Let's join FORCEs and make a difference in scholarly communication

02 February 2015 by Dominika Tkaczyk

Two weeks ago I participated in FORCE2015 in Oxford. It was a third conference organized by FORCE11 community and a must-attend event for people interested in scholarly communication, and in particular its problems and various ways of addressing them.

One great thing about FORCE11 conferences is that they gather together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions: publishers, funders, librarians, researchers, programmers, and so on. This made FORCE2015 a great place to discuss various groups' needs and expectations, gain collaborators, advertise own work to potential consumers, exchange ideas, and provide and receive feedback about various initiatives.

The day before the main conference I attended ContentMine workshop. ContentMine is a community-driven initiative aiming at extracting facts (eg. species, molecules, particles) from scientific literature and making them accessible and reusable. The project is still young and in the process of building the community, but definitely worth taking a closer look at.

Another young but already interesting initiative I came across during the conference is Libraccess - a project which aims at collecting, aggregating, deduplicating and making available all kinds of open access scientific resources. Since Libraccess has a lot in common with our COMAC project, we decided to join forces and use this great opportunity to achieve common goals collaboratively, making use of individual complementary strengths. There aren't a lot of details yet, but stay tuned!

During the conference I was also presenting a demo of CERMINE - our Java library for extracting metadata and bibliography from scientific literature. Many thanks to all interested people, it was really great to meet you all!

All the interesting presentations and discussions at FORCE2015 painted a clear picture of the current state of scolarly communication, its problems and efforts made to solve them. For me the most important (and very optimistic) issue is increasing understanding in the community that academic data is in fact not only text, and therefore simply putting paper publications into computers is not enough. Data sets, code and images should become first-class citizens - properly identified, shared and cited. So from one side more and more tools and platforms for managing scientific artifacts other than text emerge, and from the other - a lot of effort is dedicated to automatically process huge volume of already existing unstructured scientific text in order to reverse engineer the process of creating them, mine the knowledge burried in them and transform into machine-readable formats. The latter is exactly what we are passionate about in ADA Lab.

FORCE2015 was a very interesting and unique experience for me. The event proved without a doubt that there are a lot of enthusiasts interested in the future of scolarly communication and the ways of improving it. Instead of attacking the same problems separately by individual people and teams, we should start organizing in larger groups and collaborate across teams, organizations and countries. If we manage to do so, the FORCE will definitely be with us!

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