The world of scholarly publishing is quite unique where the author/researcher who produces the content is also the consumer of the content. It makes for a very interesting situation where the entire ecosystem (and thousands of jobs) is dependent on the author for the system to run. Therefore, there is a strong case to continuously improve the author’s experience to keep the engine humming.
The researcher’s goal is to advance the knowledge in their fields by understanding prior achievements and findings and then applying their insights, efforts and talent to make new discoveries. It becomes extremely important for the body of research to be readily available and easily searchable to help them make informed decisions on the paths they should take. Publishers have painstakingly built vast data stores of published research and built very effective tools to find that content. However, there is a strong need to expand the capability of these systems. For instance, It would be helpful to learn of research in progress specifically to understand which paths have failed and why. In addition, establishing collaboration networks will help foster discussion and speed up the research process.
Once the hard work has been done, the researcher sits down to document their research and share it with the community. The sharing begins with a complicated submission process to ensure all the content is compliant with the publisher’s specifications. This is then followed by the very important peer review process where the content is vetted by peers in the field to make sure it passes muster. The peers who are authors themselves have to quickly make decisions on the research that could have implications not just on the developments in the field but also on the career of the researcher themselves. Once their article gets accepted, it then goes through an editorial review and layout finessing process before it can get published. In this journey as authors and peers, the researcher is burdened with the need to deal with multiple groups of people and tools to get the manuscripts just right, taking vital hours away from the next big discovery. There is an urgent need to simplify this process and provide a unified experience that will bring in both efficiencies as well as improve the accuracy of the presented data by validating against published and curated databases.
The publishers and the people who support them should start to see themselves as key catalysts in not just publishing research but also in making the research happen. Publishers need to engage with the authors, actively seek out their feedback and invest the time and resources to make things better. The time is now to escape the complacency trap and act quickly before a new breed of publishers and technologies arrive to transform the author experience and disrupt the status quo!
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