Start-ups Survey Debunks Myths about Science Publishing Innovative Ecosystem

Yvonne Campfens discusses some of the surprising findings of her start-ups study with Sabine Louët, SciencePOD CEO, in a podcast

The first study of its kind related to the start-up ecosystem in the science publishing industry brought a lot of discussions during the APE2019 conference, held on 16th January 2019, in Berlin, Germany. The author of this study is Yvonne Campfens, an independent science publishing consultant, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Focusing on 120 start-ups— 92 of which are independent— the study debunked some of the myths around the innovative science publishing ecosystem.

Campfens was motivated to start this study as she felt there were a lot of myths surrounding start-ups in publishing. “I was really curious, because I had seen so many new names over the last decade, and I was wondering what had happened with all these new players,” she says. “At the same time there was a lot of debate about distribution, developments, and trends in the industry,” she adds, “but very little facts and data.” This is what motivated Campfens to take a closer look.

She managed to debunk some of the myths surrounding current innovative companies in the field. “When a start-up is taken over, there is a lot of media attention, which gives some people the impression that this is all there is. So, I wanted to know what was really going on.” Specifically, she examined whether these start-ups existed independently from larger publishers.

First, the study reveals that there is now a well-established community of independent publishing start-ups providing innovation in the processes of publishing and content creation for the scholarly communication industry.  Their focus ranges from providing tools for discovery of information in research to offering solutions to prepare and analyse data from research. In addition, a number of start-ups deliver technology-based solutions to assist in writing about research. SciencePOD, which took part in the study, fits in the latter category.

Campfens also delved into the details of how and where their funding came from. She found that 10 start-ups raised $25 million or more in funding, another 7 raised $10 million or more while 29 companies raised $1 million or more. (See bar graphs below for a visual.)

 

Finally, she analysed when, during their lifecycle, start-ups were acquired and by whom. Of the 92 independent start-ups, she found that less than a quarter (21%) were acquired by other companies in 2018. It took, on average, 5 years of a start-up to be acquired. One of the most significant takeaways from her study, she says, “the acquired start-ups were definitely not taken over by STM players.” Indeed, the study reveals that companies that are not players in the science publishing industry acquired the majority (67%) of the 27 start-ups that were acquired.

To provide some first-hand comments from entrepreneurs themselves, Campfens invited a panel of start-up representatives. These included Arne Smolders, CEO of Academiclabs.co, based in Gent, Belgium.  This company is a social media network for linking academic and industry researchers in the life science sector.

Another panellist, Niklas Dorn, is CEO of video streaming solution Filestage.io based in Stuttgart, Germany, explained how scientific meetings could benefit from his solution.

Then, systems architect Roman Gurinovich with SCI.ai based in Tallinn, Estonia, outlined the benefits of his AI tool to validate scientific hypotheses from the published literature.

Last but not least,  Sami Benchekroun CEO and Co-founder of  Morressier based in Berlin, Germany, explained the concept of his publishing platform where researchers can share and showcase their early work at pre-publication stage, with the aim of fostering greater collaboration among scientists at an early stage.

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Andrew Burgess speaks about the use of AI in the content creation sector at ConTech

“The conversation is the relationship”, according to Management Consultant Andrew Burgess, who provides strategic insight around AI. In an interview recorded at ConTech 2018, held at the end of November in London, UK, Burgess talks with SciencePOD about the potential of AI in the content creation sector.

Should professionals in science publishing involved in creating content be concerned about their jobs as AI solutions become more prevalent?

“It will impact jobs but,[…] it’s going to be slower than people think. The things AI can do today is exciting and valuable, but there are limitations.” These limitations prevent AI from replacing people, entirely.

Rather they could augment people’s capabilities. Burgess continues: “AI’s very good at providing additional information to people, extracting value from data that humans wouldn’t necessarily be able to do, to help them make better decisions around their business… These are giving people additional capabilities that they wouldn’t have had before.”

What type of applications could help professionals involved in creating content augment their capabilities?

For instance, “in translation services, we’ve gone from a very structured approach to AI within the natural language to actually use machine learning, whereas the name suggests, it’s the machines that are learning how to do the translation based on the data that you’re giving them, ” Burgess notes. “And that gives you so much wider capabilities than you’ve ever had before… That’s where the real acceleration will be with the development of AI over the next 5-10 years.”

There are still concerns that AI may become harmful to humans? Where is the threat?

“I think the biggest risk is the people that are building and using the AI itself, all of this is just a tool that we use. As long as we plan right and don’t have a bias in the data, we don’t have opacity in the decisions the AI is making… (these) are really important things. That’s really up to humans to control.”

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