The implications of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union continue to loom large in the thoughts of scientific publishers. In one of the most popular sessions at this year’s FBF, organised by the Publishers Association and the ALPSP, two industry veterans debated the subject, under the chairmanship of Richard Mollet, Head of European Government Affairs for the RELX Group. Richard Fisher, academic consultant and former managing director of academic publishing at Cambridge University Press, and Andy Robinson, Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Society Services at Wiley, foresaw a wide range of possible consequences.
Leaving the EU will put the UK’s funding and influence at risk, the pair warned: UK researchers are already reporting that they have been removed from or downgraded on funding applications, and the research industry needs to make a stronger case to government, stressing both its importance and the need for guaranteed future investment to match that previously provided by the EU. There may also be implications for copyright: Mollet warned that leaving the EU might result in the fragmentation of existing copyright regimes, with Google waiting in the wings to take advantage.
The government’s determination to tackle immigration, from the EU and beyond, was likely to have serious implications for the industry, Robinson cautioned: not only does 10% of the UK publishing workforce come from the EU – almost twice the national average – but half of all postgraduate students based in the UK, a key part of the industry’s audience, are from overseas.
Searching for possible positives, Robinson noted that leaving the EU opened up the slight possibility of removing VAT from ebooks and digital products, and that the fall in value of the pound immediately after the vote had led to increased foreign revenues. Discussion will be resumed at the Research and Scholarly Publishing Forum at next year’s London Book Fair.
The European Union was also a hot topic at the annual STM conference, which took place as usual in Frankfurt the day before the Book Fair opened. EU Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation Carlos Moedas made an appearance, reminding the audience that all 28 of the EU’s members stand united behind the union’s stated goal of achieving 100% Open Access for publicly funded research by 2020. Insisting that publishers must play a major part in that transition, he praised the innovative work of organisations like F1000 and Sparrho, and promised that politicians would offer publishers incentives to play a part in this new scientific order.
In the conference keynote, Brian Nosek of the Center for Open Science shared some analysis of flaws in existing scientific publishing processes which, he argued, incentivise novelty, tidy results, and a compelling narrative, to the detriment of accuracy and credibility. One of the initiatives from the COS intended to resolve this problem is a ‘registered reports’ option for journals, whereby articles are peer reviewed after the experimental design phase and accepted ‘in principle’. If the proposed methods have been correctly followed, then the article will be published upon completion, whatever the results.
Away from Frankfurt, the steady stream of deals and partnerships from the Digital Science stable of companies has continued unabated. ReadCube has partnered with Taylor & Francis to add enhanced PDF functionality to the latter’s collection of four million articles, journals, and books, which can now also be found using ReadCube’s Discover service. Overleaf announced a new partnership with Peerwith, a marketplace that matches academics with experts in services such as editing, translation, and design, plus deals with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Geophysical Union, and the Royal Astronomical Society, whose authors will now have access to custom authoring and submission templates. And Data Science company ÜberResearch has launched Dimensions for Publishers, giving publishers access to an enormous database of awarded research funding to support their strategic business decisions. With information on more three million funded projects worth one trillion US dollars, the database also offers visualisation tools and Altmetric integration.
It’s been another busy month for open access publishing. Now in its ninth year, International Open Access Week saw a panoply of events across the world promoting open access under this year’s theme, Open in Action, including the release of a report from Figshare on ‘The State of Open Data’. Sharing the results of a global survey of 2,000 researchers, the report brings together articles on the subject from leading professionals, and can be downloaded free here.
Springer Nature’s Open Research Group has a new Managing Director: Tim Britton, formerly of PricewaterhouseCoopers and YouGov, takes responsibility for the business’s entire open research portfolio, including BioMed Central, SpringerOpen, the open access journals from Nature Research and open access monographs from Springer and Palgrave Macmillan. Meanwhile Ingenta has launched Ingenta Open, a new platform and discovery portal for open access content that will host and index material from ‘all scholarly disciplines’.
And Open access journal eLife has announced that it will be introducing article processing charges of $2,500 from the start of next year, in a change to its previous policy of using funding from its three major funders – the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust – to cover all publication costs. In a post on the eLife blog explaining the decision, Mark Patterson and Jennifer McLennan said that the change was a response to ‘growth in submissions and publications’ and would enable the organisation to devote more of its funding to ‘services beyond … publication’.
Alastair Horne writes our STM and Academic Newsletter.