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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An interview with Judith Barnsby, Head of e-development, IOP - 13 Oct 2010

Q

Knowledgespeak: I would like to welcome Judith Barnsby, head of e-development, IOP. Thank you so much for coming up today and doing this interview for Knowledgespeak.

We will start with an easy question. Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your job profile at IOP.

A

Judith Barnsby: Hi! Thank you for inviting me. I started off as a chemist and after a couple of years in the lab, I moved into publishing with the Royal Society of Chemistry. I have worked at Ingenta, providing publishers with electronic journal services. I have been at IOP for seven years and I am responsible for our journal platform, including development of metadata and standards compliance.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Thank you. We will talk a little bit about the Frankfurt Book Fair. What have been your impressions? What are the events or trends that you have experienced this year which you can share?

A

Judith Barnsby: I just went around yesterday. It is obvious that everyone seems to be very interested in mobile publishing and the iPad. I was also at the STM Conference on Tuesday. There was a presentation from The Guardian about open data APIs. That was very interesting as well.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Perfect! Researchers today are continuously looking for new ways to find and use information. Could you tell us about the initiatives taken by IOP to meet researchers’ developing needs?

A

Judith Barnsby: Well, discoverability obviously is one of the key things that I am interested in and am responsible for. We want to get our content out to as many places as possible, so people can find it. We are keen to work with partners to ensure that our content is available wherever researchers happen to be. We are also looking at our website to give users the necessary tools and services that will help them in their workflow.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Great. Next question. Earlier this year, IOP Publishing announced their partnership with Proquest to make physics-related graduate works easy to search and browse. Can you briefly talk about this partnership and the resulting synergies?

A

Judith Barnsby: When someone gets to our website, what we want do is to give them as much related information as possible. That is the first arrangement that we have had with Proquest. So, when someone does a search on our site, apart from getting results from our content and pre-prints, the user can now get results from Proquest dissertations and theses (PQDT). We are obviously looking at doing that more in the future. We are planning for more content and features in 2011.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Very interesting, thank you. As we all well know, the library plays a central role, when information needs to be shared with scientists and researchers. What are the services available from IOP that support libraries specifically in this role?

A

Judith Barnsby: Well, we are very proud of our excellent relationships with libraries and for years we have been giving them the opportunity to brand their library on our web site. We also support them with materials to encourage their patrons to use services, posters, user guides, online tours about our services. We have got a Facebook page with a librarian forum. The other thing you can do to support librarians is to ensure that you are endorsing them and supporting publishing standards like COUNTER and crossref that makes their life easier.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Absolutely, all very good points. The open data concept is gaining momentum in the scientific community. Open data and open application programming interfaces are seen to offer huge opportunities, especially for research and innovation. Your comments on that?

A

Judith Barnsby: I mentioned earlier about the Guardians’ approach, which I think was very interesting. In science, you have got people who want their data to be open and there are scientists who think ‘that is my data and I want to get the papers from that data before it is open.’ So, you need to go to work with a range of scientists and check whether they want their data to be open or not. But, we are very keen on encouraging it, if a scientist wants to make their data available alongside the paper. We can support that. We would like people to be sending the data behind the figures. For instance, if you have got a nice picture or table in your paper, how do you get the data that made that graph? You want to have the real data rather than trying to guess what it is from the shape of the curve. That is something that a lot of publishers are keen to do. The other side of it is concerned with very large dataset, say astronomical datasets. I think it is probably more of a community responsibility to be holding those datasets and categorizing the data. I think that is something that the individual communities need to work together because you need to be able to ensure that data is curated and preserved in the future and that there are procedures in place to ensure that stays for a long time.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Absolutely makes sense. Thanks for that. Physics of course is a data-rich field. How according to you can semantic technologies benefit physics?

A

Judith Barnsby: Well, obviously, anything that can improve the discoverability is good. And semantic stuff is really exciting, seeing what is going on in chemistry – with all the index terms, names, standards, CAS registry numbers and the like. There has not been so much of those kind of standards in physics. But, I know the AIP recently turned its Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) into a thesaurus. I think that is a really good start towards physics being able to head towards where chemistry is.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Great! Our next question. The manner in which information is disseminated has changed dramatically over the years, especially for those in the business of publishing content. How according to you will e-readers and tablet computers redefine the way that content is accessed. Can you briefly tell us the initiative taken by IOP to make content accessible via mobile devices?

A

Judith Barnsby: It is said that by 2014, there would be more Internet users on the mobile web than on desktop. So, you really have to be designing your services from a mobile perspective and know that people are going to be looking at screens that are not really big. I think the iPad is really good for scholarly content, because to read a scientific paper on a smartphone is not easy. But, the iPad and other tablets of that size are really lovely for reading that. So, you need to be really looking at designing your services, so that they work in the mobile environment and look at changing mindsets/demands of someone sitting at the desk, in the field, in the observatory or wherever. What we have been doing in terms of mobile is that we have got an iPhone app, that we developed with some people in Bristol. We have an app for our physics world news and also a journals app for our IOPScience platform, delivering the latest content and letting users view papers of their choice. That was really an experiment to see the take up and see if people would want to read papers actually on a phone that small. It is not as popular as the physics world app, but then it will be because that is news and it is more niche, and we have a lot of downloads. So we are really encouraged. We also experimented with delivering full-text xml and rendering that for mobile small screens. That has been an experiment too. We have a service called IOPscience Mobile, which involved assessing how you could render content--images and equations--in a readable way on the different kinds of screens. So that has been really good fun too. So, hopefully, the lessons that we learned from that will build into our main platform.


Q

Knowledgespeak: It is really interesting, thanks. Our next question is; what are the key differentiating factors that set IOP publishing apart from its competitors. Could you please elaborate on your core competency in global marketing?

A

Judith Barnsby: We are a UK based company, but we really have a global outlook. We really are working with people all around the world. We have publishing partners in Europe, the US, Japan, and China. For instance, we have our office in China and we have a very good knowledge of how to work in China. We have nine journals at the moment that we publish with Chinese partners. It is really exciting to be really working on that kind of global scale.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Definitely! And our last question here is a popular one - social networking. Social networking is becoming a mainstream component of scientific research. How does IOP approach and utilize Web 2.0, regarding the social networking phenomena?

A

Judith Barnsby: It is an interesting subject. The key thing is to make sure that what you are doing is in the space where the researchers, where the users are. They are very busy people. So, what you want to do is to make sure that you are going where they are going. We have to be looking out how to fit in with their workflow as best as we can. So, we are doing a little bit on Facebook, a little bit on Twitter. But really, at the moment, we are just seeing how we can fit in with their lives. There was some research that suggested that the takeup of Web 2.0 among researchers was much slower than expected and that probably is due to their time constraints. We do have some people who are really using the social media a lot, such as blogging their research results. But, the majority are not. So, it is really how you work again with that spectrum of people who are you know really keen and probably the majority of people. You just want to get into their workflow as much as possible and try and save them time, rather than make their life more complicated.

Knowledgespeak: Yeah definitely makes sense. Thanks again. This has been really great. We really appreciate your time for the interview. We hope you enjoy the rest of the show at Frankfurt. Thanks.


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