THE FUTURE OF RESEARCH: WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

In scholarly publishing today, there is an on-going debate about the efficiency and accuracy of workflows, and the security of current publishing models. Digital publishing improved speed to publication and open access provided a simplified and democratized way of sharing research, but these technological advances also brought the threat of piracy, the ease of plagiarism, and the ability for researchers to publish directly, providing a flood of information for researchers to wade through in order to find something useful.

Eefke Smit, Director of Standards and Technology for the International Association of STM Publishers, made a statement last fall, “The STM publishing world is suffering its own set of trust issues at present. But even with its imperfections, the current system of academic publishing is strong and offers an efficient infrastructure.”

Others disagree.

Piracy and Plagiarism

In this digital world, it is easy for readers to download content for free and pass off research or ideas as their own.

The last year has seen many in the scholarly community discussing how the technology blockchain — a decentralized, digitized series of information blocks shared in a peer-to-peer network — could not only eliminate plagiarism altogether, but also provide the ability for researchers to collaborate on their work more effectively.

Blockchain features individual blocks with transaction data, timestamps, and the creator's information, plus the information from the previous block as a unique and unalterable chain of information. Because each information block can be directly attributed to the author/creator, that makes collaboration simple, speeding up the research process immensely.

Last fall, Joris Van Rossum, Special Projects Director at Digital Science, published a report entitled “Blockchain for Research: Perspectives on a New Paradigm for Scholarly Communication” which outlines a number of ways in which scholarly publishing can benefit from the use of blockchain, both from a security and ease of rights management perspective.

Profitability

As mentioned above, blockchain can also be used for the management of rights. Content blocks can be embedded with rights information and a Smart contract that allows easy sharing, licensing, and usage. For example, if a writer wants to use an image to illustrate a journal article, they can easily track down who holds the rights, find out the licensing cost, and who to contact in order to secure permissions, all in a matter of moments.

For publishers, this will increase revenue not only through automating the rights work and freeing up staff to do other high-level work, but it will also empower them to keep track of monies due, and available rights which can be exploited.

Discoverability

One of the struggles researchers, academics, and publishers now face is the saturation and sea of information which now exists as a result of Open Access. Making content discoverable and searchable has become one of the main challenges and concerns keeping publishers awake at night.

In recent years many of the innovations coming through in the industry have been geared towards troubleshooting in this arena. We've seen article-level initiatives like ORCID and Crossref come to the fore and become increasingly adopted by publishers.

Many are predicting that now that publishers have mastered metadata, SEO, and are increasingly incorporating article-level innovations, the next major step will be the adoption of AI technology. Beyond the hype and from a practical perspective it has been widely predicted that AI will have an impact on publishers' endless quest for improved discoverability, but also by driving efficiency in the editorial workflow.

Through our product suite, PageMajik, we implement tools to improve the free-flow of information into the marketplace by easing the workflow constraints and time-consuming tasks in the publishing value chain from author to publisher to reader. By improving these systems and allowing writers and publishers easily write and publish their work, we hope to play a major role in informing the future of research.

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