Newsline May 2016

Getting ideas adopted and implemented often entails the right mix of ideas, timing, resources, and willing participants. Over the past month, I've been on the road a lot at various industry meetings. They ranged from the STM Association meeting of publishers, to the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI), which both aimed to drive advances in open communications; and from Force 11's meeting of scholars and academics seeking to advance novel forms of scholarship and communications to the Fiesole retreat focused primarily on libraries and slightly more traditional issues with e-books (if one can call e-book issues traditional). In its own way, each group was interested in addressing its own community challenges and issues.

While these recent discussions differed in focus, there was overlap from meeting to meeting and I spotted many familiar faces on my travels, with each community challenged to identify the core problem and potential solutions. The themes at these meetings were so broad that I couldn't possibly cover the breadth of the discussions, nor even the highlights in which I participated, in all of Newsline, but a common theme was a sense of urgency.

The librarians and publishers at Fiesole were working to support changing models surrounding the traditional monograph, while the researchers and scholarly communications specialists at both Force11 and OSI focused on expanding new and open forms of scholarly communications. Meanwhile, the publishers present were keen on supporting these advances in scholarly communications while simultaneously focused on issues of piracy and control. While arguments can be made about which activities should be priorities and which will have the greatest impact on scholarly communications, each of these goals, and the many others discussed, requires focused attention and support from various players in the community.

No one group can drive any of the innovative ideas or solutions I heard talked about. The publishing community, which saw the need for improved access control and identity management, will need the cooperation of libraries and institutional IT staff to bring its vision to reality. Librarians focused on transforming the monograph will need the skills of publishers in content selection, formatting, and distribution to adequately serve authors, as well as in addressing some of the business model challenges. Among the issues discussed during Force11, the one that caught my attention was the need for improved institutional identity management, which will require coordination among all of those in the supply chain.

Even when all of those constituencies are brought together, as they were at OSI, some of the challenges of scholarly communications extend beyond the publisher, librarian, and software-provider communities. Some of the issues deliberated require the involvement of the faculty and administrations that play such a huge part in scholarly communications but are not robustly represented at the vast majority of these meetings. Similarly, the technology vendors that increasingly play a critical role, keeping all of these communications systems operating behind the scenes, are usually absent.

Even with the right players gathered and engaged in determining the appropriate solution, they must still marshal the resources to come to agreement and maintain the initial energy through to completion and eventually adoption. When that appropriate solution is found, the ever-present challenge of inertia remains, and the new solution must be sufficiently better than existing approaches to overcome it.

NISO has several roles to play in supporting this work, even when it is work being undertaken at other organizations. First, we can tie into those other communities, using the expertise that exists within NISO's constituency to enhance initiatives. This is particularly important when the other community needs collaborators to advance its ideas. NISO can support the educational aspects of expanding awareness of the problem and of the use cases or solutions being developed. We can also provide a neutral forum and framework within which those problems can be resolved. This process will only work, however, if those in need of the solution are willing to talk to those with the resources, the talents, and the ambition to see the results brought forth and implemented.

In the past year, we have seen the positive effects of those efforts in NISO's work on patron privacy, our efforts related to discovery, and our leadership in the domain of metrics. Importantly, each is at a stage of needing support to drive adoption. There are many more areas where we can also be beneficial and supportive of some of the ideas discussed this month. You can look forward to more reports and details from those meetings and potential efforts. I'm looking forward to seeing where the results drive us.


Todd Carpenter

Executive Director