Bernie Folan on the UKSG Conference 2010

A guest post from Bernie Folan, Head of Journals Marketing in London, who attended this year’s UKSG conference.

The 33rd Annual UKSG Conference was held in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, with a varied programme and over 850 attendees. Themes gleaned from the sessions and discussions I attended are summarised below. The very active twitter stream from the conference can be found here, and many posts about sessions and plenaries can also be found at the UKSG blog. I was amazed at the ability of delegates to listen, assimilate and then tweet or blog all at the same time!

Social Media

An increase in focus on Social Media and new ways of sharing information and research was very evident. There was a much higher engagement and understanding of newer communication channels. Interestingly, it was not younger researchers quoted as spending more time blogging or commenting online but more established researchers who have already secured a reputation and can afford to spend time in this way. They are contributing to knowledge and growth in their field but not just in the tradition of peer-reviewed high impact journals. An interesting development would be a unique researcher identifier such as ORCID which would help tie all researcher output together.

Researchblogging is interesting, its focus is on serious posts about peer reviewed academic research. It has over 1200 blogs and has doubled in the last year. Adam Bly from Researchblogging explained that more collaborative science and the creation of new knowledge has the scientific information industry running to keep up.

Open Access (OA)

OA feels like it is slowly gaining traction as a publishing model. The vibe from various sessions was less if than when. Tony Hirst was emphatic on the new openness of communication channels. Why use traditional journal articles to share ideas he asked? If he or his colleagues do decide to publish an article it will be in OA jnls. However, no clear wide-ranging path for institutions to fund OA was apparent yet.


JISC Collections have secured funding to progress with the JISC usage stats portal or “make it real”. Its aim is to present usage data in user-friendly ways for librarians and include new ways to benchmark usage.

Big Deals, Value & Pricing

An interesting session on value had Ted Bergstrom from UCSB explaining that he is securing information about big deal pricing so he can publish information about outliers in the public domain. His reason: “as citizens of the academic community, we are interested in helping librarians to understand the dynamic economic problem that they face and aiding them in negotiating effectively with large publishers. We plan to release a collection of information and analyses that will serve this purpose.”  See his Big Deal Contract Project page.

Carol Tenopir talked about developing real tools for librarians to demonstrate value of their collections. She pointed us to the ARL website for more information.

Jill Emery from Texas talked about patron-driven ebook and journal article acquisition stating ‘the age of the article is here’. She explained they need “aggregated article access”. She wants publishers to listen as they have to purchase “Just in time not just in case”.

Quality Metrics

Frustration with the reliance on the Impact Factor and the fact it ranks journals and not articles was apparent. There is a desire to produce new ranking metrics. the Australian Research Assessment is no longer using the Impact Factor we were told.

Pete Binfield (PLOS) ran a session on how they have introduced article-level metrics. They recognise they are very much at the beginning but are very keen to do whatever they can to help users decide which content is highly valued by the community. Also, these metrics not just about evaluation but to help users filter and discover articles of value.

Pete talked about how they have work to do on working out how to measure “influence”. It’s important to demonstrate influence beyond the scientific community. This ties in with our work to show the value of social science research. How do we ensure the research we publish is credited appropriately when it influences Government policy for instance?

As Hannah Whaley says on her blog: The discussion around these issues is healthy, as is the growing volume with which librarians and researchers are willing to speak them out loud. However these key themes are notable for representing problems, not solutions. It is clear that licensing models, researcher metrics, electronic and open access still have some way to evolve to meet the growing needs and expectations of the community.

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