OA interviews: Alexander Grossmann, ScienceOpen

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With the raft of policies and mandates that impact researchers and their institutions Sian Harris asks a range of publishers and publishing services companies about their approaches to open access

Alexander Grossmann, president, ScienceOpen

We launched Science Open in 2013. I don’t like to think of this as gold or green. It’s simply OA, open from the start. We call it a platform. We have designed it to be as flexible as possible.

We want to go away from classical peer review. Those who are really interested read articles on the preprint server and we ask them if they want to submit a short review. That’s more intuitive than asking people who say that it is not their area or they have no time.

One part of our concept is that we use comments from peer review to do revisions. The paper is not set in stone. The author is invited to submit a revised version, which is given a new DOI so that people can link back to whichever version was cited.

Science is interdisciplinary. We don’t want to set up new containers. The first launch period concentrated on STM. I would be very interested to expand our concept to social sciences.

We charge $800 to all authors who publish with us. We don’t differentiate by subject discipline or length of article. At least the next two versions are covered as part of that fee. We also have plans for developing countries and poor institutions to make sure that we don’t exclude people.

In Step 1 we don’t have thousands of papers,so it is sufficient to have one identifier – Science Open Research (SO Research). We have also applied for ISSNs for 21 individual fields so maybe in the future we will make it more granular. It’s very important in the beginning to have a brand identifier.

I don’t like the name ‘megajournal’. In principle we both are and aren’t a journal. We are a journal if you look at our workflow – copyediting, XML etc – but what we offer is much more. We see ourselves as a Facebook for scientists. Researchers can collaborate together, maybe start journal clubs. Our platform allows people to expand the discussion to worldwide. These services are completely free of charge and always will be.

Authors have told us that they liked the immediate publication; it takes 24 to 48 hours and then they’ve got a DOI and can cite the article. This means they get the priority – which is important especially in life sciences, where things are so competitive that a few months can make a big difference.

I was expecting many to say we’re not as expensive as other publishers but that’s not a core reason why authors like us. You need to pay with OA anyway and, whether it’s $800 or $2000, you’re not paying out of your own pocket. However, even if the APC is not the highest priority for authors, we strongly disagree with the approach taken by some publishers of charging high APCs that do not reflect the real costs involved in the publishing services provided.

I think within the next few years OA will become dominant; maybe the only way to do research. You could say that OA is just about moving money elsewhere but it’s is more powerful than that. Post-publication peer review can only be done with access to the paper.