Sprinting toward Editoria: a warm welcome to Open Book Publishers!

Open Book Publishers (OBP) invited Adam Hyde to Cambridge, UK to discuss workflow on April 12.

OBP believes that knowledge should be available to everyone: their books are free to read and download online, and they are working to create a world in which all research is freely available to all readers.

The all day focus session engaged use-case specialists and involved breaking down participants’ understandings of workflow and working together to identify a common map of the processes that occur between acquisition and publication of books. This is the best way we know to really begin to identify the problem areas, think through what about a ‘problem’ is really difficult, and then strategizing possible solutions.

The OBP team included: Dr. Rupert Gatti (co-founder), Dr. Alessandra Tosi (co-founder and managing director), Lucy Barnes (editor), Javier Arias (IT support and development), Martin Keegan (IT development), Laura Rodriguez (marketing and library relations), Luca Baffa (book production & digital product development), Theo Martin (volunteer).

  

In this discussion, the group identified that much of the workflow revolves around one team member – Alessandra. This is not a ‘bug’ but rather a feature of this publishing organization’s personality as a friendly, choosy, venue to publish via – with very high standards. Alessandra is the personification of these things, doing much of the outreach to their tightly knit community herself.

OBP seeks to be a viable open access alternative for authors who would otherwise be intending to publish their manuscript with Ivy league uni presses. As such, their rejection rate is high and their peer review standards may be even higher. Alessandra is the glue that holds it all together, sending out reviewer solicitation emails, decision emails and more, tracking it all via numerous spreadsheets. It is her friendly and personalized approach that constituents love. Ultimately, the group should not seek to ‘automate’ anything about Alessandra.

Still, her spreadsheets and overflowing inbox are substantial. For example, to confirm just one single reviewer, it takes Alessandra on average about 40 ‘asks,’ via email, which each could include numerous emails. The same kind of manual, email-based workflow is in effect for the task of obtaining all artwork and related information from authors.

  

Once these shared workflow problems had been clearly identified, the group shifted their focus toward process improvement. All agreed that there was no desire to, and frankly no ability to automate the immense value that Alessandra’s work represents. Instead, the group identified ways that technology could streamline the non-human interaction based bits of Alessandra’s tasks. Some examples include using a submission form up front to solicit authors for all of the information and files needed. This will cut down on associated emails, and offers OBP an opportunity to give authors a branded and streamlined early interaction. It will allow Alessandra to keep focused on the community and adding value through massaging relationships, not trafficking files.

Similarly, integrating a kind of status tracking mechanism into a books dashboard, identifying quickly and visually at a glance at the per book level what stage a manuscript is in will help give everyone visibility into status without troubling Alessandra to share these kinds of very high level basic updates.

Managing peer review workflow – by tracking from invitation to responses, including trafficking completed review information, and related correspondence and reviewer data using a system will streamline Alessandra’s process significantly. Her cultural currency and friendliness will still be the centerpiece of the review community, but getting workflow out of her inbox and into the system will free her up to really grow the community via spending less time managing the administrative side.

“We found the Workflow Sprint helpful in focusing and coordinating our energies on internal change and administrative reflection (which we do very rarely), but also we are really excited at the prospect of interacting with the community you are building to collectively create useful open source software,” said Dr. Rupert Gatti, co-founder and third director of Open Book Publishers.

Moving forward, Open Book Publishers will participate in the Editoria Community! Look out for them in San Francisco later this month where they will participate also in a developer workshop. Adding PubSweet expertise to their internal development team means that as they develop some of these identified features themselves they will be able to contribute them back for wider community use by the PubSweet and Editoria communities. It also could be that the submission form could be collaborated upon by both punctum and OBP, as both identify the need for this function within their books publishing workflow. These topics and more will be explored as OBP become active within the Editoria Community!

We congratulate them on an awesome Sprint and we welcome them to the fold!

All photos by Adam Hyde. 🙂

Further reading