Dissatisfaction with the fact that much research is published but never read was the spark behind the creation of Kudos, the start-up which won the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers’ (ALPSP) Award for Innovation in Publishing last month.
The venture was co-founded 18 months ago by a trio with solid experience in academic publishing: David Sommer, whose background includes Blackwell’s and MPS Technologies, Charlie Rapple, formerly of Ingenta and Publishing Technology, and Melinda Kenneway, previously of Oxford University Press [pictured below left]. The idea for Kudos grew out of conversations the trio had at academic conferences and while serving on trade committees, where talk turned to a major issue: “Why don’t publishers accept that half of their content is never used?”
Rapple, who handles sales and marketing for Kudos, cites well-known (though disputed by some) research from 2007 that found that up to 50% of academic research output isn’t read or downloaded. “Our experience of working for various publishers is that substantial quantities of what they have published online is never downloaded. It’s an issue, and nobody makes any effort to get [the unread research] out there,” she says. “In our view, business models of publishing are not predicated on that level of marketing [by individual research article]. The people in PR/marketing don’t have the capacity or the knowledge; authors are at the centre of the most appropriate network to start the ball rolling.”
Kudos found that authors often need help and motivation to actively market their work via their own networks. So it offers a web-based toolkit which helps authors increase the visibility of their research, while giving publishers the data to get an overview of which authors are becoming actively engaged and which channels (blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc) are working best for them.
Kudos helps researchers create a profile page for each publication, article or book chapter with a CrossRef digital object identifier (DOi). They are then encouraged to add browsable new data to the piece, perhaps a personal explanation of what the work is about and why it’s important, in plain language, as well as adding images, data sets, videos or news links. Authors retain the rights to all information they upload, accessible via Creative Commons.
The researchers are then given trackable links so the content can be shared and each author has a personal dashboard which displays metrics of how often their work is cited or shared, and they can also see how each action they take to promote their work pushes readership. The service is provided free to authors; Kudos makes its money by offering a paid-for service to publishers which enables them to see data across all of their authors. “It’s a way for publishers to know what’s worth doing,” explains Rapple. “It ties into a lot of trends in the communication of research, Open Access in particular.”
Nearly 70,000 researchers have signed up to Kudos, with an international spread (approximately 35% from the UK and 25% from the US) as well as a disciplinary one, covering the humanities as well as sciences. Clients include Wiley, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, Cambridge University Press, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Edinburgh University Press, Manchester University Press, Thieme (Germany), Qscience.com (Qatar), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (France), John Benjamins (The Netherlands) and the American Society for Microbiology. In the past month, new partners have joined—Annual Reviews, The Association for Computing Machinery, EDP Sciences, the Future Science Group, and RCNi (the publishing business of the Royal College of Nursing). There are also institutional partners— including the universities of Birmingham and Liverpool and Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen— which can get an overview of how their researchers are disseminating their work.
Rapple says the founders’ backgrounds in publishing gave them credibility with clients, as well as their independence: “Our past history with publishers meant [clients] trusted us and gave us usage data,” she says. On Kudos, no publisher can see another publisher’s data but some who opt for it can see high-level benchmark data to see how they compare to others.
Three partners—Taylor & Francis, the RSC and the American Institute of Physics—gave backing to the business at pilot stage, and there was funding from government agency Innovate UK. Kudos did an “angel” investment round earlier this year, using investor networks and industry insiders, and is completing another round. Revenue-generating “from day one”, Kudos had turnover of around £500,000 in its first year. “We have good and solid revenues—publishers are now renewing for a further year—but there is so much we want to do,” says Rapple.
“I’m a marketeer by background, and I’m excited to help people market their work. [Kudos] is not rocket science, but it’s such a missing part [of academic marketing].”