First sponsored publishing student at Torquay conference

The UK Serials Group conference was held in Torquay, 7-9 April 2008. Emma Anderson, MA in Publishing and Language, was given a free place at the conference. She writes:

Once all the Fawlty Towers jokes had been exhausted - yes, we had done them all in my family, right through from the hearing-aid to the two doctors, and from the ingrown toenail to Basil the rat - I was ready to hit Torquay.

I felt highly privileged to have been chosen as the first publishing student ever to be awarded a sponsored place at the UK Serials Group Conference (serials are journals and periodicals). I was determined to keep climbing that steep learning curve I began at Oxford Brookes almost 18 months ago when I embarked on the MA Publishing and Language course. I was delighted that the programme was so varied, incorporating issues I had heard mentioned and ideas I was keen to follow through to enthuse me in my new career.

I have recently decided to go along the path of journals publishing after graduation, preferably as a freelancer, and was fascinated by the plenary session talk given on semantic open data in scientific publications by Peter Murray-Rust.  Having only worked to date in Humanities and Social Sciences journals, I was most surprised at the limitations on data and formulae accessible to scientists via research papers. Murray-Rust’s argument was that for the world to progress in scientific terms, all research must be shared and not be in the sole control of the publishers.  There was of course an alternative view given by a questioner at the end of the talk, who stressed the added value element to publishing via online and print journals.  The debate will continue, with new business models being developed which will hopefully be mutually beneficial to both communities.

Another issue that interests me is the development of the three programmes HINARI (Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative), AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) and OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment).  In a workshop Steven Glover and Gracian Chimwaza gave an overview of how journal and research content is offered to developing countries, including Vietnam, Nigeria, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Examples were given of how research in many institutions had improved thanks to the programmes and how otherwise vital research cannot be accessed because of a shortage of funds. As well as improving research in institutions, the programmes also mean that connections to the international scientific community are formed and there is an enhanced educational curriculum. There are several challenges to be overcome, such as the slow bandwidth connectivity in some areas, the lack of computers, shortage of trained librarian staff, and limited information searching skills.  The technology regarding bandwidth is improving and training is underway for local librarians, but this will take time.

I did ask if any resistance was offered by publishers to give their content up for free and I was relieved to hear that no, far from it, publishers were very positive about the programmes and especially about their growth and continuation.

The conference was a lovely way to meet new people, talk about serials (although this was not a requirement in the evenings) and to catch up with old friends.  There were discos on two evenings, a live band and a quiz. Wonderful. Once the MA is over, I shall begin my study of flags.  I am sure there is an  ‘...ology’ for this subject and I will endeavour to find out what it is before next year. (Yes, there is – vexillology. Ed.)

Richard Withey and Geoffrey Bilder (two very inspirational speakers) explained the importance of the ‘Google Generation’ and how those lucky enough to be under 40 at the moment will be responsible for changing the face of serials publishing.  Maybe I should lighten the restrictions I put on my offspring for their access of the internet and let them explore more.

See the website for the UK Serials Group.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01 May 2008 around 8am

Filed Under Publishing