At the largest ever UKSG in Glasgow last week, publishers and librarians met for the hugely popular annual conference and it was of no surprise to anyone that at the heart of this year’s programme was a focus on the future. Despite the unseasonably warm weather and the lure of the sunshine outside, the 850+ delegates swarmed in and out of sessions throughout the three days which made for a real buzz.

This year I joined the UKSG blogging team, see for all of the posts from the conference.  I was also Tweeting , despite the rather unreliable Wi-Fi!

As a small aside, I’d like to say happy birthday to COUNTER who celebrated their tenth anniversary at the conference – has it really been 10 years?!

Despite the breadth of topics covered at the conference, there were a couple of themes I picked up on would like to share.

The importance of end users

A number of plenary sessions and breakout sessions talked about the importance of the end user, ensuring you know your users and what they want.

Anne Murphy shared her experience at Adelaide and Meath Hospital of involving their users in helping with the difficult decision of which titles to cut following a 25% budget cut. Consulting the users in the decision making process and making them aware of the costs for each title has helped to make this process slighting less painful. They now need the backing from the users to help the library fight to keep journal subscriptions for future years.

In the Future Formats breakout session, Martin Fenner of Hannover Medical School and Steve Pettifer of The University of Manchester debated the merits of PDF and HTML full text formats. Pettifer talked about there being no such thing as a stupid format, only stupid people, which made me smile rather wryly. The lively discussion threw up the question of whether users actually even want to read the full text of articles; whether in HTML or PDF, on their smart phones. Everyone was interested in the answer, but without any research to provide an answer, there was no conclusion whether this was a valid use case. Regardless, this clearly highlights the importance of understanding your users and what they need before creating services or functionality; whether these are offered by libraries or publishers.

Future of Scholarly Journals

Ben Showers from JISC urged us all to think like dandelions and allow our data to be promiscuous. You can view his slideshare presentation here.

Gregg Gordon from SSRN talked about scholarly research having a bad interface making it difficult to find what you actually want.

Blogger Cameron Neylon of Science in the Open asked what was the smallest useful piece of research. Cameron Neylon argued that someone somewhere is going to figure out the best way to make the user interface work, if publishers don't look to do this another player will. Once we stop presenting and consuming articles people will stop writing them. He suggested that the future would involve publication in smaller pieces (think Lego heads), which might then be built into larger things (think Meccano cars), with different pieces being put together to create exactly what the user wants, delivered differently to different audiences. From the publishers I talk to, more and more are thinking about offering their data at granular level and tailoring packages to different audiences.

See here for my full UKSG blog post on the future for scholarly journals debate.

The importance of usage data


Jayne Marks from Wolters Kluwer further impressed upon us the strengths and weaknesses of Impact Factor when she talked about the development of the Usage Factor, as an additional metric to the IF. The draft COUNTER Code of Practice is now available from the COUNTER website. We will be following this with interest.

Ross MacIntyre talked about JUSP: JISC’s Journal Usage Statistics Portal and how it is helping libraries access usage statistics from multiple platforms. I liked his call that “no one should be collecting usage statistics in spreadsheets anymore; SUSHI is the future”, but if my experience is anything to go by there is still a lot of work to be done to improve people’s understanding of SUSHI and its benefits.

[caption id="attachment_2820" align="aligncenter" width="750"] SECC Glasgow 2012[/caption]