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digital publishing

Access to Research – the ALPSP answer


There is an article in the latest issue of Learned Publishing, the journal of the ALPSP, a trade association representing academic publishers, entitled “Access to Research: an innovative and successful initiative by the UK publishing industry”. That’s all you will learn about this article, because if you go to ALPSP’s host website (Wiley Online Library) you will find the article locked. 

Europeana creates a business strategy


Europeana, the EU-funded digital “library” (although it is more a discovery service than a library), has released its business plan for the next five years. The document is excellently designed and produced, but contains little in the way of a business plan. The section “why this is good for you” is placed before the section “how we are going to finance this”. Unfortunately, the section on how we are going to finance it states little. So where will the revenue come from?

Is Digital Disruption the cause of quality decline?

David Crotty, in a Scholarly Kitchen post, talked about declining editorial standards, and suggested that “digital disruption” was at least partly to blame. “Digital disruption” is the phrase used by Clayton Christensen in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma.  Christensen’s idea, as you probably know, is that companies fail because they continue to provide the same services that satisfied their customers in earlier years.

Getting a feel for sentiment analysis

An excellent session of the London Text Analytics Group (March 14) contrasted two approaches to sentiment analysis: one proudly (and publicly) ditches grammar, while the other uses grammar to disambiguate content. Both approaches made ambitious claims for their software; which is the best approach?

Stephen Pulman of TheySay, a start up from the University of Oxford, had the more traditional approach.  He pointed out that taking individual words by themselves can lead to great confusion. Just assessing whether something is positive or negative is not so simple: “Bacteria” is negative, and “kill” is negative, but “kills bacteria” is positive.  More complex still, the phrase “never fails to kill bacteria” is highly positive.  A bag-of-words approach is unlikely to pick up all these distinctions.

Should Sci-Hub be closed down?



sci-hub logoThere have been many comments on listservs in the past few weeks about Sci-Hub, the illegal Russian service that makes many scholarly articles available free of charge. I do not condone Sci-Hub for a moment – I have no doubt that it contravenes the publishers’ agreements with libraries, since Sci-Hub appears to be uploading articles via usernames and passwords obtained by deceit. But to believe that by eliminating Sci-Hub all pirating of scholarly content would thereby cease is unrealistically optimistic. Sci-Hub is just one of several services (others are listed here, including Library Genesis) providing access to academic articles, whether via proxies or by providing copies.

A glance at the pirate music and movie download industry suggests that book and article content will inevitably follow the same route - in fact it has already followed the same route. As fast as one pirate site is closed down, another site emerges. With a few minutes’ searching on the Web it is possible to find illegal PDF copies of pretty much any major textbook. Undergraduates admit this quite openly – one student even stated that they preferred the pirate sites to official sites since the access and download is faster!

How many answers would you prefer ?

“We find users prefer one answer.” This was the comment of Google’s Behshad Behzadi when presenting Google’s new Ultimate Assistant. In case you don’t already know, Google’s Ultimate Assistant will answer your questions, whether you key them in or (in Google’s opinion the most likely) you speak to the device. Most of Behzadi's presentation was based around his smartphone, not using the desktop at all. What kind of questions?

Some hypotheses about

My first response when looking at was uncertainty. I've seen quite a bit of publicity, lots of mentions in discussion forums about, but it wasn’t very clear to me on looking at the website just what was proposed. “Annotate with anyone, anywhere” doesn’t really explain very much to me. I have visions of researchers sitting in a circle and annotating together – not very likely.  


Books versus journals


"Users’ expectations are different for these two. When you search books you expect an answer; when you search journal articles, a scholar expects a list of things to read. A book represents late-stage work, not the early-stage work of journal articles."


Thus Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, on different kinds of reading, at the ALPSP Annual Conference in October 2015 (a presentation helpfully summarised by John Sacks in a Scholarly Kitchen post).


“You can easily see the difference between these two modalities. Do a search in Google for “San Francisco weather” and the answer pops up: the current temperature and conditions, and the forecast. But for the “weather scholar” there is also a list of sites below the forecast that you can go to if you want to study the topic by reading web pages about San Francisco weather.”