In October 2018 Catherine John, Springer Nature’s Account Development Manager for the UK & Ireland, worked with Sarah Roughley, Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Liverpool, to arrange a session titled "Publishing Without Tears: Do you want to know how to get published in whatever journal you want, whenever you want?".
We followed up with Sarah about her views on the session, her role in creating engaging events that address the needs of researchers, and her perception of the Publisher’s role in helping librarians deliver insights and tutorials to their users.
Tell us a little about the ‘Publishing Without Tears’ session and the feedback from your patrons
I was particularly impressed with the turnout for the getting published session. We had booked a normal seminar room but then had to book a lecture theatre because the waiting list was so long. It was a really successful event and researchers, particularly early career researchers, seem to want to hear from Publishers about the publishing process, what they should expect, and what they need to think about when submitting an article. If they know exactly what the process is and what an editor's thinking about, and what they should be thinking about in advance, it makes it easier for students who haven’t been published yet.
Pep also had a lot of industry knowledge about the importance of metrics, and some analysis on why the impact factor doesn’t work. We had some mixed reviews about that aspect of it, and I received a lot of emails afterwards from academics who felt this was not what had been advertised and who disagreed with it. However, I think it’s an important message. When other Publishers have done similar sessions and they don't mention anything about metrics, I usually stand up at the end and talk about it. So I think it is an important option to include it because it's author education.
Do researchers have an active interest in the change in metrics, the different ones available, and the best ways to measure published research?
Absolutely they do but some of them rather frustratingly disagree with the change. Some perceive it is not a positive one for them. I do a “Making sense of metrics” session for researchers on the reasons some metrics often don't work and the differences between a science researcher and their type of publishing activity compared to a history researcher, for example, just to show them why metrics like the impact factor shouldn't really be the only metric taken into consideration to measure success.
And then I talk about the most common types of metrics and what they actually mean; how they are calculated, what the pitfalls are with them and which compliant metrics we would recommend they use.
The Impact Factor is so embedded in the publication cycle, researchers primarily measure themselves by that and it is just going to take a long time to shift their perceptions of what's valuable. So that aspect of the session was really useful in my opinion.
Do you think there's enough transparency from Publishers around what is involved in the publishing process?
Yes, from the author’s perspective, I think so; they seem very happy with the information that they're getting.. However, it's always interesting seeing what the audience hasn't thought about before. The thing that always gets them is that they should always write with a particular journal in mind.
So, despite assumptions, it seems researchers often don't know a lot of what is being covered and they find the sessions extremely valuable.
You have a regular events program; is this both in-house and partnering with other organizations?
Yes, and we've started working with Liverpool John Moores University as well. We will share events so they are open to both universities. Our most recent was held at their University, but half the audience was from the University of Liverpool.
We also do a series of events called “Researcher KnowHow” often in collaboration with Publishers. I do a session called “How does academic publishing work” which focuses more on how the subscription and open access models work; raising awareness of the different aspects of publishing researchers need to think about depending on who their research has been funded by. It often doesn’t occur to them that there may be funder requirements until they've signed over the copyright agreement; therefore helping them comply with funder policies and raising their awareness of the issues related to doing so is really important. We also do a session exclusively on copyright.
Other ones we deliver are on research data management, Altmetric, and using social media to disseminate research.
When you come up with ideas for these events do you collaborate with faculty and subject librarians? Or are researchers coming directly to you to help guide them?
During a presentation at UKSG Telford, a researcher was asked what libraries could help with and she listed three things as most important for researchers:
As a result of that, we have started running regular “Research Cafes”, inspired by those that were developed at Liverpool John Moores University. Every couple of months, we have a Research Cafe that lasts about two and a half hours. We provide food and drink and invite three or four of our PGRs/ECRs to very informally share their research. It's a way for them to practice presenting, receive feedback on their research, and have the opportunity to network.
Researchers sometimes ask for sessions which we don't usually cover, for example, a session on how to use Microsoft Word to write a thesis, or on statistics. So I will collaborate with other people to run those sessions, coming under the banner of our ”researcher know-how” sessions.
There's a lot of training available for researchers across the university, though it could be better coordinated! I suspect it's like this for most universities. In our case, the faculty get involved with promoting it, especially once they start to see the benefit of the sessions, they're much happier to get on board and promote sessions to their students, which is great. Each department has its own mailing list for researchers. An event can be up on Eventbrite for weeks, but as soon as an email goes out from faculty everything gets booked up immediately.
Recently I've been working with Parliament to disseminate information from their Knowledge Exchange Unit to researchers and this has been very successful. LJMU hosted an event for researchers which we opened up to University of Liverpool researchers and there was a high turnout with lots of engagement.
Is the information researchers feel they need from you and from the institution as a whole shifting? Has Open Access and Plan S had an impact on that?
I've only been in this post for two years so not long enough to evaluate, but I have noticed an increase in requests for training on things like text mining, which could be due to the move to digital humanities, and statistical analysis. We don’t necessarily have expertise to deliver training on these in the library and so would look to collaborate with others.
The shift towards Open Access means that whilst everybody's completely on board with the benefits of making your outputs available openly, some people are not too sure on why it would be beneficial to be open early on in the research process or what tools are available to help them be open. So, for example, sessions on tools like open lab books would be beneficial.
But you'll be surprised by how many researchers haven't heard of Plan S. And if they had heard of it, they've only heard the scare stories! So I spent a lot of time explaining why it's not going to be as bad as people think it is and will actually be a positive change.
I think there's still the obsession with prestigious journals. And many academic researchers think that's the be all and end all. However, for many early career researchers, what seems to be becoming more important is who is actually able to access their research and read it rather than where it has been published. I'm pleased about that. I am happy that they think about accessing a wide variety of journals and it's more about how that publisher can get that research out to the readers. And I think there are more homes now for people to get exposure for their work quite early on.
It also seems to be that more journals are looking at publishing more than just the traditional journal article. I saw that Cambridge University Press have started publishing The Journal of Experimental Results which is a positive step in this regard.
Are there other areas you think Publishers can help with, both in regards to events and educational resources?
One thing academic researchers are always asking for support on is information about how to promote their work. We do a session for our researchers but I think if it came from someone at a publisher who has expertise in marketing that would be a really useful session.
Promotional material for read-and-publish deals like Springer Compact that explains it and helps us to promote it to authors is really useful as well. These deals can be quite complex to explain to authors so anything that outlines what they can expect is useful and a lot of other Publishers don't provide that. We manage many different deals and we have to know the ins and outs of it so we can explain it not just to users but to internal stakeholders as well, to justify the value of it and why it is a good idea.
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