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ALPSP 2023 - discover our highlights

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

It’s that time of the year again – the ALPSP conference has just finished. Packed with discussions on diverse topics in scholarly publishing, this year’s conference has provided major food for thought on essential topics in the industry.

Photo of The International Bunch team members smiling and laughing together
Photo of The International Bunch Team. From left to Right: Emma James, Pamela Heller-Miszta, Megan Taylor (below), Lou Peck (above), Sharnie Dunstall

This year’s conference has been a particularly special one – our remote team had the chance to meet and spend time together (not behind a screen!) for the first time. We also got to spend time with others in a relaxed setting on an exciting Manchester walking tour.

It was fantastic to get the chance to meet not only our colleagues, but the members of our incredible scholarly publishing community.

What did we learn from ALPSP 2023? Read on to discover the highlights from the sessions we attended this year.

Session 1 Keynote: Future Trends in Responsible Research Evaluation

Elizabeth Gadd, Loughborough University Sarah Faulder, Publishers' Licensing Services Nicola Nugent, Royal Society of Chemistry

A photo of Megan Taylor holding her name badge
Megan Taylor, Director of Content and Research

Publication- and citation-based research assessment has led to several negative outcomes, including:

  • Publication-for-glory not scholarship

  • A skewing of the scholarly record

  • The disenfranchising of certain demographics less well-represented in the literature

  • Gaming, cheating and more

As a result, there have been calls for a reform of research assessment. This session explored current progress towards this goal, as well as the potential impacts on researcher behaviour and the wider research ecosystem.

'With so much that hangs on research assessment, it is crucial that it is carried out responsibly'

Sarah Faulder

Chief Executive, Publishers' Licensing Services

How is research assessment and research culture affecting those in the community?

Elizabeth Gadd opened the keynote with an acknowledgement of the pressures put on researchers by the expectations and constraints of research assessment. In particular, she highlighted how 40% of PhD students are at high risk of suicide due to the pressures put on researchers by unrealistic and constraining metrics.

It is clear there is a strong link between research assessment, research culture, and peoples lived experiences of working in academia.

So, what is the current problem with our publication dominant research evaluation system?

Elizabeth highlighted various issues that converge to create a system under strain. These included:

  • paper mills

  • diversity representation

  • gender bias

  • positive result bias

  • guest, ghost and gift authorship

'If there were no reward or glory related to publication, these issues would not exist.'

Elizabeth Gadd

Research Policy Manager, Loughborough University

It isn't all doom and gloom, however. So many innovative initiatives are springing up around the globe to tackle some of these issues. Initiatives to look out for and learn about include:

  • The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) – to advance practical and robust approaches to research assessment globally and across all scholarly disciplines.

  • Leiden Manifesto - 10 principles to guide research evaluation with 25 translations, a video and a blog

  • The metric tide - an independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management.

  • Hong Kong Principles - to explicitly recognize and reward researchers for behaviour that leads to trustworthy research by avoiding questionable research practices.

  • The SCOPE Framework – a five-stage process for evaluating research responsibly

  • The COARA Agreement - a shared direction for changes in assessment practices for research, researchers and research performing organizations, with the overarching goal to maximize the quality and impact of research.

  • Humane Metrics Initiative - creates and supports values-enacted frameworks for understanding and evaluating all aspects of the scholarly life well-lived and for promoting the nurturing of these values in scholarly practice.

The reform these initiatives drive towards is based on a range of themes and assumptions, with the common goal of creating a healthier, sustainable research ecosystem. Themes include:

  • open scholarly infrastructure

  • transparent data

  • qualitative assessment

  • narrative approaches

  • broader contributions

Narrative approaches

A move towards more qualitative, narrative approaches to research assessment is happening and important.

We are seeing an increase in narrative CVs. The challenges with these is writing them well and effectively, and assessing them at scale. There will be roles for libraries to play in supporting researchers in becoming skilled at writing these. Great examples include:

Next steps

We are moving towards a democratization of scholarship, a greater focus on team science. There are anxieties about all these changes, about being the first to change towards these values, also about 'responsible washing' – the traditional methods and values still being in control whilst we pay lip service to broader contributions.

