Reflections on the Researcher to Reader conference

by Rob Johnson, 21 Feb 2016

I was going to do write a summary of last week’s Researcher to Reader conference, following on my previous post in the run up to the conference. Fortunately Danny Kingsley has saved me the trouble – her comprehensive blog post on the topic can be found here! Suffice it to say there was much debate and discussion throughout the conference, with a great mix of delegates representing all parts of the scholarly communications process.

One aspect that did stand out for me, though, was the continuing centrality of the open access debate. This topic seems to exert an inexorable pull for all of those working in scholarly communications, and so perhaps inevitably it also figured heavily in the three workshops I chaired on the topic of Research Management. My summary slides from the workshops are now available here. As I said at the time, though, these singularly fail to do justice to the breadth of ideas which emerged. Participants grappled with such weighty topics as how to change institutional cultures, the need for authoritative research information, and the vexed question of when and how to advise researchers. These questions of course go much broader than open access, but for many of those present open access is where many of the underlying problems in the research ecosystem seem to crystallise. The difficulties of communicating with and advising researchers are not new, but they seem particularly acute to those tasked with explaining the labyrinthine complexities of funder mandates and journal embargo periods. Similarly, the current lack of consistent metadata standards becomes much harder to ignore when you are expected to determine which articles an institution has published, and what their OA status is.

Mark Carden, as the conference organiser, closed the event by stating (tongue in cheek) that he hopes the debate continues as it makes for a good conference. I think he can rest easy on that subject – this issue has a good while to run yet!