Annual Meeting Reports

Rapidly Changing Publishing Technology: Ignore It at Your Own Risk

As in almost every other aspect of life, technology is changing how we interact with each other and do business in scientific publication. This session covered the effects of new technology on the business, workflow, and retrievability aspects of the industry and the need for publishers to focus their efforts on researchers’ needs.

Jim King, director of publishing technology at the American Chemical Society (ACS), presented a philosophic overview of change. Open access has brought attention to changes in business models, but publishers are also facing technological changes. King encouraged publishers to embrace change and drive the direction that it takes by providing the technology themselves instead of letting other players fulfill customers’ needs. To continue to be viable and successful, publishers have to broaden how they define themselves, from journal publishers—which King described as “printcentric”—to disseminators of information in whatever form it takes. The industry has to listen to the needs of customers and provide innovative solutions for information dissemination.

Scientific publishers’ customers are researchers who want to share their results and collaborate with each other. ACS is addressing its customers’ needs by expanding its technological domain i n the form of Chemworx (, an online environment in which researchers can easily share their research, collaborate with other researchers, and submit their publications. ACS also provides articles in a custom-created Active View PDF, which allows researchers to sync article annotations automatically and to access articles anywhere from any browser or on ACS’s Chemworx.

David Haber, publishing workflow analyst at Cenveo, also encouraged publishers to embrace change but to remember that not all emerging technologies will work. Haber discussed how new technologies force us to look at information as data instead of words and how XML helps to organize, form, store, and transfer data. He used the example of Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) to show how XML can accomplish that. ORCID provides researchers with a unique identifier that enables links to their manuscripts, improves author search results, and reduces duplicate author information. There are questions to consider when implementing ORCID, however, such as how to collect IDs for multiple authors, how to deal with multiple IDs, and what type of quality control to use.

Haber encouraged publishers to get involved with technological initiatives and move toward roles as data collectors. By embracing and creating more tools, such as ORCID, publishing will move from print-centric models to better and faster digital workflows. That will enable publishers to attract the next generation of scientists.

Jeff Beck, technology specialist at the US National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, talked about the importance of archiving data so that they are retrievable and useful to future researchers. Data have to be formatted so that changing technologies will be able to decode them. Beck described how PubMed Central and Portico use XML to archive data. Although there are differences in their archiving strategies, both are independent of publishing houses, convert content to a common format, require active participation of publishers, test content before archiving, and require content interchange from one group to another. The sender and receiver of the data must use the same XML formats, such as JATS (used by PubMed Central), DTD, RNG, and XSD.

Archives must check data for four levels of XML rectitude1 before storing them to avoid problems during retrieval. Those levels are well-formedness, validity, sensibility, and veracity.

Beck encouraged publishers to become more technologically savvy and aware of how their content is represented in XML and stored.


  1. Bauman S. 2010. “The 4 Levels of XML Rectitude” [poster]. The markup conference. August 3–6, 2010, Montréal, Canada. Balisage.