh, I try really hard not to use the Web 1.0, Web 2.0 etc terminology. I view the Web more in waves than labels.
    Each of these waves take the cycle of create, consume, connect to another level.
  • First wave -> Age of the hyperlinked document- publishing databases- newspapers, britannica- indexes -> Yahoo- search -> AltaVista- rise of email -> connect- the browser wars -> consume- the creators were traditional publishers
    Second wave -> The age of fragmentation- micropublishing -> blogs, wikis- emergent indexes ->wikis, delicious- social networks -> people- search -> google and technorati- IM -> connect- flash video, AJAX -> consume- everyone was a publisher
  • Wave 1 weakened traditional publishing that used to be based on scarcity
    Wave 2 made everyone a source of info, everyone an annotator of data, everyone a publisher. It took hyperlinked documents and morselized the web.
    Everything became searchable, commentable, linkable, embedable, feedable.
    It’s the Social Web

  • How have scientific publishers fared in this Wave 2?
  • Papers are still stuck in Wave 1
    As with many traditional publishers, science publishers replicated their closed subscription-based model on the Web, republishing their content online.
    Open Access has been battling the status quo for 10 years. Only now are they getting strong recognition, impact factors, authority, and a little respect (MIT, NIH).
    But they are predicated mostly on and restricted heavily by the traditional model of science publishing.
    Recently the papers have been experimenting with comments and annotations.
    (sure the non-paper publishing part of traditional publishers embraced the Web, but I am speaking of the core product here)
  • Wave 2 behaviors are the same as in research- find- navigate- recombine- share
    And openness and sharing is at the heart of science.
    Structures in traditional versus new science publishing- problems with authority- problems with primacy
    But that’s same as on Web.
    In short, science publishing as it should be mirrors the Web.
  • If there is a Wave 1 and Wave 2, is there a Wave 3?
  • But we’re moving already past Wave 2

    Context, relevancy, meaning, semantics -> all the same

    But not just the traditional librarian way, emergent too.

    Mix of data mining, librarian, and people.

    Examples: Knowco, Nextbio, etc
  • Ok, enough philosophizing and down to more practical things.

    How do I see science publishing taking advantage of the Web?
  • I mapped out behaviors and how it could be on the Web.
  • Judith begged

    But this is the hardest part for me.

    I’ve been living and breathing the fusion of mobile and Web for almost 10 years. I have lived these waves and the emergent semantics of Wave 3 are perfectly suited to mobiles.
  • Wave 3 loves mobiles- as sensors- as distributed sources - content creation, life-streaming, life-caching- as distributed access - queries, monitors, information, tools

    I can clearly see how mobile and Web work in this third Wave. There are a ton of indicators from the Web.


    But how can these inform us how we haul science publishing to the current Web?
  • But the future of science publishing depends on culture not tech.

    All the tech is here, and it’s evolving mixing Web, mobile, context, semantics and other wonder, whether the scientific publishers want to or no.

    The irony is that science collaboration made the Web (TBL article).

    But I have a hard time seeing this.

    Which is - why I wanted to bring these thoughts to these crowds
    - why I wanted to get a discussion going
    - why I wanted to talk to folks who also think of this and can help me figure this out.

  • The Future Of Scientific Publishing

    1. 1. The future of scientific publishing (and the future of the Web and mobile) Charlie Schick 27mar09 1 /18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    2. 2. The Problem 2/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    3. 3. The Rise of the Scientific Paper • Letters, correspondence • Scarcity of distribution • Very Web 1.0 3/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    4. 4. The Web 4/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    5. 5. The waves of the Web • Wave 1 → Age of the Hyperlinked Document • Wave 2 → Age of Fragmentation 5/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    6. 6. From static monoliths to morsels free to socialize • Collapse of traditional publishing • Explosion of morsels • Search-able, comment-able, link- able, embed-able, feed-able • The Social Web 6/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    7. 7. Scientific papers during Wave 2 7/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    8. 8. Status quo. Online. • Stuck in Wave 1 • Open Access still traditional • Some experiments 8/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    9. 9. So many similarities... • Find, navigate, recombine, share • Openness and sharing at heart • Core cultural structures to replicate 9/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    10. 10. Wave 3 10/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    11. 11. Semantic Web • Context = relevancy = meaning = semantics • Ugh, librarians • Data-mining, librarian, people 11/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    12. 12. Vision /18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    13. 13. /18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    14. 14. Mobile? /18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    15. 15. Wave 3 loves mobiles • sensors • sources • access 15/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    16. 16. Culture vs tech • Inevitable, despite publishers • A sad irony • Can it happen? How? 16/18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc
    17. 17. Thank you! 17 /18 © 2009 Nokia Future of SciPub / 2009-03-27 / CSc