Frequently-asked Questions

This web page aims to answer some of the many questions we get asked about the Researcher to Reader Conference. It is a growing list of questions and answers, and we would be happy to receive further questions and answer them here.

The questions we have answered so far include:
What is Researcher to Reader?
What happens at the Conference?
Is R2R a publisher conference?
Is R2R international?
Is R2R inclusive?
R2R has always been a physical conference, what are your online plans?
Are you just going to be online, now?
Why isn’t an online R2R really cheap, like other online conferences?
Isn’t 2 full days online at a Conference going to be too much?
Will the timetable be different to suit an online audience?
Will there be networking?
Will participants be able to ask questions in the online sessions?
Will the very interactive R2R workshops really be possible online?
Has R2R considered the different time zones for online participants?
Why have you moved from Monday-Tuesday to Tuesday-Wednesday?

Does R2R actually know what it is doing with all this online stuff?
Is R2R not-for-profit?
Who runs the company, the conference and the programme?
Do you publish financial results and other statistics?
How many participants do you have and are you growing?
How do you set your ticket prices?
Why do you want registrations well in advance, even for an online event?
What are your registration and payment conditions?
How important are your sponsors?
Do you have an exhibition associated with the Conference?
What is R2R policy on Diversity, Inclusion & Equity?
How is R2R actually doing on Diversity, Inclusion & Equity?
Do you have a code of conduct?

The Conference

What is Researcher to Reader?

R2R is primarily a conversation amongst all the people involved in scholarly communications, from the researcher who writes some content to the reader who accesses the content, and including all the intermediaries who facilitate this communication. This conversation takes place amongst the members of the R2R community at the annual conference in February, but we are gradually broadening the discussion to take place over a wider timeline amongst the whole community.

What happens at the Conference?

People from all parts of our world come together to discuss issues affecting scholarly communications, with the aim of sharing information, improving understanding and facilitating communications. Part of our timetable is the traditional format of platform presenters speaking to an audience, but a very large part of our programme is devoted to a dialogue between all the participants, especially in our highly interactive workshops.

Is R2R a publisher conference?

R2R is most definitely not a ‘publisher conference’. It is about how scholarly information is communicated, and while this could be described as ‘publishing’, it is really about the whole communication process and involves all the creators, intermediaries and consumers. The whole point of R2R is to facilitate dialogue between all those involved in scholarly communications, including researchers, funders, librarians, publishers and many others. We work hard to attract participants from all these sectors. There is no doubt that many publishers immediately see the value of the event, and can sometimes more readily afford to attend, but we aim to make the Conference attractive and affordable to everyone, so that the dialogue can be valuable for all.

Is R2R international?

Yes, Researcher to Reader aims to be very international, although inevitably with its roots and physical venue in the UK, it tends to attract many UK-based participants. But around 40% of those attending in the past have travelled to R2R from outside the UK. We have a strong engagement from the US and Scandinavia, and we are working to broaden our international appeal even more, actively seeking speakers and delegates from around the world, and particularly from Africa and Asia. Our online Conference in 2021 grew our participation rate from AsiaPacific & Africa from a historical average of 2-3% to 8%, which is a start.

Is R2R inclusive?

In addition to our desire to welcome people from across the whole scholarly communications sector, R2R has, from the outset, been very committed to diversity, inclusion and equity more generally. This is further addressed elsewhere in this FAQ.

Physical, Online and Hybrid

R2R has always been a physical conference, what are your online plans?

Following our good fortune in the timing of the February 2020 event which just preceded the pandemic-related measures, and guessing at the likely course of the pandemic, we were planning, throughout 2020, to offer R2R in February 2021 as a fully hybrid event. This would have combined a physical conference where the delegates attend the event at a venue, and an online conference where people are joining from remote locations using telecommunications. Our objectives for this were to ensure that online participants experienced a real conference, with all the engagement and interaction that this involves, plus we wanted to make sure that online and physical participants would be able to interact with each other.

Are you just going to be online, now?

Despite good news about vaccines, the infection rates in the UK and many other countries at the start of 2021 forced us to switch to an online-only event. This was a disappointment, as we were looking forward to seeing people at the venue, and were relishing the challenge of integrating our physical and online participants. The hybrid ambitions during 2020 were useful however, as ‘thinking hybrid’ helped us to keep working on delivering a real, fully-interactive conference experience for our participants, not just a drab online webinar for a largely passive at-home audience. Even in an online-only environment, we were still able to offer a fully-interactive conference, not just some broadcast webinars. Whether R2R is physical, hybrid, or online, it will always be an intense and absorbing two full days of interaction, conversation and collaboration.

