Open Access: Who Holds the Power?: A Frankfurt Book Fair “Town Meeting”
for podcast release Monday, October 13, 2014
Recorded October 9, 2014 at the Frankfurt Book Fair
- Brandon Nordin, American Chemical Society
- Xiaoying Chu, The Charlesworth Group
- Jennifer Goodrich, Copyright Clearance Center
- Frederick Fenter, Ph.D., Frontiers
- Ralf Schimmer, Max Planck Digital Library
- Carrie Calder, Nature Publishing Group
- Arend Küster, QScience
- Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Springer
- Natasha White, John Wiley & Sons
KENNEALLY: Good morning, guten tag, ni hao, salaam alaikum. Welcome to Open Access: Who Holds the Power? I’m Christopher Kenneally for Copyright Clearance Center. The Copyright Clearance Center is online at copyright.com, and we have the latest news on open access around the world at a website we share with ALPSP, openaccessresources.org. We hope you enjoy this very special Frankfurt Book Fair presentation.
That sturm und drang you feel today in Frankfurt isn’t your overworked imagination, or even your overbooked meeting schedule. As it turns out, Sturm und Drang has a long history in this city, although not nearly so long as the Frankfurt Book Fair. Frankfurt, indeed, is the birthplace of Sturm und Drang, or at least it is the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born here in 1749, who became a celebrated literary figure at a very young age. Goethe embodied German Romanticism, which treasured sturm und drang, storm and stress, as the iron forge of human character.
In 2014, sturm und drang continues to build character in the men and women of scholarly and scientific publishing around the globe. We live in an age of changing business models and realigning roles. As governments and funders mandate open access to published research, we can feel the ground shift beneath our feet, and we wonder who holds the power.
Around the time Goethe began to write, a revolution began brewing in Boston, my home city and the home base of Copyright Clearance Center. To debate and to deliberate, the citizens of New England gathered in town meetings, just as they continue to do today. For this Frankfurt Book Fair town meeting, we will debate and deliberate this question – open access, who holds the power?
And I want to introduce the first of my panelists today to help me answer that question. To my left is Fred Fenter. Frederick Fenter, welcome.
FENTER: Thank you.
KENNEALLY: Frederick Fenter is executive editor for the open access journal publishing program Frontiers. He has worked in environmental research before moving to the scientific publishing business and holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University.
To my right is Brandon Nordin. Brandon, welcome. Brandon is vice president for sales marketing and digital strategy at ACS Publications in Washington, D.C. ACS is of course the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, and one of the leading sources of authoritative scientific information.
At the very far end on my left is Natasha White. Natasha, welcome. Natasha is associate director of author marketing at Wiley, where she is responsible for driving open access and author engagement marketing strategy.
And then finally at the very far end on my right is my colleague, Jennifer Goodrich. Jennifer, welcome. As director of product management at Copyright Clearance Center, Jennifer Goodrich directs the development and evolution of the RightsLink for Open Access platform, the platform built on 10 years of experience working with publishers, the CCC’s next generation service designed to simplify collection and management of article processing charges, which we’ll hear more about today.
And, Natasha, I’d like to start with you if I could, because last year, we held a similar kind of discussion in this very spot, and it was only then that we began to realize that open access was here to stay. The mandates that had come from some of the funders, including Wellcome Trust and RCUK in Great Britain, really made that really clear. And here we are a year on. So we have to ask everyone what it means, and it certainly has meant a lot at Wiley, because in fact, you have recently reorganized the business around open access, or to focus your attention on open access.
WHITE: Well, we have had a reorganization at Wiley, but it’s not essentially around open access.
KENNEALLY: But it has created an open access service center.
WHITE: We have had a concentration on open access for a number of years. What is new to us now, and particularly in my role, is this author-focused division in marketing. So as you said earlier when you introduced me, I’m in the author marketing team. And obviously here today, we’re talking about who holds the power. And a lot of people – I think colleagues around this area will agree that authors are the people that choose to publish in journals, and they may choose open access. That might not be the key motivation, number one, but – and their funding agencies, who you mentioned earlier, are the ones maybe driving that power, as well.
So at Wiley, we do focus in my division particularly on authors and their funding agencies, and I specialize in one area on open access. So yes, and that change, that reorganization has facilitated that strategy.
KENNEALLY: Right. And for Wiley, as I understand it – and it’s important to mention your background. You were at BioMed Central from almost the very beginning at BioMed Central. So you really had seen the evolution of open access, and I suppose it would have surprised you when you started at BMC that you would eventually find yourself at a publisher like Wiley.
