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Reflections on UKSG 2024: A Conference of Inspiration, Connection, and Collaboration

The UKSG 2024 conference brought together professionals in scholarly communication, fostering collaboration and networking. It emphasized research integrity and the need for a discerning approach beyond surface-level trust markers. Discussions focused on implementing transformative agreements for open access, highlighting transparent reporting and data analytics. The conference addressed challenges in managing open access, streamlining processes, and enhancing efficiency. Talks covered sustainable funding for open-access books and successful transformations toward open scholarship. UKSG 2024 shaped a transparent, inclusive, and impactful scholarly ecosystem. Check the blog for more insights.

Event duration April 10, 2024
Event location Glasgow, Scotland

Reflections on UKSG 2024: A Conference of Inspiration, Connection, and Collaboration 

Glasgow, April 10, 2024 – The UKSG 2024 conference once again brought together minds from across scholarly communication, fostering collaboration and networking between institutions, library consortia, publishers, and technology providers. Among the plenary sessions and workshops, themes of research integrity and open access emerged as focal points this year, igniting discussions that challenged industry norms and highlighted areas for improvement. 

The Importance of Research Integrity 

In an era when trust in the scholarly record is paramount, discussions around research integrity took center stage. Research integrity is a prevalent topic in the industry, and unsurprisingly, this was covered in various sessions during the conference, both from an institutional, publisher, and vendor perspective. The topic covers a wide range of issues, from genuine mistakes to the use of paper mills and publishing in predatory journals.   

Daniel Hook, CEO of Digital Science, offered a thought-provoking analysis, illustrating how our trust in the format of scholarly articles can sometimes close our eyes to potential misconduct. He emphasized the importance of delving beyond surface-level trust markers to scrutinize underlying data and author connections, urging a more discerning approach. 

Cath Dishman of Liverpool John Moores University advocated for empowering researchers to make informed decisions about where to publish rather than relying solely on curated lists. By promoting principles like "Think. Check. Submit." she emphasized the need for researchers to critically evaluate journals based on factors like editorial board authenticity and journal scope rather than using a set list of journals.  

Looking at research integrity retrospectively, i.e., after research misconduct has occurred, Inke Nähte from the University of Dundee, talked about internal processes at her organization around investigating research misconduct from their authors – it appears to be a thorough process, though this is looking at research integrity retrospectively, i.e., after research misconduct has occurred, Inke Nähte from the University of Dundee talked about internal processes at her organization around investigating research misconduct from their authors – it appears to be a thorough process. However, this can be lengthy and takes time to see real actions. The main action in these cases is on the publishers, who should  

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) illustrated the immense work they are doing assessing journals from a trusted perspective, about 8,000 journals last year alone and thousands of hours. The question is, therefore, is DOAJ a whitelist, and if so, are the other non-indexed journals a potential blacklist? DOAJ does not wish to stigmatize publishers, but an objective assessment seen as 'following COPE,' 'transparent pricing,' etc., could still prove very valuable to authors when they evaluate journals.  

The Status Quo and Future of Open Access 

The conversation about open access seems to have taken a bit of a turn at UKSG, not least because of the recently published Jisc report on Transformative Agreements, which was presented at both plenary and breakout sessions, criticizing the success of TAs (Transformative agreements) and showing that it would take the big five publishers 70 years to flip to fully open access, and showing that 40% of research output from the UK is still behind the paywall.   

Key insights from the report underscored the complexities of implementing transformative agreements and the need for thorough data analytics. For example, the report included 22,000 articles deemed eligible but did not get published through an agreement. Data reporting and quality challenges were acknowledged, emphasizing the need for publishers to provide transparent and comprehensive reporting to facilitate informed decision-making. 

Although the Transformative Agreements implemented in the UK did not lead to the quick OA (Open Access) transition that was expected, one wonders if there is room to make improvements, such as by refining agreements by nationalizing updates without requiring institutional opt-in, securing direct funding from research funders rather than via block grants, including co-authors and not just corresponding authors, and expanding coverage of all article types. 

