Evolving with the Transforming Research Landscape at this year's Melbourne Executive Seminar

November 22, 2017 Rosie Duffy

The magnificent State Library of Victoria played host once again to the Melbourne Wiley Society Executive Seminar on Friday, November 3rd 2017. The sixth seminar to be held in Melbourne for Wiley’s Australasian journal editors, society executives, university librarians and others connected to the academic sector, this year’s theme was “The Transforming Research Landscape.”

Mark Robertson, Wiley’s VP and Publishing Director for Asia-Pacific, welcomed the seminar audience for the final time before his retirement at the end of the year. With over 35 years of journal publishing experience, Mark was well-placed to talk about the various “disruptors” to our industry and how they signal a need to adapt to, rather than resist, change.

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Daniel Hook, CEO of Digital Science (the company behind innovative start-ups like Altmetric, Figshare and Readcube) spoke about the “invisible hand of data” that drives research. Publication is not just a static piece of paper or PDF anymore; rather, Daniel encouraged the audience to think of publication as a collection of all research output, including data. He did note, however, that incentives need to be aligned accordingly for this to happen. As “impact” is difficult to measure retrospectively, Daniel’s advice was to “capture early, capture everything, share early” and that persistent IDs like ORCID and DOI are key to this. For more insights, see the Figshare report on “The State of Open Data” here.

Everyone is talking about innovation these days, but what does it mean? In the next session, RMIT Distinguished Professor Suresh Bhargava provided his thoughts on “innovation at the ground level.” Illustrated with some apt quotations from Yes, Minister, Suresh described what he sees as the key enemies of innovation: delay, confusion, fear and ridicule. The disconnect between academic output and real world issues signifies that now is a time for change: change driven by true innovation. He declared that all innovation will fail, however, unless we allow academia itself to facilitate the change needed. Initiatives like Professor Suresh’s Academic Sharp Brain are beginning to address this problem.

ABC’s National Medical Reporter Sophie Scott spoke about her approach to influencing public policy in health. In her view, true change is brought about by a combination of realistic solutions and a clear pathway forward. In one example, Sophie’s team investigated claims that cosmetic surgery clinics administered drugs without consent. In their report, the team identified the problem and also suggested possible ways to change this dangerous situation, namely new government regulations and a medical board review – both of which are underway. Sophie appealed to researchers to collaborate with the media, noting that advance knowledge of, and access to, upcoming research publications enable journalists to develop richer and more impactful stories that connect with the public on a different level.

Freelance science writer Andy Stapleton asked: is the future really “bleak” and “unstable” for early career researchers? He highlighted the importance of having the right collaborators, being the hardest worker and, crucially, being lucky in order to succeed in academia these days. Again, the need for change was evident: PhD students must be trained so that they are prepared for other careers, while industry needs to understand the skills and value a PhD graduate can bring to their workforce. Andy has looked beyond academia and created PocketConference, an app that enables authors behind the 2.5 million papers published annually to summarize their research in a simple way. Check it out here.

A lively panel followed, facilitated by Deb Wyatt, VP, Asia Pacific Society Services at Wiley. It discussed the problem of academic “counting” – papers, citations, grants, dollars – and the current highly metricized assessment of research. The panel argued that a culture change and more nuanced appraisal system must be developed to truly understand research and its impact. By adapting content to the audience you wish to reach, more powerful communication is possible.

Mark Robertson then returned to the stage with an overview of CHORUS, a not-for-profit membership organization of publishers, societies, funders and other stakeholders. CHORUS makes the output from funded research easily and permanently discoverable, accessible, and verifiable by anyone in the world. See more detail on CHORUS here.

Advice on commissioning journal articles was next on the agenda with Esther Levy, Editor-in-Chief of Advanced Materials Technologies. In an increasingly competitive market, top quality content can be difficult to secure. Esther offered best practices for developing special issue and section ideas, ongoing “casual” commissioning, and how to attract the best authors to your journal.

Wiley’s Senior VP for Research, Simon Beale, explored the needs of researchers as readers and provided a snapshot of findings from a recent Wiley survey of users of journal content. For instance, 73% of readers access journal content via web searches. Simon emphasized that Wiley’s role and duty as a publisher is to make publishing technology seamless. Detailed results from the survey on how, why and what readers consume will be available soon.

A vibrant panel of speakers brought the day to a close. Facilitated by Sophie Scott, the group featured Adam Bandt, Member of the Australian Parliament, Lyn Brodie, CEO of Optometry Australia, Bruce Chapman of the Crawford School of Public Policy, Paul Dietze from the Burnet Institute, Tim Eaton of the Environmental Protection Authority, and Kim Ryan, CEO of the Australasian College of Mental Health Nurses.

The topic was “Supporting Evidence-based Policy” and many of the key messages from the day were amplified: the significant part media can play in translating research findings, and the importance of understanding your audience and adjusting your language and message accordingly. Other advice included taking a strategic and “scientific” approach to pitching research to policymakers by understanding how decisions are actually made, as well as the challenges facing policymakers– they can be overwhelmed by an abundance of often contradictory pieces of information. Nurture key relationships, develop a profile, stay consistent and know your elevator pitch!

Tune into the conversation from the day using #wileyseminarANZ, and if you’d like to join this exciting and ever-expanding event next year, drop us a line at auswileyforum@wiley.com or visit the seminar website.

Photo Credit: Sadira Campbell

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