Newsletter | 12.10.2013

Article from a key customer

By attendee Ivana Trucculo, CRO Aviano (PN), Italy

Reflections on the Springer “Global Health Advisory Summit”

I attended Springer’s Global Health Advisory Summit which took place in Amsterdam in March this year.
There were 26 attendees in total including librarians, archivists, general practitioners, biologists and other professions. Together we represented the views of hundreds of users across the medical world including doctors, nurses, students, researchers, patients and the general public.The Summit was an extremely interesting experience and provided a good insight into the key trends of medical publishing. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet and discuss issues with professional colleagues as well as developing a deeper understanding of the challenges publishers face as they develop the products and services we require.

Centro di Riferimento Oncologico (CRO) Aviano has been a Springer customer for many years. During that time we have seen tremendous changes in the way that research information is delivered and accessed. But as well as changes in delivery mechanisms, the internet has also improved the relationship between publishers and its customers. Once the relationship was very distant but now it has become much more interactive and dynamic.

Yes in spite of these changes two things have remained constant: the need to pay for access to high quality scientific journals and books and the ongoing challenge libraries face in paying for all the resources they need. The economic crisis has put library budgets under more pressure then ever before forcing tough decisions about which resources to buy. These decisions not only impact the library but also the publishers who provide the resources. For them, the challenge is two-fold: on one hand, they are being impacted by shrinking library budgets while on the other, they are competing with resources that are freely available on the internet.

So it was with interest that I learned more about open access publishing, the most recent phenomena of the digital age, and its affects on scholarly publishing. Since its beginning as an initiative developed by the Open Society Institute (OSI) during a meeting in Budapest, December 2001, open access has become a viable alternative to the subscription-based publishing model. Its primary aim is to make research that has been publicly funded freely available to anyone who wishes to access it.

While the benefits of open access for the scientific community are well documented, its emergence poses an additional threat to some publishers who may find that the competition from open access articles is too great. For Springer, however, open access is viewed as an exciting opportunity to explore new ways of disseminating research and experiment with alternative business models.

As well as discussing open access and other trends in medical publishing, we were given demonstrations of two of Springer’s newest products; Cases Database (which provides evidence-based literature to support clinical staff in patient assessments and diagnoses) and the new platform created especially for Hospitals and Health professionals. The new platform aims to integrate the content of Springer products – books and electronic journals – and make them searchable from a single interface. The concept that has most positively struck me is the fact that Springer has thought of integrating materials that are also informative and useful for patients. Taking one single concept as a starting point, one can find full texts, illustrations, tables and videos directed to a specialized reader but also materials of a more informative nature. For example, when the Patients Library of the CRO was created, it took into account the patients’ need for information. With the new Springer platform at last, we are seeing an improvement in that area.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the genuine interest that Springer had in our opinions. Not only were we asked for our critical evaluation of Springer eProducts but we also participated in a contest to come up with a name for the new platform!

Not so long ago it seemed that libraries were destined to disappear as the continued increases in journal prices made paying for all the information we needed virtually impossible. However, this Summit has made me realize that publishers such as Springer have a genuine interest in our market and want to work with us to develop the resources we need. They are demonstrating that the information needs of patients are just as important as the information needs of medical professionals. The divide between those that cure and those that are cured is beginning to blur and libraries can have a role in facilitating this dialogue by continuing to work with publishers to ensure that all our users’ voices are heard.

 *Disclaimer: Ivana Truccolo wishes to make it known that she has no conflict of interest with the company mentioned in this Report. The views expressed are entirely personal and have been formed as a result of participating in the Summit. They do not in any way reflect the opinion, views or official statements of CRO.