It wasn’t quite open warfare, but the title “platform wars” of one of the excellent seminars at this year’s London Book Fair (full title: Platform Wars: The Scholarly Journal in a Changing World) did give a very clear idea of the turmoil currently affecting academic publishing. With peer review being challenged, and open access transforming the relationship between publishers and end users, it is certainly a transformation, if not a war. The event was organised by postgraduate students at the University College London Centre of Publishing, and they were responsible for the entertaining animation (see video below) to show what is going on. According to the imaginative, if not entirely accurate, animation, open access comes and knocks the panellists over during their session.
The actual event was not quite so dramatic, but nonetheless lively. The speakers were Ian Mulvany of eLife Sciences (formerly of Mendeley), Christian Kohl, independent consultant, Professor Alexander Grossmann, founder of ScienceOpen, and Ciaran O’Neill of SpringerNature. Warfare did not break out, but there was certainly the feeling that open access is changing the publishing business in ways that are often unanticipated – not least of which is text analytics. With such an ever increasing number of articles being published (PLOS ONE alone is responsible for around 100 new articles every day), new tools are vital for accessing articles. Ian Mulvany described how there are no fewer than three new open-source publishing platforms currently being developed for scholarly publishers. Suddenly the market is being transformed from a handful of platform vendors to a multiplicity of solutions.
By the end of the rather frantic session we were left breathless and fascinated by such a changing market. Fortunately, however, nobody was knocked over and no blows were traded.