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Arising Challenges & Opportunities in Scholarly Publishing

The pandemic has altered virtually every business, and the publishing industry is no exception. As with most changes, this year has introduced not only new challenges, but exciting opportunities as well. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those trends making waves in the publishing industry today.

Challenge: Decline in women-authored submissions

Out of all the shifts we’re seeing in the publishing industry this year, it is the drop in academic publishing by women that is perhaps the most disheartening. With stay-at-home and quarantine orders resuming this fall as the virus spikes, academics are openly commenting about how few papers they’re seeing from women, particularly in relation to their male counterparts. An article in Nature says, “Female faculty, on average, shoulder more teaching responsibilities, so the sudden shift to online teaching — and the curriculum adjustments that it requires — disproportionately affects women.”

Andy Casey, an astrophysics research fellow at Monash University, said, “Astrophysics is one field in which COVID-19 seems to be having a disproportionate effect on female academics.” Casey compared data from January to April in 2020 to the same time period in previous years, noting “perhaps up to 50 percent more productivity loss among women.” Two separate analyses show that women’s posting rate on preprint servers has slowed during the pandemic. And, when compared with the same time frame in 2019, data shows the number of male authors on preprints has grown significantly faster than their female counterparts.

Co-editor of Comparative Political Studies David Samuels noted that while the number of submissions from women academics was the same this year, submissions from men increased by 50% during the pandemic. It seems that the pandemic exacerbated a problem we already knew we had. Inside Higher Ed reported, “Female academics as a group, also struggled more … than men and are less protective of their research time to their detriment.” COVID-19 eliminated many of the safety nets, such as daycare and brick-and-mortar education, that female academics had in place to help them juggle all of these demands.

Opportunity: Data sharing in scholarly publishing

Research data is getting a lot of attention this year, creating a great opportunity for data sharing. There has been a call within the industry to focus on research data that is FAIR — Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. The FAIR framework allows for common consensus on how to share data, but lacks the ability to define what to share. The Scholarly Kitchen suggests a consistent methodology for identifying the datasets for peer-reviewed publications; simply put, publication can be withheld until the appropriate data has been shared.

Opportunity: AI enters the publishing space

Publishers are using artificial intelligence (AI) in the publishing process to reduce costs and improve the peer review process. AI algorithms in software can flag quality issues with a study by assessing the consistency of the author’s reporting data and compliance with statistical methods. An AI also could use text analysis to identify and extract phrases and statements that identify key claims from the study. These tools can detect plagiarism or place the work in the context of prior published pieces for further analysis. In the future, look for AI technology to take on reviews of previously published research. Literature reviews are growing more difficult as the body of knowledge expands; an AI could make short work of a process that would take a human reviewer much longer to accomplish. AI could improve the peer review process as well by vetting the scientific performance of potential reviewers and even automate the invitation process.

There are limitations, however. As with any technology, it should be viewed as a tool to support the publishing process, not replace human insight and oversight.

Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation or visit our contact page to learn how Sheridan experts can help streamline and simplify your publishing processes.

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