"Open access is the foundation for open science"

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Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer at Springer Nature, recently spoke to us about open access, open science and Springer Nature's latest initiatives

The theme this year is climate justice and sustainability – how does that tie in with your goals as an open-access academic publisher? 

This year’s theme of climate justice and sustainability aligns squarely with our own commitments as an organisation.

Through our mission to opening doors to discovery we enable millions of researchers, educators, clinicians and other professionals to access, trust and make sense of the latest insights. As publishers of journals such as Nature Sustainability, and Nature Climate Change we are keenly aware of the immediacy of the issues the world faces and the role that research has in bridging a credible evidence-based approach to tackle these issues. We know therefore that our most significant contribution to tackling these critical issues is made through our publishing activity, and the ability to openly share all data, code, research and methods to be used, reused and built upon.

Over the past 24 months in particular we have worked with partners such as the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network to look at the impact of science on the sustainable development goals (SDGs); became one of the first publishers to sign the Climate Pledge; designed and launched Climate Research in Action: a campaign to put a focus on solutions-focused research, to ensure scientific evidence was front-of-mind for those attending the COP26 conference and released our latest award-winning annual sustainability report. 

Why is open access important, and why does Open Access Week matter?

Open access is the foundation for open science. By opening all outputs of research, including underlying data as well as published articles, we will all benefit from faster and more effective research systems – delivering solutions to global challenges.

Springer Nature has been committed to making research immediately available for all to read, share, use and reuse to advance discovery for over 20 years, while ensuring we continue to support all authors in the publication of high quality research, regardless of discipline, funding, background or publication choice. Our commitment to this is steadfast because we know the benefits open access brings, including: 

  • Increased citation and usage

  • Greater public engagement

  • Increased interdisciplinary conversations

  • Wider collaboration, especially internationally

  • Faster impact with permissive licences like CC-BY

Open Access Week serves as an opportunity for us all across the international community to take stock of what has, and can be, achieved through open access. It is important that this platform for discussion and presentation continues so that we can ensure we can make open science a reality for all, by sharing thoughts and ideas for all parts and members of the research ecosystem.

How will you be marking this year’s Open Access Week?

Weeks like Open Access Week are great industry initiatives, providing a collective platform where we as a sector can share thoughts and ideas, collaborate on ways to tackle the most pressing issues, and raise awareness of different tools, services and platforms to support the community. We have been involved in driving open access forward for over 20 years – through our imprint, BMC, we introduced one of the first commercially viable and sustainable publishing models for open access; we were the first to offer open access options on subscription titles with Springer Open Choice; pioneered the concept of transformative agreements and transformative journals, and continue to drive the transition forward through the development of research solutions and services to support authors on their open science journey. 

This year we will have a range of blogs that we will be sharing across our researcher blog site, The Source, plus a number of infographics that show the impact of open-access publishing, top tips from our authors on publishing open access in areas related to the UN’s SDGs, and direct insight from our Nature editors on open-access publishing and its role in helping to drive awareness of and solutions for the world's pressing challenges, such as climate change. 

What is the future of open-access publishing?

It’s worth remembering that open access is not an end goal, but merely a (albeit important) means to the bigger goal of open research and open science. This is where our commitment stems from and why we have a vision of an open research future where every element of the research process is instantly available, discoverable, usable, reusable and widely shareable – from protocols through to data, from code to metrics, and of course to research results. For Springer Nature, we believe that the value and importance of open science, and within this open data, methods, protocols etc., is a central component of how research and knowledge can swiftly and more efficiently move forwards. Sharing all elements of research is fundamental to trust, integrity and reproducibility and therefore the advancement of discovery and trusted knowledge. 

Yet despite what has so far been shown to be possible through open access and open science, there is still hesitation around the move to immediate and sustainable open access and big challenges to the development of open data solutions – within and outside of the research community. As we and the sector move forward, and as our research has shown, we all need to work collaboratively to develop and apply viable, funded policies; support changes in open sharing behaviour; and join up conversations and practices between publishers, researchers, policy-makers and institutions. While publishers are a small part of this much larger system, by playing our part we can contribute, more than ever, in driving positive change.

Springer Nature has made a commitment that by 2024, over 50% of our primary research content will be fully open access. We are firmly committed to this transition and will continue to support it by creating the tools and services needed to make open science a reality for all.

Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer, Springer Nature