Last week, on the 19th and 20th of March, the first Academic Publishing in the Mediterranean Region (APM) conference was held, an offshoot of the APE (Academic Publishing in Europe) conference, which was held for the fourth time last January in Berlin. Both conferences want to transgress the traditional sectoral boundaries that exist in scholarly communication, where the scholars, publishers, policy makers, middlemen and librarians all have their separate gatherings and meetings. APE and APM are independent and international conferences about all aspects of academic publishing, to foster knowledge exchange and dialogue between the different stakeholders in scholarly communication. The APM, held in Florence, specifically focused on the diversities and particularities of the Mediterranean region with its many languages and its focus on the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) and monographs. Culture, tradition, books and manuscripts are still very important in the Mediterranean region, as the opening speaker Augusto Marinelli (the rector of the University of Florence) remarks. However, electronic experiments and digitization projects are also inceasingly undertaken. These innovations are however taking place in the context of the current financial crisis, which is hitting hard on the Italian publishing and library industry, says Mauro Guerrini, from the Italian Library Association (AIB – Associazione Italiana Biblioteche). He states that where in a knowledge economy knowledge is the key to innovation and development, decreasing (library) resources and cutbacks in science and scholarly communication might be detrimental to the overall economic development.
One of the possible solutions to this impasse might lie in what Maria Cristina Pedicchio (President of the Technology District in Molecular Medicine and Professor of Algebra at the University of Trieste) calls private-public partnerships in research. Referring to the knowledge triangle from the Lisbon Strategy; research, education and innovation should lead to growth and jobs, as was the expected scenario. Public private partnerships could be a powerful tool for innovation in this respect. When knowledge and research are the key issues for economic and social development and governements do not invest in them, they will fall even further. We need to invest in research and human capital in order to stay competitive says Pedicchio. Part of the EU strategy is focused on clusterpolicies to develop innovative clusters. But there is no single model, we need different clusters operating in different models. The specific local aspects also play a large role. Pedicchio says that in order to obtain open innovation, we need open clusters. Innovation can only be created in visible dynamic environments, not in isolated organisations. For this to come about we need the support of the triple helix: academic research, private sectors and public administrations. Innovation depends on the interaction between strong academic research (universities), dynamic entrepreneurship and the availability of risk capital (private sector) as well as public administration.
Pedicchio goes on to discuss different kinds of cluster experiments in various European countries. From these experiments she concludes we need a multidisciplinary cultural approach. Pedicchio shows that these kind of collaborations can lead to the development of cultural open spaces which can foster and enhance research and innovation and can attract human resources, companies and financing.
The prerequisites for these kind of open collaborations, says Pedicchio, are the possibility of international and intersectional mobility, the availabilty of knowledge by means of open access policies for the dissemination of science and frontier knowledge, the investment in young people, and the dissemination of knowledge to society at large. We need to make national clusters but at the same time we need to try to integrate them. National policies need to be involved in this process, as locality is a physical request for clusters; they need to be local, physically based adhering to regional policies. This means a constant changing and adaption between European policies and national policies.
The second keynote, delivered by Andrea Bozzi (Director of the Institute for Computational Linguistics) focused on the scholarly editing of old manuscripts in digital library collections by means of computational tools. Bozzi explained the connection between computer science and the tradition of text transmission, focussing especially on texts that are transmitted by manuscripts. As Bozzi explained, we can now make a model for digital philology, developing integrated tools for scholarly editing. This can lead to a new kind of historical publication which can be enriched and which adds new value to the publication which hitherto has been static. Bozzi asked what the dimension of these integrated tools can be for a new kind of library and its users. He mentioned several digital tools for scholarly editing, such as an integrated open source environment for images and/or texts, image enhancement (within this environment), text indexing and concordance (by means of free web services), collaborative textual criticism, stemmatology and NLP tools (lemmatization, morphological analysis, treebank construction, comparison, meaning extraction, etc.). These are all new tools for studying manuscript archives in a collaborative way. They need to be combined with scholarly editing criteria. An example of a digital annotation tool is the Pinakes Text-architecture, which is a web based relational database application (Pinakes was the first library catalogue system, developed in the Library of Alexandria by the Greek poet Callimachus of Cyrene). From the website:
“Pinakes is a non-commercial tool the aim of which is to offer a renewed historiographic approach to the classification of the scientific heritage. Thanks to the integration of different types of objects, such as instruments, manuscripts, texts, iconography a.o., Pinakes aims at transforming the traditional approach to the primary sources of the history of science into a sort of archeology of scientific knowledge.”
