Five things that may or may not happen this year — In his first post of 2019, Simon Linacre lifts the lid on what he expects to happen in the most unpredictable of years since, erm, 2018…
A very Happy New Year to everyone, and as has become traditional in post-Christmas, early-January posts, I thought I would bring out the old crystal ball to try to predict some trends and areas of development in scholarly publishing in 2019. However, please do not think for one second that this is in any way a scientific or even divine exercise, as we all know that we may as well just stick a few random happenings on a wall and throw darts at them blindfolded to try and somehow see what may or may not occur in the next few months. So, with that caveat in mind, here are five predictions that at least may have some vague hope of coming to pass this year:
- #Plan_S – the agreement from 11 major European funders to mandate certain types of Open Access publications from researchers they have supported – has already kept commentators busy in scholarly communications in the early days of 2019. Suffice it to say it will undoubtedly gain traction, with all eyes on the U.S. and China simultaneously to see if funders in those research behemoths sign-up to or explicitly support the movement. However, while Plan S may hasten change in STEM funding and publishing communities, this change may be quicker than academia itself can change, with petitions being raised against it and significant communities outside either Europe and/or STEM subjects still largely oblivious to it.
- The most popular research-related search terms in 2018 included ‘AI’ and ‘blockchain’, as the belief is that both can have a major influence on scientific development in a huge range of areas. Expect 2019 to see these both have more of an influence on scholarly publishing, with applications of blockchain to peer review systems and AI improving the ways knowledge is utilized, especially in countries set up for exploiting such opportunities.
- Hot on the heels of the news that the whole Editorial Board of Elsevier’s Informetrics journal has resigned to form their own journal Quantitative Science Studies with MIT Press, bibliometrics should remain in the headlines with new metrics appearing or rumored on a regular basis. Chief among these will be new rankings slated to appear from Times Higher Education and other organizations based around utility, impact or relevance rather than as a proxy for quality.
- While any prediction around Brexit – especially this week, day, hour, or even minute – is wholly futile, several shifts can already be seen to be occurring as a result of this and other major political events. Uncertainty around Brexit, especially based on fears of the so-called no-deal Brexit, will inevitably cause some prospective students to think long and hard about any plans they had to study in the UK, while President Trump’s one-of-a-kind presidency may have a similar effect. Major elections in Europe will also have major ramifications for higher education, not least where the EU research money goes if/when the UK eventually exits.
- Given the increasingly complicated nature of higher education on both a macro- and micro-scale, it is also to be hoped that we all become a little more skilled and experienced at dealing with this so-called ‘VUCA’ environment – an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Steering through these uncharted waters in the calmest way possible can be the only path to take – and it is to be hoped our leaders show us the way.