The conference opened in the beautiful Gaillard Center with an opening keynote address by Annette Thomas, CEO of Clarivate Analytics Scientific and Academic Research, who discussed the future of information. She said that our most valuable asset is information, and we still have a lot to learn about how research works, which is important for the whole world.
Current problems in our industry
- Universities’ identity crisis. Universities have enjoyed unprecedented growth. Questions being asked are who are universities for, who should pay for universities, and what are they for?
- Researchers’ credibility crisis. How should research respond to political hostility and avoid becoming a victim of political infighting? Does it serve the economy or human culture? Why is so much research impossible to reproduce? How can we reward truly robust research?
- Publishers’ contribution crisis. Why should so much be published that is read by so few? Researchers have been hooked by the “publish or perish” model, and their main object has become to publish rather than to contribute to society. Why publish only “positive” results, which contributes to publication bias? How can we be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? The coming decades could be a golden age for research. Technology allows us to do anything, but we should not try to do everything.
Characteristics of the Web
Connectedness: The web has transformed human society. It was the product of research; the world of research has always been highly connected. We have unparalleled opportunities to construct huge maps of information. No research stands on its own. The genius of the web was to recognize that knowledge itself is a network. There is knowledge and understanding in connectedness. Citations and the Journal Impact Factor are still important assessments of journals. It is vital that research indicators are transparent and easy to understand.
Openness: At its heart, the web is an open system—anyone can set up a web page. Research was also founded on the principle of openness, which is about transparency, sharing insights, and willingness to take blame as well as credit. Our work is something that we will all do together. Openness is also about being receptive to new users and new sources of data. For each human interface to our products, we should also have an API.
Seamlessness: Jumping from one site to another is no different than jumping to another page. We do not have to think about where the sites reside. This is the future of knowledge and information. We need to achieve seamlessness between organizations. It also applies to libraries. We must support researchers as well as understanding organizations, governments, etc.
Where will research go next? No single organization or individual has all the answers. We must enable excellence in how research impacts society at large. The most significant trend in our community has been consolidation and opportunities of scale. What we need most of all is talent, diversity, and creative approaches. We need to be clear about what is a quality indicator and what is an impact indicator.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.