Nature Communications moves to open access only

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Nature Publishing Group has announced the first of its own-brand journals to move to fully open access. We ask why the publisher has taken this move at this time

Nature Communications will become the first Nature-branded open-access-only journal. From 20 October 2014 the multidisciplinary science journal will only accept open-access research submissions.

The title was launched in 2010 as a born-digital hybrid journal, publishing both open access and subscription content. The publisher says that it is one of NPG’s fastest growing titles, receiving over 1500 submissions every month, and that its 2013 Impact Factor of 10.742 (Thomson Reuters, 2014) places the journal third among all multidisciplinary science primary research journals.

Carrie Calder, strategy director, Open Research for Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan told Research Information about the reasons behind the move: ‘We want to be leaders in open research and open access, and at this point we really want to drive open access forward. The switch to make Nature Communications fully open access provides authors with a Nature-branded flagship journal for high-quality, open-access research.’

report by the Research Information Network recently found a significant benefit for article views and downloads, as well as a small but significant citation benefit to publishing open access in Nature Communications. ‘This wasn’t a deciding factor, but did help to inform our decision,’ she noted.

Calder sees an appetite amongst the research community for this move. ‘‘We believe there is a need for a high-quality, open-access journal now. We have also decided that this is more sustainable for the research community, and particularly for library budgets, given the rapid growth in published articles,’ she said.

‘Whilst we continue to see demand for subscription publishing routes from authors, we also see demand for a high-quality, multidisciplinary, Nature-branded open-access journal. Since we launched Nature Communications, we have kept open access take-up, publication growth and other factors under continual review. Those factors include demand from authors and funders, pricing for the research and library community, and the long-term sustainability of the journal as it continues to grow rapidly in impact and publications. The enormous success of Nature Communications among authors, and the resulting growth in published articles, would have required large annual site licence price increases that some libraries might have found difficult to manage.'

Calder said that the news about Nature Communications’ shift in policy fits into NPG’s wider strategy on open access. ‘In the past year we’ve made concrete steps in accelerating our open research programme, launching the Nature Partner Journal series, Scientific Data and Palgrave Communications. Together with Scientific Reports and our non-Nature branded journals with an open-access option, we can now offer an OA home for specialist and high impact research across the natural sciences. With Scientific Data and Palgrave Communications, this also applies to open data and open research in the humanities and social sciences.’

However, she observed that there are still some challenges with perceptions of open access. ‘The industry has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, and there are some very interesting developments taking place. But we’ve found that perceptions are slow to change among the research community, as many projects can take years to publish - and there still exists a view among some that open access means low quality,’ she said. ‘That’s why we have to make a decisive move now. We believe that switching Nature Communications to full open access will go some way to challenging those perceptions.’

In addition, Nature Communications now offers the CC BY 4.0 licence as default, with other Creative Commons (CC) licences available upon request. The publisher says that there is no price difference in APC whichever CC licence authors choose. APC waivers will be available for HINARI countries, and to others on a case-by-case basis.

Nature Publishing Group says that it will honour authors’ choices of subscription or open-access publication for those authors whose research is currently in review by the journal, and for submissions up to the 19 October 2014. As a result, subscription content will continue to be published in 2015, and available to site licence customers.