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Odyssey 2030: the future of research and publishing

This post was collaboratively written by PLOS staff (Ines Alvarez-Garcia, Phil Mills and Iratxe Puebla).

Note: Come to our free interactive event on Monday, October 21 at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2019 for a discussion with our panellists from Laser Analytics Group and Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, the Company of Biologists and EMBL-EBI.

If you could reinvent scholarly communication from scratch, what would it look like? The ways in which we interact and communicate are changing at an accelerating pace and, as a consequence, the way research is conducted is evolving. Research projects have become increasingly interdisciplinary and fruitful collaborations across disciplines that have not traditionally come together are becoming the new norm. The relentless flow of methodological and technical advances continues to move established fields forward and to make way for novel research disciplines. While it remains a fundamental part of the scholarly process, the way in which research is communicated and shared has to some degree been playing ‘catch up’ to these developments over the last few years.

In response, scholarly publishing is also experiencing signs of change. Open Access journals launched and thrived at the turn of the century, catalysing the move from traditional print to online articles and providing free and fully-accessible content. However, for the most part scholarly journals have kept to the traditional format that recognises the ‘article’ as the final step in the publication process. This appears to be slowly shifting as new creative initiatives have started to transform traditional publications. Preprints, commonly used in physics for decades, are now being adopted by many other disciplines as a means for authors to share their work publicly and as soon as it’s ready for feedback — an alternative to the more traditional, but lengthier, peer-review process in journals. Bolder researchers can even share their experiments ‘fresh from the oven’ in digital lab books, and can openly deposit data, software, tools or educational materials, making those available instantly via web platforms and social media.

In this context, what is the place of an article in a scientific journal? Can we think of alternatives that will better serve our current and future needs in research dissemination? At our event entitled: “Odyssey 2030: the future of research and publishing,” we’ll be discussing the future of the research ecosystem and what scholarly communication will look like in 2030 and beyond. The University of Cambridge will be celebrating the Cambridge Festival of Ideas (October 14-27) and after the excellent discussion we had last year (‘Rethinking failure and success in science’), we have decided to participate again. The theme of this year? ‘Change’ — the perfect opportunity to explore initiatives that will drive a re-appraisal of how research is communicated.

We have four excellent panellists to fuel the discussion:

Ioanna Mela, a postdoctoral fellow in Laser Analytics Group, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (University of Cambridge)
Alexandra Freeman, Executive Director at Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication (University of Cambridge) and creator of Octopus (
Katherine Brown, Executive Editor of Development (The Company of Biologists)
Maria Levchenko, Europe PMC Community Manager (EMBL-EBI)

Interested? Come join the discussion if you are in the vicinity on Monday 21st of October at the Postdoc Centre, 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1SB. For a free ticket, book here. Can’t attend? We’ll be tweeting during the event – you can check us at #Odyssey2030. The Festival of Ideas hashtag is #CamIdeasFest. We will also post a follow-up blog with the highlights of the discussion, watch this space!

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