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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An interview with Andrew Richardson, Managing Director Europe, Vice President Business Development, Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research - 06 Oct 2010

Q

Knowledgespeak: Please share with us any interesting events/ trends you have experienced at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair? How, in your opinion, have the needs of vertical search consumers evolved dramatically over the past few years? Along those lines, what do you expect to see among exhibitors here.

A

Andrew Richardson: I think I expect to see really the normal stuff we have seen in the industry as a whole. Obviously it is too early to say, I haven’t had a walk around yet. But, increasing access to mobile devices, I am sure, will play largely; the general shift from print to electronic will continue. With real time access and content staying current, everybody is looking at ways to become more relevant, more immediate and more topical. Lots of mobile devices are being adopted in various forms, particularly in our core market - the medical market. We are looking at the requirements of doctors, much more at the bedside, as they become un-tethered. We expect to see more of that at the fair here, and a number of different applications.

As globalization continues, we are all trying to play in the emerging markets, because the emerging markets are real opportunities. The rest of our markets are very mature and there are certainly growth opportunities within those, but it seems, in common with all the major publishers - we’re in India, we’re in China, we’re in Brazil, we have signed some content contracts in China. It has been very exciting for us. Last week we did a very large deal with the NSTL, The National Science and Technology Library, on an archive product. I have been going to China now for the past three years, two three times a year, and it is beginning to pay off. And I see my colleagues from other major companies are also there. So, we’re all playing in those markets. So, that’s what I think, mobile devices, more immediacy of content, how do we make content more “now”, and then of course, there’s the globalization play that we are all interested in.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Sounds very interesting.Thank you. What are the different products and solutions from Ovid Technologies that focus on solving the key problems in the medical information services domain, mainly redundancy, relevance, searchability?

A

Andrew Richardson: The recent advancements to the platform will really focus on delivering more value at the point of use. As I mentioned, it is all about making the research more productive, making the information more useable -- from a simple thing like being able to take your research and put into a power point so that you can then share it with others. As an aggregator we rely on being able to maintain an enhanced, single, integrated platform. That is an advantage for us as we have content from many different publishers from many different sources. But the key to it is how people use it. So, for example, we have a feature called, “My Projects” , which enables people to take the research they pull from wherever it is and put it together, and integrate research from outside Ovid into a single place, so that they can use it and share it. The Ovid tool bar enables you to search outside the Ovid environment, again bring information in and put it into “My Projects”. We’re all so wedded to progress that we sometimes forget our core constitiuency, and our core constituency is the hard researcher. We continue to develop the core platform for these users.

The big change I have seen, probably over the last three to five years, particularly, and we are all talking blithely about the “ Google” generation and everything else, but we have to be able to serve all those constituencies. So, we have to be able to say that you can do a word search and the algorithms within OVID will help you to find a precise result. But equally, if you are an expert searcher, and with reason, you are a bit snippy about the idea of word searching, then you need to be able to go back to the tools that you’ve used for many years. So, we are seeing different skills on the same information, and trying to please many constituencies.

I have a seventeen year old son. He uses online information and the online world in a completely different way from the way I do. I am old enough to remember the days when if I wanted to find out about a company, I’d have to send off for their annual reports, pick up the phone, pull in favours, call my friends, all that stuff. Now, the younger generation expects all that information to be there in their desktop. I have to constantly remind myself that he is my customer.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Really interesting. Thanks for that. Scientific publishing is generally dominated by journals and databases. Lately we see a new trend of journal articles providing inputs and links to databases as well as articles themselves being enriched with semantic annotations for content. What is your opinion on this convergence of journal articles and databases? And the follow up question to that…you can probably address that one….how will users effectively find the content they are seeking in this new environment?

