OA interviews: Sam Burridge, Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan

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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

Sam Burridge, managing director, open research, Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan

OA publishing models and policies have been at the heart of NPG’s business development and strategic thinking throughout the last decade. NPG has consistently been an early mover in embracing OA as a natural consequence of new technologies. For example, we have had a liberal self-archiving policy in place since 2005. We publish 64 journals with an OA option, and 38 per cent of the research articles we published last year were OA.

We keep our OA policies under constant review, and in the past year we’ve made concrete steps in accelerating our open research programme. We seek to facilitate transparent, open scientific communication through data services, collaboration tools and public accessibility and reuse. 

At the same time, Palgrave Macmillan has worked consistently to implement OA models which work for humanities and social science (HSS) scholars, who have very different needs and requirements to scientists. The majority of our HSS journals offer an OA option, and earlier this year we launched our first fully OA journal in the HSS space – Palgrave Communications, which champions interdisciplinary research. We also published the first OA monograph funded by The Wellcome Trust last year. We continue to see uptake in this area, but also look to experiment with new models that suit the authors we serve.

As the two companies have moved closer together and restructured, we now have a joint and dedicated Open Research business unit, which I lead. Going forward we’ll have the opportunity and ability to develop open research policies in a much more holistic way, as well as develop new titles and publishing services to better meet market needs. We’ll be working closely with the community and our sister company Digital Science, who offer a comprehensive set of tools and services for researchers.

As we all recognise, the industry is in a particular state of transition, as the costs associated with publishing are shared between library subscriptions, university departments and funders’ budgets. It is important for us as a community to figure out how we sustainably and transparently offset the costs of OA article-processing charges. We know this is a challenge for institutions, funders and publishers, and we’re examining how to things easier.

The main challenges are that this is a constantly evolving field, with a wide variety of requirements affecting all parts of the researchers’ work cycle, from the data collected, through to licensing for the final article of record.

In addition, there is a real need for education; many researchers just aren’t aware of their funder’s policies. For example, when we surveyed our authors last year, 38 per cent of those funded by the NIH thought their funder had no OA requirements, and 25 per cent did not know. The NIH has had clear public access mandates since 2009, with a voluntary policy in place since 2005. 

We try to be proactive in putting our authors at the centre of what we do and including them in the process. We speak to them all the time, and much of our approach is based on author feedback in the first instance. For example, I just got back from a visit to China, during which I went to five different universities, speaking to students and professors at all levels. We’re aware that one size can’t fit all. Some needs and issues are universal, but we’re keen to address the nuanced differences of various markets and authors at different stages in their career (and indeed, simply for different articles).

We regularly survey our authors, and the wider academic audience, including librarians, on their views, but also conduct qualitative research too.

We are seeing good take up of our OA options. Even in HSS disciplines, which are newer to OA and have less funding available, we’ve seen a positive response; we will publish our second OA monograph later this year, and our first OA Palgrave Pivot too.

It’s important to acknowledge that some authors still worry that there is a perception of OA publications as having lower editorial standards. Many OA journals, including our own Scientific Reports, pledge to publish all work so long as it is methodologically sound. We have taken a conscious decision to focus our two interdisciplinary OA journals – Palgrave Communications and Nature Communications – on high-quality, original research, published speedily.

NPG and Palgrave Macmillan have both gold and green OA policies. Our green OA policies enable researchers to archive their contribution with an institutional or funders’ repository after an embargo period, which differs depending on discipline and publication type, meaning that we can ensure sustainability. NPG policies all meet or exceed major funder mandates.

NPG offers a number of CC licences for OA content, enabling authors to choose their preferred licence. Palgrave Macmillan offers CC BY as default, with other licences available on request. This is subject to change, as we keep these policies under constant review and they will evolve according to researcher needs.

We’re supportive of an industry standard for OA licensing to make things as clear as possible for authors and readers. The chief executive of our parent company Macmillan Science and Education, Annette Thomas, is on the board of Creative Commons.

That said, we still think there is more to be done in terms of clarifying what terms such as ‘commercial’ and ‘non-commercial’ mean, not least for academics themselves.

We also encourage open data wherever possible. All the datasets on our Linked Data platform are licensed under CC0, and our archived manuscripts are included in the OA subset in PubMed Central. They are explicitly licensed for non-commercial text and data mining. We encourage depositing by our authors, and in many cases we archive for them.

In May 2014 we launched a dedicated publication that we hope will encourage open data. Scientific Data is an OA, peer-reviewed publication for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets. The primary article-type, the Data Descriptor, is a combination of traditional scientific publication content and structured information curated in-house, and is designed to maximise reuse and enable searching, linking and data mining. We are actively working with subject-focussed repositories, and general repositories including Figshare and Dryad.

We are currently reviewing our data and text mining policies, especially in light of the newly passed copyright exception in the UK, to make sure that our policies are as fair and easy to understand as they can be – not just for researchers in the UK, but also across the world.