Actions the ALPSP community can take include:

  • moving away from publication dominant assessment

  • defining what we value

  • looking at ways we assess the research we publish

Session 2: Building an Inclusive Workplace Culture

Simon Holt, Elsevier

Dianndra Roberts, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Pooja Aggarwal, Bloomsbury

Mark Richards, BMJ

Karen Stoll Farrell, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington

How can we build inclusive workplace cultures in constantly changing working environments? Chaired by Simon Holt, Publisher and Co-Chair of Elsevier enabled at Elsevier, this session explored the importance of inclusivity in the workplace – normalizing conversations around disability inclusion and creating cultures where people can bring their full selves to work.

Around 15% of the world’s workforce has a disability. Holt points out that:

‘If we get this right, we can massively make more of the people in our workforce.’

Simon Holt


Conversations are increasingly important, and cultivating cultural openness is key to creating more inclusivity.

While change is taking place, sometimes that change is for show with some organizations claiming to support DEIA but not playing their part behind the scenes.

Dianndra Roberts shares her perspective that there will be times when you need to walk away from certain initiatives that are not authentic.

Conversations are now taking place with a further focus on truly understanding the workforce. Bloomsbury are trying to capture data on their authors. Publishers are starting from scratch and capturing that data.

Publishers can also make change by getting funds for authors from the global south for people who can’t afford to do some things for their work. From October, they will launch a scheme to fund black authors in the UK linked with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). A first in paving the way for grants like this. BMJ has incorporated the LGBTQ+ staff network to ensure that LGBTQ+ staff are getting the support they need.

So how can we make the industry more inclusive? The panellists shared a few ideas:

  • Working with local schools and career fairs to demystify the publishing industry and make it more accessible to people from all backgrounds

  • Ensuring that all internships are paid

  • Reviewing job adverts to ensure that they are inclusive and accessible to everyone

  • Asking employees questions about their needs and how they can be best supported

While there are many challenges to face, the panellists agree that there is a growing commitment to creating more inclusive workplaces.

Session 4: Beyond Open Access, how do we measure success for Open Science?

Iain Hrynasziewicz, PLOS

Rebecca Kirk, PLOS

Rachel Bruce, UKRI

Lauren Cadwallader, PLOS

Delwen Franzen, BIH QUEST at Charite

Graham Smith, Springer Nature

Open science is about making research more open, accessible, and transparent. Research funders see it as a strategic priority because it is good practice and good research. Monitoring open science is also important and is multifaceted. While the research community is recognizing a broader range of research activities and the reliance on output alone has been reduced, it’s also important to monitor research output for rewarding research excellence.

There are many different ways to measure open science, such as tracking the number of open access publications, open research data, and open research culture. Open science metrics can be used to evaluate the performance of researchers, funders, publishers, and infrastructure providers. However, it is important to note that open science metrics have limitations and should not be used in isolation.

Meaningful open science metrics don’t necessarily line up with traditional publishing metrics. Success must also relate back to business objectives, sometimes basic indicators can be used to make business decisions before long term impact can be determined.

One of the goals of the Open Science Indicators Project is to increase the number of preprints and to encourage code sharing. For instance, Plos introduced Code sharing at Plos Computational Biology. Upon introducing a mandatory code sharing policy, code sharing increased year on year since 2019.

Another goal is to encourage data sharing and reuse. The project has made progress on these goals, but there is still more work to be done.

Discussion also took place surrounding open access in the humanities. Open access is important in the humanities, but it can be challenging to measure. There is a need to collect more granular data and to better understand the needs of foreign language disciplines.

Session 6a Making Open Access Monographs Work – vision to implementation

Frances Pinter, CEUP

Niels Stern, OAPEN and DOAB

Wendy Queen, Project MUSE

Vivian Berghahn, Berghahn Books

The transition to open access monographs is inevitable, and small and medium-sized publishers (SMPs) need to be prepared. This session highlighted the following areas where work still needs to be done to support SMPs in the transition:

  • Policies and mandates: Open access policies and mandates need to be designed in a way that is inclusive of SMPs. For example, institutions should consider providing support to SMPs to help them publish open access monographs.

