Thursday, 19 July 2018

Business Models for Open Access: How can I run a successful Open Access journal?

JAMS logo

In this week's guest blog Martyn Rittman, Ph.D, Publishing Services Manager at MDPI, offers some words of wisdom for developing successful open access journals.

The Directory of Open Access Journals contains over 11,500 journals and more than 3.1 million open access articles. Our indexing database Scilit contains around 20 million freely available articles, mostly open access. Estimates put the amount of open access in the region of 15% to 20% of all published articles. Do these numbers represent a threat to traditional revenue channels, or is it possible to run a healthy business using this model?

MDPI started publishing free online articles in the late 1990s. At first, we were supported by other projects, conferences, grants, and a great deal of voluntary time. In the mid-2000s, along with other publishers, we adopted author-side charges for publication, commonly known as article processing charges (APCs). By separating the journal editors making final acceptance decisions from the publisher, we have been able to maintain a rigorous and objective peer review process alongside gold open access. However, we have spoken to other publishers who have found it difficult to adopt the open access model, don’t feel they have the expertise, or find it difficult to cover their costs. Here, we offer some advice for developing successful open access journals.

Sources of revenue

Assure yourself that revenue streams for open access are available, even in fields with high scepticism towards author-side charges.  An increasing number of national funding agencies and governments have open access mandates, and offer support for the payment of APCs. National agreements with publishers are also emerging. Many non-governmental funding agencies and university libraries have also embraced open access and provide assistance to authors. These include the Wellcome Trust, the European Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many more. A useful resource to see the amounts paid by universities for open access publication is the OpenAPC platform ( Other models include Knowledge Unlatched for humanities and SCOAP3 for high energy physics, where publishers receive a per-article payment out of a central fund collected from funders and libraries. Smaller journals may be able to find a single funding agency, university or society to cover all the costs of the journal, especially in niche fields. In fact, there are increasing opportunities that do not involve directly invoicing authors.

Providing a useful service

Do not assume that open access is enough. Look carefully at the scope of your journal to see whether it offers something unique in the field. This is especially critical for new journals. For many authors, the decision on where to publish is not primarily linked to open access: the scope, editorial board, and reputation of the journal are usually more important. Open access journals should be focused on providing a good service to authors and you can distinguish your journal simply by providing a better alternative to existing journals.


Consider new workflows for your journal. There may be an initial cost to making changes in how you run the journal but it will pay off in the long-term. Authors publishing in open access are often looking for a quick decision and publication. This might mean revisiting how editorial decisions are made, and changing expectations among editors, editorial board members and reviewers about how quickly they provide feedback. On the marketing side, you will need to consider how to better reach your target authors, redirecting efforts from potential subscription customers. If you opt for an APC model, handling a larger volume of small payments may require a new approach to invoicing.

There is no magic formula for running an open access journal and much of the work is the same as for traditional journals. Open access journals now exist in all fields using all kinds of editorial and business models. At MDPI, we continue to see growth in the open access market across many research fields. We are convinced of the benefits of universal access through a large, broad readership, allowing ideas to shape those outside of the academy as well as authors from institutions with small subscription budgets. Open access supports the dissemination and sustainability of knowledge and we encourage all publishers to take advantage.

Head and shoulders photo of Martyn Rittman
Martyn Rittman, Ph.D. is Publishing Services Manager at MDPI, combining a passion for open access publishing with an interest in new models for publishing and open science. He joined MDPI in 2013 following a research career covering physical chemistry, materials science, instrumentation, and mathematical modelling.

MDPI is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with branch offices in China, Spain, and Serbia. It runs over 200 fully open access journals, including some in collaboration with scholarly societies, and in 2017 published over 35,000 peer-reviewed articles. MDPI also provides publisher services through its JAMS software ( and offers academic communication tools, including a conference management platform, at

JAMS website:
MDPI website:

MDPI are proud silver sponsors of the ALPSP Annual Conference and Awards 2018

Friday, 6 July 2018

How to train your author - Is author training a good idea for publishers?

In this week’s guest post, we hear from Dr Gareth Dyke who heads up Charlesworth Knowledge, a new service being launched this year for authors, educational institutions, and publishers.