WHITE: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think it necessarily surprised me, because I think I’ve been working in open access, as you say, for 13 years. It’s a long time. When I joined BioMed Central, we had 200 journals set up with editorial boards, but we didn’t have article publication charges. So we were still working out what is the business model, and now, 13 years on, all the big publishers have big open access programs. And over that time, it’s evolved slowly, but yeah, if someone had asked me, do you think you’ll be at Wiley and driving this forward, I think I would have probably been quite confident that that’s the person I am that I’d have said yes, that will happen.
Vitek Tracz, who many of us know was the founder of BioMed Central, and he was very passionate that this is the way forward for publishing. And I was part of that movement and believed that at that time.
KENNEALLY: So when the power does move towards the authors, what are some of the considerations that are new that Wiley has to meet? Obviously the reputation of a journal really matters, but have you been learning about just how important impact factor is, for example, to authors in this new world?
WHITE: Yeah, impact factors have always been the important factor for authors. The surveys year over year over year always state that number one reason why an author is choosing a journal is the impact factor for that journal. Whether that’s a right thing or a wrong thing, that’s another discussion for maybe another day. But authors primarily want their work to be seen, to be read, to have impact, and they want to further their career, and that’s what authors at Wiley are telling us, and I’m sure that’s what other publishers are also seeing.
Their funders are asking them to, or mandating open access, but they’re always going to choose the best possible outlook for their work. So Nature, Science, (inaudible), Wiley – you know, the top chemistry journal – these are the journals that authors are aspiring to publish in, and that’s because they’ve got brilliant brands and they’re offering very high quality publishing, and they have a good impact factor.
KENNEALLY: But Fred Fenter, I want to bring you in. Fred Fenter from Frontiers, which just recently, about a month ago, won an Innovation Award from ALPSP. So very much in the forefront of all of this, an open access journal by birth. And I understand that this question about impact factor and how it relates to the way that authors make decisions around how they want to publish is important to you, but for different reasons than Natasha was talking about. You want to get, if I have it right, beyond impact factor.
FENTER: The key word is innovation, I think. The idea is to create a set of services around open access publishing – having open access being one of the principles behind an editorial program, a founding principle – and then doing whatever needs to be done around those principles, using innovation, things like stressing article level metrics, things about improving the review process, for example, things about using social networking. These are the types of developments that we’re trying to push forward at Frontiers, to find good ways to disseminate the content and to find good ways to make the content discoverable, to make the content more connected. These are the questions, I think, that arise when people talk about beyond open access.
KENNEALLY: Right. But if you will, it still requires to meet the standards of science, and critical science. It is, in fact, that you’re publishing it at Frontiers. Tell us about your approach to, for example, the review process. I know you’ve done some innovation around that.
FENTER: Right. I think that the Innovation Award had a lot to do with the review process at Frontiers. We’re an open access publisher. We have a business model. We have to be not only providing services, but services within the envelope of a sustainable program. And what this means – this means publishing a certain volume of papers, to be quite frank. And so the review process actually has to reassure everyone that everything is happening at a transparent and rigorous fashion. So this was from the very beginning, this was a concern at Frontiers.
So we actually have a review process that takes place in three steps. There’s sort of an objective evaluation, an online forum that allows the reviewers and the authors to interact directly, to develop a consensus about what needs to be done in order to make the contribution a sound scientific contribution. And lastly, we actually publish the names – it’s an anonymous process. It’s a single-blind anonymous process. But at the end, we publish the names of the reviewers and the handling editors, as do some other publishers. But I think in this open access arena, that’s the type of transparency that’s required to reassure everyone that there’s a rigorous peer review process taking place.
KENNEALLY: So to the question who holds the power, we heard Natasha answer authors, and I would imagine that authors are obviously the center of what you do. But there’s a community concern that you have, and I think what’s fascinating is the way that a real objective of Frontiers Publishing is not simply to publish the scientific literature, but to help to foster a scientific community.
FENTER: Yeah, I think that the whole idea of using research networking is one – there are different types of ways scientists come together to organize themselves into niches or into groups. Social networking, research networking is one way that we think is actually going to – that we can leverage this type of organization and disseminate content, deliver content to people in a very efficient, facilitated manner. And this is how we’re going to add, let’s say, an improvement in terms of discoverability. And in fact, it’s one way of serving impact to our authors. So yes, innovation, discoverability, and discoverability through techniques that take advantage of organizations and through communities.
KENNEALLY: Right. And it’s interesting that of course Nature is now an important partner of yours in this Frontiers Publishing venture. Tell us about the relationship that you have with Nature, because of course, impact factor, again, as Natasha mentioned earlier, is critical and is what has driven he great success of Nature.
FENTER: I think that the Nature connection is one where – Nature – NPG, they have a very, very strong emphasis on open science, and I think that Frontiers and Nature has always had distinct editorial programs, but I think that Nature recognized that there was something happening at Frontiers of interest, and their role really is one – the Holtzbrinck Group is a shareholder of Frontiers. And so what’s happening between the two companies is that we have a common shareholder and we work together whenever we see an occasion for advancing open science or whenever our interests align.
