Research 2030

Breaking up is hard to do. Part 1

November 05, 2019 Episode 1
Research 2030
Breaking up is hard to do. Part 1
Chapters
Research 2030
Breaking up is hard to do. Part 1
Nov 05, 2019 Episode 1
Elsevier

For decades, academic journals, the peer reviewed content they publish, and the metrics we use to measure their impact, have been inextricably linked to many aspects of the research ecosystem – funding, researcher careers, and institution rankings to name but a few. For these reasons, many might describe the article as the beating heart of research communities, but is that changing? Michiel Kolman speaks with Heather Staines from the MIT Futures Group to explore her vision of the future. 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Research Futures report: In 2019, Elsevier and Ipsos MORI joined forces to understand how trends, from advances in technology and funding pressures to political uncertainly and population shifts, might be fueling the changes we'll see in the coming decade. The resulting large-scale, future-scoping and scenario-planning study raised many questions and sparked many conversations, some of which are touched on in this episode.
Show Notes Transcript

For decades, academic journals, the peer reviewed content they publish, and the metrics we use to measure their impact, have been inextricably linked to many aspects of the research ecosystem – funding, researcher careers, and institution rankings to name but a few. For these reasons, many might describe the article as the beating heart of research communities, but is that changing? Michiel Kolman speaks with Heather Staines from the MIT Futures Group to explore her vision of the future. 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Research Futures report: In 2019, Elsevier and Ipsos MORI joined forces to understand how trends, from advances in technology and funding pressures to political uncertainly and population shifts, might be fueling the changes we'll see in the coming decade. The resulting large-scale, future-scoping and scenario-planning study raised many questions and sparked many conversations, some of which are touched on in this episode.
Mancini:
0:07
Welcome to research 2030 an Elsevier podcast series in which guests from academia and beyond join us in exploring, debating, and challenging the changing research landscape. In these first two episodes, breaking up this art to do, we've asked our interviewees to turn their thoughts to what many describe as the beating heart of research communities, academic journals. For decades now, journals, there peer reviewed content they publish and a metrics we use to measure their impact have been inextricably linked to the many aspects of the research ecosystem such as funding, researcher careers, and institution rankings to name, but a few but change is a foot. Publications are now largely access directly via keywords and search in factors such as open science, collaboration, and multi and interdisciplinary research with rapid technological advances are driving new publishing formats and channels. We set out to discover what these shifts might mean for the traditional research journals and their articles.
Mancini:
1:07
Will they exist 10 years from now, and if so, what form? Importantly, will their relationship survive intact? Our host for breaking up is hard to do is Michiel Kolman, president of the international publishers association and senior vice president at Elsevier for information industry relations. Over the course of these episodes, he considers these questions with this guest, Kent Anderson of Caldera Publishing and Heather Stains, head of partnerships at the MIT Futures Knowledge group. Today is to turn of Heather who draws on her experiences to paint the vivid picture of what she believes it will be the article, the future.
Music:
1:46
music
Kolman:
1:51
Today we are very lucky to have Heather stains here as our guest. Heather Stains at the knowledge futures group at MIT. Welcome Heather.
Stains:
2:00
It's great to be here. Thank you.
Kolman:
2:02
So Heather, I understand you are very interested in academic publishing, library technology and the future of e-learning. So extremely comprehensive, very impressive background as well. You worked at Springer, ProQuest, Hypothesis, so what does Knowledge Futures groups do exactly?
Stains:
2:19
You know, we're really exploring opportunities for academically owned infrastructure. So right now we have two main projects that live under knowledge futures group. One is pub pub, which is our open source technology platform, which is being used by more than 500 communities, researchers, publishers, conferences, libraries to experiment with new forms of publishing. And then the second project, which is which is coming along is an open knowledge graph project called the underlay.
Kolman:
2:49
And when you say head of partnerships, so who are you partnering with?
