Springer Nature's Major Reference Works content is internationally commissioned and developed by eminent scholars and scientists in all fields, including Nobel Prize winners, as editors. Are there any corporate researchers involved in the works?
There are in fact several contributors (and editors) from industry to Springer Nature reference content and, as you can imagine, are too numerous to name given we have more than half a million reference work contributions. Many of the industry majors are represented in some of our key titles including, for instance, in the automotive space, researchers and leaders from Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, Toyota, and Nissan; aerospace majors Boeing and Airbus; and from the electrical, electronics and information technology spaces I would list contributors from Bosch, Intel, Panasonic, Microsoft, Toshiba, Honda (especially the Robotics division). The pharma sector is represented by editors and contributors with affiliations to Pfizer, GSK, Merck, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Hoechst and Abbott. In addition, there are several researchers who may be part of university-based research centers and institutes who have dual appointments or close collaborations with corporates as well as others who work in tandem with industry through dedicated industry applications-focused research institutes, R&D labs and small and medium enterprises – for instance, from such firms as Ormat industries (field of batteries and geothermal energy) or researchers from Singapore’s SIMTech (who collaborate with several industry leaders including Dassault and previously Rolls Royce), to name a few. This by no means can be an exhaustive list and I am sure I am missing several. Yes, also the chemical industry with BASF and DuPont. If you take all of the categories of researchers above (and those unnamed), I am sure we will find a very healthy percentage of purely industry-focused and applied scientific contributions in reference content from researchers with corporate affiliations. It is also one of my goals that we strive to systematically increase the content we receive from corporate researchers. Because as other researchers, industry researchers also have to publish, be seen as being definitive on a particular topic and are recognized and evaluated by their peer groups and communities much the same way as academic researchers are
The editorial boards, which review quality and validate the content, are comprised of internationally recognized academics and leaders in their fields. Other than this, what makes the content of MRWs different from other standard scientific articles?
The fundamental guiding principle for publishing reference content has been defined with the researcher (be it in industry or academia) in mind and we have tried to stay true to that in our publishing. Reference works contain digested and synthesized knowledge in easily accessible formats. Since this is what we call tertiary (as opposed to what we find in journals–primary research–or monographs–secondary research) content, perhaps the readership is broader than other journals/books as evidenced by the high usage the content receives. Moreover, contributor(s) on a particular topic or theme are selected by their peers and senior researchers and personally invited to contribute to a reference work based on their distinguishable expertise in that field. Therefore, a contributor to a reference work is already an acknowledged and respected expert. When contributing to a reference entry, unlike for a journal where a researcher is reporting results, the author is quite keenly aware that the contribution she is making is to fulfill an existing need (the need for an overview or a clearer defining of a concept in their chosen field). Last, we also pay special attention to the structural and editorial mechanisms in how reference content is written and presented. Our objective here is that be it an experienced or new researcher, she can easily access and grasp established or emergent topics in a field in the fastest and most efficient way possible and if necessary can also receive pointers to a wealth of other sources.
Could you name the top three flagship MRW titles that are widely used across different industries? What do you think makes them unique?
This is a hard question, because there are many titles that appeal to both dedicated industry domains as well as multiple sectors. If I were pressed to name some that have wider appeal–not just in their dedicated domain but across related ones–well, then I would pick the following:-
Handbook of Manufacturing Technology (ed. Nee): Apart from engineering, automotive and aerospace, it found a readership even from the domain of hospitals and health facilities. We have the leading handbooks on Driver Assistance Systems (eds. Winner et al) and Intelligent Vehicles (ed. Eskandarian ) where although their lead editors were from academia, a large number of the contributors come from industry and the titles are of key interest to automotive, aerospace, electronics as well as engineering researchers. The Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology also covers several industry sectors from energy, nuclear engineering, ocean research, and renewable resources. Not normally counted yet receiving quite some usage in the corporate sector is our Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (eds. Kaplan & Thompson ed.) of not just interest to the food and biotech sectors, but also to the legal world and researchers in corporate and governmental regulatory machineries. That’s more than three already…so, I will stop. What makes them unique is that they offer a fine balance and the best information and updated knowledge available that can be found about these subjects. The editors are all acknowledged experts as are contributors.
Corporate researchers have different goals from academic researchers. They are often expected to deliver results that could directly impact on their final products. How do you expect readers in the corporate sector could benefit from MRW entries?
Every researcher will have to refer to multiple sources of information to complete their research objective, whether it goes to furthering knowledge or creating a product. The chief value for corporate or applied researchers is that a condensed and synthesized MRW entry or article is a one-stop resource to quickly understanding the development and state of play of a concept or subject. Corporate researchers need authoritative information, without having to refer to multiple sources of information at first-go, that is qualitatively assessed and presented and offers them in a focused way the most incisive information available compiled and authored by an acknowledged domain expert. A reference contribution in short offers a reader or user from industry the following information that they can be certain represents the state of the art: High quality of content; Distinctive summary of the state of the field; Newest developments; and Contacts of the authors and scientists who have prepared it.
That said the goals of researchers in universities and industries are not entirely dissimilar. There is lots of complementarity as academic researchers also do substantive work in areas of interest to corporate majors. Take for example the case of lead researchers at top institutes in Japan or Korea. Industry is very well-represented and is a major stakeholder in the successful work done by scientists at top institutes. When creating something or thinking about it, you have to start from certain accepted and established knowledge and standards and keep up to date as the field moves forward. This is where reference content comes in.
Traditionally, most of the MRWs used to cover topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Today we also have titles in humanities and social studies, such as The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and The Statesman's Yearbook, to name a few. Could you tell us how new topics for MRWs come to light?
New topics are always found based on evidence as to where a research field is moving. When we decide to commission and publish an MRW, that is a joint decision by relevant publishing editors in our discipline units (who have the subject expertise and the community networks) collaborating with acquisition editors in my group who define the editorial strategy around the reference work. They have a good sense of what the discipline and the market demands, where the research has reached or if a field has matured, and why a tertiary publishing intervention is necessary in an area. As a field matures, we can expect a reference work. This is true irrespective of disciplinary focus, i.e., the same holds in science, technology, medicine, or social science. This in turn also points at the types of reference works we are publishing. A few years ago, a reference work could be planned on a relatively general topic such as “Organic Chemistry.” But with increasing specialization there are many sub-fields of that area that have also been researched, where we have new findings and discoveries, and which have grown and matured. Nothing in science research is constant and it’s always evolving. See that only recently scientists created the first perfect carbon ring through a joint industry academia-partnership (an elusive goal for over 50 years of research). And this is the first time it was done. This means that the scope of a reference work then has to match the updates in a more specialized area since that’s the way research is moving. Our program is simply a good reflection of what is getting researched and established and accepted as knowledge.