KENNEALLY: We will hear more from Nature – from Carrie Calder at Nature shortly. But Brandon Nordin at American Chemical Society, I want to turn to you, because I imagine for an organization like ACS, with such a reputation that really precedes it for so many years, it’s been a really intense learning curve for you in terms of thinking about open access, how you’re going to meet the challenge that mandates require review, and how you’re going to change the business to focus around authors more.
NORDIN: Yes, I think learning and – in many cases, since we think the whole industry is learning by doing. In many cases, it’s very much a learning cycle. My focus this year has been on essentially taking our strategy and operationalizing it. And whenever you do that, you have a mix of your focus on the things you’re truly doing new, but you also just reexamine things you’ve always done, and with potentially a degree of self-consciousness. It’s almost like learning to dance, and someone says move your left foot forward, and you have to start thinking about what is my left foot and how far forward. Simple things like deciding where it is your OA credentialing go or notification on an article, they take on a life of their own in terms of a discussion, because you are really sort of inventing a publishing mode out of some pretty slender early models.
KENNEALLY: And we’ve spoken about who holds the power, and the answer we’ve heard so far is the authors, but as you’ve learned in your own experience, authors care and don’t care so much about open access, and indeed, it depends on the author, but it impels you as a publisher to work with them much more closely than ever, but also to help educate them about the options and help them better understand what this new world is about.
NORDIN: Well, again, without trying to be immediately tendentious, I’m a little concerned when I hear just the concept of power, because I think really as a publishing industry, we’re about creating value. And I think as a publisher, we have to be examining how we assist both the author and the researcher, and especially as a mission-driven learned society, we’re really trying to understand how this advances the interests of our members and science at large.
KENNEALLY: Well, you spoke about operationalizing the strategy you have around open access. One of the decisions you’ve made is to work with Copyright Clearance Center on its RightsLink for Open Access solution. Why choose to outsource?
NORDIN: Well, there’s a lot of moving parts, and so finding places where you invest your own energy and your own resources, places where you’re looking for either overwhelming strategic value or a competitive advantage, or where your processes are so essentially just unique and it’s easier to build versus buy. Looking at saying where can we economize, use existing solutions, and potentially use solutions that authors have already accepted – as a publisher, we don’t have a lot of experience in either micro-transactions. We haven’t historically had author charges or page charges, so we had none of the transactional apparatus and quite frankly even the mental workflows mapped in terms of serving that type of market.
KENNEALLY: Well, clearly, the Society and your membership is important to you, and maintaining that Society for the future is an important piece of it. This is a group of people, these chemists, who are accustomed to experimenting. It’s interesting, I think, for them to see their journal – or their journals, I should say – experimenting, as well. And one of the places you have moved is an all-OA journal. You had a number of hybrid journals in the past, but later this year or beginning of next year, you’re going to be debuting ACS Central Science, and just appointed the editor in chief there from UCal Berkeley, Carolyn Bertozzi. Describe what the mission of Central Science is going to be.
NORDIN: Well, simply, it is to be a home for the best of peer reviewed science, especially science that has essentially a starting point or a focus around chemistry. But chemists, like most scientists, believe that they are starting point or at least the catalyst for all science, so we’re expecting to draw a wide range of authors, some who may be attracted to Central Science because of the business model or the publishing model. Others may be just looking for a home. Certainly we look at the editor-in-chief we hired, Carolyn Bertozzi, who has a distinguished scientific career, as well as, I think, quite a interesting personality, and I think she’ll be essential in recruiting an elite core of both associate editors but also participants in the early years of the journal.
KENNEALLY: And it sounds like a very similar challenge from what Fred Fenter was describing that Frontiers faces. So again, you’re sort of putting yourselves in the shoes of some of the startups that you see out there, as well.
NORDIN: We start a number of journals every year, so part of this is publishing 101. And I think this is one of, again, the big questions, is all of us have lived through e-publishing, e-marketing, i-publishing, and at some point, that antecedent e drops off, and it just becomes publishing again. And I think a lot of the question is, as a business model, is this something that really drives a totally new way for authors to relate to their audience, or does it just become something that as publishers, we’re concerned about? But from an author’s standpoint, they’re still trying to say, well, how do I reach the broadest possible audience, and how does it advance my science and advance, to a certain extent, my career as much as possible.
KENNEALLY: Well, Jen Goodrich on the end there, my colleague from Copyright Clearance Center – Brandon’s been speaking about operationalizing this strategy, and that’s really your job to help ACS and other clients do that. What are some of the challenges that are critical that you want to share with this audience? I know for you, standards are essential, and that recently Copyright Clearance Center has gone into a partnership with Ringgold, for example. And those kind of identifiers that Ringgold has is really going to enable Brandon to be successful.
