Task Forces/Metadata/Kent Anderson Interview

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Kent Anderson, CEO, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) [Bill]

Kent is the CEO of a major medical publisher and the current President of the Society of Scholarly Publishing (SSP); previously he pioneered the innovative digital work at the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). He is one of the most knowledgeable, articulate, and well-informed people in scholarly publishing (one of those brilliant people who seems never to sleep). So it was particularly telling when his first response was along the lines of “Gee, I haven’t thought about metadata in a while.”

If metadata was a big issue—or, more accurately, a big _problem_—for a medical publisher like this, I guarantee you Kent would be all over it. The fact is, for scholarly publishing, and particularly STM publishing, and even more particularly the M part, medical publishing, in many ways metadata is seen as a solved problem. This is in direct contrast to most other types of publishing, but it was confirmed by others whom I interviewed with this perspective. It’s not that they feel that metadata is perfect, or that it couldn’t be improved; but in contrast to most other types of publishing there is really not much pain there because in the STM sphere metadata has long been a known quantity and pretty much does what they need it to do. (Thanks mainly to CrossRef—see my interview with Carol Meyer.)

Indicative of Kent’s forward-thinking nature, he said that the one area where he probably had thought about metadata was in the context of video. That may surprise many folks who think of a scholarly journal publisher as being pretty boring and routine. In fact, publishers like Kent have actually been in the forefront of publishing online and including multimedia and interactivity. He was doing this years ago at NEJM; I’ve been using examples of Kent’s in my talks on the subject for at least the past 5+ years, and have recruited him to speak on the subject on numerous occasions. Most other types of publishers are way behind on this, compared to the leading STM and especially medical publishers.

He said that they are now doing “much more multimedia” and observed that there is a lack of good tagging (by which I’m sure he meant subject/semantic tagging) even on things like podcasts. They are also getting into publications that are “beyond journals” and don’t have a good way to manage metadata for them.

One metadata issue that Kent astutely picked up on in our conversation was “the portability of metadata.” They have recently updated their XML modeling from NLM to JATS (as are most other STM publishers—these are the XML models that are virtually universally relied upon in the STM realm), and also moved from one hosting service to another. Some of the metadata (particularly semantic metadata) that had been added by the old host was considered proprietary and not transferred, so JBJS had to recreate it for the new hosting context.

Another BIG metadata issue that is just coming to the fore in STM publishing is the need to disclose conflicts of interest. He observed that it is now “very clumsy and not very interoperable.” [Note that the FundRef initiative from CrossRef is an important new vehicle addressing this to some extent.]

He also pointed out that they have made investments in things that help bring more visibility into the publication process. They have just acquired PreScore, a service that provides a metric to assess the level of peer review a given article received, which provides information on pre-publication peer review that “never makes it into the article.” They are also participating in SocialSite, which rates the quality of an article’s reference list.

So not surprisingly, Kent had more to offer about metadata than he initially thought he would.