The Bookseller presents Ron Mobed, 'steward of tech and content'
Elsevier's CEO talks about changes in the company's communication strategy; the role of technology in digital content, and open access
By Alison Bert, Editor-in-Chief Posted on 19 March 2014
In the new issue of The Bookseller — a popular business magazine for the book industry that has been around since 1858 — Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed talks about what's changing and what's not at a company that has also been evolving for well over a century.
Topics include the company's communication strategy, new approaches to digital content, and why technology will continue to play a supporting — though crucial — role in the delivery of Elsevier's core asset: content.
In his colorful profile, Bookseller Features Editor Tom Tivnan (@tomtivnan) opens with a telling anecdote. Prior to the acquisition of Mendeley a year ago, Mobed agreed to meet with the team in Mendeley T-shirt instead of his customary business attire. Tivnan related that scenario to the way Elsevier has been shedding its corporate formality for a more direct way of doing business.
After talking about the Cost of Knowledge boycott of 2012, Tivnan quotes Mobed about his company's response and the lessons they learned:
We didn't have many avenues to engage with the research community except in formal ways. So our responses were very standoffish. We were indulging in corporate-speak and most of the conversation was taking place without us. ...
One of the solutions was to create Elsevier Connect — which features daily articles and resources for the global research community, shared via a broad and active social media community. Mobed said the company has been getting a lot of "positive anecdotal response of people saying Elsevier has changed," but that much of that change has to do with "being better at communicating what we do."
Ron Mobed on open access
The Bookseller also includes a statement from Ron Mobed on Elsevier's approach to open access. Here's a summary:
Since discovering, from the Finch Report of 2012, that its Gold Open Access program (in which the author or a funder pays the publication fees) was slightly lagging behind the world average, Elsevier has been creating more open access options while taking necessary precautions.
We know that OA models can succeed but if they are implemented poorly, they can have quite detrimental consequences. We can tell when we talk about this to our smaller society groupings; they are keenly aware that research ecosystems are delicate. When you make a change over here, you have to think that doesn't have an impact over there, which can be damaging.
We want to make OA work. But we feel obligated to point out where the pitfalls might be so we can steer away from those.
In talking about the size of Elsevier and its parent company, Reed Elsevier, Tivnan points out that "a whopping 72 percent of Elsevier's revenue comes from digital products." He predicts that "the digital share will undoubtedly rise in coming years as Elsevier continues to experiment with more ways of delivering content digitally."
Then he present's Mobed's perspective that, at Elsevier, technology ultimately exists for the service of the content.
This is a content business: the acquisition and production of content, the curation of the content, the dissemination of content. In the past 20 years, Elsevier has been at the forefront of technological advances, and we need to be, because that's what researchers and practitioners need: more useful ways to access, analyse and search content. If I'm the steward of anything, it is managing that combination of tech and content.
Mobed points out that content is Elsevier's expertise, in large part because its ranks include "hundreds of former researchers and practitioners" who joined Elsevier "because they want to improve science. ...
"Yes, we need to listen to our partners," he said. "We also need to lead."[divider]
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Elsevier Connect Author
Alison Bert (@AlisonBert) is Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect. She joined Elsevier five years ago from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter and blogger for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York.
In the previous century, she was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She holds a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was a Fulbright scholar in Spain and performed in the 1986 international master class of Andrés Segovia.
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