Archive for September, 2007

Richard Charkin to move from Macmillan to Bloomsbury

Macmillan has just announced that Richard Charkin will leave his position as CEO of Macmillan (part of the privately held Holtzbrinck Group) to join Bloomsbury as Executive Director:

Richard Charkin moves on after ten years at Macmillan
26 September 2007: Macmillan announced today that Richard Charkin will leave his post as CEO after exactly ten years with the company. He will take up a new position as Executive Director of Bloomsbury plc on Monday 1 October 2007.

Richard commented, “It is exactly ten years since I accepted the job as Chief Executive of Macmillan and it has been the best ten years of my career. I have been able to work in a company with strong values and traditions owned by a family committed to quality, innovation and autonomy

Apparently this means an end to Charkin’s delightful Chark Blog, though surely this can’t be allowed to happen?

What it means is that I won’t have to think of something to write about every morning on this blog. Just for the record we’ve had 1,137,267 visitors and generated $338.37 in advertising income. More importantly I’ve made new friends, learned tons and had fun. Thanks to all of you and pip pip from charkinblog.

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Elsevier’s OncologySTAT

It will be worth keeping an eye on Elsevier’s newly launched OncologySTAT, which provides advertising-supported free access for registered users to over 100 Elsevier oncology journals (press release).

The site will provide a lot of information.

OncologySTAT integrates a multitude of authoritative professional cancer information sources, such as peer-reviewed research, news and regulatory updates, a professional drug monograph and interactions database, chemotherapy regimens, and conference coverage into one easy-to-use online destination. Information and educational materials are delivered across multiple media formats: text, audio, video, interactive, user-generated forums, etc. Community oncologists and cancer-care practitioners in private practice or a non-institutional setting will find OncologySTAT especially useful in gaining immediate integrated access to the latest evidence-based research, news, treatment, and decision support information.

Specific sources of information include:

  • Peer-reviewed Journal Articles: registered users can search and access current journal articles from over 100 Elsevier cancer related journals including The Lancet Oncology, The Breast, Lung Cancer, Cancer Letters, The American Journal of Medicine, Seminars in Oncology, Seminars in Radiation Oncology, Seminars in Hematology, Blood Reviews, etc.
  • Journal Scans: Weekly professional summaries of the most important scientific research from 25 leading cancer journals, including Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Blood, JAMA, and New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Cancer News Feeds: Late-breaking regulatory and drug approval updates from the widely respected Pink Sheet, as well as professional medical and conference news from the International Medical News Group and MDConsult.
  • InfoBlast E-Newsletter: A weekly e-newsletter highlighting key oncology news, research and site content features.
  • Integrated MEDLINE Search: Immediate access to search MEDLINE’s vast repository of scientific abstracts without exiting OncologySTAT.
  • Cancer-type “Spotlights”: 27 cancer type “Spotlight” sections featuring news, journals, article scans, clinical texts summaries, patient handouts and webinars on cancers such as bone, breast, prostate and lung.
  • Chemotherapy Regimens: Guidelines and protocols from the Elsevier Guide to Oncology Drugs and Regimens (2006) obtained through searches by drug or cancer type.
  • Professional Drug Monograph and Interactions Database: Powered by Gold Standard.

Access to Elsevier’s journals appears to be limited to search-based access, i.e. any articles you can find you can download but there is no access via table of contents. The advanced search options are very limited, for instance there is no fielded search for author, title, abstract, or journal, and I could not see any way of saving a search to run as a regular alert. These restrictions are presumably made in order to protect the subscriptions of the journals covered.

There are also some “community” features including blogs and forums, user biogs, and users can comment on journal articles and other content. The site is, however, much more focussed on a portal model than an out-and-out community and user-generated content approach.

The New York Times did an article too.

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UK All-Hands e-Science 2007

The UK All-Hands e-Science 2007 meeting took place on 10-13 September – the full programme with some links to presentation slides is here.

Mostly very technical and/or infrastructural and rather a long way from the publishing process but it’s worth being aware of developments that potentially impact on publishing and the use of publications, e.g.

  • Cross-linking and referencing data and publications in CLADDIER [PPT]
  • The Data Acquisition, Accessibility, Annotation and e-Research Technologies (DART) Project: Supporting the complete e-Research Lifecycle [PPT]

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University of California: faculty attitudes and behaviour regarding scholarly communication

A very interesting study has been published by the Office of Scholarly Communication at the University of California: Faculty Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Scholarly Communication: Survey Findings from the University of California. They surveyed the 5000-odd members of the UC faculty in November 2006 and got 1118 responses, a very healthy 23% response rate.

Key findings of the survey were:

  • Faculty are strongly interested in issues related to scholarly communication, e.g. as evidenced by the high response rate to the survey.
    Faculty generally conform to conventional behavior in scholarly publication, albeit with significant beachheads on several fronts. The overwhelmingly rely on traditional forms of publishing, such as peer-reviewed journals and monographs. They believe in traditional measures such as citations and impact factor as proxies for the value of research. They also believe in peer review as an effective mechanism for maintaining the quality of published scholarship. There is limited but significant use of alternative forms of scholarship, with 21% of faculty having published in open-access journals, and 14% having posted peer-reviewed articles in institutional repositories or disciplinary repositories.
    Faculty attitudes are changing on a number of fronts, with a few signs of imminent change in behaviours.
    The current tenure and promotion system impedes changes in faculty behaviour. The current tenure and promotion system drives them to focus on conventional publishing activities that are accorded the most weight toward their professional advancement. Faculty appear more interested in the act of publishing than in the process of dissemination. Furthermore, faculty appear to believe that nearly all published materials eventually
    appear online through the efforts of publishers or aggregators, and are accessible to almost anyone on the Internet.
    On important issues in scholarly communication, faculty attitudes vary inconsistently by rank, except in general depth of knowledge and on issues related to tenure and promotion.
    Faculty tend to see scholarly communication problems as affecting others, but not themselves. For example, they feel that too much research is being published, they do not believe that they are publishing more than they ought to.
    The disconnect between attitude and behavior is acute with regard to copyright. In other words, they way copyright is a big deal for scholarly publishing, but only a minority see it as an important factor for their own publishing, and even fewer take action to retain copyright rights.
    University policies mandating change are likely to stir intense debate.
    Scholars are aware of alternative forms of dissemination [such as open access journals and repositories] but are concerned about preserving their current publishing outlets.
    Scholars are concerned that changes might undermine the quality of scholarship. Many respondents voiced concerns that new forms of scholarly communication, such as open access journals or repositories, might produce a flood of low-quality output.
    Outreach on scholarly communication issues and services has not yet reached the majority of faculty. They were largely unaware of a University Senate proposal to require faculty to grant the University a nonexclusive licence to place their publications in a repository, and were overwhelmingly unaware of eScholarship services
    The Arts and Humanities disciplines may be the most fertile disciplines for University-sponsored initiatives in scholarly communication. Ironically, perhaps because the sciences have led in the adoption of new forms of scholarly communication such as disciplinary repositories and online journals, they were less interested in supporting University-sponsored initiatives, while the Arts & Humanities faculty express greater interest in alternatives, the need for change, and a call for discussion and help.
    Senior faculty may be the most fertile targets for innovation in scholarly communication. Perhaps counterintuitively, the survey results overall suggest that senior faculty may actually be more open to innovation than younger faculty. However, senior faculty are free from tenure concerns and appear more willing to experiment. Because they are also involved in making academic policy and serving as role models
    for junior faculty, their efforts at innovation are likely to have broader influence within their departments
  • Some of these findings echo those of earlier surveys, such as the large-scale surveys undertaken by the CIBER group at UCL (e.g. the dissociation between attitudes and behaviour.)

    The finding that faculty are conservative in their publication behaviour because of the pressures of the rewards and promotion system also won’t come as a surprise to most observers, however dismaying to advocates for new models. The size of the effect is striking, though. There was an echo in the reported “Young scientists and the culture of fear” discussion reported at the recent Nature/Google/O’Reilly Scifoo meeting.

    The last two findings are fascinating, because they fly in the face of the conventional wisdom, which posits for instance a “generational effect” that will eventually see the old dinosaurs replaced by a “born digital” generation that takes newer, more informal styles of scholarly communication for granted. On the contrary, the survey suggests (and the Scifoo discussion echoes) that younger scientists quickly work out what they have to do to get promoted, so surely by the time they become senior faculty members themselves they will be thoroughly socialised in the old models?

    Some of the findings appear contradictory on the face of it. For instance, faculty are reported to be strongly interested in issues related to scholarly communication, yet hardly any of them knew anything about the Senate’s licensing/repository proposal nor about UC’s eScholarship services. Unlike issues of attitude versus behaviour, this is not explained by the pressure of the rewards/promotion system. It may be that the outreach and advocacy work of repository and open access advocates has worked to the extent that faculty are persuaded that scholarly communication is a hot topic, but they have not been moved to action because their own experience belies this, with, for example, unparalleled access to online resources (UC is not, of course, a typical university).

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    Open Access opinion piece in Financial Times

    The Financial Times today publishes a signed opinion piece by James Boyle, professor of law at Duke Law School,, and a co-founder of Science Commons, entitled The irony of a web without science, arguing in favour of the proposed US legislation that would require open access to authors’ postprint versions of articles a year after publication.

    … This is no Voltairean call to strangle the last commercial publisher with the entrails of the last journal rep. Commercial journal publishers and learned societies play a valuable role in the assessment and dissemination of scientific knowledge – though we might wish that the availability of worldwide, free distribution had not caused their prices to rise quite so sharply. …

    Pending legislation in the US balances the interest of commercial publishers and the public by requiring that, a year after its publication, NIH-funded research must be available, online, in full. Similar suggestions have been made in Europe though the debate still concentrates too much on making accessible something that can be read by the human eyeball, rather than something that can be mined by computers.

    Update 10/9: The FT published a letter from Michael Mabe (Chief Executive of STM) in response: Paying for research does not pay for its publication

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    Choosing a publishing partner: advice for societies and associations

    I have just uploaded a preprint of a new article, “Choosing a publishing partner: advice for societies and associations” (pdf), which is due to be published in Learned Publishing in its January 2008 issue.


    For societies and associations seeking a publishing partner, the healthy competition between publishers means that the deals on offer have never been better. The problem for the society is distinguishing a good short-term deal (say, an attractive financial offer) from the partnership that will actually be in the better long-term interests of the journal. This article, based on the author’s experience as a publisher-turned-consultant advising societies, offers a framework for selecting a partner based on a careful analysis of what the society needs from its publisher in the long term. We conclude that underlying the performance of the best publisher partners are a good understanding of the needs of societies and their journals; a strong service orientation; and an ability to plan strategically for each journal on the basis of facts and data.

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