What does Innovation mean to us?

Research Publishing
By: Alex Higgins, Thu Feb 9 2023
Alex Higgins

Author: Alex Higgins

Innovation has been at the heart of research publishing’s ability to navigate its way through two decades of change characterised as - print to digital, subscription to open access and now content to solutions. The third, content to solutions is picking up pace across research publishing, and it is where publishers, like Springer Nature are aiming to combine technology, tools, and services to help researchers at every part of their research journey from research conception to submission, publication to career development.

Moving from content to solutions, requires adaptation in thinking and approach – internally and externally – and one in which Springer Nature has continued to take a grassroots approach. One way we are doing this is by challenging  our diverse workforce to push the boundaries of their own thinking, developing new tools and services with our communities to meet their ever-changing needs and anticipate the changes to come

To capture, and celebrate, some of this thinking three years ago we launched our ‘Innovation Tournament’. The event recognises the teams and individuals across Springer Nature who are pushing these boundaries, whilst also creating a platform in which colleagues and communities can share knowledge and insights to inform future thinking and development. 

The latest annual celebration concluded in December where from 10,000 global employees, 10 finalists and 4 winners were selected across 5 categories which included the ‘Fantastic Failure’ award to recognise innovations that pushed boundaries and delivered valuable learnings but were not rolled out beyond pilot phases.

We were incredibly fortunate to have Obi Felton (Head Judge), a member of Springer Nature’s Supervisory Board and also CEO of Flourish Labs, a mental health startup which mobilises peer support through technology, and Priya Lakhani OBE entrepreneur and founder of CENTURY, an innovative AI education technology company, as part of the judging panel.  

“I was delighted to be part of Springer Nature’s annual Innovation Tournament and to hear about the amazing Innovations going on right across the group. As one of the judging panel, we had a tough job to pick the winners, but to have all of the top innovators in the same room sharing their ideas and discussing how they could work together on future innovations was really exciting.”(Obi Felton, Head Judge)

Drawing on their extensive experience in technology and innovation, the winners selected were chosen due to their wide range of exciting ideas and initiatives which seek to address and contribute to solving  real world problems faced by our community.

For example, our overall winner was a team that harnessed OpenAI technology to develop an auto-translation tool to offer authors a better and quicker translation service. This makes their research more accessible and readable globally and thereby increasing the impact of their work. 

The ‘People’s Choice’ winner (chosen by colleagues at Springer Nature), solved a perennial problem faced by our journal editors - how can they get information on how their journal is performing in a time efficient manner to help them understand which areas need improving.  The team developed a new web-based solution to help editors self-generate their reports which proved to be a significant time-saver. 

As Obi Fenton has said, we have to “shoot for the moon, embrace failure and learn fast”. All of this year’s winners demonstrate that innovative, adaptive and learning spirit. Our sector does not stay still. We cannot stay still.  Research is constantly evolving and the way in which we produce, consume, and engage with it is changing too. As one of the largest academic publishers we have a responsibility not only to research, but to our customers and communities to ensure that we are adapting to these changes and responding to community needs. Whilst content remains king, our publishing activities are increasingly technology driven and we remain committed to exploring these opportunities, innovating with our internal and external teams, pushing the boundaries of thought and products as we look to become more efficient in delivering value and serving researchers. 

Watch this space….keep following Springboard for our latest updates in all of these areas.

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2022 Winners - In detail

Overall Winner: ‘OpenAI Auto-translations’

*Who: Ulrike Drechsler, Maximilian Rittelmann, Georg Haller-Kaimann supported by Arjan Grootenboer 

*What is it? OpenAI's GPT-3-model for automated translations of books and journals

*Why did it win? -  Harnessing technology to offer researchers and authors a more streamlined and quicker translation service ensuring their content is accessible and readable globally whilst maintaining the high quality expected of our content.

People’s Choice: ‘Annual Journal Report (AJR) Automation’

*Who: Utkarsh Ghatge, Neelin Jagtap and Bhusan Hake

*What is it?  Development of the AJR in response to user feedback

*Why did it win? Previous tools for editors to help evaluate their journal(s), are cumbersome and unintuitive and took up lots of ‘admin time’. The team developed a new web-based solution to help editors self-generate their reports improving user experience and saving admin time.

Judges Special Award: ‘Turning experience into data solutions - the figshare eJP integration’

*Who: Graham Smith, Tristan Matthews, Hannah Tippet Simpson, Simon Gibson, Aleksandr Kotin, Akshata Nayak, Maria Hodges

*What is it? Integration of Figshare across Springer Nature’s journal portfolio

*Why did it win?  Improves access to highly valuable research output: data and through integration across Springer Nature has now made it easier for researchers to share their data as part of one straightforward submission process, on one platform, rather than having to do multiple tasks across various platforms.

Fantastic Failure: ‘Guided Open Access’ 

*Who: Ruth Wilson, Hayley Holliday, Brooke LaFlamme, Andrea Taroni, Siri Crane, George Inglis

*What is it? Guided OA (GOA), a pilot that accompanied the launch in November 2020 of a Gold OA option for all Nature titles

*Why did it win? GOA showed our commitment to providing authors with as much support, information and transparency as possible during the editorial and peer review process. Whilst not as much uptake from authors was seen as initially hoped, and was therefore discontinued, the lessons from GOA have and are informing future practice about how to best support and guide authors through the publication process.

Alex Higgins

Author: Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins is VP Operational Excellence & Transformation for Springer Nature and Sponsor of the Springer Nature Disability & Neurodiversity employee network.  Alex work’s on global/cross-group initiatives from large transformational programmes to running our Innovation Tournament. Alex is also focussed on supporting the COO by driving transformational change that benefits the wider group and our customers.

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