GOODRICH: Right. I think what we’re finding is that the need for standards and the capturing of standard metadata way upstream from the time of submission through the time of acceptance as the manuscript moves through production really helps all of the stakeholders as the manuscript moves through the process. So we take in ORCIDS and FundRef ideas, and we had an institutional roundtable on Monday, and the institutions there kept saying we really want publishers to assign DOIs at submission, because there’s so much tracking that they’re doing, and it’s very difficult when the DOI is assigned downstream.
KENNEALLY: The so-called digital object identifier. And this kind of identification is really critical, because in a world where it’s not going to be pure OA everywhere, people are going to need to know what they can or cannot do with a particular article, just how open it truly is.
GOODRICH: Yes. One of the big challenges that the institutions were saying is they’re trying to help their authors both understand the publishers’ publishing policies and the licenses, and that the need for common vocabulary and common definitions – even the definition of green and gold can vary amongst various people, and so everybody kept saying anytime we talk about this, we have to put up our definitions. So as vendors can help with some of that, publishers and obviously the institutions and funders – we need to agree on some of the vocabulary and the standards that we need to share.
KENNEALLY: And you’ve spoken about this institutional roundtable. Copyright Clearance Center convened one in London earlier this week. And what you’ve told me is that you’ve learned that institutions and publishers share some common ground, which surprised me, at least.
GOODRICH: Well, I think people were pleasantly surprised, would you agree, Brandon?
KENNEALLY: And Brandon was there, as well.
KENNEALLY: But tell us what kind of common ground they have.
GOODRICH: Well, I think it’s just messy. It’s messy for everybody right now. So there was sort of common sentiment that funders had upped the ante. The funders aren’t the one creating the infrastructure to make the APCs and everything flow smoothly, so it’s really falling to the institutions, it’s falling to the publishers. The publishers and the institutions are trying to help their authors and let their authors focus on research and publishing, and not how to pay the APC. So yeah, it was a great day. It was very harmonious, actually.
KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. It is so harmonious that we’ve carried that harmony here to Frankfurt with us, because we have a representative of an institution we want to hear from. So Jennifer Goodrich, thank you so much. And I want to bring up to the stage now Dr. Ralf Schimmer from the Max Planck Digital Society – Digital Library, rather. Dr. Schimmer, welcome.
Ralf Schimmer is head of scientific information provision at the Max Planck Digital Library. He is responsible for the electronic resources licensing program for the entire Max Planck Society, and for a broad range of open access and other information services. And since 2003, he’s been a frequent co-organizer of the Berlin conferences on open access. And I know, Ralf, that that’s an important badge of honor for you, your deep involvement in open access and very critical from the beginning. Are you surprised at how far we have come in just those 10, 11 years since the first Berlin conference?
SCHIMMER: Well, I suppose that in the early days of the open access debate, when we still had heated, animated discussions, so some of the pro-open access supporters I guess entertained the hope that things would move much faster. I have to say that I was not that optimistic at that time myself, because I’m representing a service unit, and I know that good services require processes, infrastructure, techniques, etc., and they never fall from heaven. They are not created like this.
I knew 10 years ago that this would be a challenging process, but I was also reassured at that time that it will happen. And this is also my conviction. I don’t predict a date when we will see a broad, full-fledged, 100%, 90% open access. I cannot say the date, but I would bet that we will see this date. And I always say the latest moment in time will be when the digital natives will come to the power positions in the academia, and also in the publishing industries. So the current generation that holds the power positions, the executive level positions, the presidencies in university and research organizations, are not the digital natives.
We are moving this, and I am very happy that we are talking now, standards and infrastructures for handling APCs. I welcome the work of Copyright Clearance Center, and I also welcome what many publishers do at the moment. And these are all necessary steps to make it robust and sustainable. My key question is always we have to think in the higher numbers. At the moment, we can’t allow us – we have to do micromanagement at some point, and we can afford this inefficiency, but we cannot afford this inefficiency and these cost elements when it scales up to 50%, to 70%, or 100%
KENNEALLY: So you’ve heard, Dr. Schimmer, Jen Goodrich describe what she heard at our institution roundtable, which is this is messy. And so what you’re looking forward to seeing is a streamlined approach, one that standardizes things. Tell us what that streamlined approach would look like for you. Can you describe it?
SCHIMMER: Well, for me, the streamlined approach would mean, as Jennifer said – I’ve been saying since many years, for me, APC billing starts at the moment of submission. And so this is where the key information has to be captured, and where the first information between the publisher and the institution behind the author has to be exchanged in order to enrich the data, to validate the metadata that is in the pipeline, so that the publisher can be assured already by the time of acceptance of the paper that the institution is already prepared and will accept this invoice.