A huge range of training courses, most often delivered online, are available to help academic researchers improve their writing and publication presentation skills. Ive often wondered, however, if encouraging authors to attend such courses and improve their abilities (albeit incrementally) is actually a good idea for publishers? There is an argument that it is in the interests of the publication house to receive badly written content so that in-house editing and polishing offerings can be recommended, leading to an obvious knock-on increase in revenue, in spite of the editorial headaches involved in reviewing them.

This feedback loop seems self-defeating for publishing houses. Surely once an author has been trained to write better and more effective articles, then that individual is less likely to avail of in-house language editing services?

I disagree. Id argue that the whole author-publisher ecosystem should be viewed pragmatically and is, after all, a question of scale. What does a publisher gain from training authors to write better on their own? In addition to reducing the time spent working over the hundreds of submissions that might come through a system week on week, revenue from providing the training itself is important. Looking longer term: better quality submissions enhance the journal, building its reputation, leading to more citations, raising up the impact factor, and driving subscriptions. In this day and age of quick online publications that are often open access amidst competition for your readers' time (even within your own research field), well written and effective articles that draw readers in and keep them going past just the title and the abstract are a bonus for everybody. It’s also important to build loyalty amongst authors so that they keep submitting their papers to the same journals; this could be because this is where they received their key training, as well as the reputation and quality of the journal playing a role in their decision. This is one good reason why the big academic journal publishing houses offer author training, often as standalone academy’-type model or pay-per-view online workshops and seminars; they want to encourage author submission habits with quality product that all feeds into driving up their sales, including insitutional subscriptions, and publisher/journal reputation. 

So, yes, author training is a very good thing. Perhaps thats why more and more publishing houses are getting into this area and offering these courses either directly or through third-party training providers. Through the many years of providing high-quality language polishing services, Charlesworth Author Services has recognised this growing need to provide high-quality and high-value training to the academic authors who use our services. Author education provided by the unique combination of people with both publishing and reviewing skills at the highest level is the logical next step.

About The Charlesworth Group

With close to 20 years' experience in China, The Charlesworth Group is recognized globally as the trusted partner for sales and marketing representation and consultancy for STM publishers in the Chinese academic market. Charlesworth is also a leading provider of language editing and author services through its Charlesworth Author Services Division.

Dr. Gareth Dyke

Gareth is a prolific scientific author who has published more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals over the last 20 years. During Gareth’s experience as an academic, working across multiple Universities,  he has mentored students at all ages and has developed a large range of teaching techniques.

Twitter: @CWGAuthors
Linkedin: Charlesworth Author Services


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Artificial Intelligence: What It Is, How It Works, and What Publishers Can Do with It

Atypon logo
AI was one of the hot topics at last year's ALPSP conference, in this guest blog Hong Zhou, Senior Product Manager for Information Discovery and AI at Atypon give us the 101 on this transformational development.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is much more than the latest technology buzzword. According to Gartner, by 2020, AI will positively change the behavior of billions of workers and users. And Tata estimates that the vast majority of those workers will work outside of IT.

But what exactly is AI?

AI is a broad set of technologies that use the computational capabilities of machines to “think” like humans. There are many different types of AI, each of which can be used to solve different problems.

So how can AI be employed by scholarly publishers? Ultimately, any publishing technology should make the research experience more productive, increase content usage, and add value to the publisher’s content. To do that, R&D at Atypon explores ways to help readers discover useful and relevant information more quickly by improving search mechanisms and refining content recommendations.

Making content relevant: Recommender systems

Recommender systems will be familiar to anyone who has received suggestions about what other products to buy before or after making an online purchase. Publishers can use them to target relevant products to individual customers by understanding their online site behavior and interests.

Anticipating what readers want: Personalized search

AI-driven recommendation technology can be extended to personalize search as well: reading histories can be used to adjust search rankings specifically to each user—and even suggest new queries that may be relevant—with the goal of understanding a user’s intentions even before they search.

Faster, easier content classification: Semantic auto-tagging

Content tagging underlies many important website capabilities, such as automating the creation of topic-specific pages and content bundles, and powering search results and content recommendations. But tagging documents and maintaining tag sets can be a daunting undertaking. Auto-taggers powered by intelligent machine learning algorithms tag articles accurately and even identify which tags may not be assigned correctly. They save curators time by letting them concentrate their efforts only on content that’s assigned low “confidence scores” by the auto-tagger, thus making it easier for publishers to implement and manage taxonomies.