However, Beth Montague-Hellen from the Francis Crick Institute and Katie Fraser from Nottingham University did their own analysis of the Jisc data, highlighting the importance of the role of green open access throughout the current transition and urging everyone not to forget about it. Green was deemed 'too slow' at the start of the push for institutional open access agreements, but is this the route that has been growing the most steadily over the years? (Let's not forget the 2018 study by Piwowar & Priem that showed that 47% of all read articles did have an OA equivalent available – an updated analysis of their data would be most interesting.) 

Reporting on open access agreements is complicated, which was also stressed by Michael Levine-Clark & Co., who provided a detailed analysis of their own work in the US. Overall, publishers' reports are incomplete and not consistent, and the data between different external sources like Dimensions, Web of Science, and Scopus does not align, making it hard to identify a single source of truth for cross-publisher data analysis, especially with so many varying factors across agreements. The need for publishers to make more comprehensive data sets available for their institutional customers – not just about which articles were published through an agreement, but also those that were excluded. This fits well with discussions we had with our publisher customers and their institutions' needs for reporting.  

Looking Ahead 

As the conference unfolded, it became evident that the path to enhancing research integrity and advancing open access is multifaceted. From promoting critical thinking among researchers to advocating for better reporting, there is a collective effort to drive positive change in scholarly communication. 

The conference provided a platform for candid discussions, illuminating the realities of day-to-day struggles in managing open access. Sessions like those led by Maynooth University offered valuable insights into institutions' practical challenges, sparking conversations on streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency. 

Tom Grady (COPIM) and Elaine Sykes (Lancaster University) asked timely and refreshing questions in their shared talk titled, Getting Out From The Back of the Sofa: Or How Can We Achieve Sustainable Funding for Open Access Books?, challenging the BPC model as both status quo and future of open book publishing, given its high-cost implications and unsustainable nature. According to the presenters, other models, such as the Open Book Project and Open Book Futures, need to come forward from the backbench and play a more central role, as perhaps the print distribution model should (kicking it - reliably - old-school). In a passionate talk, Elaine challenged the community to be more assertive overall in dealing with publishers, thus shaping policy and expectations. And why not walk away from a transformative agreement that does not deliver to fund an open monograph? Nothing is off the table to ensure that open book publishing does not devolve into a money-making publishing venture of prestige, akin to the APC (Article Processing Charge) journal publishing model, which serves as a warning sign here. The talk was easily among the most inspiring and engaging of the conference. 

We thoroughly enjoyed CUP's Commercial Director Chris Bennett's talk on sustainable open scholarship at CUP. Chris showed some impressive slides, highlighting Cambridge's massive strides from 90% closed to 90% open in under ten years. The audience was mainly in awe (almost incredulous) at seeing the successful transformation of a highly reputable, medium-sized publisher at this scale. The question that perhaps remained was whether the greater success of transformation at CUP was at least in part enabled by its unique non-profit status, where more experimentation is allowed due to the absence of (myopic) shareholders, allowing CUP to risk profit margins for a while to realize its OA goals fully. Chris presented an impressive slide comparing the benefits and challenges of the journey to open access, discerning between challenges exacerbated by the transition and those that have newly sprung up. It was a pleasure to see Cambridge stay on course to deliver its transformation and continue to invest in the benefits to the broader community. 

In retrospect, UKSG 2024 served as a catalyst for reflection and action within the scholarly community. As we navigate the evolving landscape of research dissemination, the insights gained from this conference will undoubtedly shape future endeavors toward a more transparent, inclusive, and impactful scholarly ecosystem. 

Head of Publisher Relations at ChronosHub
Romy Beard

Romy Beard

Romy is specialized in the academic online publishing industry, with a focus on publisher relations. And she’s one of our key experts in Open Access publishing terms. 

Head of Business Development at ChronosHub
Martin Jagerhorn

Martin Jagerhorn

Martin leads ChronosHub's collaboration with institutions, publishers, research funders, and technology partners across the ecosystem engaged in scientific and academic publishing.

Business Development Consultant (UK-based) at ChronosHub
Jan Rylewicz

Jan Rylewicz

Jan is passionate about scholarly publishing’s move towards Open Access and a more equitable, knowledgeable world. He thrives on helping UK-based institutions succeed in their OA journeys.  


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