Friday, 3 May 2013

So What Happened This Year at UKSG?

I posted this on the SAGE Connection blog and thought I'd share here also along with all of the other conference posts. 

Guest post by Bernie Folan, Head of Library Marketing in London.

Last week saw the annual UKSG conference take place in Bournemouth on England’s south coast. For those who may not be familiar with UKSG, more information can be found here. UKSG exists to connect the knowledge community and encourage the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication. It is the only organisation spanning the wide range of interests and activities across the scholarly information community of librarians, publishers, intermediaries and technology vendors.

This cross-industry focus enables a valuable forum for the exchange of ideas and healthy discussion around current themes. Working groups, projects and innovative initiatives have in the past sprung from these discussions. Counter and Project Transfer are two well-known examples.
There was a wealth of information to be absorbed via plenary sessions, breakout groups and lightning talks.  This short post highlights those themes that were to the fore, and of interest to us at SAGE in our efforts to disseminate teaching and research on a global scale.

The value of data was a recurrent theme. Whether in talks about the importance of good data governance within publishing companies or the ORCID initiative (which is gathering pace with 107,000 researchers registered) the power of good data was evident.

Under this theme also sits Mendeley which calls itself “the best free way to manage your research”. Mendeley enables research to be organized, shared and discovered. News broke whilst at the conference that it had just been bought by Elsevier and time will tell what impact that makes. Mendeley has 2.3 million users and 90 million unique articles in user libraries in the cloud. It is growing by 69k users a month.

User behaviour and workflows
A really interesting session was lead by Joshua Harding, a graduate medical student who relies solely on his iPad for all aspects of his study – including note-taking (handwriting app), downloading lecture notes, reading eBooks (and annotating, highlighting sections), and even for taking patient histories during ward rounds. He describes himself as a “paperless student”.

Despite his success in losing the print, there are barriers. For example, he can access print copies for free but not all of the digital copies he needs. There is also variable quality. He wants to be able to buy eBooks from one universal store, view on one universal platform or borrow for free from his library. He cried out for digital textbooks to be both SMART and interactive. He feels that publishers have not yet scratched the surface on making the most of fully interactive textbooks. 

For instance, he’d like features that enable assessment whilst reading, and to be alerted to areas 

that he has not read sufficiently.
SAGE is currently exploring many options in the eBook arena to make our content as useful and accessible as we can. Joshua urged publishers to get ready; he explained that although many of his colleagues are not reliant on one device, future students will expect to work this way as they have grown up in the “on demand” generation.

Business models for acquiring content
In both sessions and meetings with customers we heard a lot about changing content acquisition models. Particularly prevalent were conversations about evidence-based eBook purchase (as opposed to eBook package purchase). This is where a librarian assesses which content is used from a large selection before committing to specific titles. Purchase is based on usage and automated. Many librarians are already using this model with aggregators and direct with other publishers. Will customers move away from collections completely? SAGE is working on developing models in response to discussions with customers.

Publisher-Librarian collaboration and dialogue
In a thought-provoking closing plenary by Scott Plutchak, the relationship between publishers and librarians was addressed. We were reminded that we share the same values and aims – we are on the same side and need to work together even if we don’t always agree. Plutchak urged us to reject caricatures that have been built up such as “publishers only care about the money; librarians are hopelessly, wilfully naïve; publishers want to lock information up; librarians don’t care about quality”. Recent discussions around budgets and Open Access are examples of where there have been clear “us and them” attitudes on display that do not help drive forward our shared goals.

He offered us some practical tips:

  • Librarians: Cool it with the emotions. Attend some publisher conferences. Be educated by your knowledgeable faculty.  Buy a publisher a drink once in a while!
  • Publishers: You are not great at telling your own story. Be more transparent. Be more open about your mission and your decision making. Sit in on some of the sessions at the library conferences you attend

Both publishers and librarians ultimately need to gain a deeper understanding of each other and a deeper knowledge of what each other do in order to work together effectively.

As we all expected, Open Access was the subject of the opening plenary, but I won’t address that topic here, keep your eyes on SAGE Connection for Lucy Robinson’s (Journal Publisher at SAGE) presentation slides on OA. I would say though it was a less of a hot topic than I expected. 

Much more was discussed from altmetrics to initiatives to help libraries better understand their content.  A wealth of other insights and information can be found at the following sources
On a personal note, this was my first year attending the conference as UKSG Marketing Officer and main committee member. Apart from 3 paid staff, UKSG is made up of volunteers drawn from one of the constituent groups it serves.

It was hugely satisfying to see all of the hard work and discussion coming together to form the biggest annual conference to date and, if early feedback is representative, one of the most popular. Planning for 2014 starts in June!

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