Back in October of 2014, we asked the Chefs how they stay informed about scholarly publishing. Since several years have passed, we were curious if any of the Chefs had found new channels of information or new ways to effectively digest all that is going on around us. We also thought that it was past time to broaden the question and consider all of scholarly communications, not just publishing.
So this month we asked the Chefs: How do you stay informed about scholarly communications?
Charlie Rapple: I go to conferences (particularly those with a cross-sector audience, such as UKSG and FORCE). I attend as many sessions as possible, rather than just staying in my booth or slipping away to catch up on “real work”, and I will be the first and last at the bar where all the interesting conversations happen.
I also participate in local networking events and the occasional gossipy lunch. I am on committees (UKSG, Learned Publishing) and learn a lot about what other people are up to from those meetings. I am signed up to several discussion lists (liblicense-l, OpenCon, FORCE, lis-e-resources, scholcomm, lis-bibliometrics), newsletters (KnowledgeSpeak, Outsell Insights, AESIS, Information Today, Marketability, Research Information), member newsletters (UKSG, ALPSP, STM) and blogs (LSE Impact blog, Scholarly Kitchen, In the Open) — and I try to at least skim all of these so at the very least I have a flavor of what is generating discussion.
I am connected with hundreds of people on Twitter and LinkedIn, and use Nuzzel to feed snippets from those channels into my inbox (I do slightly miss the days when there were only 10 people on Twitter and you could have a widget in the corner of your screen to keep up with everything they ever posted!). I read journals and magazines including UKSG Insights, Learned Publishing, and Research Information. I pick a lot up from colleagues, who are attending other events, reading other lists / blogs / newsletters, and who will either shout out the most exciting news across the office, or share things via our dedicated Slack channel. Very, very occasionally, I will read a book.
Joe Esposito: Coincidentally, I have been working on a project in this very area and have put together some information from a large number of interviews. Here is what respondents told me about how they stay on top of things. First, the single most important source of information is contact with other people in the field, sometimes even people working for direct competitors. This naturally leads to a strong preference for conference attendance. The second source of information comes from distributors; this is especially true for book publishers. A third finding is that none of the published sources (I will forego naming names here) are viewed as entirely reliable. One prominent source was described dismissively as “journalistic,” that is, insufficiently analytic. I was pleased to see that a large number of interviewees listed the Scholarly Kitchen as an important source for them. Generally speaking, the respondents felt that information about the industry was slapdash and unconnected. I think that as an industry, we have a great deal of work to do.
Rick Anderson: Obviously, I read the Kitchen every day — and I did so before I was a Chef. I also read the Chronicle of Higher Education pretty religiously, and Inside Higher Education selectively, and I subscribe to a bunch of scholcomm-related listservs. Against the Grain continues to be a must-read publication for me. Also, as a participant in the Open Scholarship Initiative, I monitor and participate in the conversation about the future of scholarly communication that is going on within that large and diverse group. I rely on Richard Fisher’s indispensable private newsletter as a window on developments in the UK and Europe. And I keep a special eye out for stories in the mainstream press that have a bearing on scholarly-communication issues — in part because I want to see which issues and situations within our ecosystem are catching the attention of the public at large. This seems particularly important to me given how many segments of the scholcomm ecosystem rely on public funding.
Michael Clarke: With so much going on in the industry, finding the time to keep current is at once essential and challenging. My not-at-all-systematic process for attempting to stay on top of it all is as follows:
- News Feeds – I use Feedly, a news filtering service, to aggregate and filter information from over a hundred online sources.
- Twitter – My carefully curated Twitter feed is mostly gummed up with political news at present but could hypothetically be a good source of industry information some day in a world with a bit less political drama
- Listservs – I follow a number of listservs, including Read 2.0 and LibLicense. Web 1.0 technology but it still works.
- Conferences remain an essential source of information. The valuable information is, of course, never found in the sessions themselves but always at the bar.
- Original Research – In the regular course of business we conduct a great deal of original market research, including surveys, focus groups, and hundreds of research interviews each year. Such interviews are great for reality checking assumptions and information bubbles, of which there are a great many.
- Third Party Research — We also read a great many research reports from third parties and are always scanning the scholarly literature.
- The Scholarly Kitchen and other blogs – Just kidding about other blogs.
- The Telephone – All of our clients are incredibly smart people, as evidenced by the fact that they have had the good sense to hire us. But if that were not enough, they are constantly saying brilliant things and are themselves keen observers of the industry. I spend about half the day talking with clients and because of this am always much better informed at the end of the day than I was at its beginning.
- Newsletters – The humble email newsletter is ongoing a bit of a renaissance. There are a larger number of simply great newsletters out there, some of them public and some of them private and I subscribe to both kinds. A few of the (public) ones I particular enjoy are Benedict Evans, Farnam Street, and Stratechery (these are mostly tech and finance related). Delta Think has a great free open access newsletter. And my own firm will be putting out its very first newsletter about the industry later this month (anyone can sign up to receive it on our website)
Alice Meadows: As with pretty much any field, keeping up with what’s happening in scholarly communications is challenging in terms of sheer volume. I attempt to keep at least somewhat informed in three main ways.
First, Twitter. Love it or loathe it (I vacillate between the two!) I do find it a helpful way of both seeing some news sooner than I otherwise would, and also filtering out some (though by no means all) the noise. Being pretty selective about who I follow definitely helps. There are a few people who do a really fantastic job of highlighting and/or filtering important (but not necessarily newsworthy) information and I know that I can rely on their twitter feed to keep me updated.
