'A broken model'

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Nigel Lee, CEO at Glasstree Academic Publishing, describes how he wants to transform scholarly communications

Tell us a little about your background and qualifications…
I’m an entrepreneur and CEO of Glasstree, with a background in software and technology and a passion for how the internet can accelerate the advancement of society by breaking the traditional orthodoxy.
Working alongside Glasstree SVP, Daniel Berze, who has an extensive background in, and knowledge of, academic publishing, we have formed the ideal team to challenge the status quo and disrupt this industry. The company is a division of Lulu Press Inc. and has a further team of around 60 staff based in various locations globally.

What was the original purpose behind Glasstree?
Glasstree is a cloud-based platform, revolutionising academic publishing by transforming the way in which knowledge is disseminated for the benefit of society, not just a privileged few companies. To achieve this, the platform puts academics, institutions and their vital research before profits, helping them to regain control and advance important work.

Is the current academic publishing model broken?
In a word, yes – for far too long, traditional commercial publishers have been charging excessive prices for academic books and texts and disproportionately benefitting from the profits. This has meant that, rather than reverting back to the individuals and institutions that have conducted the work and research and enabling them to continue, profit margins have been strongly skewed towards a handful of big publishers that monopolise the industry.
Furthermore, ‘submission to publishing’ times are currently far too lengthy, meaning that vital work is delayed for much longer than necessary. These issues don’t just impact the academic world, they have repercussions for people everywhere.
This is because critical research and studies on a multitude of life-changing areas, including health sciences, engineering and the environment, are being delayed – and profits made from the publishing of content is not going back to the people and institutions that are responsible for its creation.
It is no exaggeration to say that due to this situation, medical discoveries, treatments and innovations of all kinds are seriously hampered, with lives potentially lost as a result.

How do researchers and libraries benefit from the Glasstree model?
To put it simply, the platform puts academics, institutions and their vital research first, helping them to regain control and advance important work. To ensure we’re listening to our audience, Glasstree recently conducted a survey in which 300 academics and educators participated, with more than 80 per cent stating that they were dissatisfied with the poor level of control that they have over the publishing process and 83 per cent agreeing that traditional academic publishing needs to change.
This is because traditional author book royalties currently stand at under 10 per cent whereas, by using Glasstree, authors and institutions can earn up to 70 per cent of the profits from book sales, helping them to continue and fund vital research. With regards to timescales, via traditional routes, work can often take years to be published, yet on Glasstree, the same objective can be achieved in anything from 15 minutes to three months, depending on the scale of the project.
The platform also benefits the new generation of students and academics in education, as purchasing textbooks via Glasstree is significantly less expensive than through traditional publishers and their distribution channels (according to the US  Bureau of Economic Analysis, in the US, the cost of a college textbook has increased by more than 1000 per cent since 1974, and 73 per cent since 2006).

How do you see the next 10 years panning out, for Glasstree and the wider scholarly communications industry?
We have huge ambitions for the future and will continue to innovate to enable academics and institutions to control, share and profit from their vital research and work. As part of this, we’re looking at ways of using new cutting-edge technology, including AI and VR, to help the scholarly community connect, collaborate and discuss subjects and texts, further aiding the advancement of knowledge and learning in open, democratic and forward-thinking ways.
Glasstree also aims to enter the world of article-based publishing and journal publishing towards the end of this year.