So also for the financial returns, this is a very key element, so that the publishers don’t have to run risks, and that they don’t have to withhold the paper after the acceptance until a payment has been received. And so the authors would not tolerate this delay. When we talk about speeding up the review process, this is one thing, but if it would add extra delay only for administrative purposes, this is just not tolerable for researchers, and it would be harmful for the reputation of the institution, for the service units in the institutions. They would hate us, but they would also not like the publishers for holding up the papers.
KENNEALLY: And I hear, Dr. Schimmer, your real passion for researchers there. You’ve heard it said not only here, but I’m sure many places, that the funders were the ones who really changed the rules of the game here. But as I understand it, to that question of who holds the power, you really feel that researchers are the ones who can change the rules of the game.
SCHIMMER: Yes, that is my take. But I have to say, I’m a trained sociologist. And so when I look at this – so that might easily end in a pretty academic anatomy, so I don’t want to bore you with this. But so the key question for me is when I think in categories of power, I’m thinking about the Max Weber’s definition where the person who holds the power is one who can exert his or her will and make things happen, despite the resistance of others. And when you look at things from that definition, I think it’s really the researchers that ultimately, if they don’t like something, they can go away. So if they don’t like a publisher’s offering or handling, so the publisher cannot force them in the last resort. I mean, they do force them in many things at the moment, so the real power structure is a different matter. But the anatomy would be like this.
I personally intentionally use the word researchers. So the previous talks focused on the term author. So the author, to me, is one role of a person who is active in research, and is the role of getting their own publication out. This is an individualized moment. The publication is the baby of an individual author or group of authors. But the notion of researcher for me implies also where the service unit comes in. So the researcher is the aggregated community which I am responsible for in the library. So this is my community, my campus, whoever is employed there or happens to be there. And so we need to think about combining this and preparing researchers for collective action on an aggregate level and infrastructure level. When you start thinking there, then you come to processes, infrastructures, etc.
KENNEALLY: Well, as I say, we can really feel the passion you have for research, and I want to thank Dr. Ralf Schimmer from the Max Planck Digital Library. And then I want to shift the story just a bit here, and I want to bring on some other guests, if you would join us please. Arend Küster (sp?). Dr. Schimmer, thank you. Carrie Calder, if you would step up here, exchange with, interestingly, a former colleague at BioMed Central, and I think that is an example of the kind of community, Fred Fenter, that you were speaking about. Open access is driven by the internet. It’s made possible by the internet, and one of the key components of the internet truly is its ability to build community. I find that striking, and I guess it’s important to you at Frontiers. We said that before. But can you give us an example of the kind of community that you are working to build?
FENTER: The communities that we build – there are several types, and I think there are several dimensions. Most critically from the editorial point of view, of course, is putting together editorial boards around specialty areas. We organize our editorial program right down to very specialized niche areas, and part of what we try to do is build communities around that content. So it’s content-organized networks.
Then on the other hand, we have a research networking platform. This is something that we’re currently investing quite a bit of resources on, because we feel there also, there’s huge potential in terms of allowing people to come together in a very natural way to create communities in this other dimension, as authors, as editors, as people interested in that subject area. And so I think this is an example of how innovation, how technology is actually going to become, let’s say, tightly linked into the mission of a scientific publisher.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. Well, I want to introduce some of our new panelists here. Carrie Calder at the far end here. Carrie Calder, welcome. Carrie Calder is strategy director of open research for Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan. She started her publishing career, as we said, as did Natasha White, at BioMed Central, and gained valuable experience and saw the open access landscape evolve firsthand. You were head of marketing and digital sales at BMC, and currently lead Nature’s open research efforts. I guess I’d like to start, do we have a sense at all – and I know Nature has been doing some research about open access and the habits of open access authors and readers – do we have a sense, first of all, to the point that Dr. Schimmer was making that there’s a generational divide here? Are younger researchers or researchers not so well-established more keen on open access? Do you have any sense at all as to the adoption of it in that regard?
CALDER: It’s interesting. I would agree that the digital generation is leading some of the changes. However, the younger researchers also really want credibility for their research. It’s really important where they’re publishing. And so actually, they’re more inclined to go down the traditional route to a traditional journal, an established journal, because whether you like it or not, as Natasha mentioned earlier, the impact factor still matters to them. So whilst they might want to experiment with newer journals and new peer review techniques, they’re also tied to the impact factor and their funding. So that, to a point, is still leading where people are publishing, I think.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. And as Natasha was telling us – again, it’s fascinating that you’re both former colleagues from BMC, but also interesting the ways that your individual publishing companies have begun to realign in order to better address the questions of open access. And one of the points that it sounds like a small thing is that you’re director of strategy for open research. Open access is only a piece of this open discussion. Tell us more about that.