Content enrichment: Natural language processing

Keywords are traditionally extracted or selected manually, but doing it automatically requires a large amount of training data to identify relationships among topics and key phrases. By enabling machines to understand the meaning of content rather than just the individual words, they can extract more valuable information from content. Natural language processing (NLP) automates key phrase extraction and obviates “teaching” the engine about the content first. By extracting key phrases from different sections of the content and ranking them based on their importance, NLP ultimately improves content categorization and, by extension, content discovery.

Beyond tagging and metadata: Knowledge graphs

A knowledge graph charts all of the possible connections among publication-related information like authors, topics, journals, articles, and even external knowledge databases. Based on these connections, algorithms identify and recommend to researchers the most influential entities, trending topics, and even co-authors and reviewers based on their areas of specialization and the subjects about which they’re writing.

Granular discoverability for text and images: Semantic enrichment

Suppose a researcher wants to interpret many figures associated with a single experiment. Editors have to segment them manually using specialized software—problematic when processing a large number of them. Machine learning can be used to extract sub-figures and captions from compound figures and even separate labels from their associated images, enabling each item to be searched and retrieved individually. Such automation not only reduces the cost of segmentation but also extracts and organizes more valuable information so researchers can search for, compare, and recommend images more precisely and easily.

Search the science, not the text

AI is no longer an aspirational conversation about the future—many of the technologies discussed above are all available today and in use by publishers. By using AI to provide better search results for researchers—and enable publishers to target content more effectively—publishers can deepen researchers’ engagement with their websites, increase the value of their content, and further the pursuit of scientific knowledge by surfacing the information they need more quickly and accurately.

Hong Zhou works on Atypon’s next-generation information discovery technologies. Previously, he was the CTO of Digital Fineprint, a startup that leveraged machine learning algorithms for the insurance industry. He also spent a year designing race car games at Eutechnyx. He holds a PhD in 3D modeling with artificial intelligence algorithms from Aberystwyth University and has published widely on computer science.

Atypon is the proud sponsor of our Awards Dinner at the ALPSP Annual Conference which will take place on 12-14 September this year.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Examining Trust and Truth in Scholarly Publishing

In this latest blog, Helen Duriez, from our Professional Development Committee, reflects on how our current webinar series Trust, Truth and Scholarly Publishing webinar series came together.  

Oh, how the world turns. I used to think that Donald Trump running for US president was a fine joke. I used to think there was no way the UK would choose to go it alone when it could be a part of the collective economic might of the European Union. Turns out, the voting public in the US and UK had very different ideas to those of this na├»ve millennial back in 2016.  

Two years on, it’s become apparent that a large part of the success of these two major political campaigns was their ability to leverage personal belief systems. People are more likely to believe what they read if it aligns with their pre-existing belief system or if it taps into a feeling of existential threat, causing them to disregard evidence to the contrary. Ironically enough, there’s research that backs up this theory, and the concept even has a name – post-truth. You might have heard of it.

Now, what people choose to believe (or not) is tightly interwoven with what we choose to tell them, and how. In scholarly publishing, most of our jobs involve disseminating complex information in one form or another. With research output higher than ever before, there’s a lot of complicated stuff to explain – not just to academics and practitioners, but to the general public as well. Scientists are used to working with ambiguities, although that doesn’t mean they always navigate the rocky terrain of uncertainty safely. And what about lay audiences, who give as much weight to opinions as to facts?

The team at ALPSP felt this topic warranted further exploration, and so a small group of staff and volunteers (I’m one of the latter) have taken it upon ourselves to put together a series of webinars looking at some of the issues and opportunities in scholarly publishing today. Here’s how the series pans out…

Publishing without perishing

In case you missed the first webinar in the Trust, Truth & Scholarly Publishing series, go – sign up and download it. Seriously, do it. Yes, as one of the organisers I may be a little biased, but even knowing what I was about to listen to didn’t stop me from being motivated and left feeling a little awe-inspired as Richard Horton gave us a passionate, powerful reminder of what early journal publishers set out to achieve, and the obligations we still have to society today. Jason Hoyt follows up with some practical thoughts about how publishers can succeed in a post-truth world.

