Interview with Deni Auclair, Outsell, Inc.
For podcast release Monday, May 25, 2015
KENNEALLY: For scholarly publishing, the future is wide open. Across a wide range of journals and houses, open access business models have grown common in recent years. Heated debate on the merits of OA has cooled, while publishers accepted the inevitability of choosing green or gold roads for the journey ahead.
Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for “Beyond the Book.” All together, OA titles represent just over 5% of the $6.8 billion STM journals marketplace, yet they punch well above their weight in attracting media attention and generating industry conversation.
Last month, Outsell, a well-regarded research and advisory firm focused on media, information, and technology, released Open Access 2015: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends. According to report author Deni Auclair, the direction toward OA may be clear, but the path ahead is far from straight. She joins me now at Copyright Clearance Center’s offices outside Boston. Welcome to “Beyond the Book,” Deni.
AUCLAIR: Thank you, Chris. It’s great to be here.
KENNEALLY: Looking forward to our discussion. We’ll tell people that at Outsell, you are vice president and lead analyst focused on the science and technology space. Deni Auclair has worked in publishing for most of her career, with a stint in finance working for a distressed debt institutional investment fund. Her latest industry positions include CFO of a small STM publisher and leading her own consulting firm serving primarily STM publishers.
This particular report, Open Access 2015, Deni Auclair, is a follow-up to one you wrote in January of 2013. Quite a lot has happened in that 18-month space since then, or two years – excuse me, two and a half years now. I need to do my math. But two-and-a-half-year time. One of the things that you point out in the conclusion of the report is that there’s some real challenges for the growth taking place in this market. Tell us about those. What are some of the things that really can impede the path ahead?
AUCLAIR: Sure. Actually, the report that was published in 2012 was written by a predecessor. I’m building on that report from a different perspective, because as you said, so much has happened in between that time and now. There was significant growth 2012, 2013, and then it started to slow in 2014. A lot of that has to do with coming up with the business models that will best serve the community.
There are myriad models out there right now. The reason for that is because there hasn’t been one that has stood out above the others to create the margins that publishers are looking for to compare to their subscription margins, that funders are supporting in their mandates, and that are easily managed, because there are so many different mandates, policies, directions that funders are going with open access, and that institutions can implement on their end. They’re finding significant challenges in managing open access, and a lot of staff time in the institutions is going towards this.
So it’s put a burden on just about every player in the marketplace except researchers. Of course, they have to pay the APCs, but most of the time, those are paid by an institution, or they come from the grants that the researchers get. But it has created some challenges in the marketplace that have not yet been resolved and that everybody’s working on.
KENNEALLY: There’s an irony there, I think, because certainly the really strong advocates of open access probably imagined at the beginning of all this more than 10 years ago that this was going to simplify things. This was going to make it really easy. Researchers publish their work. It was available to the public immediately. That was that. In fact, as you point out, what’s happened is we’ve seen the various players find themselves in new roles, doing things they weren’t accustomed to do or weren’t ready to be doing, and there’s a bit of confusion and even consternation on the various parts, I would say.
AUCLAIR: Yeah. This is probably not very politically correct to say, but I think it’s an academic perspective to say that you can create a business without having an economic foundation to support that business. I think that the advocates were saying, oh, this can be supported by some business model, or we should just do it. The reality is, number one, somebody has to do it. Somebody has to publish the information – do the peer review, because you cannot have trusted research without peer review. Someone has to curate the information.
The whole publishing process still has to be gone through in order to produce what researchers are looking for, what the marketplace is looking for, what funders are looking for. Funders are looking for a way to measure the impact of their funding. How do they do that? Through published research. Someone has to publish it. How can that be done economically?
KENNEALLY: For the researchers, what they’re looking for is impact factor. They’re trying to build their reputations. They’re concerned about making sure that their research reaches as far as it can and with enough throw weight as it could possibly have. That’s driving business models.
AUCLAIR: Absolutely. Open access – for as small a piece of the market as it is, it has had a huge impact on it. The focus is on the end user. It is on the researcher who was previously, I’m doing air quotes, invisible, because the buyer was the institution. Now the researcher is paying fees, so there is a transaction with a different party. There’s a different customer. The focus has moved towards that customer. How can publishers or other players in the marketplace – how can they best serve that customer? So it’s created new business models, new startups. There’s been lots of new business created around that new focus.
KENNEALLY: Right. So we took a situation that had prevailed for a couple of centuries, at least, with the institutions paying for subscriptions, the authors submitting, and the publishers conducting all the process that goes from submission to publication, and we kind of tossed it all in the air. What we’re hoping we get to eventually and will sort of settle the market is some simplicity again. Do I have that right? We’re really striving to get back to a point where these transactions and this workflow kind of settle down.
AUCLAIR: Absolutely. The way to get there is through technology to build the infrastructure to support the processes that end up prevailing and standards. Standards are key to making things run smoothly. You find that in every industry, that standards are what keeps things on track. That’s what is being implemented in STM now, or academic information communication, scholarly communication. That’s what’s happening now with ORCID.
KENNEALLY: Which is the author identifier.
AUCLAIR: The author identifier. Right.
KENNEALLY: And Ringgold, the institutional identifier.
AUCLAIR: Exactly. Well, that’s one.
