Tracy Capaldi-Drewett looks at the latest technology in research communications


hen was the last time the word ‘open’ came up in your conversations about research communication? In scholarly publishing, it’s hard to go a

day without saying ‘open’.

Easier dissemination of, and access to, research publications is a long-standing want. A coordinated, community effort to solve the challenges of disseminating interdisciplinary research began with ERIC in 1959. Microfiche was state-of the-art technology then. By 1966, 50 years ago, the first 12 clearing houses for document reproduction and dissemination were built. Today, thankfully, technology has transformed research and research communications. Yet, with technology advances, there is a new scale of complexity. Demands for speed to publication and support for global collaboration create new challenges at scale. Google has solved the problem of search at scale – serving 3.5 billion daily! Between seven and nine million researchers are contributing to STM research today. According to the recent UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030, Global

20 Research Information JUNE/JULY 2016

Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) was PPP $1.48 trillion in 2013 and, as of 2014, world users of the internet are up 64 per cent since 2008. The report highlights the need to ‘avoid the uncontrolled explosion of big data.’ The advancement of science depends upon reproducibility and transparency of research findings. Imagine the complexities of adding data collected from global citizen scientists. Without protocols for data sharing and data governance, an overwhelming amount of information may be unusable.

The computing power required to use and store the data is just one aspect of scale. Linking data sets to research outputs, including multiple images and journal articles,

‘Technology has transformed research and research communications’

also requires innovation. Fortunately, user behaviour data shows that Google and Google Scholar are the starting points for most searches for and access to research content. In the technology sector, ‘open’ was popularised in the 1980s, mainly in the context of interoperability. Open platforms and open source solutions have supported research communications for many years, and are essential to future

innovation to solve new challenges of scale. At scholarly communications conferences, ‘interoperability’ and ‘research communications infrastructure’ are becoming increasingly frequent conversation starters.

What is an open platform? An open platform is a system that makes data available both to users and external systems, developed with open standards. From telecommunications to research communications, platform sponsors choose the degree of openness they want to support. A goal of openness is to enable integration and interoperability. This interoperability is enabled by application programming interfaces (APIs) that build upon the system without changing it. The degree of openness signals the sponsor’s invitation to collaborate across its ecosystem of users, developers, complementary, and even competitive organisations.

As an example, the HighWire Open Platform supports online content management, publication, and access. HighWire Press also offers a journal manuscript submission software solution, BenchPress. Publishers disseminating content on the HighWire Open Platform may use any manuscript submission system. Because the platform is built for interoperability, ‘content ingestion’ from any manuscript system is immediate and reliable, regardless of originating platform.


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