Friday, January 14, 2011

Open Access and publishing: an interview with Derek Haank, CEO Springer Science+Business Media

Richard Poynder interviewed Derek Haank and provides an interesting overview over publishing with many provocative statements.

Almost cynic comments, with a core that points out the weakness of the academic information infrastructure and ingenuity.

Some of the comments, such as about the growth of OA contradict trends reported by Peter Hendriks, Springer's president STM Publishing & Marketing, that predicts OA growth rate of 20% (total article growth 3.5%) and a share of ca 25% in 2020. Obvioulsy, the CEO doesn't look very much into the future.

Q: We have focused on OA publishing or Gold OA. There is also Green OA, or self-archiving, where researchers continue publishing in subscription journals but then make copies of their papers freely available in an institutional or central repository such as PubMed Central. Some argue that this is a faster and more effective way of providing OA. And most subscription publishers consent to some form of self-archiving. As I understand it, Springer allows authors to self-archive the "author-created" versions of their papers in their institutional repository, but not Springer's PDF.
A: We have always tried to take a balanced view on this, so we are of the opinion that, in principle, author archiving is fine. Were self-archiving ever to become sufficiently professional that it began to mimic our journals, however, it could create a lot of problems. If that were to happen why would people continue to take out a subscription?

But we are such a long way from that situation today that we are very easy going about author archiving. Since we cannot see it destroying the system, we see no reason to make life miserable for our valued authors.

... on access to data

Q: Some researchers argue that OA is not enough; they also want open data. The Cambridge-based chemist Peter Murray-Rust, for instance, wants scholarly publishers not only to make research papers freely available, but all the supplementary data associated with scientific papers too, even if the paper is published in a subscription journal. Moreover, he wants that data to be made available free of copyright restrictions so that others can re-use it. Is that a reasonable request in your view?
A: I have some sympathy for the request. However, I am not convinced that, even if every publisher were to make all such data freely available tomorrow, open data would take off very quickly, not least because only a tiny minority of articles have this supplementary information.

So I am not against the principle that if we publish an article, be it subscription-based or OA—any relevant data attached to it should be made freely available.

Q: And you are happy for the data to be made available on a reuse basis so that people can, say, mash it up?
A: I am. I see very little downside to doing it, because at the end of the day, it would progress scientific research, which is what we are all here for, and from which we will all ultimately benefit. And I am not worried about the commercial aspects because in reality, we are only talking about a tiny subset of the total number of articles we publish. But it is just not a pressing issue today. Occasionally, the topic is raised, and we all say, "Yes, we should definitely do something about that"; and then the issue goes away again.

The future of print

Q: Many assumed that OA publishing would prove less expensive than subscription-based publishing. Is that not the case?
A: OA makes no material difference to pricing because most of the functions remain exactly the same. You could argue that OA allows you to dispense with print costs, but even under the subscription model, there is hardly any print any more.

Likewise, you could argue that you don't have to sell subscriptions with OA publishing. But OA requires selling institutional memberships. So whether the library pays for the system through subscriptions, or the institution pays author charges via membership schemes, it makes not a jot of difference to the overall costs in the end.

The future of OA
Q: How large a niche do you envisage OA being?
A: I expect it to remain between 5% and 10% at a maximum.

The future and reason of increasing costs
Q: Again, I doubt librarians would agree that publishers are showing price restraint. As you will know, the University of California (UC) Libraries recently released a public statement complaining that Nature was seeking to increase its license for 67 journals by 400%. For that reason, UC Libraries said, they were considering boycotting NPG.
A: I would not want to comment on this particular example; there might be a reason for it. You know, what is sometimes forgotten in discussions like this is that we operate in a growth industry: For the last couple of hundred years, we have seen a constant growth in research. More research means more researchers (because it is very labor intensive activity), and around every 2 years, each researcher produces a scientific article. That is the volume problem, and there is nothing we can do about it. So this is an enormous growth industry, and it is just not realistic to assume that there will be no price increase in the next 10 years for our growing database. One thing we have learned, however, is that the days when publishers could just say, "This is the price increase and you have to pay us" are no more.

On the amount of new output
After all, we are seeding our database with 13,000 to 14,000 new pages of information every day.

About the innovativeness and inertia of a publisher
Q: Looking to the future, what new developments can we expect from Springer?
A: Our first priority is to continue as we are. When you talk about all the new things going on, there is a temptation to forget that. But it is my job to think of what more can be done. As we have discussed, there is great pressure on the traditional library market. So we need to look at nontraditional markets.

But the first priority is to make our products more accessible. That means developing a better search engine, and improving the formatting of our data.

On the future of non library access
Q: Scholarly publishers tend to sell single articles for around $25 a time. That is not an iPad pricing model, and it is not a price I suspect many individuals would be willing to pay.
A: So maybe we will need to realign our prices there.


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