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HighWire Press

Apple’s iWatch: Technology you can wear

15 Feb, 13 | by BMJ

The humble wristwatch, an invention of the early 20th century, looked set to be consigned to history as consumers dumped single function devices and switched to smartphones and tablets which tell the time alongside dozens of other applications.

But Apple is rumoured to have 100 engineers working on a curved glass wristwatch computer, heralding a new era of wearable technology  and arguably the most significant development since the digital watch first appeared in 1970.

Technology blogger Jason Perlow predicted that Apple’s “iWatch” would not be an autonomous computer but a “remote display and interaction unit for applications running on a smartphone.” In practice this could remove the need to dig deep into pockets and bags each time you are called, texted, or emailed.


Article-level metrics: which service to choose?

26 Oct, 12 | by BMJ

Article-level metrics (or ALMs) were a hot topic at this week’s HighWire publisher meeting in Washington. (Highwire hosts both the BMJ and its stable of 42 specialist journals). From SAGE to eLife, publishers seem sold on the benefits of displaying additional context to articles, thereby enabling readers to assess their impact. These statistics range from traditional indicators, such as usage statistics and citations, to alternative values (or altmetrics) like mentions on Twitter and in the mainstream media.

So, what services are available to bring this information together in one simple interface? There are quite a few contenders in this area, including Plum Analytics, PLoS Article-Level Metrics application, Science Card, CitedIn and ReaderMeter. One system in particular has received a good deal of attention in the past few weeks; ImpactStory, a relaunched version of total-impact. It’s a free, open-source webapp that’s been built with financial help from the Sloan Foundation (and others) “to help researchers uncover data-driven stories about their broader impacts”.


Inkling Habitat: reinventing the print press?

16 Mar, 12 | by BMJ

Online publishing startup Inkling (who featured at this week’s HighWire Press Conference in Palo Alto, CA) has created a new tool that it says will appeal to professional, large-scale publishers. The software, known as Habitat, will use XML and HTML5 that can be read on a variety of platforms, including an upcoming Inkling web reader. In theory, it sounds pretty similar to Apple’s iBooks Author, but Habitat is specifically designed for large teams of collaborators with sharing and collaboration tools.

If anyone has insight into Apple’s educational efforts, it would be Inkling Co-founder and CEO, Matthew MacInnis, who was responsible for Apple’s expansion into educational markets in Asia and later a senior manager of all Apple’s international education efforts. MacInnis told us that the Inkling team set out to build a publishing platform that would redefine digital media, starting with reinventing the textbook. But in doing so, they’ve discovered that to reinvent books, they’ve had to go back to ground zero and re-imagine the entire printing process itself. more…

Drupal and

25 Nov, 11 | by BMJ

In August 2011 more than 1700 developers converged on Croydon for the four-day DrupalCon, an event that brings together people and products united in their enthusiasm for a freely available open source software that’s powering an increasing number of websites across the world.

“Come for the software, stay for the community” boasts the Drupal UK website, adding “Drupal is free, flexible, robust and constantly being improved by hundreds of thousands of passionate people from all over the world. Join us!” more…

“Readers who liked this also liked this”: online recommendations and scholarly publishing

30 Sep, 11 | by BMJ

“Hello David Payne. We have recommendations for you.” Think of online recommendations and Amazon springs to mind. The store that started with books, launched the Kindle e-reader, and is now the Internet’s answer to John Lewis, is widely credited with getting recommendations right, based on what I and other customers have bought.

I see the logic behind their suggestions. Amazon is currently suggesting I buy 17 books. But does it work for scholarly publishers?


Key trends in the information-seeking behaviour of researchers

14 Jan, 11 | by BMJ

At the HighWire Publisher meeting in California this week, a number of key trends in research behaviour were revealed. The Libraries and Academic Research division of Stanford University has carried out 45 interviews to ascertain the information-seeking behaviours of its own researchers, with some enlightening results.

General patterns of behaviour
Many respondents described using “more automated” alerts to stay up-to-date with new material in their field of study. Some reported reading 5-10 journals per week. However, what is interesting is that users defined ‘reading a journal’ as simply browsing through an electronic table of contents or email alert, rather than scanning it from cover to cover. On these eTOCs, researchers would like to see greater annotation. Ideally, they pointed to the inclusion of ‘take home messages’ for each article, so that they might ascertain the suitability of the article to their needs before clicking through to the abstract.

“I don’t review journals, I search databases”. Researchers admitted to only swatting up on the current literature in their field when writing a specific paper or applying for a grant. Research is therefore often driven by necessity and not habit. “I read for a purpose, always with a goal”. This means that users are often missing out on discovery, browsing and serendipitous findings when working in online environments. Interviewees also felt that online journals were missing thematic connections. They reported that whilst these used to be present in print journals through editorial curation, the same context was not usually available through online journal sites.