  • Funding: SMPs need access to funding to support the publishing of open access monographs. This could come from a variety of sources, such as research funders, institutions, and libraries.

  • Infrastructure: SMPs need access to the necessary infrastructure to publish open access monographs. This includes things like publishing platforms, dissemination tools, and digital preservation services.

Frances Pinter opened the session by acknowledging that change is happening, driven by policies and mandates, but questioning who is directing this change and what difficulties there are along the way. What infrastructure is needed to sustainably support good open access longform publishing?

What is the Palomera project?

Niels Stern talked about the Palomera project. There are policies coming out from UKRI, some in the Netherlands, but these policies are still sporadic. Palomera is investigating 39 countries to map policies and changes across institutions and geographical areas.

Palomera has set up a funder forum to create a space for exchanging knowledge and experience around OA book publishing. Issues include business models, evolving landscape, infrastructure providers, and implementation plans.

Libraries need new bookshelves for open access books – there is an increasing and real need for purposeful, specifically designed infrastructure.

Open access – experiences of funding and discoverability

Vivian Berghahn joined the discussion, talking about her role with the Independent family run press in the US and UK. The press specializes in the humanities and social sciences.

  • 40 journals (15 journals fully open access)

  • 25 books per year (20 of which are open access, 1/3 are supported by institution BPCs)

  • 15% of the frontlist is now open access

Their funding sources to sustainably support open access include:

  • Institutional funding

  • KU Select

  • MigDev

Challenges are around accessing funding, and the administration. Usage is 53% JSTOR, then 29% from their own website then 18% Amazon. It is impressive how much is on their own website, which shows how much you can do with good marketing.

'Platform diversity is key for good discoverability.'

Vivian Berghahn, Berghahn Books

Wendy Queen from Project MUSE talked about the barriers for small publishers. A major one is technology, not having the ability to build a platform. Another major challenge is marketing, not having the skills or resources to gain global reach.

Wendy also highlighted the need for downstream activities to support open access for books. Three key areas she mentioned are:

  • robust usage reporting

  • metadata flow

  • workflow processes

A great place to start finding out more is Subscribe to Open.

Session 6B: Marketing, data and analytics for an open research future

A photo of Emma James, one of our marketing executives
A photo of Emma James, Marketing Executive

Mithu Lucraft, TBI Communications

Stephanie Veldman, Brill

Mathias Astell, ResearchGate

Rachael Harper, IOP Publishing

Sara Killingworth, The IET

How can we adapt marketing practices to better fit with a future of open research?

The transition to open access (OA) means that marketing teams need to take a more author-centric approach. This involves understanding who your authors are, where they are, and how they are interacting with you. You can use data and analysis to identify your authors and to learn more about their needs and interests.

There are a number of different tools and techniques that you can use to communicate with your authors. Some common tools include market insights, martech stacks, and open data sources. You can use these tools to build author segments and to create targeted marketing campaigns.

One of the most important things is to have a good data foundation. This means collecting high-quality data from your authors and using it to create a single profile view of each customer. You can then use this data to create personalized and relevant messaging for your authors.

There is a growing need for new skills in marketing, such as the ability to evaluate data and to tell marketers how to apply insights. It is also important to have a mindset shift and to break down the silos between different teams within publishing. By working together, you can develop a more effective and efficient approach to author marketing.

Session 9: AI: The threats and opportunities for publishers

Will Crook, Publishers' Licensing Services

Leslie Lansman, Springer Nature

Hong Zhou, Wiley

AI is already being used by publishers in different workflows and products, and it has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry. However, there are also risks associated with AI, such as the possibility of fake content and job displacement.

According to Hong Zhou, AI governance is falling behind what AI is capable of which can be a huge risk.

Publishers need to be aware of the risks and benefits of AI, and they need to work with governments to develop AI regulations that are fair and effective.

AI cannot replace human work – it’s not perfect or 100% accurate and cannot take responsibility.

What was your favorite session at ALPSP? Let us know in the comments.

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