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Keeping Pace with the Speed of Technology

Marcie Granahan,
NFAIS Executive Director
Scholarly publishing is faced with a dizzying pace of technological change that’s disrupting current business models and age-old practices. One of the biggest drivers is artificial intelligence (AI), and in the not too distant future, smart machines will replace or render obsolete many of the tasks currently being done by humans [see full article here].

Take for example Microsoft’s recent release of Seeing AI, a free mobile app for the visually impaired that allows users to point their cameras and hear descriptions of people, objects, and even text [see full article here]. Using machine reading—a combination of deep learning and natural language processing—Seeing AI is able to read and make sense of images and text. For the scholarly communications community, one of the greatest potential benefits of machine reading is the ability to quickly find information buried within journals and books.

Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark recently answered the long-standing debate of whether sifting through full-text research papers—rather than much shorter and simpler abstracts—is worth the effort [see full article here]. The answer? Text mining full research articles gave consistently better results than text mining abstracts.

Academic, scholarly, and commercial publishers alike are taking advantage of machine-reading technology to publish their journals in full-text HTML in addition to the traditional PDF. But what might this mean for future applications of, or possibly the need for, abstracts? Clearly full-text mining is an important industry shift, and publishers will need to work together to develop standards for machine-readable articles.

But with the speed of technology moving so quickly, how much of a R&D investment should scholarly publishers make? It requires a delicate balance of performance-driven operations and investment in innovation [see full article here]. Rely too heavily on yesterday’s delivery platforms to drive revenue and profitability will eventually suffer. It takes a brave business to double down on sustained innovation initiatives when their market share is under threat and the fruits of their innovation efforts are unlikely to pay this year’s bills. But if you don’t evolve to new ways of doing things, you reduce the value of your assets amongst the competition. more

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