Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More from Nature on OA

Randy Dotinga, Nature Publishing Group Tackles Open Access, Wired News, February 7, 2007.  Dotinga interviewed David Hoole, head of brand marketing and content licensing for Nature Publishing Group.  Excerpt:

1. What is Nature Publishing Group's policy on open access?

NPG doesn't have a position for or against open access....The internet has changed the publishing immeasurably, and there are certainly new opportunities with new business models, which we are keen to explore. But it is self-evident that more journal articles are now more accessible than ever before. The STM [scientific, technical and medical] publishing industry has done an amazing job of moving to web publishing over the past 10 years.   

2. What have you done in response to growing interest in open access?

We are experimenting with an open access journal, Molecular Systems Biology, and some of our society-owned titles have switched to a hybrid model, where authors can choose an open access option, subject to payment of a publication fee. 

We have also been supportive of self-archiving, and we were one of the first publishers to encourage self-archiving in national repositories such as PubMedCentral. We are therefore compatible with the access policies of major funders such as NIH, Wellcome and MRC. 

3. Do you have anything on the drawing board, open-access-wise?

It will take several years to see the results of our open access experiments, and we won't be making any major changes without good evidence. But it is already clear that a journal like Nature would struggle under an open access business model. We reject 90% of the articles we receive, and spreading the cost of peer review over the few authors who do get published would be very unfair (and would probably deter submissions). We have approximately 1000 authors, and 60,000 subscribers. It seems fairer to spread the costs over the subscribers. But of course the picture is somewhat different with a low circulation journal. It may make more sense to introduce publication fees instead of subscriptions on those titles.             

4. What do you think of the efforts by other publishers to battle open access?

I think the publishers feel they have been pushed into a corner by the open access campaign. "Public access to publicly funded research" sounds logical, and appealing. But it is really not the point.

Any researcher is free to announce their results, on their web site, their funders web site, or elsewhere....

All businesses have an obligation to maximise shareholder value, so shouting at them to change business model on valuable brands 'on a whim' is futile. We either let the market decide, or we collectivise the industry....

Ultimately, I don't really see why there is such a division - why can't we just get on with innovative publishing, experimenting with a range of business models? ... 


  1. OA to publicly funded research "is really not the point".  Not the point to whom?  Like many publishers, Hoole is assuming that "the point" is the prosperity of private-sector publishers (profit and non-profit).  But for government funding agencies, the point is the advance of science and research.
  2. Who is "shouting at [publishers] to change business model...'on a whim'"?  Is that really what David Hoole thinks is happening?
  3. "We either let the market decide, or we collectivise the industry."  Hoole is forgetting that government spending permeates this "market":  it pays for most research, most researcher salaries, and most journal subscriptions.  To say that government spending should continue to prop up research, researchers, and publication, but that government policy should keep its hands off, is a recipe for serving private interests at the expense of the public interest.  More:  Hoole is assuming, without evidence (actually, in the face of evidence), that the only alternative to a market here is collectivization.  Where did that come from?