A

Andrew Richardson: Well, its certainly two questions and its certainly not easy to answer. We are also a publisher of the Lippincott Williams and Wilkins imprint. So I talked a little before about presenting the right platform to the right user. So, somebody who is going to a journal website—say Anestheology or one of the American Heart Association journals - they are going to want much more active content. They want to be able to use images, carry out CME through the site; they want pre publication articles, and they want it to be their gateway to their society and their communities. We’ve lived in a world where we have data bases and journals, which have very set formats. So you have it fielded in a particular way for presenting things. You start bringing video in, you start bring audio in—how do you tag it? How do you search it? Now, it becomes difficult. But we continue to see the need for easier access. People want to find that content. We really have to go to the source and you have to encourage authors and compilers to tag it in different ways. We are starting to see improvements in the way metadata is put together. The metadata itself is becoming more sophisticated, and I think that’s what has to happen. We can take in content: we can pull it apart, and we can do quite a lot of things. But if we think about things like Dublin Core and the way journal articles have actually evolved, consistency is very very important, if you are going to get consistent search results. So, I guess standards will emerge and to some extent, you know, we can influence that.

There are new ways to aggregate content. I mean with the OVID Platform, we are very proud of the fact you can search databases, journals and books simultaneously on the OVID platform. The Nursing@Ovid platform that we released recently is a good example of where you have a set of database content, a closed set of journal content and book content, all in the same place. Then, you have to start thinking about how do you add local guidelines? How do you localize that product? Now that may be simply a matter of saying well Okay we are going to somebody like the College of Nursing or the American Nursing Association. We are trying to work with them to bring guidelines in. Thinking about nursing specifically, even beyond the English language world, your doctor, your university researcher, will probably have English at least as the reasonable second language. But in nursing, not so much. So, then you have to start thinking about localization. We are doing that as well. We have developed a local language platform. We just launched a French language search platform, in partnership with Wolters Kluwer in France. And we will be looking at several other languages, which we will release over the next year or so. And then you have to “feed the fire”….you have to find content for these platforms. The big question is how far is automatic text processing going? How fast is it going to evolve? Is it still going to be a manual tagging operation? Where do you do that manual tagging operation? Will we do it manual tagging entry or is it at the point of entry, which the researchers don’t want to do. So, there are a lot of improvements in the article itself. But there are still strong values in searching databases. So, for now, I think people will be talking about the death of the database for some time. Mark Twain is probably right, it is a little premature.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Definitely. Shifting gears a little bit., open access journals or rather free content on the web - how much is this a challenge to you? How will open access impact information overload out there?

A

Andrew Richardson: I think it is an interesting question. Top journals will stand on their own, on their feet. People will refer to them; they will get cited; and they will get measured. I think we went through a period as an industry and probably as a company as well, where, we saw open access lobby as a threat. I think we see it much more, as an industry, we see it as an opportunity now. It is just another business model, and we have to ask publishers to figure out how to make that business model work. Open access means different things to different people. We have to accept the definitions of some groups: the Green, the Gold, etc. But there are many different flavours, many different nuances. It is certainly an area we are keeping a very close eye on. We have some ideas and some opportunities in the pipeline, and I hope we will be able to make some announcements in the next twelve months. But for OVID, particularly, it has been a difficult play, because OVID is an institutional engine and institutional libraries, frankly, pay quite a lot of money to have access to content via OVID. And obviously, as a business, we need to make money for our shareholders. So, if we load in content we can’t sell, then that becomes a cost for us. However, if the content is valuable, then we should make it available for our customers. So, things like OVID universal search and also some of the excellent initiatives to be taken In drawing open access journals together into mini databases, which are easy to load or easy to link to, means we can add that value for our customers.

It is easy for a traditional publisher to be dismissive about open access and I don’t think it is the right answer. Like everybody else, frustrated about lot of the noise that goes around open access, I do get frustrated with the immediate contention that the publisher is the enemy. I think, if we go right back to where this industry started, where people gathered in rooms and read papers to each other and peer reviewed them, fundamentally, that’s what we do now. We will talk about it probably a bit more when we talk about web 2.0 and the other things. But fundamentally, it is about bringing that knowledge to the interested world, if you will. And there are various ways of doing this - various business models. Some great work is done in open access. I am not sure if any of these initiatives, as a business, is profitable yet. And things like hybrid journals, where you have some open access content and some paid for content, are very difficult to manage from the logistical point of view. So, there is not a single easy answer. But, it is definitely an opportunity rather than a threat and I’d like people on the perceived other side to see it this way as well.