CALDER: Yeah, so we’ve really – we have a business unit now set up at MPG and Palgrave for open research. We’ve called it open research because open access, we felt, can be limiting if you just think of it as the business model for publishing. We want to think beyond just research. We want to be thinking about open data, about the services that we can develop, and that open access enables. So around discoverability, what more can we do? And we felt open research really captured a more broader approach, which is really what we’re trying to do.
KENNEALLY: And one of the things Nature has done recently is captured some headlines, because you announced about a week or so ago that Nature Communications, which was a fairly recent journal, but nevertheless has gone from a hybrid form to all open access. Tell us about that decision, and tell us about how Nature decides to make that move, to flip to an all OA journal.
CALDER: So Nature Communications was a born hybrid journal. It started in 2010, and it was born hybrid really with the view for us to experiment a bit to see what authors wanted. They made the choice about hybrid or open access or traditional publishing on acceptance. And the journal really was just a phenomenal success and really exceeded our expectations a bit by way of growth. It now receives over 1,500 submissions a month. And so it’s done fantastically well. As our open access strategy has really evolved and the market has evolved, we felt if we’re to show that we’re really committed to open access – MPG has been involved in open access green and gold for a number of years, but if we’re to really put a stamp and show the market that we’re serious and want to drive it forward, then we need to have a Nature-branded title that is fully open access. And so that was really behind the main decision to make Nature Communications fully OA.
But beyond that, there was also we wanted to listen to what we were hearing from the library community, which was this journal’s growing in content year on year, which means that the cost of subscriptions is growing year on year, and that’s also not sustainable. And we wanted it to be a transition to open access.
KENNEALLY: And so there’s a strategic concern, but there are going to be operational repercussions of that concern. And so are you going to be going all OA, and that’s going to mean collecting APCs. Tell us about the challenges that that means for you.
CALDER: Yeah, I mean, Nat Coms is not our only open access journal. We have about over 20 now in the portfolio. But the volume absolutely of OA publications that we’re producing is really increasing year on year. It is hard for traditional publishers, as was spoken to by Brandon, I think, that your systems that you’ve set up were built for traditional publishing. So you’re not geared up necessarily for micro-payments. The infrastructure’s not just there, and so you’re trying to change and fix existing systems to fit the new models, and then you’re trying to build new systems to really cope with scaling. And it’s not a simple undertaking for businesses, I think. But we’re all getting there one way or another.
KENNEALLY: Indeed, Brandon, so you’re not alone. You have a big crowd here. We’ll work it out together. So a lot of what you’re hearing, I’m sure, Brandon, feels familiar to you.
NORDIN: It does. I think we’re in a challenging space in that, in many cases, as publishers on the scholarly side, we are used to A) it’s an institutional model, so we’re dealing with 4,000 customers, not 40,000 or 4000,000. We’re dealing in almost a business cycle, even though our product is digitally delivered. The concept of relatively long sales and service cycles, of payment cycles at 90 days. In many cases, this is a business model or business processes that are 20 to almost 200 years old.
Now the service standards around accepting manuscripts, around accepting payments are being driven by the consumers’ experience with Amazon and with eBay, and we’re really stepping into a different type of marketplace and a different type of transactional relationship. Our customers are the same, but we’ll be dealing with them in a different manner, and I think that’s an organizational change that’s going to bring out the best and the worst in us as we sort of ramp up the learning curve.
KENNEALLY: Brandon, I’ve heard that before, that the expectations we all have are built, for better or for worse, by Amazon, by Google, by the online giants that everyone works with at home, and then we bring those expectations to the workplace. It’s really fascinating.
Arend Küster, I want to introduce you. Arend Küster at the far end is director for Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation and managing director for Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals and Qscience. And welcome from Qatar. Salaam alaikum. I understand your office is at the Tornado Tower there in Doha. So you’ve gone from the Tornado Tower to the hurricane of Frankfurt Book Fair, and I welcome you.
Tell us about what lies behind the approach that Qscience is taking. First, it’s important to very briefly set the stage. There you are in Doha, working with the Qatar Foundation to establish scholarly journals, part of a national strategy that Qatar has to really make itself a center of learning and of publishing. So beyond that, though, the decision has been to go open access. Tell us about that decision.
KÜSTER: It’s always nice to sit in the eye of the storm in the Tornado Tower. But when we started, we had absolutely nothing. We didn’t start in San Francisco, we didn’t start in Berlin, we didn’t start in London, we started in the desert. That’s very much what our very first ideas looked like. There was nothing. So when you start in 2010 from absolutely nothing, how can you afford a sales force? How can you afford a brand building staff when you don’t go open access? Open access was absolutely logical for us, and there was no kind of evangelism in that it was an absolute business necessity for us to make that happen.
