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Is blockchain an innovation or a distruption? Only time will tell

Marcie Granahan,
NFAIS Executive Director
Florida State University and the Bibsam Consortium—a collection of 85 higher education and research institutions in Sweden [see full article here]—were the latest to cancel their subscription agreements with Elsevier. In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of libraries dropping their bundled journal deals in favor of paying only for the journals deemed to be most needed in a push to encourage open access and help manage library budgets [see full article here]. Add to that the recent backlash against Nature Machine Intelligence due to its intended launch as a subscription-based journal [see full article here], and it begs the question of whether we have reached a tipping point.

But even open access has its challenges, as costs have simply shifted from library subscriptions to the scientist or the university paying for the privilege to publish [see full article here]. And, with the EU pushing for free access to publicly funded research as well as the growth of preprint articles that are easily accessed through the likes of Unpaywall or Kopernico, canceling a journal subscription no longer means having to go without.

This may be one of the reasons behind Springer Nature’s decision to withdraw its initial public offering (IPO). For whatever reason, Springer Nature in its present configuration is viewed as less valuable by the market than it is by its current owners. As Springer Nature alerted prospective investors, potential legal changes and pressure to provide free access to publicly funded research present a risk for undermining its business model [see full article here].

There is a growing belief that, in the future, the real value will not be about publishing models as we currently know them but about research workflow services [see full article here]. Elsevier has been moving in this direction for a while now, demonstrated by its choice of acquisitions and partnerships, including the recently announced partnership with PerkinElmer designed to improve the researcher experience [see full article here].

If research workflow services do become a model of the future, what might that look like? At the NFAIS Blockchain for Scholarly Publishing Conference this week, ARTiFACTS discussed how today’s systems narrow knowledge and limit attribution or citation to those made only after the article has been published. ARTiFACTS is shifting this paradigm by allowing citation, linking and discoverability at the beginning of the research cycle. This opens an opportunity for scholarly publishers to build content and a relationship with the researcher much earlier in the process.

Discovery today is fragmented and the content siloed, leading to substantial library investments a more

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