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Knowledgespeak Exclusive -- An interview with Ms.Andrea Powell, Director of Publishing, CAB International - 12 Jan 2006

Q

Comment on CABI's range of primary research journals, bibliographic databases and books. Any new releases planned in the near or mid-term future?

A

One of CABI's strengths has always been its combination of primary, secondary and review publications, all of which focus very strongly on our core subject areas of agriculture, the environment and other associated applied life sciences. These publication types are becoming increasingly integrated at all stages in the production and publication process, and in February 2006 we will be launching our first products in the CAB Abstracts Plus range, which combine our world-leading bibliographic resources with a wide range of full-text content, most of which has never been available online before. At launch, the CAB Abstracts Full Text Select database will include some 10,000 full-text articles, including difficult-to-find journal and conference papers, review articles, distribution maps and taxonomic description sheets. The number of full-text content sources we are licensing is growing by the day, and we expect this enhancement to the CAB Abstracts database to meet an often-voiced need from our major customer groups.


Q

In your opinion, how have external changes such as library budget constraints and new technologies affected publishers? In what ways the Internet has affected the way secondary (or bibliographic) databases are packaged and used for research processes?

A

Of course, library budget constraints have affected us all in the information industry, particularly as libraries have to finance their own technical infrastructure upgrades as well as acquire content for their users. The arrival on the scene of free web search engines such as Google, and their recent moves to index more of the "hidden web" has certainly presented a challenge! This healthy competition has ensured that we focus on the added value provided by a traditional abstracting & indexing organisation and that we keep on top of customer expectations. We need more than ever to focus on our area of subject expertise and adapt our search technology to make searching our database as easy as searching Google, while still retaining the quality control and depth of coverage we have always provided.


Q

What are your plans for the developing countries? Please provide some insights on your 'Partnership Facility' program.

A

CABI has a long history of working in the developing world; indeed, that was the rationale behind our establishment in the early years of the 20th century. As a not-for-profit organisation, all the surpluses generated through our commercial publishing activities are used to fulfil CABI's mission of serving the needs of sustainable agriculture and the environment. This may be through our "Information for Development" programme, where we work with donor organisations to provide information products and services into developing countries, or through the activities of the other half of CABI - our Bioscience division. The CABI Partnership Facility allows our developed world Member Countries to support development projects in less advantaged parts of the CABI membership, drawing on CABI's scientific expertise and information management skills.


Q

Elaborate on CABI's success in tackling risk associated with releasing new products for emerging new markets?

A

Releasing new products for new markets is always the riskiest challenge in business development! We tend to focus instead on taking existing products into new markets or enhancing and upgrading our existing range of products for our core library markets. Where we have been innovative, for example in the development of our Internet Resources, we have tried to minimise our risk by building a standard, flexible online delivery platform, that enables us to experiment with new initiatives without a major technical outlay. In order to deliver new content to new markets, we have trained our editorial staff to write for a different audience and have reshaped some of our traditional products to make them more appealing to today's Internet generation. We manage our risk by not straying too far from our core competencies and subject expertise.


Q

Looking forward, what are the major challenges and opportunities for CABI, given the current market conditions like shift to online content, and agriculture declines affecting lifescience publications etc?

A

The future certainly holds plenty of challenges for CABI, but we are confident that our combined strengths in science and information management will enable us to serve our markets for many years to come. Although some core agricultural disciplines are declining in developed markets, there is a huge demand for our products and services in emerging regions like China and India, while the developed world is focusing its attention on other areas of CABI expertise such as biological crop pest management and food safety. We definitely feel positive about the future, even if it turns out to be very different from the present!


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