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Innovation and collaboration: the future of academic publishing and HE libraries

Opportunities for publishers and libraries alike, was the key message from The Publishers Association’s Academic and Professional Division 2011 conference “Students at the Heart of the System” attended by close to 100 publishing professionals, librarians, and even a handful of students on Monday 21 November in London.

Both publishing and academia are facing huge change – for the former, entering a new digital paradigm, and for the latter, facing an overhaul of the way universities are funded – which, together, see the Higher Education system being churned. And with churn must come innovation.

By working together, both in terms of across the HE sector and between the HE and publishing sectors, publishers and librarians should be able to rise to the challenges presented and exploit new opportunities without compromising the quality of teaching and research experienced by students. It may mean untying some knots, collaborating in some areas rather than competing, and searching out new opportunities; however, it is necessary if both the academic publishing industry and UK universities want to survive.

Here are some of the key notes that I took during some of the speaker presentations on the day:

Ian Diamond (University of Aberdeen) – Future of HE Publishing

  • Increase in student numbers; increased international focus; increase in transnational education; increasing flexible delivery
  • With higher fees come greater expectations


  • Textbooks need to be easily available electronically. Is there a business model which enables textbooks to be produced in electronic form (after being produced in print) or do we need to move to a new generation of online textbooks (that are produced for electronic form in the first instance; this may change structure / text / etc)? But what about the paper version in the latter case (believe that paper version of textbooks still are necessary).
  • Publishers must work with academics because academics do not have the time, skill or expertise to produce electronic textbooks or even write for the electronic medium.
  • The UK is likely to move to the USA model for textbooks – moving away from the traditional (wider) reading list. This move will make it easier for publishers to justify investments in electronic textbooks because it will make it easier for sales and marketing.


  • Need quick access to books at your desk, wherever your desk may be located (need to digitise books)
  • Need to know that books are accurate – quality control
  • Ensure availability


  • Research based learning requires access to cutting edge journal publications
  • Per researcher, the UK is highest for number of citations and highly cited articles but in terms of absolute numbers, the UK is behind the USA and China
  • Research is a global agenda:
    • Research now is too big for one brain (requires team approach)
    • Research is increasingly cutting across numerous disciplines (multidisciplinary)
    • Research has no boundaries (may be conducted by a team located in different countries across the world)
    • Funding is based on publication of the results; therefore enabling the publication of research in journals is essential as the cost of research goes up
    • Efficiencies must not be at the cost of quality
    • Research is increasingly competitive
  • In providing journals need increased access without increased cost
  • Consortia should be playing a key role: the Efficiencies Report says that joint procurement is necessary to improve access
  • Quality control must be maintained for electronic journals. Peer review remains essential.
  • Question of open access: availability and accessibility; quality control; preservation
  • Finch Working Group is looking at Open Access

Special Collections:

  • There is an opportunity for publishers to provide digital access to special collections on a wider scale (digital humanities)

Grey Literature:

  • Grey literature should be made more widely available to a wider audience of people
  • There is a role for publishers here in coming up with a sensible digital model for grey literature


  • Research integrity is of increasing importance
  • Data increasingly needs to be made available alongside publication
  • Experts in this area include EDINA, ESDS
  • Curation, preservation, and utilisation
  • With the need to publish data there could be a role for publishers in ensuring Quality Control which is an assurance publishers could provide. In the age of YouTube, etc. it is essential to be able to trust the data.


  • Librarians as specialists in subject specialisations, digital specialisations, and specialists in data. Publishers should be working with librarians as they are the specialists.
  • Need more collaboration and less competition in Higher Education
  • Should have more partnership and collaboration between publishers and Higher Education
  • Vice Chancellors should be investing more in libraries, preparing them for digital future. Need to invest in digital outputs and roll out to all students.
  • The University of London has aggregated library services and there is no reason that other universities shouldn’t do the same by taking a “federation” approach. Universities should be sharing their libraries and forming strategic alliances. Differentiation between universities can happen outside of library resources offered to students.

Copyright Reform:

  • Need to ensure ability to maintain copyright in an electronic world
  • Results from the Hargreaves Review on Intellectual Property are important
  • In licences between libraries and publishers, intellectual property needs to be kept simple


  • Collaborative purchasing and procurement is essential
  • Procurement UK is being set up very quickly

Final Word

  • Technology should transform, not translate!

Simon Walker (University of Greenwich)

  • Greenwich is looking to issue every single student an iPad when they start university

John Lanham (University of West of England)

Hewlett Packard Joint Degree – validated by UWE

  • Combination of UWE taught modules and HP delivered and assessed material
  • Site visits and attendance at HP TechFest
  • Master-class session taught by HP staff
  • Internship placement at HP
  • Professional / industry recognised certification
  • Combined UWE/HP team led by UWE as the validating body
  • 20% taught by HP; 80% taught by UWE
  • Students still need textbooks and conventional support
  • IP issues with case studies with HP (more intellectual property issues with what students have access to at HP than the other way around)
  • Acknowledgement of wider scope of learning environments – work based; experiential learning
  • Incorporation of company based education and training – the Joint Degree is possibly more specialist / focused – but probably comparable in terms of “level” or degree of difficulty
  • There is expectation that there will be other industry partnerships and placements
  • Likely will see a return to industry sponsoring students (“sponsorship”) and paying for students course fees in return for employment following graduation
  • Universities will increasingly be working with companies to develop the employees they want
  • Higher Education is about to change entirely: churn forces innovation

Alastair Buick (

  • Created an online network for medical students to share learning resources
  • Creating and sharing podcasts for revision purposes
  • Creating and sharing notes taken during classes or whilst reading
  • Creating and sharing practice exams
  • The whole site is geared up for comments and feedback – every single thing on the site can be given the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and commented on (so the community should police “bad” or incorrect notes versus accurate and helpful notes). This provides academic integrity.
  • Everything tagged in a structured way to match with the way that Medicine is taught at UK universities
  • Publishers can upload their content (some publishers have uploaded a few free chapters of different books to act as tasters in hopes that students then go on to purchase the whole book). There are currently 58 textbook chapters and 26 journal articles on the site.
  • The publishers content is very much a minority – most of the content is community generated; PowerPoints, lectures, etc.
  • Individual users can add content that they like to their own “library” so that they can easily find it again
  • Copyright: they have a policy of taking down anything from the site that is clearly copied or not the work of the person posting (they’ve not yet ever had to remove anything from the site though). This is a similar model to YouTube.
  • Make money from advertising, sponsorship from publishers. Looking to raise money from selling publisher’s content from the site as well.

Chair – Final Thoughts

  • Volatility in funding; more difficult to plan as budgets are uncertain because now based on student numbers and these are harder to predict
  • Universities will have to act more and more like commercial companies, competing for customers
  • There is opportunity for some universities to “steal” AAB students and, on the flip side, this also represents a threat to those universities losing AAB students
  • There is also increasing competition from private providers
  • More international students
  • Agenda for widening participation – this is why universities allowed to charge the higher fees… so how will this work in practice?
  • Focus on the quality of the student experience
  • Students as consumers
  • Progression routes from undergraduate to postgraduate will need to be more fully developed. Big fear that postgraduate students will drop significantly because of the high fees of undergraduate courses (students can’t afford even more debt)

One thought on “Innovation and collaboration: the future of academic publishing and HE libraries

  1. Pingback: The future of academic publishing and HE libraries | Alison's Eclectic E-stuff

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