IUCr activities
[Jonathan Agbenyega]

Making a difference

In April 2016, the IUCr's publishing partner John Wiley & Sons hosted its annual Executive Seminar for a number of their society partners looking at the changing landscape of our scholarly communication ecosystem. The one-day event took place at the impressive London, UK, offices of the Royal Society of Chemistry at Burlington House.

This year's seminar was built around the theme of Making a difference. Wiley chose this theme in part because of the number of society partners telling them that one of the greatest challenges of running a successful publishing programme is measuring impact. Many partners have asked questions like 'How can we demonstrate the impact that scientific and scholarly research has on government policy?' and 'What does the Open Research movement mean for our journals?'

To answer these questions, Wiley put together a diverse panel of experts: thought leaders in research communications and experts in public engagement with science and policy, who offered insight and practical strategies to help us improve our voice in the decisions that affect how research is funded, communicated and understood.

Other areas where Wiley society partners focused discussion covered publishing impact: how we can improve and sustain the impact of the work we publish, and how we can improve downloads and usage of our papers. Interesting research shows that publishing via Gold open access can influence (in a positive way) the number of times your work is downloaded and the number of times it is read.

Marketing reach and how societies can maximise value of membership was also hotly debated, particularly how to encourage members to remain active once they have joined and how societies can then improve the service they provide to their members by understanding interests and activities.

Given the relatively small size of some of the society partners, some concerns were expressed around technology services and how smaller organisations can keep up with some of the bigger players. Here Wiley representatives discussed some of the projects they are working on to help societies disseminate content more effectively, for example, apps for scientists to create their own special issues based on their individual interests. It is not only content that is king; services and other types of resource help our communities improve their research output. Wiley touched on some of these initiatives and then on ways to actually monitor the effectiveness of these activities.

The afternoon started with a fascinating and thought-provoking lecture and ensuing discussion on the importance of affecting policy from a representative at the Strategic Society Centre. The discussion took a very hands-on approach to how we should be more aware of the role we play in communicating science to politicians and policy makers. What certainly came out of the discussion was a need for scientists as a body to be more dynamic and effective in getting their point across; for example, if we don't say anything then nothing changes, and a good story can make a policy. One comment that I thought resonates with the state of crystallography teaching in our universities was, 'Nature fills a vacuum, so if we spot a void that is important - fill it'. We need to talk about these issues and frame them in a way in which society can make sense of them and then effect change.

One organisation called senseaboutscience.org is working with scientists, policy makers and the public at large to improve scientific communication, discussion and understanding. With initiatives such as #askforevidence they are empowering individuals, organisations and governments to seek out the truth about claims they have come across. For example, a recent study into the various detox remedies you can find on the shelves of supermarkets found that the best remedy is actually your liver and kidneys!

On the train heading back up to Chester that evening I had a lot to keep me occupied, from thinking about how I must take greater care of my liver and kidneys to how we can talk about science and share some of the wonderful things we are doing to change the world to a much wider part of society.

Jonathan Agbenyega, IUCr Business Development Manager (ja@iucr.org)