Today I attended a fascinating session on publication resources, tools and platforms, organised by the Scholarly Communication team of the University of Cambridge. The session was a combination of presentations and small-group ‘speed dating’, in which attendees could ask questions of presenters in ten-minute blocks of time. I found the event to be thought-provoking, and it introduced me to some new resources which I may incorporate into my own teaching sessions in the future.
The first presentation was by Dr Rupert Gatti of Open Book Publishers, an open-access publisher set up in part to address problems in the traditional publication process, particularly in disciplines such as humanities and social sciences, where research is traditionally published in monographs. Dr Gatti noted that traditional monographs have a slow publication time, have low sales figures (which he argued meant that few people get to read them – however I would argue that 200-400 sales does not equate to 200-400 readers), and are generally so expensive that they are inaccessible to a wider audience. Open Book Publishers attempt to provide an alternative to the traditional monograph by publishing their works in multiple formats – all open access – so that people can access and engage with these research outputs in a variety of ways. The idea is also to look beyond academia and remove barriers for other audiences to discover and engage with research. Ideally, these forms of engagement should be part of the research outcome, not merely citations by other academics.
There were lots of questions from the audience – mainly comprised of early career researchers – about the effect of open-access publications on career progression, and Dr Gatti noted that the incentive to publish open-access needed to be there. Open Book Publishers try to support researchers who publish through them, for example by writing letters of recommendation to tenure committees, as well as providing a traditional peer-review process of their publications to signal quality to the scholarly community.
The second speaker was Dr Ross Mounce of RIO Journal. This is an open-access journal which aims to publish all research outputs, not just journal articles. The idea is that these publications can be updated and edited throughout the research lifecycle. Dr Mounce gave the example of a researcher in Canada who published his grant application on RIO Journal. Once the grant was approved, he updated it to reflect this and included the grant number so that readers could follow the progress of his research. (You can read more about this researcher here.)
As in the first presentation, Dr Mounce emphasised the speed of publication through RIO as opposed to that of traditional journals, particularly those in the humanities. This tension between the perceived prestige of traditional journals or academic publishers of monographs, and the relative speed and accessibility of newer open-access publishers was one of the common threads that developed over the course of the workshop.
The third presentation was by Dr Lauren Cadwallader of the University of Cambridge Open Access team, talking about ORCiD. This is a free tool providing a unique identifier to researchers under which they can collect all their publications. ORCiD is really handy for the following scenarios:
- You have a common name, such as Jane Smith, and you want to distinguish your own work from that of others (Dr Cadwallader pointed out that even relatively uncommon names, such as her own, were not unique)
- Your work has been published under a variety of names, such as Jane Smith, J. Smith, Jane M. Smith, and so on
- You have changed your name at some point during your research career and want to make sure works published under both names are attributed to you
- You have had a career change, or your research is multidisciplinary, and want to make sure that research publications in a variety of disciplines are all attributed to you (this is crucial for me, as I changed career and have publications in a humanities field done while a PhD student, and in a science field, done as part of my work supporting researchers as a library assistant, which to an uninformed observer might be perceived as the work of two unrelated researchers. Thanks to ORCiD, they’re all listed at the one place!)
I already recommend ORCiD to researchers, so it was good to have confirmation of its importance.
After this, we broke away into small groups to begin the ‘speed-dating’ portion of the day. As well as the first three speakers, there were representatives from Overleaf and Authorea, two platforms for collaborative writing (about which more below).
The final two sessions were presentations about these two platforms, delivered by Ali Smith of Overleaf, and Karolina Masiadz of Authorea. Both platforms were set up to cope with several common problems associated with writing for publication. Firstly, they are collaborative, cloud-based tools – which gets around the issues of working with multiple versions of the same Word document, passed around via email between researchers. Secondly, they are LaTeX-based, which means it is easier to include features such as mathematical formulae in the document. Finally, they have a template feature which allows researchers to format their papers to comply with publishers’ citation and other formatting styles – and if they choose to resubmit a paper to a different journal after it is rejected from one journal, they can change the format to that journal’s template. One problem is that the LaTeX-based system may prove a barrier to researchers more comfortable writing in Word – neither platform is integrated with Word, so there is no option for collaborators to work on the same document using both Word and either Overleaf or Authorea.
This is apparently a fairly common problem:
However, researchers should try these tools out for themselves. Those based at the University of Cambridge, or collaborating with researchers there may be particularly interested to know that the University is running a one-year trial with Overleaf’s Pro level of account. Those interested can find out more, and sign up here.
If you want to find out more about the event as a whole, check out the workshop’s hashtag, #openpub2016, on Twitter.