Ian Mulvany

November 16, 2021

ConteTech Live 2021 - day one - what lies in the future?




"after  content, the emerging world of information and intelligence" - David Worlock 

I am at ConTech Live - the first time that I've been to an in-person conference for the first time since the pandemic. The opening session is a peek into the future by David Warlock. 

It's a good session. In a nutshell he is advocating for the future being driven by machine to machine support around knowledge, from consumption to creation. In this context - what of publishers? Some sketch notes here on his talk: 

He has written an essay on this topic, and it's probably best for you to get your hands on the essay, the talk is great. 

Some of the predictions that he makes includes the following:

Disintermediation of the editing process - editors will be replaced by machines. The editing function will be replaced. We are blind if we think it won't. 

The publishing industry has seized on peer review like a child with a comfort blanket.

He is refreshingly in favour of not limiting volume of content. 

Having the underlying-well connected data is more important that the article, and we have to understand that machine interoperability, and machine reading and writing are the only routes to deal with the scale. 
The talk is filled with great quotes, I love the following quote: 

The article of the future is there is no article 

In that way having a connected set of underlying components is critical. This connects to what we might think about Open Access. 

Open Access - and the open platform  - OA is not a new form that will last forever. It's a low value, high volume business, but as publishers we have not started to add value here. OA is a  waypoint, but not a fundamental change change. The open science movement is a leading signal. This connects to the reproducibility movement. Being able to do machine reasoning over the corpus is going to be critical. 

David says that for every article we could find the whole universe of readers, get their emails, and send them the article. If is insufficient to just get the article into the network, the network is a battleground, and the article falls to the floor. 

He does see much more consolidation in the future. He also sees a place for open platforms in the future. 

He mentioned Octopus - potentially a mandated publishing process for UKRI. 

He talks about the need to get to an index of intervention and influence to replace the ISI in the future. At some point indeed the impact factor will drop out of favour. 

The talks ends with a discussion of the general index by Carl Mahmud, and a reflection on the fact that Elsevier and SpringerNature, whilst big, are not that big in the context of the knowledge industry. 

My worry is that the barrier to value creation in our industry will remain high while we have no common platform to build on top of, however one single platform has potentially significant downsides too. For me this is the great puzzle that we need to work through over the next decade.