On Tuesday 14 March, 11.30-12.30 we’re running a panel session at London book fair to look at how publishers and technology providers can connect readers to the content they’re seeking and keep their interest. Joining us for this discussion are:

Duncan Campbell, Director, Digital Licensing and Sales Partnerships, Wiley,

Phill Jones, Director of Publishing Innovation, Digital Science

Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press.

Ahead of the session, we thought we’d sit down with Duncan to find out why he’s interested in this topic. 


 Tell us a bit about your role at Wiley?

My role at Wiley is primarily focused on licensing and business development across the whole range of Wiley’s publishing portfolio. My team works with content aggregators, mobile developers and technology providers (among many others) to grow Wiley’s reach and revenues while protecting our intellectual property and our direct sales business. I’m also involved in our government affairs activities, developing strategy and policy in areas such as text and data mining, and represent Wiley on several industry boards and committees.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’m lucky that my job is incredibly varied, so there’s never a dull moment! One day I can be working on a high-value licensing deal with a key customer, or talking to a librarian about how Wiley can meet their needs in terms of text and data mining service, or working with our government affairs team to develop policies and strategies for green open access, or something completely new may turn up. I’m also part of a great sales organization at Wiley and work with many talented colleagues across the business, which makes my job so much easier.

 

At Frankfurt Book Fair, Wiley CEO Mark Allin spoke about how customers are “confronted with a torrent of information”. How do Wiley go about ensuring its products and services cut through all the noise?

I think there are a couple of aspects to this. First, it’s a question of publishing high-quality content that meets customer and user needs, whether that’s a scientific journal, a textbook, or a Dummies title. Second, it’s about ensuring that our content is delivered in a way that maximizes its value for users. Third, we need to make sure that our content is visible wherever the user expects to be able to find it, whether in a library discovery service, in Google, in abstracting & indexing services such as Web of Science or Scopus, and so on. We are continually reviewing how we engage with intermediary services in order to deliver the best service possible to our users and customers.

 

When it comes to “cutting through the noise” what challenges have you had to overcome and how has technology helped you?

When I give talks on text and data mining, there are two quotes I tend to use, one from the poet T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: ‘Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’, and one from William Gibson, which I particularly like: ‘Ahead of us, there is merely … more stuff’. Technology can help us cut through the noise, but it also generates a huge amount of additional complexity. There are over 28,000 active scholarly journals, collectively publishing about 2.5 million articles a year, and that number is only going to increase. As publishers, we need to understand how our users filter information and find the content they’re looking for – and make sure we are working to make their discovery pathway as effective as possible.

 

What do you see as the role of the publisher in ensuring discoverability?

As I said above, publishers need to understand how their users discover, filter and access information, and make that journey as fast and effective as possible. That’s not necessarily a simple task, of course! Some examples of areas we have looked at are: making sure metadata and product information is as accurate as possible and optimized for ingestion by knowledge bases and library services; talking to Google about how best they can index online book content; developing infrastructure & standards that support content access via services such as CHORUS. That said, that’s only a fraction of the work that publishers do in this area, and there’s a lot more we can & will do in the future.

 

Quite frequently we hear people question the role of academic publishers. In this day and age, where do you feel publishers can best add value to the scholarly publishing process?

Although the basic functions of academic publishing (registration, dissemination, validation, archiving) haven’t really changed that much over time, at the last count Kent Anderson & others had identified ’96 Things Publishers Do’ in support of those functions. I think the value of publishers lies precisely in the fact that they manage the whole publication cycle from end to end, from submission through to dissemination, and have an interest in making sure all of the components of the publication process actually work. Of course, we also have a role in defending and promoting science and research more generally. You may have seen Wiley’s CEO Mark Allin’s recent piece called ‘Values have no Borders’, which responds to the US travel ban. As scholarly publishers we have a duty to use our voices to support research communication and highlight its importance whenever we can.

To hear more from Duncan and the rest of the panel – join us for “Connecting readers to content and keeping their interest”, Tuesday 14 March, 11.30-12.30, the faculty.