Pillars of Sustainable Publishing: Using technology to transform publishing and accelerate research

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Fri May 27 2022

Author: Guest contributor

There are many big challenges that face the world and societies today and Springer Nature is committed to creating a sustainable business to help tackle them. This not only means using technology to open up research and accelerate solutions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but doing so in a manner that is ethical and responsible, and supports people in a fair and impartial way.

The print-to-digital transition is well underway in research and education publishing. Every year there are new innovations that not only transform research publishing but accelerate the research process itself. And that’s exactly what we need to do to support researchers in achieving the SDGs. This post looks at some examples of how technology can help us achieve more, as highlighted in our recently published Sustainable Business Report.

Open, robust and trusted research is vital to finding solutions to the urgent societal challenges so neatly summarised by the UN SDGs. But how can publishers support researchers to accelerate research into these areas of critical concern? 

Helping bring important knowledge to light through the publishing process is, of course, a vital part of our role. But we are working on technological innovations that not only support researchers to publish more easily but also generate new knowledge that researchers can use and build upon.

Snapp-ier publishing

The process of publishing research can be complex and time-consuming for researchers. Once an article is written it needs to be submitted, before going through rounds of reviews, revisions, and possibly even a transfer to another journal. Then there’s the funding, rights, article publishing charges (APCs) and more to worry about.

But technology has the power to streamline that process – and that’s exactly how we’ve used it. In 2021, we developed Snapp – a new article-processing platform that enables more efficient and effective publishing. 

It was developed in-house, with input from our communities – allowing researchers to tell us what would really help them spend less time on admin and more time on research. 

The new platform includes single-click transfers between journals, the integration of systems for rights, waivers, payments and funding options, and reviewer finding tools. It also adopts machine learning and AI models with the aim of streamlining and improving the entire submission-to-publishing experience, so that it’s more efficient for researchers.

Plus, because it’s an in-house system, we have full control over ensuring high-quality research is published and available to our audiences quickly, fulfilling one of our key business commitments: to advance discovery.

Machine-generated literature reviews

The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) is boundless. AI has opened up a new avenue in publishing – machine-authored books and reviews. 

The power of AI to quickly scan thousands of texts, identify the most relevant content and structure it logically, mean that reviews which couldn’t be done by humans – at least, not in a practical timeframe – are now possible. And this could help accelerate discovery significantly.

We have been working on AI-generated publications for some time, with our first machine-generated book published in 2019. But in 2021, we developed a new format that takes an innovative hybrid approach of blending human-machine interaction. 

The new product is a mixture of human-written text and machine-generated literature overviews, which sees an author putting these machine-generated reviews, created from a large set of previously published articles in Springer Nature journals, into book chapters and providing a scientific perspective.

Climate, Planetary and Evolutionary Sciences: A Machine-Generated Literature Overview, edited by Guido Visconti, is the first publication of this kind. Professor Guido Visconti devised a series of questions and keywords related to different aspects of climate studies, examining their most recent developments and their most practical applications. These were queried, discovered, collated and structured by the machine using AI clustering with the results presented in a series of book chapters for Professor Visconti to put into scientific context. 

“It was very exciting to be part of such an innovative experiment,” said Professor Visconti, when the book was released. “It enabled me to discover interesting aspects I had previously neglected, stimulating me to find out additional citations and references. The AI was able to find such connections producing a wealth of data which are summarized in the chapters of the book.”

The peculiarities of the topics demonstrate that the same process could be applied to any scientific sector producing summaries. This could prove incredibly useful for both professional and academic work or as an introduction to specific topics for students.

The combined approach using human-machine interaction was able to reveal the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the climate, planetary and evolution sciences. We’re now working on further developing this format and making human-machine collaboration part of our publishing experience.

This post is part of a series to accompany the publication of Springer Nature's Sustainable Business Report 2021. It highlights just a few of the contributions we have made towards some of the SDGs over the past year, and how we continue to build foundations for the future through the continued opening up of research and the building of new partnerships.

Find out more by reading Springer Nature's Sustainable Business Report 2021.


Author: Guest contributor

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