PubTech Radar Scan: Issue 12

Shiny new things

News and other interesting things


  • I am really enjoying watching Scholarcy and Scite develop their products in public. Not everything works out but it’s great to watch them trying things out and figuring out what users want. Perhaps this is why I let out such a sigh when I read Kent Anderson’s latest posts about peer review and indexing of Wellcome Open Research. Kent raises some good points but I think we need to cut these services some slack as they work through their ideas. As Bec Evans put in a 2017 post on The ideas paradox: why publishers fail to innovate. “Don’t become a cynical old so-and-so. Acknowledge your own bias, and counter it with openness to new ideas and systems to test with users. If an idea is any good — it will resonate with customers who are the experts in what they want.” I think these new publishing models are resonating with researchers but there are problems. Even preprint advocates have been disappointed at the COVID-related junk churned out and placed on preprint servers (around 20 mins in). I like James Heathers’ colourful comments about how to hold authors accountable for the “dumbshit” that they have published over the last 6-7 months. What will the community decide to do with flawed research that doesn’t pass peer review, especially research that has already gone through a form of peer review to get funding? It is retracted and hidden away, it is left orphaned on preprint servers or funder sites, or does the community do something else with it? 

  • The comments section of this Scholarly Kitchen article about Why Publishers still don’t prioritize Researchers is a sobering community written explanation of the problems of trying to innovate within academic publishing.

  • Nancy Robert has a short piece on why Publishers are underinvested in core operating systems where Nancy comments that publishers often have “a binary approach in its evaluation of projects – they are either a complete success or a failure, and there is not often a willingness to take on risk with the attitude that failure represents a real opportunity to learn.”

  • On a much more positive note, JMIR and Gunther Eysenbach have [quietly] launched some really interesting initiatives over the years so I am really excited to see what will come out of JMIR’s new appointments which include Adrian Stanley, Lisa Cuevas Shaw, Michael Shepard

  • Meta also has a nice article about the process of building prototypes in collaboration with researchers. Things have been quiet at Meta recently so I hope this is the start of something new.

Events and opportunities

And finally…

Couldn’t resist linking to this from Trish Greenhalgh:

PubTech Radar Scan 11: Trends for 2021

This issue focuses on Academic Publishing Tech Trends for 2021 but it’s impossible not to mention the news that Wiley have acquired Hindawi. There is so much that could be said, and is being said, about the acquisition but tonight my thoughts are with the staff. Hindawi has an awesome team of dedicated people who moved quickly to do inventive things – I hope that magic isn’t extinguished by the constraints that will likely come from being part of a much larger organisation.  

Academic publishing typically moves at the pace of a snail 🐌 so predicting trends isn’t all that difficult (famous last words!) but here are my top five Academic Publishing Tech Trends for 2021, let me know what you think.

1. Preprints suffer an identity crisis

I think 2021 will be the year when traditional publishers embrace preprints but do so on their own terms by switching the workflow from the idealised:

preprint > peer review > submit to journal > peer review > publish in journal
submit to journal > preprint on publisher server > peer review > publish in journal

Preprinting at the same time as submitting isn’t new, see this and this, but I think a significant number of journal submission systems will make this easier by including an option to preprint, much like PLOS do now, but the preprint server will be tied to the publisher’s preferred/owned preprint service.

2. Traditional publishers focus on digital science/open science solutions

Pressure on the subscription model and long term uncertainty around OA revenues means that publishers will chase any new digital/open science solutions that come their way. It’s classic blue ocean strategy. This trend isn’t new and Elsevier is ahead of the pack but potential new investment opportunities seem limited so publishers will have to build rather than buy innovation.  With University budgets likely to be tight for the next year or two I would expect publishers to work hard on land and expand type programs so that they are ready to go with new services when budgets do pick up.

3. Production workflows are quietly automated

The push to reduce costs and speed up time to publication will lead to increasing automation of production workflows but very little of this will be publicised. Publishers will build and buy solutions as needed. The solutions out there, e.g. Exeter Premedia’s Kryiadocs, Integra’s rapid content production solutions,  Cactus Communications suite of products which includes Unsilo Technical Checks,  Deanta’s Lanstad,  KGL’s Smart Suite 2.0,  AJE/Research Square’s services and many others will improve rapidly as the technology improves and more people use them.

4. More consolidation

Society Publishing has been consolidating for many years and there are no signs that this is slowing down. See for example Wiley managing the IET’s transition to OA. Long standing problems at HighWire, their acquisition by MPS, and the strength of Atypon’s platform resulted in AAAS moving to Wiley’s Atypon platform and PNAS due to move in 2021. In October Wiley’s Jay Flynn said that “roughly half the world’s academic and scholarly articles were moving on Wiley’s platforms”, Wiley’s acquisition of Hindawi will add a few more.

5. Inundated with innovation (I hope!)

Consolation, the move away from subscriptions and the pandemic has led to a number of redundancies which I hope will lead to a wave of Redundant-Preneurs starting something new. I ❤️ what the Digital Science stable, Morressier (about time for an exit?), Scholarcy, SciencePod, SciScore, Scite, and others are doing but it would be good to see some new faces. Maybe 2021 will be the year for Research Rabbit and DataSeer? It’s been a while since something really big, like ResearchGate, has launched.

