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Knowledgespeak Exclusive: An Interview with Fred Dylla, Executive Director, AIP - 02 Dec 2010

Q

Knowledgespeak: Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your job profile at AIP?

A

Fred Dylla: My professional life includes a career as a scientist (BS, MS, and PhD in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), author, technology manager, and leader of several scientific organizations. In recent years, I have been at the helm of AIP, a not-for-profit membership corporation of 10 scientific societies, a publisher of scientific journals and provider of other information-based products and services in the physical sciences and allied field. Since then, I have been active in promoting the importance of scientific journals and advocating improved access to scientific information through various business models. To this end, I’ve also enjoyed serving on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical publishers (STM), and the Executive Committee of the Professional and Scholarly Publication (PSP) Division of the American Association of Publishers (AAP).


Q

Knowledgespeak: AIP launched three new products at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair. Were any new initiatives launched this year?

A

Fred Dylla: We debuted our publishing partnerships program this year. Because of our close connections to the physics community, AIP is in a very good position to understand scientific societies’ needs, as well as scientists’ needs—to attract and publish the highest quality research and expose it to the world using a means that ensures a high degree of discoverability (a state-of-the-art electronic platform). Through the program, AIP is positioning itself as a global strategic partner to organizations that are looking to achieve ambitious growth for their publications. The goal is to create a closely knit collaborative relationship instead of the traditional service-provider stance. Through AIP's new office in Beijing, AIP partners gain access to Chinese universities, corporations, and government facilities. Furthermore, we have strategic partnerships with industry technology leaders that give us an enhanced ability to build customer relationships while quickly and effectively targeting markets. While AIP's mission revolves around progress in physical science, we are a highly business-driven, entrepreneurial organization with a responsibility to generate a surplus for our publishing partners.


Q

Knowledgespeak: To maintain globally competitive prices for your information products and services, AIP's Publishing Center, in 2009, began an 18-month realignment effort to transform its operations. What steps have you taken to deliver greater innovation and build sustainable business models?

A

Fred Dylla: AIP is in a unique position to be able to bring together business focus with a commitment to serve the scientific community. The 18-month process you are referring to is designed to make AIP agile, so it can adapt quickly to the ongoing transformational changes in the publishing industry and compete more effectively in the marketplace. As the competition for authors and readers is intensifying, AIP is determined, through the use of innovation and advanced communication technologies, to stay relevant to the community it serves: anticipating researchers’ needs by speeding communication and dissemination, delivering strategic reading tools through semantic technologies, optimizing their workflow, facilitating community connections, and enabling access anywhere and from any device. To this end we continue to develop new business models, products and services and invest in emerging technologies.

For example, to experiment with new business models and new ways of serving the community, AIP has just launched a major publishing innovation in the physical sciences. AIP Advances (aipadvances.aip.org) is a fast-track, community-style open access journal for physical scientists that exposes authors’ work to the global physical sciences community. AIP Advances will publish articles under the Creative Commons license. Authors of accepted manuscripts will pay a processing fee and the peer-review process will be accelerated, although overseen by a panel of experts. There will be a post-publication evaluation that takes place within the context of the entire physical sciences community.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Physics is a data rich field. How according to you can semantic technologies benefit physics?

A

Fred Dylla: There are a number of trends occurring in physics, and in other sciences. Science is done in a global context and there is a blurring of disciplines. The continuing explosion in information technologies has resulted in expanded ability to tap into information and data. Data, however, is still quite often disconnected from the research writings based on that data, making search and discovery difficult. In my opinion, this state of affairs is likely to inhibit the progress of science. Semantic and networking technologies, however, can help to unlock the potential of relevant content and fully exploit it. Thus, the integration and use of semantic technologies should result in providing structure and meaning to content, allowing for text and data mining, object extraction, etc. AIP is venturing into this space with the help of a couple of technology partners. One such project, AIP engaged in, was the development of Physics Thesaurus/Taxonomy (derived from the Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme, or PACS). This taxonomy could become the basis for the development of a standardized indexing scheme for the physics literature.

In my view, interoperability and access to raw data become more crucial as science and research become more interdisciplinary and collaborative. The current lack of standards and methodology for data management is of considerable concern. I believe that scholarly publishers could play a lead role based on the standards for digitized manuscripts and the ability to tag and associate data with components of the XML-based document (e.g., data arrays and databases associated with published figures and tables). In the US, there is currently an interagency task force (under the National Science and Technology Council) and a new NRC panel devoted to this area. Within the EU, a multi-year demonstration project was just completed (PARSE.Insight) and a follow-up project is just beginning. There are a handful of high profile examples where key US funding agencies have put in place workable data management standards that provide needed access, search and archiving features (e.g. genomic databases at NIH, the NASA Astrophysics Database System, etc.). However, for the vast amounts of generated and accumulated digital data, the situation remains abysmal.

Interoperability is another concern. Last year, I participated in the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable. The group, consisting of representatives from scholarly publishers (both nonprofit and commercial), libraries and academic leadership (provosts) was convened by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology (HSTC), in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to examine the current state of scholarly publishing and seek consensus recommendations for expanding public access to scholarly journal articles. The group released a report in January 2010. Among the recommendations was that “government agencies should extend the reach of their public access policies through voluntary collaborations with nongovernmental stakeholders. To achieve the full potential of publicly accessible, interoperable databases, the panel urged government collaborations with publishers, universities, and other entities globally.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Thanks to the advent of universal broadband, publishers today are increasingly making content available in mobile format. How, according to you, will ereaders/tablet computers redefine the way content is accessed? What plans does AIP have with respect to making content accessible via mobile devises?

A

Fred Dylla: Every AIP title has a mobile version. AIP moved swiftly to develop an iPhone app (iResearch) for viewing AIP content on the iTouch, iPhone and the iPad. We are working with a number of technology partners to deliver the next generation of mobile-enabled content and applications.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Social networking is becoming a mainstream component of scientific research. How does AIP approach / utilize the Web 2.0/social networking phenomenon?

A

Fred Dylla: Last year, we developed and launched UniPHY, scientific social network for the physical science community. The product won the PROSE award of the Professional and Scholarly Publications Division of the Association of American Publishers in the category, Best Physical Sciences and Mathematics Electronic Publication. UniPHY delivers profiles created from more than 1.7 million research articles contained in the Searchable Physics Information Notices (SPIN) database, including more than 7,200 Journal of Materials Research articles. Every SPIN article includes indexing terms drawn from AIP’s Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS). AIP uses the rich XML data of SPIN records together with the PACS terms assigned to each article to prepare “semantic fingerprints” of each article. These fingerprints are compared to find similarities, allowing UniPHY to develop scientific research profiles for more than 300,000 physical scientists. UniPHY includes search features, visualizations, and scientific context analysis as well as many socialization tools, such as discussion groups. AIP continues to market this service to scientists and has reached more than 26,000 registered users.


Q

Knowledgespeak: Web technologies offer researchers new ways to find and use information. Today, there is more information available than before. What initiatives is AIP taking to tackle this information overload?

A

Fred Dylla: Besides our efforts to develop and deploy semantic technologies, AIP will continue to play a leading role in standards organizations such as CrossRef and NISO so that we can offer our authors means of including, tagging, searching and archiving data associated with AIP publications and offer our readers improved access and discoverability. By offering to coordinate our efforts with initiatives on data management from several US science funding agencies (NSF, DOE), we may be able to demonstrate a constructive path forward to taming the problem of information overload.


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