How the "ABCs" of advanced digital solutions are making a difference in editorial workflows
We live in an era of digital transformation. The practical opportunities offered from advanced digital solutions are a reality in many parts of our lives and already making a difference in publishing workflows.1 Although the delivery of these solutions is technological, the human needs and community drivers lead the decisions and direction of travel. In this article, we will showcase how community-led solutions are being designed and implemented to leverage the value of advanced digital solutions within editorial processes using some examples from the Atypon publishing software. We will also explore how these solutions enable a society or publisher to make insightful data driven decisions, and how this can influence further strategic development.
Digital transformation and the open science movement drive publishers and societies to adjust their business models, strategies, products, and priorities.2 Researchers face increased information overload and, as a result, societies and publishers must disseminate their content more effectively and increase the visibility of their trusted content.3
Atypon works with over 200 of the world’s publishers and scholarly societies as their platform partner for research content (we host over 15,000 journals and half a million academic books). We support these partners in reaching their primary communities of researchers: academics and practitioners across every field of study, all in the process of undertaking and consuming scholarly content as part of their work. Atypon’s technology roadmap and continuous development cycle reflects a distillation of the needs and ideas of our clients, whose input we solicit regularly through online user groups, bi-annual community meetings and 1-2-1 dialogue. In a 2021 survey of our customers,4 we found the top six priorities for publishers and societies were:
Enhancing the discovery of their content;
Enabling author centric publishing;
Modernizing society and publisher operations;
Content management & monetization;
Audience management & monetization;
And Research analytics.
At the heart of each of these priorities is the need to extract or enhance knowledge from existing content and data. This is where AI, Big Data, and Cloud Computing — what we’ve called the “ABCs of advanced digital solutions” — play a key role.5 Together the ABCs are delivering faster and simpler solutions to common community challenges: improving authoring tools; speeding up and improving the process for submission and review; and supercharging the discovery of content. Yet solutions to each of these challenges start with recognising community challenges and needs, and then designing and developing solutions that support them. In other words, communities influence and enhance what technology offers, and the ABCs can only be as effective as the input and data from the community allows.
Here, we will present three ways editorial communities have influenced the implementation of ABC solutions for editorial processes, exploring how each leverages human knowledge.
In an era where researchers have ever-increasing levels of access to content, information overload can make it harder for readers to find what they are looking for. Trusted sources become increasingly valuable, and societies and publishers must focus on improving how they disseminate their content to increase visibility, accessibility, and user experience. It is critical for societies and publishers to increase traffic, usage, and engagement on their own platforms, something increasingly challenging with a proliferation of content sharing channels and mechanisms.
Many of our society clients identify content discovery as their number one priority for the future. Beyond their research content, it is particularly important for them to give easy access to all their content for their members, including blogs, podcasts, news, or videos. One society client described the vast amount of content they had online and the increasing interest in this content from younger practitioner-researchers. They wanted their content platform to act as a utility, always available to their readers and giving easy access to all their content types. They also wanted to personalise journeys for readers, enabling them to surface the right content: what users were seeking. One interdisciplinary publisher client described to us their goal of serendipitously presenting content that readers didn’t even know they were looking for. Such serendipity can facilitate greater conversations across discipline silos and open up new knowledge collaborations, which is particularly relevant for the many societies and publishers now examining the relationship of their content to interdisciplinary topics such as the Sustainable Development Goals.6 For some clients, this may also lead to new ways of packaging content as an additional revenue stream.
Discovery intentions can be addressed with AI and enriched metadata: AI enables societies and publishers to automatically extract metadata from all of their content and make them searchable, enabling topic searches, image searches, video searches, and funder searches. AI supports personalized discovery, creating immersive user experiences, and increasing engagement by presenting the most relevant content for identified users based on their interests and intentions. It can automatically enhance Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by generating meta descriptions based on the abstract. Enriched metadata such as transcript generation for video and auto translation can also improve accessibility, which is important as funder and national policies increasingly focus on both accessibility and machine readability as requirements, such as the forthcoming European Accessibility Act,7 and recent OSTP public access memorandum.8
Our clients use their knowledge to enhance what the technology offers. For example, some clients are mapping existing discipline-specific taxonomies to Atypon’s automatically-generated data to fine-tune connections and deliver even better content recommendations to researchers. In other cases, the connected digital objects are allowing for even better user engagement, for example by developing new topic pages dedicated to interdisciplinary areas of study which can be automatically updated with the latest content. In both examples, it is the community and editor-led direction that defines and shapes the technology to benefit researchers. Atypon’s program managers and solution architects will work with clients to clarify their needs, and translate these needs into a product road map.