Then we looked at our systems, and we had the luxury, in a way, to set up our systems in the open access way from day one. Yes, we were lucky that some of the people from BioMed Central – you’ve got Chris Leonard as an ex-BioMed Central person who came to us to set up our editorial systems, and we learned a lot from that, and we brought a lot of that knowledge in there. The underlying reason behind that is that if you want to create a knowledge economy – and ultimately Qatar wants to move away from the dependency on oil and gas to working with knowledge – publishing is such a central skill and such a central part of that, whether it’s research or trade publishing – any publishing. Everybody’s a publisher today. That’s an underlying reason for us being in that space.
KENNEALLY: And though the leading piece of this is Qscience, and you can tell us briefly about what Qscience does, what was interesting to me is that among the journals you’ve helped establish is something that has nothing to do with science at all. So you have the International Review of Law, which is a partnership with Qatar University. And that addresses this interesting question about the relationship that publishers and institutions now have. Tell us about that.
KÜSTER: OK. We have 14 journals on the Qscience platform. We are growing. It’s starting to work. And International Review of Law is an interesting way that an institution wants to try to make a case for the existence, connect into the international research community. And they said, well, why don’t we start a law journal, and we make it open access, and see how quickly we can generate content in there? And that’s been going really well. So we are moving away. The Qscience Connect is another interesting story where we actually publish everything, from archaeology to zoology, and very, very quickly. We decided to make it free to publish, as long as we have an ORCID, simply because the administration of reading out who is lower middle income country, who has got a waiver or not, was just too costly. So we just made it free for now, as long as you have an ORCID and also help to push ORCID through.
KENNEALLY: And the response has been tremendous, right?
KÜSTER: It’s been great, yes. It’s been really good.
KENNEALLY: You have how many articles published now, do you know?
KÜSTER: Oh my God. You know, you never can have enough articles. (laughter) I don’t have the statistics in front of me, they kind of change all the time. We have been going through it. We have been growing four times every year.
KENNEALLY: I guess what I was getting after, though, was that the responses come not only from the region, but it’s been a global response to this.
KÜSTER: Yeah, that was the biggest surprise in a way. Based in a country where research is nascent and emerging, people tend to validate against what they know and the numbers they know. And unfortunately, that goes back to the impact factor discussion, which in a way for us, as the new kid on the block – and please don’t shoot me for it – but is probably one of the biggest hold-up problems for innovation in this space, because you have to see it through the first four or five years. You have to battle with your funders. I have to battle for my budget as well as everybody else has got to battle for a budget, and tell about the existence that we are that. You have got to have the push and the will to see it through those difficult five years until you get there.
But if we go to the power question, if we come together and try to address that issue and drop the print of the impact factor and move it to a kind of 2014, ’15, ’16 world, I think that would be great.
KENNEALLY: All right. Well, Arend Küster, thank you so much indeed. And Fred Fenter from Frontiers, we promised people a global discussion, so in the last few minutes, I want to ask you to exchange your seat with some people who could tell us about the experience that they have had first hand in China. So if you would switch with our two other panelists – thank you.
And if I can, Carrie, while we make the switch, ask you a question about the struggle at the beginning. Again, you felt that when you were at BioMed Central, and you’ve seen that at Nature, as well. It’s something that scholarly publishing – I don’t know how familiar it is with that kind of struggle that is the basis of any kind of entrepreneurial effort. Does it require a new set of thinking, even a new set of skills?
CALDER: Speaking to the struggle, I think the struggle that we had at BMC in the early days is maybe different, just because the concept of open access was still new. There was the old debate of whether open access publishing could be quality. We really needed to prove that we were journals just the same, but just with a different business model. And I think that’s different to the struggles that maybe established publishers have now, if you launch new journals, because the brand, the companies are known and trusted. People know that if Nature launces a journal that they can expect a certain service and level. So likewise with the other publishers. So there are still challenges to launch as new journals, and I think it’s still hard for new entrants.
But I think in terms of a personality type or a skillset, I think with a startup or when you’re doing something new, I think you just need to be prepared to get stuck in. Actually I don’t think any of our jobs were very defined, and you’re just doing everything that you can to really make the products and the movement work as well as you can.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. Well, we have two people on stage with us now who do understand that particular approach. And to my left here is Xiaoying Chu from Beijing. Welcome, Xiaoying.
CHU: Thank you.
KENNEALLY: Xiaoying Chu is operations vice general manager for the Charlesworth Group in China. She leads Charlesworth publishing services team, supporting international publishers’ expansion into China, and Chinese publishers’ expansion in to international markets. And then to my right is Niels Peter Thomas. Niels, welcome.
THOMAS: Thank you.
KENNEALLY: Niels Peter Thomas is executive vice president for German language science publishing at Springer Science and Business Media, responsible for business development and management of Springer’s German language ST and publishing activities. And from August 2011 to October 2013, he was editorial director for Springer’s Beijing representative office.