For the February 2022 Conference, we are again aiming for a fully-hybrid event, subject to the prevailing conditions.

Why isn’t an online R2R really cheap, like other online conferences?

For many events, it is true that the price can be lower for their online offering, compared with a physical event. Putting on an afternoon webinar instead of hiring an expensive venue certainly allows you to offer cheaper registration, as the costs incurred (and the value offered) is considerably lower.

We learned that delivering a real hybrid conference, with a genuinely compelling online component, turns out to be just as costly to operate as a purely physical event, and possibly more expensive. With an online-only event we would certainly save some money by not providing a physical venue and catering for online participants, but this is a negligible amount compared with the additional costs of online.

To deliver a real R2R experience online, we need to use a sophisticated ‘event platform’ which is expensive to licence, and requires a lot of time to learn and to set up correctly. We also need to hire audio-visual specialists to ensure that the content is delivered effectively online, and that all participants can be fully involved. Furthermore, while we get a wonderful (no cost) contribution from all our Board members, speakers and moderators, we are incurring additional costs in planning, training, rehearsal and support for online delivery, to ensure that they can be really effective in an online environment.

When looking at the discounted prices of some other online events, compared with their physical counterparts, people need to consider whether the duration and content is equivalent, and whether the organisers are making a significant investment in online communications. We think that the online R2R Conference that we are planning will deliver the same value, will incur the similar costs and needs to be close to the same price as the physical Conference.

Isn’t 2 full days online at a Conference going to be too much?

It’s certainly an intense and demanding experience. But we think that a real conference has to be lasting and immersive. A couple of quick webinars (or even an extensive series of webinars), just isn’t the R2R conversation that over 96% of our survey respondents say is Relevant and Valuable. The varied and interactive R2R timetable, which has been adapted with online participation in mind, will help to keep online people engaged.

We are asking participants who join R2R online to treat this as a real conference that they are really attending, not something to dip in and out of. We recommend that online (and physical) participants should block out both days in their schedule, switch on their ‘out of office’ email response and plan for an intense, relevant and valuable days away. Maybe it would also be wises to plan to take the next day as vacation.

Will the timetable be different to suit an online audience?

The Conference was always designed to be varied, participatory and exciting, but we have made further changes to improve the experience for online participants. We have shortened most sessions to suit online attention-spans, and added even more Q&A and interactivity. We have also divided the debate into two sessions, spread over the two days, and we think this extra elapsed time will improve the quality of the rebuttal speeches and the challenge from participants on the second day. We have also introduced a new one-on-one interview format for some sessions, in some years, to go alongside our more typical panels.

Will there be networking?

We know that a very important part of any conference is the networking amongst the participants. This is a huge opportunity for knowledge sharing and generation of new ideas, with familiar and new colleagues. We think that an event just isn’t a real conference if there is little opportunity for the participants to interact richly and informally – that’s just a lecture or a webinar. At the online R2R in 2021 we provided an environment for participants to interact freely with each other, using an easy-to-use ‘virtual room’ application. For the 2022 Conference, which is planed to be hybrid, we will be providing environments for both physical and online networking, as well as seeking ways to help physical participants to network with online participants, and vice versa.

Will participants be able to ask questions in the online sessions?

Firstly, it is worth saying that, unlike some online or hybrid events, almost all R2R sessions are live, and also interactive. We actively encourage lots of questions, and for online participants this can be via text chat, Twitter and live onscreen (where possible). We plan to go live to some participants, if they are willing, so they can ask their questions directly on camera. While live questions are great, we also think that encouraging people to also ask their questions in chat will widen participation and improve the quality of the questions.

Will the very interactive R2R workshops really be possible online?

Our collaborative workshop discussions are a very important part of the R2R conversation, and we make sure they work really well online. For the 2021 online conference this worked well, using our virtual networking tool for workshop conversations. This is more challenging for a hybrid conference, but our workshop management team has over five years of R2R workshop experience, and they, and many of the facilitators, have gained great experience with running online workshops during the pandemic, and will be bringing this to hybrid R2R in February.