As Bozzi stated, it is a highly flexible system and can find its application in for example Greek papyrology, egyptology, Roman philology and general philology. It can also be applied to different languages and documents. As an example of what Pinakes can do as a tool for the textual criticism of Medieval manuscripts, Bozzi showed how it can for example link to collated sources. In this way one can make an analysis of the variants in the collated source. Differences and variants can be retrieved in the critical apparatus, which is a very important aspect of historical linguistics. Framing tools can remember the encoding and record the variants in the critical apparatus: in this way you have enriched the text by using these specific tools. This technique could also be applied to old print books says Bozzi, where one could find different editions and detect the differences between them.
In the future Bozzi wants to focus on the integration with other NLP tools and on the application of the system to cuneiform texts on tablets. Most importantly he wants to develop a way to export the edited texts, critical apparatuses, annotations and indexes, to a print publication under agreement with publising houses via POD.
Pinakles can become a specialized scholarly editing tool and an integrated web-based platform within the electronic publishing roadmap of Interedition (an interoperable, supranational infrastructure for digital editions). Bozzi reflected on what the role of libraries can be in building this infrastructure and which role publishers could play. For one, libraries also need to receive tools to offer them to their users. In this respect Bozzi argued that it is very important that we have standards for these kind of research infrastrucutres, also for primary sources.
The ultimate goal should be a digital infrastructure for the Humanities: we need to enrich the European research by cooperation and in this respect the setting of standards is fundamental, as Bozzi concludes.
From the afternoon session on the Mediterranean region and its diversities I would like to focus on Andrea Angiolini’s (Società editrice il Mulino, Italy) lecture on The Darwin Project, a publishing infrastructure and working space for monographs & textbooks. As Angiolini argues, the differences between HSS and STM are fading out. This means new challenges for the publisher and new needs for our scholars and students. Angiolini clarifies that Mulino is a very traditional publisher, who believes that physical books are still the best thing to publish especially when it comes to reading them. In this respect Mulino is quite slow in the whole digital process. As Angiolini says, they would like to stay in between scholars, librarians and the market. However, something is gradually changing in Italy, both in the university and in the market. HSS research is increasingly moving from monographs to both monographs and journals and from a generalist approach to a more specialized one. There is also a visible shift from Italian to mixed language communication and from a less formal career and texts evaluation process to a more formalized one.
As the bookstores are buying less and acquisition budgets for libraries are decreasing, the break-even point for publishers is moving further away. This, combined with a research style that is increasingly being conducted online, has led Mulino, in order to stay effective (to reach a public, to service the scholar and the market) to move to the online domain and develop the Darwin (Digital Archive for Web Integrated Networks) project. Darwin is an integrated system for the online publication of digital editions. It can be seen as an infrastructure aimed at adding value to printed books. In this resepect Angiolini says it wants to meet the needs and demands of the users, based on standards.
Within the Darwin project, monographs will be published both in print and in digital editions. Abstracts and DOI will be added at the chapter level and all the books will be fully quotable. New is that texts are based on docbook and not on PDF, where docbook is a better format for searchability etc. It is a richer format that can do anything the paper can. Some more functions include opening and collapsing comments within the text. You can also interact with the text and annotate it and make the note public or private. You can search different parts of the publication and highlight certain parts (semantic search). In this respect Angiolini argues that Darwin is not only designed for reading and searching but also for studying and collaborating while doing research.You can make it into a workspace, with public or private note taking and public or private bookmarks. The project will be online in autumn 2009.
It will be an open project claims Angiolini, adoptable to different texts and formats, and different access models (though it will be based on and start off as a subscription model). As Angiolini states, if we want to publish research and be effective at the same time, we must take a mixed way, otherwise soon monographs will no longer exist. We are moving from contents to contents plus editorial services. This produces a new publishers profile.This change is almost mandatory if publishers want to be part of the solution and not of the problem in the digital age.
After Angiolini’s lecture a remark was made from the public, whether Angiolini thinks people would annotate (on) a propriatory platform? How to combine Darwin with other platforms and will Darwin be compatible with other publishers websites and will it let scholars mix their notes? Wouldn’t users rather use Zotero, or other browser based environments? Angiolini replied by stating that Darwin is still an experiment and that he does not know how scholars will exactly go about and use it.
Highlights from day 2 of APM will follow soon.