And Xiaoying Chu, I wonder if I could start with you, because the reason for bringing you here is some news that we didn’t have last year, which is there is now another mandate to reckon with in the world of scholarly publishing – an open access mandate, and that has come from China. It was announced earlier this year in May at a meeting of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Can you tell us about what that mandate is and what it may mean for scholarly publishing in China, and also for our audience here?
CHU: Yeah, sure. In May, there were actually two institutions announced a policy to support open – so for their staff or for the people who use their fundings to save the peer review final copy of manuscript into the institute repositories. You mentioned CAS is the China Academy of Sciences. Their policy mainly is first to order CAS staff, if you use any public funding, and then within 12 months after the publication, you need to save the article into the relevant institute repositories. And also their policy is to support, say, encourage their researchers to get published in open access journals.
KENNEALLY: And so these kind of mandates are for both the so-called green road and for the gold road. And so they will exist simultaneously then under these arrangements?
CHU: Yes. And also, they authorized the library – CAS library – to develop some guidelines for how their researchers get published on open access journals. And they are creating, I think, a list of recommended journals.
KENNEALLY: Well, Niels Peter Thomas, if I can turn to you, because your experience in China isn’t only limited to the two years that you were in Beijing. You began going to China, living in China with your mother who was teaching German language back in the 1980s, so you are very familiar with the way that country has changed so dramatically in not even a generation’s time. One of the ways it’s changing is the output of scientific literature. I saw some figures that a colleague of yours had prepared, and of all of the BRICK countries, including the K for Korea, China leads by far with the research output that exceeded 150,000 papers in 2011, with the others only a third of that amount behind. So clearly, we shouldn’t be surprised by Springer going to Beijing and sending you there to not only work with the Chinese publishers, but to indeed learn from their experience. And you’ve been back for just about a year now. Tell us what you found when you were there.
THOMAS: Well, I think the experience that I made in the very beginning in 2011 was very different to what I’ve – what the situation was when I left in 2013.
KENNEALLY: It’s moving very rapidly.
THOMAS: It was really moving very fast, which is typical for China these days in many other areas, as well. When I came, officially my job was to hire editors and train them to be Springer editors to take care of book programs and journal programs, but it turned out, very soon, actually, that it was also involving teaching and training Chinese authors and partners. Because in the very beginning when we were discussing with professors of really leading Chinese university, and we told them, well, you can do your publishing – you can do it in a typical subscription or traditional subscription model, or you can do it in an open access way, many of them were asking open what? They had never heard the concept. So it is really only in these last two or three years that really the concept, the idea took over. And now we see a completely different situation.
It was, I think, about a year after I went to China when the, at that time, premier, Wen Jiabao, announced that all publicly funded or all state funded research in China, which is basically all the Chinese research, should be available for the whole society in an open access way. If you had asked me a few weeks before that announcement if I would think that Wen Jiabao was thinking about open access, I would have thought probably he hasn’t heard about the concept and he’s not dealing with it because it is not his premier job, and he has to think about so many other concepts. But the fact that he was well aware of it and he was really leading political decision making in this way meant a lot.
KENNEALLY: And we heard from Arend Küster talk about the importance of the knowledge economy to Qatar, and certainly the knowledge economy is important to China, as well. And one of the things you witnessed was a real interest in Chinese publishing to bring back the Chinese researchers, maybe not physically, but figuratively in the sense they want to be publishing Chinese researchers in Chinese journals. Is that so?
THOMAS: It’s true, but also physically, actually. China is really investing a lot of money to incentivize Chinese researchers who have left for the Americas or for Europe and have a career there in academia to go back and pay them a comparable salary, and bring them back to be multipliers for how we do research in Western countries and teach their peers and colleagues there. There’s a program from the government called One Thousand Talents Program, and they had the idea of bringing back 1,000 really successful researchers back to Chinese universities. I think they have now much more than 1,000 people actually came back, and they are still continuing with it. So there is this trend. China has the awareness that they want to be a leading player in the scientific worldwide game, and they’re about to be it. And they are already a leading player.
KENNEALLY: And I think the point that we can kind of end this piece of the program with is that even a year ago, we would not have thought – we were putting on a program like this – that we would be talking about China. Here we are. So when it comes to open access publishing, there are players that we’re not even aware of yet. There are publishers that may already be beginning their work, but we’ll be hearing much more about them very quickly.
THOMAS: Yes, that’s perfectly true. And by now, China is the second-biggest country for Springer in purely open access journals to submit and accept articles, and they are growing much faster than anybody else. So they will very soon take over and be the country that sends us the most open access articles.
KENNEALLY: Well, a terrific discussion. We are going to take a brief break. We’ve got some announcements from my colleague, Jake Kelleher. First, though, I want to thank all of my panelists, and I want to close with a thought from Goethe. Every day at least, one ought to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words. And I think we’ve done that today. We’ve spoken a few reasonable words. I want to thank all of my panel and thank you, indeed. Thank you.