Based on your experience of working with both publishers and academics, what do you feel represents the ideal end-user journey?
I think that, from the user’s perspective, it’s simple. They want to do their search, arrive at the right result, get the information, and leave – and the simpler the [information access] environment is, the better.
The user is generally extremely happy if they can search and access all the content they need in one place, without complications or unnecessary frills.
What kind of user feedback have you seen in terms of IAM and user journeys?
We conduct librarian training courses in a number of countries, and the main issue we hear is that there’s no single discovery resource that does everything for everyone that uses it. You could argue that Google Scholar is the closest, but even though it might be the place where you can find the broadest amount of results, it’s not well-integrated with library technologies that can tell [users] what pay-walled content is available to them. Research discovery services that libraries buy into do seek to be comprehensive (within reason), but we know it’s an imperfect world in terms of coverage.
Another, related problem is that even though there are some comprehensive discovery tools available (e.g. specialist abstracting & indexing databases), it’s difficult to get research communities to understand why that resource might be better [for their specific field] than, for example, Google Scholar. The users don’t know from a given brand name what subjects a given database covers, and the databases / services don’t provide much in the way of an at-a-glance explanation.
There’s also a lot going on in terms of authentication for external resources. The main conflict is that librarians & institutions need a solution that’s good enough to be acceptable to the publisher and their own institutional security policy. But they’re effectively protecting someone else’s content, so there’s not a strong driver at the library end to make authentication of the publisher’s content watertight. The reality is that the solution doesn’t have to be perfect: it just has to be “good enough”.
What do you see as the current priorities for IAM?
From the publishers’ point of view, a current concern is of course SciHub. Publishers seem keen now to plug as many holes as possible in terms of access to content, and the general strategy now is that you need every library / institution to adhere to the same secure methods of authenticating user credentials, otherwise [pirates] will just find the weakest points.
To keep content secure, adoption doesn’t necessarily have to be universal – but it needs to be very close to it. Introducing strict controls at a handful of leading institutions gives a false impression of safety – I guess it’s like wearing a bulletproof string vest! – but ultimately there’s not a lot that libraries can influence in terms of network security; it’s an institutional-level consideration and librarians are just one voice within their organisation, so getting a good proportion of institutions to buy into a more stringent security environment is going to be very difficult.
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