Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, June 06, 2008

Interview with Steven Inchcoombe

Siân Harris, Publishing should help research, Research Information, June/July 2008.  An interview with Steven Inchcoombe, the Managing Director of the Nature Publishing Group.  Excerpt:

What is NPG’s stance on open access?

NPG believes that open access will offer something of good value and benefit to some parts of the market but we do not see the author-pays model as appropriate for the Nature-branded journals today. Anything that is Nature-branded has to be best in its field and people who buy our journals expect that selectivity. The rejection rate that accompanies being so selective would make any author-pays charge prohibitive, and we don’t wish to introduce that barrier to publication.

Although the Nature-branded journals are not open access, Molecular Systems Biology, which we publish as a joint venture with EMBO, is fully open access and partly funded by author charges. We also publish a number of hybrid journals, such as EMBO Reports.

We recently announced that content from 65 of our journals will be available for free in 20 developing countries via International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). This agreement complements our relationships with HINARI, AGORA and OARE to provide access for 100 developing countries to the information we publish.

We have a free-to-access preprint server, Nature Precedings. We also support and encourage self-archiving of the author’s final version of accepted articles and are compliant with the mandates from funding bodies such as NIH and the Wellcome Trust.

With the Nature titles we also seek funding from non-traditional sources such as sponsors and advertisers.

What are your predictions for the future?

Open access means that authors or their funders may have to pay to publish papers and I think this will make them demand a higher level of service from publishers. They will want more visibility about what is happening in the publishing process. And once papers are published, authors will want to know who has accessed them as they might want to approach them about possible collaborations.

In addition, self-archiving mandates require authors to do more work. If publishers are clever they will offer authors more help to do this....

There are more and more versions of content available to readers. To justify their versions, publishers must offer serious value such as in forward and backwards citation linking....


  • Inchcoombe didn't give a reason why Nature-branded journals shouldn't be OA, just a reason why they shouldn't use the (misnamed) "author-pays" business model to support OA.  Inchcoombe may have reasons why Nature-branded journals shouldn't be OA at all.  But he shouldn't leave the impression that the only business model for OA journals is to charge author-side publication fees, when OA journals use many different business models.  And he shouldn't leave the impression that all or most OA journals charge publication fees when, in fact, most do not
  • Inchcoombe is right, however, that fee-based OA journals must raise their fees roughly in proportion to their rejection rates, since fees on accepted papers must cover the costs of reviewing rejected papers.  But that doesn't mean that OA journals (fee-based or no-fee) can't be highly selective or high in quality.  On the contrary, OA journals have many natural advantages over TA journals for delivering high-quality research.  For a detailed discussion, see my article from October 2006.
  • "[S]elf-archiving mandates require authors to do more work."  This is true but misleading.  Log activity at a busy repository shows that the time required for deposit averages 10 minutes per paper, far less than the time required to report on the research at the end of the grant period.
  • I've often praised NPG for its many experiments with OA.  In fact, my list of those experiments (July 2007) is longer than Inchcoombe's.