Mark Ware has worked at Board Director level in STM and business publishing and for online/elearning companies in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. He founded Ingenta’s CPD/elearning division and acted as Executive Director at CMPI (formerly Miller Freeman UK) where he ran the Healthcare division. He was also Publishing Director at IOP Publishing. In 2003 he started his career as an independent consultant in the scholarly publishing and business information markets.
Hi Mark, thank you for agreeing to do this interview and for joining our Advisory Board. You are one of the first digital technology experts in the publishing industry, author of the STM reports in the last years, and among the most knowledgeable people in science communication. Is the digital transformation in academic publishing finally finished and what should we expect in the next few years?
No, the transformation of scholarly communication has barely got started. The existing media may have migrated to digital – though monographs and other long-form content are far less mature in this respect than journals – but we are only starting to explore the potential of the networked environment. In coming years we can expect to see significant acceleration of innovation, provided the current trend towards open resources and interoperability continues, because each new service facilitates the development of other new services. This is particularly true of foundational or infrastructure innovation, such as the DOI (without which most new services in STM could not exist), or web standards like that for open annotation that powers PaperHive, or the emerging standards for sharing research data.
Back in the early 2000s, you were on the executive board of a large media company /CMP Information/ which was successful despite the economic recession right after the dotcom bubble. In what ways is the media and startup landscape different 15 years later?
There’s far less stupid money pursuing unrealistic startup ideas than in the dotcom boom, I’m glad to say. The period following the bust, however, was arguably a fertile and creative time for startups, because they were forced to focus on meeting real needs rather than looking constantly to investor sentiment.
With some exceptions, though, startups have not been critical to the STM publishing world until recently. From the early 2000s, one could point to Biomed Central and perhaps PLOS as having real impact in terms of advancing the open access agenda. But most of the more important innovations came from within the existing industry itself (e.g. CrossRef, founded in 2000, or the Big Deal business model), or from large technology players (e.g. Google Scholar).
More recently, well-funded startups have become more important to the industry trajectory. ResearchGate and Academia are perhaps the outstanding examples here.
You are consulting both established publishers, and young startups. What are the most notable differences in working with them from your perspective?
Working with small companies and organisations – both startup and established – can be very satisfying because you can be in a position to make a significant difference, and because they are often able to move nimbly to implement ideas.
On the other hand, large companies present a different set of challenges and may have larger resources that enable the use of techniques and approaches not available to smaller players.
You are a passionate cyclist and finished a 900 miles (ca. 1400km) tour in the UK a few weeks ago. What was the most memorable off-the-grid moment of your trip and what is your next destination?
The great thing about bad weather in the UK is that is rarely lasts very long, so you learn to accept that nothing is for ever, the bad times pass. (Of course, the same is also true of good weather, so you need to be prepared for whatever the future may bring.)
Along the route, it was hard not to be impressed by the Victorian engineering of the Anderton Boat Lift, built in 1875 to transfer large freight-bearing canal boats from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal, a vertical distance of over 15m. The business lesson here is that it was a collaborative infrastructure development funded and managed by two competing businesses.
My next big trip (in 2017) will I hope be a crossing of France from St-Malo to Nice, via the Loire, Dordogne, Lot, Massif Central and Ardeche – about 1000 miles. But if the autumn weather and work commitments permit, I’d also like to fit in a week later this year doing the “Lon Las Cymru” route, diagonally across Wales from Anglesey to Chepstow.