KENNEALLY: That’s one of those, right.
AUCLAIR: UberResearch has another. Each funder has their own categories or discipline. So it’s very complicated. Just as an aside, I don’t think we’ll get away from the funder-specific categorizations, but if there’s one overarching categorization that they can refer to from their own categorizations of subject, then that would help. All of these standards will help. CHORUS is working towards that also. There’s a lot of effort being made to create the standards. There’s a lot of effort being made to create the infrastructure. But we’re not there, and I don’t think we’re going to get there quickly.
KENNEALLY: OK. Give us a timeline, because I think you have made some projections in the report. We are talking right now with Deni Auclair of Outsell about a new report, Open Access 2015: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends. Let’s talk about that forecast piece of it. You estimate that it’s going to be at least a couple of years, possibly five years before we do reach that point where there’s some consistency and some simplicity in the marketplace, enough to really settle things down and clarify the various roles that people will have, the various players will have, as well as to clarify the processes, right? It’s going to be a world that we’re driving towards where APCs, the article processing charges, are fairly easily handled and processed, and that compliance is ensured with the funder requirements of reporting as well as with making materials available. But we’re not there yet. You see at least a two-year timeline, maybe longer.
AUCLAIR: Yeah, I think longer. I base that on the fact – look how long it took us to get where we are today, when open access started – Vitek Tracz, when did he found BioMed Central?
KENNEALLY: 2001, I think.
AUCLAIR: Yeah. It’s taken us a while to get here, and we still have a lot of work to do to determine what piece of the market open access is going to be, the size it’s going to be. Is it going to become complementary to subscription? Is it going to continue to competitive with subscription? The dust is still settling, and it’s going to take a while.
KENNEALLY: Right. For the moment, the answer is yes and yes and yes. It seems to me that again, the much-wished-for simplicity in the marketplace – we’re not there, because what we are looking at is an ecosystem that really covers the waterfront. It’s got pure-play open access journals, legacy publishers who have begun to introduce APC within the so-called hybrid model, the so-called gold road and the green road and so forth. But as I think you see it, if you can develop a system that supports compliance and makes the APCs simple, that will encourage publishers to want to flip from the hybrid, from this confusing state, towards a more clean, pure-play OA.
AUCLAIR: I think to a combination of OA and subscription, yes. I think they can sit side by side. I personally don’t believe that OA will become bigger than subscription. If it does, that’s far in the future, long after I’ll be involved in publishing. It’s a ways away before the dust fully settles, because so much has to be done between now and then.
KENNEALLY: Some of the players that you look at in this report include Copyright Clearance Center, and you listed us among the 10 to watch. In particular, you were looking for industry players who understand what it’s going to take to get us forward, move us forward. That includes these robust systems and the implementation of standards. As listeners are probably aware, Copyright Clearance Center has its own RightsLink for Open Access solution. What was it about the approach that CCC has taken that you thought deserved some merit?
AUCLAIR: Right. My list of 10 to watch are those companies that have had an impact on the open access market, are helping to innovate within the open access market, and I think CCC was one of the first, if not the first, to step in to help publishers facilitate the APC transactions. Publishers were built to manage – or had systems built to manage subscriptions, not individual – what I would call microtransactions almost. I know, for example, one major publisher built their own system. It took them three years to build. CCC has a product that’s off the shelf, so to speak, that can be easily incorporated, and provides quite an effective service for publishers.
KENNEALLY: In the conclusion of your report, you make some points about what it’s going to take to move the dialogue forward. I wonder if you could tell us about some of those. For example, you think it’s important to, as you said already, support the use of standards and to innovate and identify alternative revenue opportunities. But there’s another point you make, which is about improving the flow of information, too. Tell us about that.
AUCLAIR: To improve the flow of information, as I said in my report, is a little self-serving, because the challenge behind writing this report was gathering the data. There’s no one place you can go to and see where all open access journals are – the number of open access journals, the number of open access articles. I literally had to go to publisher websites and count articles published within specific years. It was very labor-intensive. It seems that it would not only serve research firms, but also economists or anybody studying this market in order to help make the market grow, develop, and be effective and efficient. It would help to have – of course, the more information you have, the better. It just isn’t there right now. It’s another facet of where we need to move to.
KENNEALLY: You’d like to see that information flow from publishers, from funders, from institutions.
AUCLAIR: Everybody. It’s getting there. DOAJ is making great efforts to do that.
KENNEALLY: DOAJ is?
AUCLAIR: The Directory of Open Access Journals, sorry.
KENNEALLY: Right, which people can look up online and have a good idea of who the players are in all this.
AUCLAIR: Right, right. Web of Science is bringing in a new facet that is really going to improve the discoverability of open access. Companies are moving towards that. It is happening. But it’s slow.
KENNEALLY: Well, when they get there, we know you’ll write the report, Deni Auclair. Thank you so much for chatting with us today about Open Access 2015, a new report out from Outsell. Deni Auclair is a vice president and lead analyst for Outsell in the science and technology space. Thanks so much for joining us on “Beyond the Book.”
AUCLAIR: Thank you for having me.
KENNEALLY: “Beyond the Book” is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs, as well as images, movies and television shows. You can follow “Beyond the Book” on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our website, beyondthebook.com.
Our engineer and co-producer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to “Beyond the Book.”