The reproducibility opportunity

In last week's webinar, now available for download too, and highly recommended,  Catriona Fennell, Rachel Tsui and Chris Chambers explored how the concept of reproducible science represents an opportunity, rather than a threat, when it comes to getting to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The traditional journal publishing model doesn’t have much time for replication studies (not original research, don’t ya know) or registered reports (findings, please!), but things are starting to change…

Public engagement with scholarly research

The process of communicating a new piece of scientific research to the world can sometimes feel a little like a game of Chinese whispers. When the description of a complex concept or process is shortened and reworded in order to reach a new audience, it’s meaning can change subtly. I’ve seen more than one twitter spat debating the latest “scientists have found…” health fact, and there are those who have built careers around addressing some of these misrepresentations.

So, what tools can those of us in scholarly communication use to instil trust in our content? In our last webinar we are joined by three industry communicators Tom Griffin, John Eggleton and Eva Emerson to find out.  You can register here for this final webinar.

For more practical information on the series, including how to get a members’ discount, see here.

Helen Duriez is a Product Manager at Wiley, specialising in digital strategy and planning. With over 12 years’ experience in the publishing industry, Helen has previous worked at the Royal Society, Macmillan and OUP. She gets out of bed for open science and avocado toast.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Open Annotation for Researchers and Publishers

Hypothesis Logo

This month's Featured Member - Hypothesis provides our latest Guest Blog, penned by their Director of Partnerships - Heather Staines.

Created as a nonprofit, based on open source technology, Hypothesis is an independent industry voice that listens to community partners, not shareholders, to create a solution that serves researchers through all stages of their workflow. Our 145,000 users have already created more than 3.1 million annotations in the research, education, and journalism sectors. In 2015, we launched the Annotating All Knowledge Coalition, for publishers, universities, and technology companies wishing to explore interoperable annotation. Free to join, the AAK Coalition invites ALPSP members to learn more. We also host I Annotate, the world’s largest conference dedicated to annotation technologies, now in its sixth year. Join us in San Francisco on June 6–7 2018.

Workflow tools that silo content and data and require researchers to cut and paste notes or reenter information result in frustration and loss of productivity. Visit Hypothesis to create a free account that you can use to annotate content across the web. Deep-linking through annotation creates unique persistent web addresses for content at any level: page, paragraph, sentence, word, or data object across HTML, PDF, and EPUB formats. Embed Hypothesis on your website or platform with just a short piece of javascript code to enable anyone to annotate — whether they have the browser plugin already or not. If you want more control over annotations, consider our Publisher Group functionality.

With the successful launch of the first Publisher Group for eLife in January, 2018, we are pleased to announce further refined group technology for publishers, platforms, and societies.  Publisher Groups are branded and moderated annotation layers that enable conversations, the creation of additional content, private note-taking, and private collaboration groups over publisher versions of record. Increase reader engagement with interaction on your content through annotations, which also populate to your publisher group page.

Publisher Groups enable world-readable annotation layers that are open for anyone to create annotations or are restricted to authors, members, or invited experts. Society publishers can establish a group that spans both their content site and their member site to create a cohesive conversation to benefit members. Societies with similar interests can collaborate to create a discipline-specific layer that spans multiple content sites. The W3C standards-based Hypothesis client can connect to existing account systems to avoid the need for users to create separate accounts, and it can be configured to match the styling of publisher websites and platforms. Hypothesis works with all of the popular hosting solutions across the industry.

Annotations in groups can also be explored through activity pages, giving publishers and societies quick snapshots into annotation activity on specific sites and documents. Full analytics on public annotations and aggregated anonymized data on private and group annotations are available through Hypothesis' robust API. Public annotations are included in the Crossref Event Data project for indexing by Google.