Stains:
2:53
It's, it's really quite a range. One of the cool things about KFG and about the the pub pub environment is that folks can go in, anyone who wants, who can go in and actually just create a community. A community could be a book, it could be a journal. And in those respects I'm working with publishers who may not see their traditional hosting platform as meeting some of the needs around say digital humanities projects, which could be quite robust. We also see libraries who are involved in research where they want to post the the white paper or the resulting report for community feedback. There's activity there, there are instructors using content in their classrooms and so it really, it could be any type of partnership. So I've got my work cut out for me.
Kolman:
3:40
Great. All right, let's get back to the topic on the table today. Uh, that's a, the future of the research journal. Before we tackle all of that, maybe something about your views, how the world of research itself is changing, uh, so that, you know, have a broader discussion and then we'd be dive a bit deeper on the journal.
Stains:
3:58
Yeah. I will say, you know, my experience in the researcher world is from more from the humanities and social sciences front, but through my partnership activities across multiple jobs, now I've worked, I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of researchers in various respects and I think that the researcher's job is more challenging than ever. There's an increase on reproducibility. There's an increase on, on being transparent. There's a focus on resulting research outputs being open along with the open code or the open datasets. There may be open review processes that take place, which can result in a little bit more work, you know, for researchers and for authors. So how do we expect them to get the research done when they have to do all these ancillary things around it. But certainly having those outputs open does benefit the wider community.
Kolman:
4:48
Hmm hmm, and you know, a typical research also has to teach and represent her or his university. So I think it's a very valid question.
Stains:
4:55
Yeah. And not to mention some of them actually would like to have a life.
Kolman:
4:58
Exactly. So very good question. And then in that's, you know, very time constrained lives that research is lead there is still that, uh, that academic journal. So how do you see, uh, its future?
Stains:
5:12
Yeah, so I kind of look to the past and also, you know, to the wide variety of disciplines that are represented in research in the humanities. You know, we have a big focus on books as well as articles. So I never want to leave them out of the equation. But I think, you know, historically speaking, you know, again, not an expert in this, but the research journal as we know it today, I don't think has really been around that long. You know, I think it's like a mid 20th century development that came along roughly the time when libraries were starting to pick up subscriptions and, and changing that method of access from individual memberships. And so certainly researchers coming up today and many of us who are in the industry have a very definite notion of, you know, what the journal is comprised of, but over time that's been a moving target. So I do think there's a future for journals, you know, don't get me wrong, but will we recognize journals in 50 years? No, I think it's likely that there'll be a wide range of outputs and some of them may stretch our definition of journals today.
Kolman:
6:19
And can you give some examples. Or, how would uh, this new journal type or new alternatives or ways of communication what they would, how would they look like?
Stains:
6:28
Yeah, I think that research articles as the version of record never to be changed. Living in sort of isolation is the past effort. A lot of the initiatives that I've been involved with, you know, over the past several years have looked at living articles and articles that do you connect across time and space to other materials. And so how we might ask as publishers, you know, how are we going to possibly keep track of all of that stuff? We've got the pre-print, we've got the, the article. We may have an an updated version. And I think that certainly when it comes to citing, I want to know what someone looked at when a, so that I can, you know, check their thought process there, but should an author, should a publisher, should a, researcher further down the line, be able to build on that knowledge and, and, and connect that back to the article or to the, the output.
Stains:
7:25
I think that is, is a definite benefit. It's not clean. It's a potential for being, being very messy. But, uh, I think that we will see data around community discussions and particularly types of peer review that might happen further down the line and loop back to the author, to the publisher that it'll take us a little while to get used to that. Perhaps what might seem to some of us as like a shifting sand type environment. But I think once we find our footing and get used to it, we'll say how do they do it in the day, the old days when the, the version of record was, uh, signed, sealed and, and a untouchable.
