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As we enter 2022, the scholarly publishing community faces many challenges and opportunities. We continue to weather global impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic while contending with open access mandates and rapid consolidation of industry stakeholders. At the same time, many new players are emerging on the field — from new research platforms to a growing number of library publishing programs.

At this point of reflection, drawing on highlights from last year, we’re looking ahead to what 2022 has in store for our community. The top trends that stand out this year all require cultural shifts toward greater equity and inclusivity in scholarly communications. As a result, they offer publishers and their partners many opportunities to benefit from collaborative efforts in open science, open data, sustainable publishing, new research assessment methods, and persistent identifiers.

These are the top five publishing trends that we’ll be closely watching in 2022, with some thoughts on what they might mean for small to mid-sized and independent publishers in particular.

Open science is for everyone

As the open science movement hits the mainstream, pivoting traditional programs and revenue models poses challenges for many publishers, revealing disparities among small and mid-sized ones in particular. While news of journals flipping to Green, Gold, or other Open Access (OA) models has become a regular headline, dominated by the larger commercial publishing houses, many smaller publishers have struggled to launch transformative journal programs with less leverage in institutional negotiations. And many fields of study lack sufficient funding for article-processing charges at scale. Yet, despite these obstacles, 2022 has the potential to deliver clearer pathways for publishers of all stripes to play a role in furthering open science.

To start, the rate of preprint posting continues to increase, as does the number of repositories and platforms designed to host preprints — inspiring Dr. Zeynep Tufekci to characterize preprints as “peer review with a jetpack” during NISO Plus 2021. Once the domain of natural and physical sciences, preprints in business and economics research, psychology, and a number of other fields, are on the rise. And, in the life sciences, we are, of course, seeing a particular spike in preprinting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A growing ecosystem of services and systems are formalizing preprint workflows and elevating quality controls to combat the risks of dis- or misinformation campaigns proliferating.

In turn, there are more opportunities than ever for publishers to find new and creative ways to integrate preprints into their workflows. For example, in early 2022, PLOS and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announced they’d expanded their partnership to offer authors more options to post their work in preprint form. Multiple PLOS journals now give authors the option to have their manuscripts forwarded to the medRxiv preprint server.

Efforts to take a more collaborative approach to develop the infrastructure necessary to support open pathways for research and publishing are also gaining steam. More and more stakeholders in scholarly publishing and academia broadly argue that the transformation to open science will require teamwork across the supply chain, inspiring some to form coalitions of peers and partners to tackle shifts in publishing operations head-on. For example, the Royal Society of Chemistry held two internal workshops in 2021 to bring together colleagues in publishing, policy, sales, communications, marketing, and external relations to brainstorm open science opportunities and prioritize next steps. Additionally, many are exploring opportunities for small publishers to embark on Transformative Agreements (TAs), which has long been a topic of conversation on this blog, as leveraging online publishing tools and services like Scholastica’s can enable broader participation in OA journal flips and launches.

Open data is on the rise

Another open science area for publishers to consider is facilitating the sharing of original research datasets. Many argue that publishers have a role to play in unlocking the multitude of indirect benefits available when it’s possible to make connections between underlying data in research articles, conference materials, or book chapters. The call for publishers to wield their power of dissemination to further the discovery of and access to research data is now impossible to ignore.

As members of the global scholarly communications network, publishers of all sorts are widely adopting the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) data principles to encourage the reuse of research datasets. Such efforts have the potential to extend the impact of every original study, encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and accelerate the speed of new knowledge discovery — all of which could save money for many research institutions and contribute downstream benefits to numerous entities and the general public.

To support open data efforts, publishers can draft data-sharing policies in line with the aims and scope of their journals. Encouraging researchers to deposit their data into institutional or commercial repositories and requiring them to include data availability statements in their work is a great place to start. The folks at STM have road-tested a Research Data Program for publishers now entering into its third year, which makes it an ideal time to launch or enhance your research data-sharing program.

Sustainable publishing practices

As we near the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we’re also seeing a rising trend in publishers implementing new sustainability initiatives, including the International Publishers Association spearheading a coalition of stakeholders in higher education. These efforts have reached a new level of urgency, as we all experience increasing threats of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, among other global emergencies.

To advance sustainable development goals, many publishers are introducing environmental policies. And many are joining efforts like the “Climate Change Knowledge Cooperative”) from Kudos. Publishers are also implementing practices to make their workforces more diverse and inclusive, helping to foster structural equity in OA publishing. Members of the scholarly communications community recognize that injustices are unsustainable. We have a vested interest in a healthy planet and a more peaceful existence for all its inhabitants.

At its core, the open science movement aims to correct structural imbalances and make access to published literature more equitable. Efforts like the Budapest Open Access Initiative have long sought to realize the global environmental, economic, and social benefits of universal access to education and scientific advancement. In this way, adopting open science practices is also a step towards sustainable development.

New methods of assessing research

Redefining research impact and how we measure its quality also dovetails with the sustainability goals and wider efforts to increase the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) of scholarly communications. Organizations like DORA and COPE are working to rewrite how we evaluate the value and reach of research publications.

Efforts to establish new publishing standards, like a Peer Review Taxonomy and author attribution framework, resonate with these DEIA initiatives, all geared toward improving the integrity and fairness of our systems for evaluating publications, institutions, and scholars. Given the numerous stakeholders across our supply chain, reworking assessment metrics takes a village. Therefore such efforts are ripe with opportunities for publisher engagement, such as the new Collab-CNCI metric that aims to improve recognition of research collaborations.

Now is an ideal time to get yourself a seat at the table by joining in conference discussions and working groups. Engaging directly with those pushing for new discovery routes and quality metrics can help publishers better understand their needs and perspectives. Contributing to the development of industry practices also empowers publishers to help shape the future of how we collectively discover research and measure its impact. And it’s a way to accelerate the development and adoption of more inclusive and sustainable scholarly communications practices.

PIDs for the win!

From DOIs to funder IDs, Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) are simple yet impactful tools with the power to help establish sustainable, cost-saving connections between information across the research lifecycle. These data standards help make all of the themes above possible — from advancing open science to introducing new impact measures.

Although they may be hard to see, there are important linkages between PIDs and our collective efforts toward open science and fair, sustainable research practices. Evidence shows that PIDs, like ORCIDs, save time and money for researchers, their institutions, and all downstream points of contact — including publishers.

As a result, some national libraries have established blanket policies regarding the use of PIDs, and publishers are operationalizing regular metadata audits to ensure standards compliance and optimum user experience. Participating in these standards and promoting the use of PIDs among your authors, editors, and reviewers is easier than ever and can be counted among your various efforts toward open, sustainable, and equitable publishing practices.

Conclusion

Change, from cultural to operational, is the overwhelming theme of these five trends of 2022 — new business models, new partnerships, and new ways of working. Perhaps 2022 will offer the sort of inflection points that open up publishing stakeholders to revisit our priorities, craft our vision for the future, and find our place within the advancements underway in our industry. Change is uncomfortable, but it’s also full of possibilities!

Now it’s your turn! What do you see as the top challenges and opportunities of the new year ahead? What other industry-wide trends are you seeing from your vantage point? Post a comment below or reach out on Twitter, tagging @lyconrad and @scholasticahq. Let us know what you think!

About the authors: This blog post was written by Lettie Conrad, Independent Publishing & Product Development Consultant, and Danielle Padula, Head of Marketing and Community Development at Scholastica.