5 weaker signals for 2021:

  1. Concerns about publisher privacy and data grabs will continue to rumble along but will get lost in the outrage about the enormous volumes of data being scooped up by EdTech providers.

  2. Automated summary tech (e.g. Semantic Scholar’s TLDRs, SciencePod Summaries, Scholarcy’s solutions) will improve and more publishers will start to experiment but it’s some way off from becoming mainstream

  3. Paid for promotion of scientific research will start to raise concerns but given that it’s in the interests of almost everyone in the publishing food chain (researchers, funders, universities, librarians, publishers, etc.) to ensure that research is disseminated as widely, and in as positive light, as possible it’s hard to see who is going to complain unless someone cocks up badly.   

  4. Concerns about Wiley’s ownership and the dominance of the Atypon platform will continue to be voiced, especially if the platform goes down again, but there aren’t many options that offer a similar level of service. A "Nobody ever got fired for buying Atypon" situation perhaps?

  5. Smaller publishers will start to become concerned about the digital dividends bigger publishers are gaining from automation and there will be an increasing digital divide between the haves and have nots. However, existential concerns about business models and ensuring revenue from OA rather than subscriptions will push technology concerns to the back of the mind.


A plug for an idea 💡 I am working on with Heather Staines and Ruth Wells. PubLunch is a free 1-1 networking service for publishing people to help people make new & interesting connections. Sign up here: If we get enough interest we’ll work on the details and make it happen.

PubTech Radar Scan: Issue 10

New products & services


  • Michael Upshall has a new blog post about recommendation services which includes the question “Do we half-expect that recommended journal articles are the result of a paid placing by the publisher?” Many publishers do pay to promote articles via google and social media and some companies specialise in offering services in this area. Are researchers aware? Probably not. Does it matter? Not sure…

Other items

PubTech Radar Scan: Issue 9

It’s been ages since my last newsletter. I took a break over the May Bank Holiday and then struggled to get going again. Like many others I’m tired. Fairly sure I’ve not had COVID but it could be a mild case of ‘Covid-19 Brain’  😃.

New products & services


  • Surprisingly the merger of CPA Global and Clarivate to “…form a true end-to-end solution that covers the entire innovation and IP lifecycle – from scientific and academic research to IP portfolio management and protection” seems to have passed without much comment.

  • HighWire Press have been sold to MPS. As Clarke & Esposito comment it does feel like the end of an era. The staff seem positive about the sale and it should bring some desperately needed investment. Highwire are well positioned to build a really strong and innovative infrastructure around preprints.

    HighWire’s problems were many but even if their technology offering had been the best the market for platform services is shrinking. A quick browse through the archives of HighWire’s customer list highlights the problem. Over the years many society journals left for greener pastures, but many more ceased being independent publishers. Most [?] of the smaller publishers have been bought by the larger players.  Plan S is going to drive further consolidation as society publishers seek income guarantees that only the biggest commercial publishers can provide.  In ten years time the market for publishing infrastructure services is going to be considerably smaller and likely to be dominated by very large commercial players.  I’m a fan of Amy Webb and I think her comments about the US big tech congressional hearings (badly condensed below) could equally apply to academic research. 

    “America's free market economy facilitates consolidation… And so, we have the G-MAFIA: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Apple… The bottom line is that Amazon and Google are now invisible infrastructure powering not just our economy, but our daily lives. We need a more sophisticated approach. ”

    I am not feeling optimistic that this is a battle the open science community will win.


  • The switch from subscription access to OA means new and interesting opportunities, the IOP [I think] are looking for an Article Revenue Product Owner

  • Digital Science is running their first Global Showcase event from 28 Sept to 2 Oct. “We’ll be discussing the biggest challenges facing research and sharing stories about the many ways our digital tools are helping the research community.” Tickets here.

  • The Wellcome are running a virtual conference on Reproducibility, Replicability and Trust in Science in September.

Quick links

Final thought

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to all the people who have contacted me asking when the next newsletter is coming out and checking to see if I’m still alive 😉. It has meant a lot to me and it is lovely to be part of a community that cares ❤️.

PubTech Radar Scan: Issue 8


Product launches and new releases

Longer reads

Events, surveys and other opportunities

  • The Open Publishing Fest calendar is now available with a huge variety of sessions

  • Vlogbase (AI Video Search software) are applying for a grant so that they can put university lectures online for students in AI-searchable form. If you’re interested in having your lectures AI'd head to Twitter.  

  • FutureText Publishing is running a student competition for articles on the future of text: “What do YOU feel the future of text will be or can be? We are not looking for research or journalistic perspectives, we are looking for personal passions, whether it be for text on screens or text on paper, whether it be for typefaces, hypertext linking, libraries, neuroscience, books or social media–whatever you feel is important to write about and think about.”

  • Elsevier is looking for researchers and clinicians to join its Publishing Lab “By participating in the Publishing Lab, you will be directly involved in new publishing concepts, can help shape these up, or even propose ideas that we haven’t thought of yet. With the Publishing Lab we aim to develop tools and services that help researchers with their everyday tasks by soliciting direct feedback from a wide range of our authors, reviewers and editors, in all stages of their careers.”

Light relief

  • I ❤️ this correction notice! It must have kept a few people busy during lockdown. Via @NathanSRuiz

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