Next, blogs, listservs, etc. Again being selective is essential and I have to confess that there are days when I don’t have time for anything other than scanning the subject lines and then deleting everything. Again there are certain contributors who I find are especially knowledgeable — and generous with sharing their knowledge — so I pay more attention when they publish a post or are part of an online discussion.
Last, but not least, conferences and other in-person meetings. There’s really nothing to beat hearing about what’s going on direct from the horse’s mouth — whether catching up on the latest innovations, learning the results of reports and studies, or just hearing a talk by someone whose views you respect.
And of course one key thing all these communication channels have in common is that they are two-way — they all offer a chance to get involved in the conversation, ask questions and offer your own opinion, as well as listening and learning from others. Critical for good (scholarly or other) communications!
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe: I think it’s fair to say that I read very broadly — libraries, publishing, business, psychology, and sociology — and across multiple media. But, if I had to pick one strategy, I’d say that my curated list of people I follow on Twitter (a sub-list of all of the Twitter accounts I follow) is my primary approach to keeping up on scholarly communications. I am grateful to the many people who share what they are reading and particularly those who “think out loud” through their tweets. While this is my approach to “keeping up,” it is also a mechanism for conversation and collaboration. On three occasions I’ve given conference presentations with someone I have never met in person until we arrived at the conference and I’ve co-authored a publication with someone who I only met in person after our piece was published. Curating a Twitter list is an ongoing process of adding, removing, etc. — tuning the tweet feed to improve the signal/noise ratio.
David Smith: It used to be Twitter, and to certain extent it still is. But Twitter isn’t what it once was. Scholarly folks are a lot quieter these days alas. Partly that’s because Twitter seems to be a vehicle for other news, not-news and assorted hysteria and misdirection; and partly because the concept of a reverse chronological timeline appears to be held in low regard these days. Of course a good hashtag at a conference still enables one to keep abreast of the back channel (and here a shout out to all those who step up to hold forth at such events — thank you!). For me, personally these days there’s a wee group of us that meet in London for a spot of food and a bunch of lively and valuable discussion, and I find that most useful and informative. The face-to-face conversations in an environment of trust, you just can’t beat that.
Angela Cochran: In addition to posts on here from my fellow Chefs, I also use Twitter to try and stay informed. For me, the trick is to make sure that I am following a large swath of tweeters from different angles in scholarly communication.
I have been following Lisa Hinchliffe (@lisalibrarian) for quite some time for her perspective on library systems. Similarly, Aaron Tay at Singapore Management University (@aarontay) is one to follow. He writes some very smart pieces about technology in the library space. I also enjoy following Ryan Regier (@ryregier). He is doing some interesting things with data analysis and code and writes blog posts about library collection management in the time of open access. Chris Bourg (@mchris4duke) of MIT is also putting forth some very interesting strategic plans for her library system. She is also a powerhouse to follow on topics around inclusion and diversity.
I try to include a fair number of researchers and editors in my feed. This is sort of a haphazard list but I like hearing their perspectives and especially their pain points.
Marie McVeigh (@JopieNet) and Cassidy Sugimoto (@csugimoto) are my go to sources for metrics. Marie is the only person that has ever explained why things work the way they work in the Web of Science databases and she can talk citations better than anyone I know. Cassidy is doing the research into what evaluation measures make sense. She is also a wonderful writer.
Larger issues around science communication includes Jamie Vernon, CEO of Sigma Xi (@SigmaXiCEO). For the latest in peer review, I like what Bahar Mehmani from Elsevier has been proposing (@mehmanib). Fellow chef Tim Vines (@TimHVines) is another one to follow if peer review is your game.
I follow a whole lot of vendors in our space as well as other journals and journal publishers. This helps keep me informed on what others are doing.
Lastly, I follow a lot of people whose opinions I do not always share. The last thing I want on my Twitter feed is a feedback loop of voices that support my vision or preconceived notions. It’s important to me to at least stay informed of contrary opinions. Twitter is really the only medium in which I have been able to achieve this.
Lettie Conrad: I draw on a number of information channels, both human and otherwise. Speaking regularly with industry colleagues as well as end-users is probably my favorite way of being informed about what matters in scholarly communications — that’s formal industry events and conferences, informal meet-ups online or in-person, and research opportunities to learn from the authors, editors, librarians, and others that power the engine of academic knowledge.
When I can’t connect directly, I rely on various digital and print channels, both push and pull — that’s Google Scholar search alerts, Twitter, blogs, etc., from libraries and academia to publishing and consumer tech. I start every day with a 10-minute browse of the headlines and a scan of my favorite blogs, e.g., LSE Impact. If I spot anything that needs more than 2 minutes of my time, I’ll flag it for Friday afternoons, when I try to wind down the week with a little reflection.
But, all those tips aside, the best way to stay informed is to stay curious! Also, to keep refreshing those bookmarks and trying new things — that said, I’m looking forward to reading what my Chef peers are doing to stay connected!
Well, a lot has stayed the same since 2014, but a lot has changed. Twitter seems to hold some attention as well as good old-fashioned face-to-face interactions.
Now it’s your turn to contribute. How do you stay informed about scholarly communications? What do you recommend?