STM Publishing – April 2020

STM Publishing – April 2020

Industry responds to COVID-19 crisis

The STM publishing industry has responded swiftly to the multiple challenges posed to the scholarly community and to the wider world by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, both by supporting research into the virus, and by helping to facilitate the sudden move to online, home-based working necessitated by the increasingly global lockdown.

Education and research services provider Jisc has issued a call for publishers, aggregators, and digital content providers to extend their support to the academic community by making research and data on relevant topics open access, and more generally by waiving concurrent user limits and demand-driven triggers, lifting inter-library loan and remote access restrictions, and extending trial access periods to 90 days. Jisc is itself partnering with digital textbook platform Kortext and several textbook publishers – including Pearson, Cengage, Sage, OUP, and CUP – to provide free digital copies of higher education textbooks to students forced to work from home; the programme is expected to go live within the next few weeks.

Members of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) have provided immediate free access to all COVID-19-related peer-reviewed publications, totalling 32,000 articles, chapters, and other resources, and are accelerating the review and publication of relevant articles. Many publishers and organisations have launched new sites and portals providing easy access to relevant resources. SAGE has created a new microsite for relevant research and is waiving article processing charges for articles on COVID-19 research, which will be fast-tracked for publication. EBSCO has created a new COVID-19 site offering a range of resources including clinical information on the virus, online training resources covering distance learning and remote working, plus upgraded unlimited ebook user access for to works from almost 300 of its publishing partners. ProQuest has partnered with more than 150 publishers to make limited user licences for content unlimited.

Frontiers has launched a Coronavirus Funding Monitor, a portal including a curated list of open funding calls and other support for researchers and organisations working on the virus. Taylor & Francis has created a new microsite providing links to all the research articles, book chapters, and other information on COVID-19 freely available on its platforms, while also fast-tracking the peer review and publication of all research on the topic. Cambridge University Press is offering free online access both to coronavirus research and to all 700 of its higher education textbooks available in html formats. And Wiley has made its COVID-19 research freely available both on its own website and via publicly funded repositories including PubMed Central, and has also partnered with Atypon on an AI-driven Scitrus feed aggregating the latest research on the virus.

Hindawi has introduced a fast-track workflow for relevant papers, while PLOS ONE has published its first COVID-19 paper; meanwhile eLife has changed its peer review policies, relaxing its policies on revisions and making the posting of preprints to bioRxiv or medRxiv the default for all eLife submissions.

Open access

F1000 has been awarded a contract to set up and manage an open access publishing platform for the European Commission. The platform, which is expected to launch in early 2021, will provide a full open access peer-reviewed publishing service for Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe beneficiaries; all article processing charges will be paid by the commission.

Jisc has announced its support for the Subscribe to Open initiative developed by the non-profit publisher Annual Reviews, which aims to convert selected subscription journals to open access using existing current global subscription revenue. A pilot programme which will launch later this year will see five Annual Review titles convert to open access if the subscription revenue threshold is met.

A coalition including Frontiers, Copernicus, Ubiquity Press, MDPI, and JMIR Publications has issued a joint position paper advocating for an ‘OA first’ policy supporting fully open access publishers while criticising the limitations of transformative agreements and demanding greater transparency in agreements between publishers and publicly funded institutions.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has signed a deal with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries which will see all ACS journal articles with MIT-affiliated corresponding authors made open access via MIT’s open access repository.

The French Open Science Committee has made grants totalling €450,000 to three organisations supporting the open science community. Open Citations will receive €250,000 over the next three years, while the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) has been awarded €125,000 and the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) €75,000.

Springer Nature, which recently issued its 2019 Responsible Business Report and this month made a commitment to become carbon-neutral for its business operations and employee flights by the end of 2020, has announced that it published more than 100,000 open access articles in 2019, making it the largest publisher of open access primary research and taking the total number of open access Springer Nature articles to over 800,000, twice that of any other publisher.

New pilots

Emerald Publishing, recently awarded the inaugural best publisher user experience (UX) award by single sign-on provider OpenAthens, is piloting a crowd review process with Filestage that aims to accelerate peer review by means of an application enabling easy sharing, commenting, and approving of documents within the browser. The pilot involves three Emerald journals: Emerging Markets Case Studies, the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, and the Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research.

Digital Science companies Dimensions, Papers, Figshare and Symplectic are taking part in a pilot implementation of the new Get Full Text Research (GetFTR) service, which makes a trustworthy full-text version of a research article available to researchers in any discovery or analytical application, after verifying entitlements and institutional subscriptions against publisher APIs in the background.

Hindawi has become the first publisher to integrate AI-based language platform Writefull, another Digital Science company, into its submission workflow, in a pilot programme that has so far involved more than 1600 manuscripts. The platform applies machine learning, trained on millions of published scientific papers, to suggest improvements to grammar, spelling and academic language. Meanwhile, diversity-promoting, automated recruiting platform Scismic has become the latest addition to the Digital Science portfolio.


Alastair Horne is a PhD student at the British Library and Bath Spa University.

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