A year of marking milestones and identifying challenges


It seems 2012 is a year for significant anniversaries and I have been fortunate enough to be involved in several of them. In my view, the most important of these was, of course, INASP’s 20th Anniversary — but then I might be biased. Some of the other milestones included: the 30th anniversary of the European Association for Science Editors (EASE) during its conference in Tallinn; the 125th Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Annual Conference was held in Colombo; the Budapest Open Archive (BOAI) has been in operation for 10 years; and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) celebrated its 40th Anniversary at its recent Annual Conference.

It has therefore been a year for reflections on the activities of the past, but it has also been a time to look into the future and speculate on how to respond to the challenges we all face. The ALPSP Conference certainly took this approach and began with an excellent review by Mary Waltham which highlighted milestones in the publishing industry during the last forty years. It is amazing to think that in 1972 we were still largely using ‘snail’ mail and typewriters (electric, if you were lucky) to run the journals which were almost entirely print-based.

When looked at from this perspective, the publishing industry has come a long way and many of the speakers alluded to the ways in which scholarly publishing has changed and become more dynamic as a result of its move into the online environment but there was also a lot of discussion of the challenges for the future of scholarly publishing.

Copyright issues in the digital environment have become particularly pertinent in the UK with the publication of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. Text mining seems set to revolutionise the way in which research is published and shared, but it also raises issues in terms of permissions to access and use already published content. One of the biggest challenges of recent years has been the widespread adoption of tablets and other mobile devices and there was a lot of discussion about whether the ‘article’ is still an appropriate way in which to present research findings or should we be looking at ‘a scholarly article in 140 characters’?

A recurring theme of the conference was the open access movement and it felt that, with the British Government’s acceptance of the Finch Report recommendations (on expanding access to published research findings), the UK was seen as a leader in open access with other countries waiting to see how the publishing industry responds. This seemed to be a bit of a turn-around from a year or two ago when the USA seemed to be leading the charge toward open access with mandates from the NIH and several major universities.

A highlight of the ALPSP Conference is always the awards dinner and this year was no exception when CrossRef received the ALPSP Award for Contribution to Scholarly Publishing 2012. Congratulations to the CrossRef team who have always been very supportive of the Journals Online project and we hope to continue our work with them in their new projects.

Sioux Cumming
Sioux Cumming is a Programme Specialist at INASP.

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