Societies and publishers are seeking to increase productivity, including handling a growing number of submissions and speeding up peer review, all without compromising on the quality of any stage of the process9. Yet inefficiencies occur at nearly every stage: workflows can be complicated, expensive, and inefficient. For example, many societies and publishers are using numerous tools and platforms to manage operations and workflows. Clients have highlighted to us the inefficiencies of having to duplicate their content across platforms, or manually connect content or data across systems. Say, for example, a medical society wanted to present the same digital content within an interactive CME course and their journal website, using different access controls for each. Previously, that might have required manually uploading the same content to two separate platforms, and then manually connecting data to enable access to the right users. The ABCs facilitate greater flexibility by connecting the same digital objects—whether a blog, audio or video file—in a structured way within a single workflow. The publisher or society is then able to feature content in multiple locations without needing to duplicate it. Another use case is multiple referencing. Say an author has three articles, all of which relate to a single audio or video file. Previously, the author would need to submit the audio or video for each article. If any updates were required to the metadata, this would have to be done three times. Now, there can be a single digital object, linked to multiple articles. If there are changes to the metadata file, this is automatically updated across each instance without manual editing.
A critical part of the workflow challenging many editors is the lack of qualified reviewers. In most cases, they rely on manual suggestions and invitations, creating increasing pressure on editors as the volume of submissions increases.10 Such intensive manual workflows cannot meet the needs of the open science movement, where increasing volumes and broader topics require speedy handling. Increasingly, data, code, and methods will be required alongside the article itself, adding further processes and checks for editorial teams.
The ABCs of AI, Big Data, and Cloud Computing can enable automated intelligent solutions to help societies and publishers increase article throughput while ensuring the quality of their publications. We have worked with clients to enrich existing reviewer databases which then automatically suggest relevant reviewers or editors. The potential co-author and institutional conflict of interests are also automatically checked, and editors will be notified if any conflict of interests of reviewers is found. We can also help editorial offices identify new issue and journal opportunities by analyzing global content trends and any gaps in their existing portfolio. Meanwhile automated reference quality checks not only disambiguate and enrich each reference with more information such as the number of citations and self citation, but also to give retraction warnings if the cited article is found in the retraction database.
In each of these developments, the parameters of research integrity and ethical publishing practices are set based on the input of the editors and community to develop the right solutions from the technology. As a result, authors gain a faster, less irksome process of submission while editors deliver consistent rigour and quality without the paperwork.
Digital “content” includes not just publications and media but also user-related data, such as user profiles and events. By linking this content and information, community and advanced digital solutions generate contextualized knowledge, creating a more complete view of research.
Through this deeper understanding of their readers, societies and publishers can connect them with the right content and uncover vital connections or associations across content and/or authors. This development is an enormous gain for societies and publishers seeking to increase the reach and impact of their content portfolios, help accelerate scholar’s research journey, or keep users on their sites longer. Meanwhile the interoperability of the publishing platform means that the same access control, the same e-commerce, the same search, the same infrastructure, and the same experience can be applied to a wide range of content.
Granular user data can unlock new ways for clients to understand their audience and users better, who they are, and what they need. In turn, publishers and associations can better understand how effective their content offering is, or how to monetize it in new ways. With the transition to open access and open science, this can play a key role in future business strategy: as one client told us, login and reader data will be used to improve user experience and serve up only content a reader will be interested in; audience segments will be used to track connections between content types (for example, does a podcast subscriber also read articles), enabling societies and publishers to harness revenue streams from their content. Other clients are exploring access control, training, and certification as other ways to apply their deep audience knowledge.
Current uses of advanced digital solutions in scholarly communications are varied and growing, facilitating the work of publishing at every stage — from authoring, through submission and review, to production, publishing, dissemination, and discovery. We have chosen in this article to explore three priorities, but there are several other use cases for the ABCs in publishing workflows. The ABCs can help publishers and societies to better understand their customers, make content more discoverable, monetize that content, and ultimately shape their publishing strategy. It can also help researchers allay information overload by connecting them to the right content sooner and by finding deeper knowledge from the content for them. In every instance, the digital solutions require the input and understanding of the community to get to the right solution. By identifying the inherent connections between our communities—editorial staff, readers, members and authors—we can begin to break data silos and harness the power of our data.