Has R2R considered the different time zones for online participants?

We are aware of the time zone challenge in a hybrid or online environment, but there are limits to what we can do to embrace ‘distant’ time zones, while maintaining a collaborative and collegiate ethos. For the online R2R we moved some of the most highly-interactive sessions (workshops for example), nearer the centre of the UK day, to make them more widely accessible and we are looking at repeating some elements during the programme. We will aim to make recordings of sessions promptly available to all registered participants, but there will be a lag to this, and we will probably not be able to enable people to just shift the sessions to an on-demand format until after the event.

We will publish the programme with multiple local times listed, and we anticipate that the online conference platform will be able to show the schedule in each participant’s local time.

Does R2R actually know what it is doing with all this online and hybrid stuff?

We already have over 5 years of experience in delivering a high-interactivity event, and are learning fast how to make this work online and hybrid. Our previous commitment to making R2R a collaborative conversation, not a series of lectures, means that we already have high standards to translate into online delivery. We are supported by our proactive Board, a great professional event management team, plus experienced AV people and new tools. We are making all the preparations we can, and giving a range of formats and choices available to participants. We are learning which aspects work well for people, and which are less popular, but we are confident that R2R will be relevant, valuable, exciting and absolutely exhausting.

Why have you moved from Monday-Tuesday to Tuesday-Wednesday?

The first reason is that we have always found the logistics of getting set up on a Sunday to make sure we are completely ready for Monday morning slightly challenging, as we don’t have full access to the venue and AV resources. With a hybrid conference, there was an even greater need to make sure that the set-up would be ready and that all the technology would be working. So we decided to use the Monday for preparation, and it will remain a big online rehearsal day for us.

Secondly, another event decided last year to move its dates to the weekend just before the normal R2R dates, running on until the Monday, creating an unhelpful overlap with R2R’s well-established schedule. So we decided to shift our dates to reduce this overlap. Unfortunately, they then moved their dates again, late in 2020, to be Mon-Thu, now completely overlapping with us. Fortunately, in 2021 they graciously moved to a non-overlapping timescale.

Governance & Economics

Is R2R not-for-profit?

Well, it’s certainly not making a profit at the moment! But, seriously, R2R is owned and operated by a private company called Scholarly & Academic Services Ltd, which is wholly-owned by one individual. So it is a private business, and does not have a community enterprise or not-for-profit status. But it is a very small business, run primarily to support the scholarly communications community. So far, each R2R Conference has made a small profit or loss, of a few hundred pounds, and has yet to pay the company’s founder anything at all for the many hundreds of days’ work involved. When ‘not-for-profit’ publishers, generating many millions in surpluses and paying their CEO handsomely, ask us for free tickets, we tend to point out this disparity.

Who runs the company, the conference and the programme?

R2R is ultimately the responsibility of Scholarly & Academic Services Ltd and the Conference Director. (The Conference Director also has a full-time job in the scholarly communications sector as a recruitment consultant.) The Conference and its Programme is strongly influenced by each year’s Advisory Board, who provide enormous amounts of support and guidance without material reward. The current (and past) Advisory Board members are listed on the website.

Since the 2017 Conference, the administration of the event has been managed by The Events Hub, a small event management business based in Scotland, and owned someone who used to run events for IoP Publishing.

Do you publish financial results and other statistics?

We do not publish the accounts for the company that runs R2R, although we would be happy to discuss these privately with interested individuals. We do, however, publish comprehensive reports from our participant surveys each year, giving a very public account of to how each session, and the event as a whole, is viewed by the participants. Few other conferences seem to wish to do this. We are delighted to be able to report that over 96% of survey respondents in the past two years thought that R2R was both Relevant and Valuable.

How many participants do you have and are you growing?

We typically have around 150-200 participants at R2R, and this number has gradually grown over the years we have been operating. We have had an ambition to grow to about 225 participants, but we have been concerned that anything beyond that might damage our collaborative and community ethos. We know that some larger events can feel a bit impersonal. With an online event we are also thinking about numbers, and while for some broadcast-style events it is an opportunity to grow, we would be happy to stay relatively small, to preserve the value we provide. But online may be an opportunity to offer wider access, and we are ready to deliver this if the demand is there.

How do you set your ticket prices?