Publishers are discovering additional use cases for annotation every day. eJournal Press has integrated Hypothesis with its peer review dashboard to offer reviewers the option to provide feedback through inline annotation. Discussions with all major manuscript submissions systems are underway. Taking the popular SciBot account functionality as a model, publishers are exploring annotation technology to connect external data to specific identifiers already embedded in their content. SciBot searches papers for RRIDs (Research Resource Identifiers) — key for reproducibility and used by more than 125 journals — then displays information on each RRID in the form of an annotation card on the publisher site. Readers no longer need to navigate away to see the data behind the identifier. The Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University has partnered with Cambridge University Press to connect citations to their sources and underlying data through Annotation for Transparent Inquiry, an innovation that puts quotes and sources in context with author notes. Production departments are using annotation to handle questions on thier xml staging sites or in editorial processes to plan journal migrations. Preprint services such as bioRxiv are considering making society groups visible by default on top of their servers. The possibilities are endless.

Let's talk about how annotation and Publisher Group options can serve your goals for publication and user engagement.

Photo of Heather Staines

Heather Staines is Director of Partnerships for Hypothesis, working with publishers, platforms, and technology partners to promote open annotation. She has worked at Proquest, SIPX, Springer SBM (now Springer Nature), and Praeger Publishers, and she is active in many industry associations and task forces, including ALPSP, SSP, STM, Charleston, Force11, and more.

You Tube:

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Understanding how to get your journal article in front of the reader

Understanding how to get your journal article in front of the reader and working out how to navigate the multitude of discovery resources and authentication barriers is essential to the success of a publishing organisation. It is also the topic of one of our most popular training courses. Here, we spoke to Online Journal Discovery and Delivery: Working with Libraries and industry intermediaries to maximise readership co-tutor, Tracy Gardner, about the challenges of keeping up-to-date in this area.

"One of the biggest challenges publishers face is making sure their content can be easily found in the various discovery resources readers use to find journal articles, and then to ensure the steps between the reader finding the content and reading it are seamless and without barrier. There are so many potential pitfalls along the way, and this issue therefore concerns people working in production, IT, editorial, sales, marketing and customer service.

The pace of change is fast, technology is evolving all of the time and the driver for much of it has come from the libraries. Libraries are keen to ensure their patrons find and access content they have selected and purchased and by keeping them in a library intermediated environment they feel they can improve their research experience overall. Ultimately the library would like the user to start at the library website, find content they can read and not be challenged along the way.

Simon Inger and I have been running the Online Journal Discovery and Delivery course two or three times a year for twelve years now and we have never run the same course twice - it constantly needs to be updated.

Those working in customer facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service may not fully appreciate how much library technology impacts on the way researchers find and access their content. Many people are surprised to learn that poor usage within an institution is often because something has gone wrong with the way the content is indexed within the library discovery layer, how it is set up in the library link resolver, or issues with authentication.

For those in operational or technology roles, the business technology side of journals can seem unnecessarily complex and, especially for those new to the industry, the way the information community works can seem counter to the way many other business sectors operate. What makes sense in classic B2B or B2C environments will not make sense within the academic research community.

By helping people who work in publishing houses understand how the technology supporting journal delivery works, and how they can most effectively work with libraries to maximise discovery and use of their content. Many people who have attended our course have not been aware of the impact some of their decisions have had and our course has helped them understand why they need to work in certain ways."

Tracy Gardner will tutor on the upcoming Online Journal Discovery and Delivery course on 20 March. Full course details can be found here

Monday, 12 March 2018

Realising 'Wa' in the East: A Sales Manager's findings

In this blog Martin Jack, Senior Sales Manager for IPR License and Course Tutor for our fantastic new course - Introduction to Sales Management in Scholarly Publishing: Selling to libraries, academics and institutions shares his pointers on doing business in Japan. 

Before I started doing business in Japan I read a number of books offering practical advice on how to be successful across the Japanese business table. “Bow from the back, not from the neck!” I repeated to myself mantra-like as I entered my first meeting and didn’t come to my senses until some-time afterward: a clumsy, graceless and inelegant 6”4 Scot is surely going to appear sillier the more he tries to imitate deep bows! My mistake was in thinking that I was going to win points for emulation…and to think, I had both watched and read James Clavell’s 1 million words+ Shogun! Oh well, Richard Chamberlain aside, at least I wasn’t in the position of Lord Macartney, whom 200 years prior was to head the first British diplomatic mission to China. “To kowtow or not to kowtow?”, in front of the ruling Qianlong Emperor of Beijing, was his predicament. And yet, his kowtow and my bow had no relevance whatsoever to the success of our meetings (one slightly more anticipated than the other perhaps). Then, as now, the essential requirement to successful international business is trust built on mutual cultural understanding – protocol is a secondary factor. As for imitation, Wilde’s judgement is final: ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness!’ And so, I’ve put together some pointers of my own for when you find yourself preparing for your first Japanese business meetings, which I hope are of some help.