Kolman:
8:04
So we'd gone to live in a much more dynamic world. It sounds like it was living articles and articles has keep growing, which are very well embedded in also a changing world, so to say. Yeah. And then you mentioned, you mentioned the challenge with citing, so I guess it's in very important, at which point, uh, the article is cited, right?
Stains:
8:27
Yeah. I mean we even see this now. I can remember back in my book acquisition days when I used to tell people not to site a website. And I would, I would literally say to them, citing a website is like saying I saw this poster down on the corner, you know, there's no reliability that that is going to be there. Well now you know, fortunately we've got standards in place, we've got best practices and conventions and requiring authors to include DOIs and particularly mention a date that they access a website to identify the website by more than just a URL so it can be tracked back. You know through multiple channels. You know, all of those developments have moved us forward. And I think the industry best practices and conventions around version citation and you know, growing and, and, and changing corpuses of data will come along as well.
Kolman:
9:16
Mm. And then the elements, which, you know, people always bring forward about the research journal, it's, it's trust and reliability and it comes from peer review. So are those elements being carried over in say the newer worlds where every live in dynamic articles and in an, in an ever changing world.
Stains:
9:36
Yeah. I mean we're already, I think seeing an increasing focus in peer review. I've been reading recently about initiatives around registered reports. So you're reviewing early and then looping back and peer reviewing to look to see if the different protocols and parameters of the, of the experiment were still in place. You know, validating the outcome, whether there's a clear, you know, set of results or not. I think in the world of digital humanities, many publishers really get approached with ideas that as a push the envelope, but how do you peer review a project that requires a website and when do you peer review it and, and when do you come back. And so I think that whether that's the same set of peer reviewers that might look at something over multiple times, which would be ideal in many ways or whether it's a different set.
Stains:
10:30
This may be looking at aspects that have changed. There's discussions about maybe kind of a micro level peer review where someone is looking specifically at the methods section or specifically at the images or the code. And so I do, as I said, I think that the conventions will, will uh, will arise that it won't seem as daunting as it does now. And then in terms of trust, you know, when again, to think about a world where we have access to an open knowledge graph, I think it's a perfect opportunity for a publisher to assert that this particular article is related to this earlier version which is related to it. This pre-print. And when I'm going in doing a query, I will see a number of players with their assertions. And depending on what I've come to do, I can make a determination of whether I trust a publisher or a third party entity, whether I trust that an author's assertion that material is connected, you know, should be the valuable one or you know, maybe some independent validation. So there'll be several paths I think through, but provenance and trust, um, are going to be critical underpinnings still.
Kolman:
11:42
I like how you mentioned this open knowledge graph. Can you explain a little bit more? What does it do and where does it come from? I mean, not everybody is maybe familiar with the concept of a knowledge graph in the podcast. Maybe they should but they might not be.
Stains:
11:56
Yeah. So I mean, I think most people come across a knowledge graph when they're Googling something and they don't necessarily understand what's going on under the hood, that the information that appears in the box, which tells you whether a business is open or closed or tells you when the, when it's a busier time at the museum than another time is actually pulling, you know, dynamically from a number of different sites that the, that the search engine has access to. And so one of the things that I think that an open knowledge graph has potential for is to reduce this sort of frenetic API building activity that we're all engaged in where we're approached by, you know, numerous companies and maybe even departments in the same company to build API APIs that do kind of one specific thing. And, and then that changes and you need yet another API.
Stains:
12:44
So once, um, entities have been able to deposit data, information and metadata into an open knowledge graph, you should be able to say to someone who comes knocking on your door about an API, Hey, it's all in the open knowledge graph, which you can query and take what you need. And many of those of us who've worked with a library world for some time, you know, have been hearing about linked data and linked open data. I think that an open knowledge graph can be, can be thought of partly in, in, in the same way in that it doesn't require a centralized management to be useful. And you know, in a increasingly distributed world where some information is living some places on, you know, an article may live one place, research data may live another. Making those connections through functions like an open knowledge graph is gonna, you know, simplify some of our work going forward.
Kolman:
13:37
Brilliant. And you, before you mentioned also when we're talking about peer review, maybe we need micro level peer review, right? Maybe somebody should look specifically at the methods or at the code. Does it mean that you're also unpacking the article itself or you think the article as a unit of, of, of knowledge of information will still continue to be there?
Stains:
13:58
Well, again, I think what we call an article now we have very specific ideas in mind. I think most of us would imagine in our, in our mind's eye, the PDF or or maybe a an HTML version or or some other downloadable versions, but the article is really a collection of, of knowledge and I moderated a webinar back in June around micro publications and this is something that I've been, you know, fascinated with and I know there's a little bit of a fear on micro publications that researchers will just, you know, dice and slice their experiment to try to get more publications. But some of the genomic databases, the fly, worm base, fly base zebra fish base, they're finding it incredibly beneficial for folks to be able to submit results from individual experiments with the resulting data behind them and then have numerous experiments at up to sort of like a collective that
Stains:
15:01
we may consider to be an article or we may consider those micro publications to be articlets or or or there may well be community generated outputs as well as as publisher some, if you think about a conference, you may have your conference proceedings, you may have a conference forum, you may have, uh, things that happen around that, either prior or subsequent in the form of blogs. And all of that comes together to sort of form a, an ecosystem. So again, I think in the future they may scratch, researchers may scratch their head a little bit and say, why were they so hung up? You know, on this word article, on this word journal, you know, when what we have today makes more sense to us then than that ever did.
Kolman:
15:49
And it will provide with much more freedom and it can be much more dynamic. Um, I can see that work, although I'm at the same time, the many researchers tend also to be a little bit conservative, right?
Stains:
16:02
Yeah. I have a theory about researchers being conservative when it comes to publications and, and I blame editors and I put myself into that category and I, I have a, a theory that we as editors get really good at saying no when, when folks come to us who have a unconventional or you know, maybe very exciting but maybe scary ideas about what they would like to include in a publication. And we say no for numerous reasons. We say no because we know what the different hosting platforms can accommodate. We say no because we know what we can get past the publications committee or the editorial board. And what I want to do, and particularly in this new role is try to get as far upstream as possible so folks can know what's, what's, what is available to them in terms of, um, in multimedia, in terms of, uh, interactive data visualizations.
Stains:
16:57
Again, all of this sort of ecosystem of a variety of content types. So that instead of saying no, automatically we can say, Hmm, maybe. And, and, and they're suddenly, you know, we're finding with some of our partners that authors who didn't submit, you know, certain types of, of data with our articles, now they're like, Oh, I could actually have, um, the reader kind of recreate and walk through this same visualization experience that I did, or folks who participated in the study and now that actually draws the reader in and makes them part of it. So I want to see, you know, what's, what's possible, because I think that's, you know, where the future lies.
Kolman:
17:40
So you think it's part of our mindset
Stains:
17:42
publishing is largely an apprentice type business that we, we learn, you know, what we can get past. And certainly we're juggling so many hats these days, you know, in the publishing side that, you know, we need to be as efficient as possible. But I was at the SSP new direction seminar last week and somebody mentioned a phrase, slow publishing, and they said, maybe we shouldn't always be so fast. Uh, maybe that, just like there's a slow food movement, there may be certain segments where a slow publishing might actually make more sense.
Kolman:
18:14
And would it also lead to maybe a better reading experience or reader experience.
Stains:
18:18
I mean, I think it could, it could do, you know, readers come to content with an, you know, a variety of different purposes in mind. So, you know, many of us are collecting things and a first round in accordance with the, with the abstract or in accordance with the, the citations for that. And then, and then coming back when I go to actually write a blog post or write an article, of course I'm spending so much time then, but if I did have a capacity to sort of choose my own adventure or go into more of an immersive experience, I think there's definitely some use cases, uh, where I would consider that a good use of my time.
