Notes from the Force11 annual conference

I attended the conference in Oxford the last couple of days (the conference was previously called ‘Beyond the PDF’).

Force11 is a community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishers and research funders that has arisen organically to help facilitate the change toward improved knowledge creation and sharing. Individually and collectively, we aim to bring about a change in modern scholarly communications through the effective use of information technology. [About Force 11]

Rather than the presentations, I would say that the most valuable aspect of this event are the many conversations you can have with people from different backgrounds: techies, publishers, policy makers, academics etc..

Nonetheless, here’s a (very short and biased) list of things that seemed to stand out.

  • A talk titled Who’s Sharing with Who? Acknowledgements-driven identification of resources by David Eichmann, University of Iowa. He is working on a (seemingly very effective) method for extracting contributors roles from scientific articles
  • This presentation describes my recent work in semantic analysis of the acknowledgement section of biomedical research articles, specifically the sharing of resources (instruments, reagents, model organisms, etc.) between the author articles and other non-author investigators. The resulting semantic graph complements the knowledge currently captured by research profiling systems, which primarily focus on investigators, publications and grants. My approach results in much finer-grained information, at the individual author contribution level, and the specific resources shared by external parties. The long-term goal for this work is unification with the VIVO-ISF-based CTSAsearch federated search engine, which currently contains research profiles from 60 institutions worldwide.


  • A talk titled Why are we so attached to attachments? Let’s ditch them and improve publishing by Kaveh Bazargan, head of River Valley Technologies. He demoed a prototype manuscript tracking system that allows editors, authors and reviewers to create new versions of the same document via an online google-doc-like system which has JATS XML in the background
  • I argue that it is precisely the ubiquitous use of attachments that has held up progress in publishing. We have the technology right now to allow the author to write online and have the file saved automatically as XML. All subsequent work on the “manuscript” (e.g. copy editing, QC, etc) can also be done online. At the end of the process the XML is automatically “rendered” to PDF, Epub, etc, and delivered to the end user, on demand. This system is quicker as there are no emails or attachments to hold it up, cheaper as there is no admin involved, and more accurate as there is only one definitive file (the XML) which is the “format of record”.


  • Rebecca Lawrence from F1000 presented and gave me a walk through of a new suite of tools they’re working on. That was quite impressing I must say, especially due to the variety of features they offer: tools to organize and store references, annotate and discuss articles and web pages, import them into word documents etc.. All packed within a nicely looking and user friendly application. This is due to go public beta some time in March, but you can try to get access to it sooner by signing up here.
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  • The best poster award went to 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication – the Changing Research Workflow. This is a project aiming to chart innovation in scholarly information and communication flows. Very inspiring and definitely worth a look.
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  • Finally, I’m proud to say that the best demo award went to my own, a personal quotations-manager online tool which I’ve just launched a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, it was great to get vote of confidence from this community!
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    If you want more, it’s worth taking a look directly at the conference agenda and in particular the demo/poster session agenda. And hopefully see you next year in Portland, Oregon :-)