A few snippets from my 1.5 days at UK Serials Group meeting – a mixture of publishers, LIS and others. One scientist.
I don’t think that many at the meeting really had much idea what scientists actually do on a day to day basis. That’s a gross generalisation but there is too much talk of “end-users” (of journals). I’m not an end-user; I’m a scientist, author, reader. So I wanted to get across real-science in my talk (this morning). I tried to do this with articles from JOVE ( – the journal of visual experiments. It’s impressive – fully recorded videos of experiments (mainly bioscience) with very detailed procedures including precise quantities of chemicals. Unfortunately although the streaming video worked half an hour earlier it failed in the talk. But I plan for failure and it wasn’t serious.
I did manage to give a good showing to Andrew Walkingshaw’s movie of crystallography ( The geographic spread of (Open) crystallography) with a seven-year global timeline. Particular appropriate at a publishing meeting as it shows the rapid and inexorable change in publishing.
The theme today (I was one of 4 speakers) was that scholarly publishing cannot continue as it does today, with vested commercial interests making money from restricting access. It clearly touched a spot in several of the delegates who told me they were now committed to pushing for Open Access as a result of what they heard. And, although progress is slow, the ground is being laid. But whether the industry and community can actually move is not clear.
Besides the Open/Closed fracture line there’s a great danger of failing to provide what the new generation of scholars want. I would mandate that all LIS decision-making bodies had an undergraduate representative. It’s no good trying to work out what young people want by asking them questionnaires. Give them the power to change the process themselves. They are already redefining what the scholarly process is – they don’t do it in the way we would like, so we have to change, not them.
So I came away with general optimism – Open Access is certain (although there wasn’t actually very much said about it – a sort of unspoken feeling) – but a serious concern about the lack of direction in the more immediate future. There’s little sense of leadership – I’d like to see provosts and heads of libraries actively trying to aim for a radically different future. And taking risks. Copyright in scholarship must break soon – just as has happened in the music industry.

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