Kolman:
18:54
And finally, I want to zoom in a little bit on the pre-print servers. So where do you stand on all that?
Stains:
19:04
Yeah, it's been interesting. I mean, I first started hearing about archive back when I was at Springer and we were doing, you know, we were looking at the texts and data mining requests coming and scope three and everything around physics. And so I associated pre-print servers squarely with physics, which probably a similar experience that others have had. It's been really interesting to see how the disciplines who are looking at preprints are evolving and changing. As a historian, married to an English professor and with many a friends in humanities, I know it's a little bit of a slower uptake on that side, but working with hypothesis a to enable annotation on preprints, I see that there's a, a community that looks to those preprints to sort of stake claims to be up on the absolute latest research to, to have a little bit more, you know, certainty or, or, uh, insight into, into one zone, uh, area of study and um, you know, being able to cite preprints now, uh, in grants or I I've heard even in a tenure for tenure and promotion purposes, I think it takes a little bit of the, of the waiting game out of the equation.
Stains:
20:18
And I guess just last week there was an initiative launched where publishers will be able to post peer reviews at bio archive and presumably later I'm at other preprint servers. And so this I think raises questions again about overlay journals and whether now that it's possible to have maybe a little bit more visual immediacy on top of the preprint server with, uh, with a, with a branding for a journal, whether we'll actually see those types of initiatives, um, explored a little bit further.
Kolman:
20:48
Yeah. If you're going to end up pay to pre-print, um, if you can peer review over a preprint and also published, um, it starts to look a lot like the traditional journal
Stains:
20:59
Yeah, this actually came up, um, last week where, um, you know, some, there's some initiatives where author's services might be available to, to folks who've pre-print, put their, pre-print up if they needed language polishing or something else. And, and yeah, a number of folks started chuckling immediately that we're out to sort of recreate the journal. But let's, like I said at the beginning, you know, the journal hasn't always looked like it has now. When we look back at, you know, philosophical transactions, it's really more like a collections of let of letters to the editor or maybe even a preprints, uh, in, uh, an area environment. Um, yeah. And so you see different conventions kind of rise and fall somewhat depending upon the communications capabilities at the time or the technology's capable. The time these, these, these lists serves that are still in existence. Historians and social sciences still love listservs, librarians as well. And um, you know, what people are doing is dependent a lot on what's possible. So I'm excited to see, uh, how the path is going to progress.
Kolman:
22:04
Great. Well thank you so much Heather. Wonderful interview, great answers and I would it always stay exciting times ahead for all of us. Uh, whether it be with the micro publications or the new ecosystems, the living articles, the dynamic reviewing. Well I cannot wait to, to see what's going to happen next and which role you're going to take in that knowledge futures group. So thanks again.
Stains:
22:28
Thanks so much for having me.
Music:
22:30
music
Mancini:
22:32
Heather's vision of the future moves us far beyond the PDF and HTML toward a world where articles and article-lets are truly dynamic and continuing to evolve long after publication. It's certainly an exciting time for research with many paths and possibilities to be explored. And in our next episode, Michiel talks with Kent Anderson from caldera publishing, who reflects on what is driving change and how we can assure that changes for good. You can catch that episode now and don't forget to subscribe to research 2030 so you are notified when future episodes are released. Interested in discovering more about how the future of scholarly communication might unfold. It was a key theme in Elsevier is 2019 research future study alongside an essay devoted to the topic. The report contains three plausible scenarios all set a decade from now, which make it clear that whatever the winds of change bring journals and articles won't escape untouched, you can download the report from our website or you can also find the link and information in our show notes. Finally, we want to thank Heather stains for joining us here on research 2030 as well as Michiel Kolman for hosting this episode. I'm Giacomo Mancini. Thank you for listening. Research. 2030 is an official Elsevier podcast.
×

Listen to this podcast on