We make the registration tariffs as affordable as possible, consistent with trying not to make a loss on each event. Putting on a conference is surprisingly expensive, with the need to pay not just for a venue and some food, but also administration, marketing, insurance, software licences and much more. In the past we have also had to add 20% VAT to our prices for all participants, but for 2021 we are a non-VAT organisation.

We offer deep discounts for librarians and academics, because they often have very limited budgets and we are keen to have them attend, and participate in our conversation. We also have concession pricing, for people less able to pay our standard rates. People who contribute to the main programme are offered a free ticket, although we encourage contributors who are from better-funded organisations to pay full price if they can.

Why do you want registrations well in advance, even for an online event?

We need to plan our capacity for the event, whether at the venue or online. We need to book space & catering, licence platforms, set up virtual meeting rooms, assign people to workshops and plan the ‘choreography’ of the event, so it really helps to have some idea of the numbers in advance. It is also, frankly, very reassuring to see a good level of interest in the event, and to see some money coming in with which to pay our bills. Finally, we think it is nice for participants to get registered and feel that they have an event to look forward to – and they need to block out the days in their schedules well in advance.

What are your registration and payment conditions?

We publish our current terms and conditions on the website. Notable conditions are that registrations can be cancelled for a full refund at any time up to the end of January, and that we do not offer one-day tickets, as we think R2R is best experienced in its entirety.

How important are your sponsors?

Firstly, sponsors are important to all participants, as they help to make the event affordable; we are very grateful for the financial support that sponsors provide. Their contribution allows the Conference to function, and means that our ticket prices can be much lower than they would be without sponsorship. We try to make sure that our sponsors get good value from their investment, and this means helping them to convey their messages to our participants, and asking our participants to be supportive of the sponsors.

We welcome appropriate contributions to the programme from people who work at commercial or sponsoring organisations, as we feel that such people are members of the scholarly communication community and can have a lot to contribute to our conversations. We do not, however allow sponsors or other commercial organisations to give ‘corporate presentations’ in our main programme or to directly influence the content of the programme.

Do you have an exhibition associated with the Conference?

We have not had an exhibition associated with the physical events we have run so far. Frankly, we are a bit dubious of both the optics and the value of having a ‘supplier ghetto’ as an adjunct to what we think of as a conversation across the whole scholarly communications community. We feel that participants from organisations with a ‘message to sell’ (commercial or otherwise) should just be part of the mutually-informative conversation, not standing behind a table or in front of a booth. We are reconsidering this for the online environment, as it may be necessary to offer an online venue for participants to actively seek out sponsor messages and engagement. We are looking at offering sponsors and other organisations with a ‘message to sell’ the opportunity to present optional lightning talks at R2R.

Diversity, Inclusion & Equity

What is R2R policy on Diversity, Inclusion & Equity?

R2R has, from the outset, been very committed to diversity, inclusion and equity. This is not just about the demographics of our contributors and our participants, but also about making sure that these important issues feature directly in our programme. We don’t have a written policy on this subject, as we feel that we are more effective putting our efforts into being a supporter and ally than into writing policy statements.

How is R2R actually doing on Diversity, Inclusion & Equity?

We have a good record on gender diversity, with a consistent gender balance within a 60:40 ratio (either way) on the Board, in the programme and amongst the participants. We are also working on our geographical and racial diversity, trying to attract and welcome people from under-represented demographics and nations, but we feel we have only just got started on this, and we have much more to do. We are also increasingly aware of the wide range of important diversity issues, including (but not limited to), disability, neurodiversity, wider gender & sexual identity diversity, language & accent, and all ages & career stages. We know we can do more, and we are working on it. We welcome support from those within and outside the R2R community to help us to become effective allies and agents of change.

We haven’t always managed to demonstrate these ideals, coming in for some criticism when both of our keynote speakers were ‘old white men’ in 2020 (repeated in 2021, as it happens). But in a real world where ‘old white men’ predominate in positions of seniority and authority, we have to balance our desire for speaker diversity with the participants’ need to hear from the people who are currently occupying these senior positions.

Do you have a code of conduct?

Our code of conduct is very simple. Firstly, we ask participants to be considerate towards each other. Secondly, we promise to be responsive to any concerns that anyone raises. We have considered creating a more comprehensive conduct policy, but we think that trying to precisely define all forms of good (or bad) conduct, and to document a policy that can anticipate what all resolution processes might be, is both too hard and insufficiently flexible.