Context is key and was enthusiastically advocated as one of the major benefits of researching within an online environment. During a panel session at the conference, one researcher suggested that articles should be viewed as portals to greater information rather than the end product. The respondents would like to see more ‘similar articles’ and recommendations on particular topics, instead of browsing archives by issue or year, which would be an obvious benefit of semantic technology.

Annotation tools
Another panel member at the conference who participated in the study, argued that highlighting and annotating tools are imperative for researchers online and need to be as easy to use as in print. A great deal of time and effort is wasted on keeping track of what a researcher has read rather than exploring the subject matter. This process is multi-level, piecemeal and often involves individual systems with no interoperability. Kindle was offered as a solution to this problem. Not only can users add comments and highlighting to articles and ebooks, but they can then log-in to their account and pull off all of these notes into one central document. The device can also be used to see which sections of text other users are focusing on.

Discovery tools
PubMed was listed as the top discovery tool of choice. The second most popular was Web of Science, followed by Google Scholar (mentioned by a third of respondents), Wikipedia (to obtain initial overviews of new topics) and Google. One interviewee confided that they, “use Google to vacuum around the edges of the carpet”. Most databases only contain formal articles but researchers are sometimes eager to find additional context, and that is where Google comes into play.

Reading patterns
Unsurprisingly, there is a common tendency to print the PDF of an article when reading in-depth. On-screen reading is associated with retrieving snippets of information and following links, but many prefer to read significant chunks of text offline. Abstracts, figures, introductions, conclusions and subheadings were all identified as skimmers’ touchpoints. Supplemental data was regarded as important but inconvenient due to it’s fragmented and inconsistent nature. Some publishers, such as The Journal of Neuroscience, are getting rid of supplemental material completely. Their thinking is that if a figure is essential to the article body, it should embedded within the text and not tagged onto the side as an afterthought.

The researchers in this study were conservative towards change. They were only interested in new concepts that could significantly increase their productivity. HighWire highlighted a number of key areas for journal publishers to focus on:

  • Facilitate selection of what to read
  • Information extraction and skimming
  • Supplemental data management
  • Portable annotation
  • Integrated literature management

Publishers should be working with the tools researchers are using externally. To be in a position to fully achieve this, we should be investing more time in semantic technologies and initiatives such as data mining and linked data. The study is not yet complete so watch this space for updates in the coming year.

Highlights from the HighWire Publishers’ Meeting 2010

9 Jun, 10 | by BMJ

HighWire Press is an ePublishing platform which hosts all of the BMJ Group’s journal content. Located in Palo Alto, California (home of Hewlett-Packard and Facebook) HighWire is a division of the Stanford University Libraries. Twice a year, all participating publishers (including Oxford University Press and Sage Publications) are invited for a two-day conference to learn about the technological developments which are gaining most interest in publishing circles.

A very prominent feature on the Spring agenda was that of mobile technology. There were numerous sessions focusing on the iPhone, Kindle, Sony e-reader and, of course, the iPad (see above). We were told that 18.8% of mobiles are smartphones and that, of particular interest to the BMJ Group, 72% of US physicians now use smartphones. Industry experts even predict that mobile usage will overtake desktop/laptop usage by 2013. As well as advice on developing specialised applications for journal content, participants learned about the option of creating optimised web page interfaces for viewing over mobile devices.

Another area of focus was organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Dom Mitchell (previously BMJ Group) ran through a checklist of factors that affect a website’s ranking in search engine results. We were told to ignore meta tags with keywords, which were previously of great importance but are now universally ignored by the major search engines. We were also warned of the dangers of ignoring the rules (such as putting tags in hidden text in the background of homepages) which poses the risk of becoming un-indexed and losing all referred traffic (!). Changes to focus on include the repetition of a journal’s name, nickname and acronym on the homepage, adding a line of descriptive text which includes relevant keywords and including meaningful ‘alt’ tags for all images. Link building is also an important aspect of SEO and we will be sure to include links back to our journal sites on all our social networking pages (such as Twitter).

There were also a number of sessions focusing on eBooks and the information-seeking behaviour of researchers. HighWire have conducted significant research into this established area of ePublishing. In a survey of 139 librarians, most reported an expectation of significant growth in eBook acquisitions in the next 5 years. Users were found to like simplicity, ease-of-use and perpetual access but many disliked issues related to Digital Rights Management (DRM). Other findings from researcher interviews suggested that all disciplines would like to see article/book recommendations based on their own browsing history and bookmarks (similar to amazon). Also of interest was software which would enable them to add electronic notes and highlighting to articles, and could be easily transferred into other applications such as EndNote.

Other subjects on the agenda included DeepDyve, SciVee, CrossCheck, H20 migration and Inline Video. The conference was a great chance to learn of potential developments and discuss the possible value of implementation with other STM publishers. I look forward to hearing updates from HighWire on the many features discussed over the past two days.

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