Focus on the Relationship

Focus on the relationship entirely. You won’t succeed in your business in Japan if you can’t establish a relationship. Try to be friends first, develop a relationship, and earn and build some trust in each other. Start by taking a genuine interest in who you are meeting and remember their name, even if you have to write it down in front of them (they’ll invariably give you a business card at the beginning of the meeting with a transliteration of their name in English which you can refer to) and get them to help you intone the pronunciation if you struggle.

Setting the Pace

You won’t be the one to set the pace, no matter how much time you have for the meeting and no matter how many topics you’ve prepared to discuss. You have to defer to the pace at which your hosts are willing to proceed. Mirroring the pace of your hosts will show respect, save yourself from being seen to show impatience, and show that you are willing to spend as much time as necessary on any point raised. Those points may not appear to be important in the grander scheme of things but at the juncture when they are raised they should be treated with all the seriousness accorded by your interlocutor. Best to keep in mind what you aim to achieve in the meeting whilst preparing mentally for not achieving anything (see ‘Manage your Expectations’ below). The discussion over details of your agenda points can be picked up again afterwards over email or over the phone. 

Manage your Expectations

Don’t expect decisions to be made over the table and don’t put your counterparts on the spot, no matter how good your offer is. Many decisions are made in Japan on a consensual rather than individual basis, after much discussion, so that amongst other things, harmony (wa) is maintained. When a poor decision is made in Japanese business, the blame is generally shared amongst employees rather than it being attributed to any one person (which would result in a loss of face which the Japanese are careful to avoid). Try to avoid tipping the balance and spoiling the progress you’ve made by persistently chasing for a decision. Have patience (an invaluable Confucian trait!) or try to incentivise for a quicker decision. Remember, the Japanese are not necessarily working on the basis of your financial year.

Attention to Detail

A key feature of Japanese culture which has a direct bearing on the way you will do business is that of detail, detail, and more detail. Expect and prepare for detailed questions on your offering and proposal throughout and towards the end of your meeting. You will get the sense of the amount of detail the Japanese are used to absorbing by checking out any Japanese book on your favourite rock band. Not only will you get profiles of the band members and detailed album listings, you’ll get descriptions of their preferred guitars and each of the effects pedals they use. ‘Paisley!’, retorted an avid Japanese fan, ‘Paisley, not Glasgow!’, when I made claim to Gerry Rafferty as a fellow Glaswegian. Check your facts in advance!

Etiquette and Manner

It’s important to get an understanding of what is and what isn’t culturally acceptable amongst the Japanese so that you gain an insight into how they think and so you can conduct yourself in a manner that will be acceptable or even admired by them. Honne and tatemae are Japanese words roughly equivalent to the common concept of private and public face which is part of all cultures, however, in Japan this is something that is used in daily life and not in a negative sense – you could say that tatemae is a form of social lubricant. From a Western point of view, to conceal the truth is usually not taken well, however as it is so important to the Japanese to maintain harmony, most of the time true feelings and thoughts are not expressed directly in order not to hurt the feelings of others. Take that into consideration when you are approaching negotiation. There may not be much opportunity to negotiate prices, for example (certainly not as hard and fast and enjoyably as in mainland China), and so you might find it useful tailor your offerings so that they are as initially attractive to your counterpart as possible.

Profile photo of Martin Jack
Martin Jack
Martin is Senior Sales Manager for IPR License, the official rights and licensing solution of Frankfurt Book Fair. He has over eight years' experience in international sales in academic publishing with Taylor & Francis, having lived and worked in England, Singapore, China and Japan. 

For more info on our new course: Introduction to Sales Management in Scholarly Publishing: Selling to libraries, academics and institutions running on 28 March visit: