Meeting high expectations

In February 160 attendees gathered in London at BMA House for the fifth Researcher to Reader conference. Heather Staines reports

It’s hard to believe how differently we viewed our lives and society just two months ago. While Covid-19 had been ravaging cities

and regions in China for weeks, the virus was only named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on 11 February with the first known confirmed case in the US reported on 20 January. Other than a few speaker references and some extra time for handwashing, I do not recall a particular emphasis at the event, which would be my last in person conference before the world rapidly shifted to social distancing and sheltering. Recounting my experience at Researcher

to Reader (R2R) here in late April 2020, when so much has changed forever, is looking back at a long past idyllic time. As an historian, I’ve often wondered what people thought during times that would result in great transition. Did they understand what was happening? Sadly, I conclude, that we thought we did, we tried to, but we most certainly did not. So please view this summary for what it is, a look back at an exciting and thought-provoking two days of mingling with industry colleagues and researchers, both friends and strangers, with an intense focus on issues affecting researchers and readers alike. R2R has come to be known for some key

strengths: exploring the perspectives of researchers throughout the program and highly interactive workshops that bring groups together three times over the course of the event to work in depth on timely issues. Attendees indicate their workshop preferences at the time of registration, and each session is capped at about 25 to ensure adequate participation for all. This year’s options included: Equitable OA in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries; Improving Peer Review Support for Researchers; Transformative Agreement

30 Research Information June/July 2020

Collaboration; Practicality and Purity – Commerce in the Academy; and Open Access Price Transparency. As an example of this offering, let me say a little about the Improving Peer Review Support for Researchers Workshop that Christine Tully, University of Findlay, and I facilitated. This topic appealed to me given my

increasing focus on open and community review through annotation, as well as prospects for streamlining traditional peer review through new open tools. Attendees included researchers, publishers, start-up entrepreneurs, librarians, and vendors from the US, UK, and Europe. Sessions focused on interactive exercises such as ‘speedboats, in which participants brainstorm factors for accelerating or slowing down a speedboat – in this case peer review. After identifying as many as they could, ranging from training to incentives, from workflow systems to AI and other tools, attendees chose one to focus on for the second session. We next participated in an exercise aimed at surmounting obstacles through creating thinking called ‘We can if…’ For example, an inadequate number of peer reviewers might be surmounted ‘if… peer reviewers were paid or through an increased outreach toward early career or non-Western reviewers, and so on.’ Finally, in our third gathering, every table took one challenge and plotted their ideas along both impact and effort axes, to identify what low effort activities might result in high-impact results. A voting exercise around the most promising ideas rounded out the day. Christine and I reported the overall findings in a results session on the afternoon of the second day. We do hope that some exciting ideas might eventually be pursued more broadly. I was pleased to see researchers on

the stage and in the audience. I was also pleasantly surprised by the cross-section of attendees: advocates for open access, open data, and open science, including publishers, librarians, and funders, as well as folks from more traditional commercial publishers. Events often draw from one group predominantly, leaving speakers from different perspectives either preaching to the choir or fighting the tide (to mix metaphors). Suffice as to say that Jonathan Adams,

chief scientist at the Institute for Scientific Information, who delivered the opening keynote ‘Research Ecosystem Dynamics: Publication Adaptation, Evolution, or Extinction,’ and Richard Charkin, president of Bloomsbury China and president of The Book Society, were more representative of the latter group, which led to some pointed questions and animated side conversations on Twitter. Adams presented interesting data on the

shifting global output and co-authorship and offered theories on why and when notions around ‘evidence of excellence’ have changed. He detailed changes in research assessment that have made research into a strategically managed enterprise. Charkin, who stepped in at the last minute, gave

“I’ve often wondered what people thought during times that would result in great transition”

an entertaining retrospective of his wide- ranging career, but struck some as glossing over large challenges we face as an industry, such as diversity and pay inequity. A definite highlight of the event was a structured debate, moderated by Rick Anderson, Dean at Marriott Library, University of Utah, around the proposition: The venue of its publication tells us nothing useful about the quality of a paper. Arguing in favour were Toby Green, managing director at Coherent Digital, and Mike Taylor from IndexData. Pushing back were Pippa Smart, EIC of Learned Publishing and a publishing consultant, and Niall Boyce, editor

@researchinfo |

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