Q

Knowledgespeak: That’s good to hear. Okay, the latest trends in devices, formats and business models, e-book readers are getting more interest now in the academic market. In your opinion, how can device independence and mobility help specifically with e-book growth?

A

Andrew Richardson: That’s a sixty four thousand dollar question. I do not think anybody really knows…. If you go back to the mobile phone market 5 years ago, maybe the PC market 15 years ago or 20 years ago, before standards emerged, there’s a lot of good work being done in a lot of interesting places. I have a Kindle. I spend most of my life on airplanes. I do not want to carry a thousand books around in my brief case. I love it! Is it a good platform for rich content? Probably, not, at this stage. They’ve just released a new version--I haven’t seen it yet but there will doubtless be other alterations. The thing I like about “Kindle” personally is that it links to my Amazon account where I have always bought my books. So if I just want to read a book, its fabulous. Then you’re on to the iPads, then you are on to the Smart phones and you are on the apps and so on. There is very clever thinking going on around that. And I think we have to wait for the device wars, if you will, to play out a little. Then, what we should do as responsible publishers is to be as platform neutral as we possibly can so that our customers can access content however they want, need and desire. And again, you know it is an easy thing to say and not so easy thing to do. But I think media neutrality is where we as publishers, need to be, and its definitely the way of the future. And, we are seeing a lot of growth in ebooks through the traditional channels. As I said, there are also some very smart apps being written for the iphone and iPads, and the Blackberry, ofcourse, which will add value. We again have to start thinking differently, because if you want to read a densely worded article, you probably are still going to print it out and and sit there with the pen. If you want to glance through something and look at the headlines, a device may be a very, very good way of doing that, and then downloading it as the reading experience becomes gets better and easier. But if you then want to comment on the article, or you may want to do CME attached to it or you may want to do something else with it, which is necessarily not involved in the words themselves, then maybe an app is a good way to do that. I think there is a diffusion, a distinction going on, and these things have a habit of shaking out, don’t they? We just need to remain aware of what’s the best way of doing a particular task and try and point our efforts at providing the access point that best suits the task in hand.


Q

Knowledgespeak: And the last question here touches on web 2,0. The advent of technology and the Internet with Web 2.0 interactivity have streamlined the process of researching information. How does WK Health Medical Research approach / utilize the Web 2.0/social networking phenomenon?

A

Andrew Richardson: There are a number of ways we are utilizing Web 2.0. With my Lippincott Williams and Wilkins hat on we were talking about the journal and the journal websites themselves. That’s a natural starting point for a community. I talked a little earlier about the beginnings of our industry, with people gathering together in a room listening to the paper. That’s web 2.0. There is great enthusiasm and a great need amongst the scientific community as a whole to want to be able to share information and collaborate online. So it’s a matter of providing appropriate tools to do so. Obviously, one has to be a little careful about how one does it because we all operate under laws, and you cannot obviously have un-moderated comments flying about on a branded website. Things like quick polls, opinions, user surveys, supplements, video content, audio content, and the ability to share are very interesting. There are a number of ways to look at it – there is the web 2.0 aspects of it, the technology aspects of it, even the social / globalization aspects of it, whereby we as publishers have a global footprint--we have people all over the world. For example, we just worked on a collaboration between the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal in the US and the Chinese Journal of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (CJAPS). There is a desire in China to have translated content from world leading journals—. And there is interest in the US in the physiology of the Chinese face. So this is an interesting thing, particularly in the field of plastic surgery. We were very pleased the Editor-in-Chief of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery came with us to China. We have brokered a deal that will result in some cross continental collaborations. So creating environments where people can collaborate is a real need, without having to get on airplanes.

There are some very good communities operating already, elsewhere in the industry. We will be very much in the same direction. On the Ovid platform, may be not so much at this stage, although the new tools do create the opportunity to collaborate within departments and within institutions. And it is a very small step from there on to collaborate across institutions and communities. So, the tools exist but it’s only a matter of finding ways of deploying them appropriately. It is something we have been think about all the time.


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