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Librarians as change agents in navigating the new publishing and open science terrain

By Oliver Renn, ETH Zürich | June 22, 2016

Path on Catalina

Publishing, science communication and library and information science have never been as exciting as they are today. If you take your role as an information professional seriously, there is always something new to learn.



Librarians as change agents


Because information professionals in academia or business act as facilitators between researchers and science communication channels, they need to know about the latest developments in these channels. The Chemistry | Biology | Pharmacy Information Center (ICBP) at ETH Zürich considers this an important goal, and has developed ways to introduce these developments to its students and researchers, including:



For their outreach programs to be successful, librarians need to be aware of publishing industry changes. ICBP invited Elsevier, a major scientific, technical and medical publisher, to discuss developments in open science and open data as part of the third Elsevier Library Connect Event Switzerland



Five tenets of open science 


Open science in Europe is particularly fostered by the European Commission under the auspices of the Netherlands and is promoted in a bottom-up approach by some researchers, but also in a top-down approach from an increasing number of funders. According to Fecher and Friesike, “open science” can be understood as an umbrella term for five schools of thought: 


  • Public — believes that science needs to be accessible to the public
  • Measurement — thinks that scientific contributions need alternative impact measurements
  • Infrastructure — supports adoption of research tools and applications 
  • Pragmatic — believes that knowledge creation could be more efficient if scientists work together
  • Democratic — states that access to knowledge must be equally distributed


Targeting the needs of all five schools, Elsevier and other publishers are developing tools and initiatives to help researchers cope with an increasing amount of research output, including data.



Managing research data


According to IBM1, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day, with 90 percent of existing data having been created in the last two years. Unstructured data, or “dark data,” accounts for 80 percent of all data generated today and is expected to grow to 93 percent by 2020. 


Tools are needed not only to share data easily but also to analyze that unstructured data. Tools for cognitive analysis include natural language processing, machine learning, question analysis, feature engineering and ontology analysis. Tools like IBM’s Watson can be taught to understand contents of peer-reviewed papers and allow the discovery of new materials.


Librarians would benefit from knowing about several Elsevier programs and pilots that cover the entire data cycle, including:



Figure 1 shows this entire ecosystem, highlighting Elsevier but including open systems and other publishers’ repositories, journals, and search and management tools.


Figure 1 -- The Open RDM Ecosystem

RDM ecosystem

Source: Wouter Haak's presentation Open science: research data management at the ETH Zürich Library Connect event.  Wouter is Elsevier's Vice President of Research Data Management Solutions.



From media mentions to APIs


Other new publishing initiatives from Elsevier include:


  • Atlas — an online journal that showcases research that could significantly impact people's lives around the world
  • STM Digest — features layman summaries of scientific papers with societal impact
  • Reviewer Recognition — a program to engage and reward those who review articles (Other startups, including Publon, have also offered peer-review tools.) 
  • Alternative metrics — Initiatives and tools include Snowball Metrics and the newly acquired service Newsflo, which allows universities to measure and track media coverage by faculties, departments, research groups and other categories
  • APIs — ScienceDirect and Scopus APIs help automate the delivery of publication data, e.g., ScienceDirect APIs are being used to update institutional repositories





By learning about these new tools and introducing them to researchers, librarians and information professionals can have a positive impact on researchers’ workflows, including helping researchers share and manage data more effectively.





1.  “Do we still need researchers reading publications?” Presentation by Dr. Costas Bekas, Manager, Foundations of Cognitive Computing, IBM Research