Tuesday, 20 July 2021

A Step onto the Huge Learning Curve of Academic Publishing

Back in 2005, aged 25, I decided that, with little to lose and wonderfully oblivious to the challenges ahead, I would start up my own publishing company from a £1 an hour internet shop under my shared London flat. That was Legend Press, a fiction publisher, and led in time to the creation of Legend Times, a group of trade publishing companies.

My interest in academic publishing was triggered when I founded a global licensing platform, IPR License, in 2012 before selling it in 2016. During those four years we worked with a great number of scholarly publishers of all sizes and I began to see just how much change the sector had been through and how it was constantly being driven by new challenges and innovation.

When the opportunity arose in 2019 to acquire the University of Buckingham Press (UBP), I was extremely excited for Legend Times to be taking its first step expanding into academic publishing. And since taking on the very small but well-run press and launching our mission and strategy for it, the last two years have been a fascinating and very steep learning curve.

The first lesson we quickly learnt was the most important one – we needed to stop thinking like a trade publisher. There are lessons that can be exchanged between academic and trade publishing, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. Whereas trade publishing is generally fulfilling a want of a customer to have quality content to enjoy in their spare time, academic publishing fulfils a need for producing quality content which is essential to academics, researchers and a range of other professionals.

As a result, rather than producing content and then subjectively selling it, the challenge in scholarly publishing was in many ways a deeper one. The first part is to pick out the need for particular content right at the outset followed by having the processes in place, including often peer-review, to produce content that is objectively approved.

The third challenge is then to deliver it, usually in a variety of formats. This is where tech solutions come in and the realisation that academic publishing is not the old-fashioned, paper-driven world some may assume it is. In fact, to deal with the many challenges and opportunities of the digital age, scholarly publishers and distributors have invested huge amounts of money in technology and the academic publishing sector is by far the most digitally advanced of all the publishing sectors.

On acquiring UBP, with our trade background mindset, our initial focus was on its book list with the journals as an add-on. Learning from the above, it soon became clear there was also a huge opportunity in journals plus overlap between the delivery of both journal and book content. As a result, we have increased the number of journals published from four to nine with the aim of reaching 20 journals within the next two years. And then coming a full circle back to books, we have just announced the launch of a new open access monograph imprint alongside the existing books line, which itself is gradually converting into open access.

Mention of the move toward open access brings us to the business models of academic publishing. This is far too big a topic to cover fully in one blog but as someone who loves creativity in business, it is fascinating to see the business models developing from the various academic, research and publishing business needs and pressures being applied. Furthermore, coming into the academic sector with a fresh view, we are very happy to be contributing in whatever form we can to this business model evolution.

As part of this, we have been in talks with several universities over transformative agreements, enabling access to our content and publications under an equitable and single deal with each institution. Seeing many conversations happening, but inevitably just the deals with the huge conglomerates making the headlines, we launched the Libraries and Small to Medium Publisher Survey, looking specifically at what libraries would like from transformative deals with smaller presses. We plan to publish the results next year, so if you have a couple of minutes, please take a look and share the survey with any library contacts.

In summary, what a learning experience this has been – and that is before adding in the impact of the last year’s global health pandemic. I thought the leap into academic publishing would be interesting but in fact it has been more than that. It has been a gateway into a huge, expanded sector of need, responsibility, business models and most importantly the highest quality of content. We don’t know what the next two years will bring aside from the certainty the sector will again have evolved yet again into something new.

About the author

Tom Chalmers, Managing Director/Founder, Legend Times

Tom started his first company in 2005 when aged 25, Legend Press, was a fiction book publisher. He later launched Legend Business, a business book publisher, followed by New Generation Publishing, a self-publishing company. He also founded IPR License in 2012, a global rights licensing platform, which he sold in 2016. In 2019, Legend Times acquired University of Buckingham Press and in 2020 launched Hero, a non-fiction book publisher.

Tom has previously been shortlisted for UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year, UK Young Publisher of the Year, UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year, and longlisted for the Enterprising Young Brit Award. He was the 2018 winner of the Global Outstanding Young Person Award in the Big Ben Awards at the Houses of Parliament.

Find out more about ALPSP member, Legend Times / University of Buckingham Press.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Hidden barriers to maintaining research integrity and how to overcome them

Whether you are a busy academic journal editor volunteering your time to work on your journals, or a full-time professional editor, you have probably experienced that sinking feeling when a research integrity issue lands on your desk. You know what to do, but you also know that it will be a huge drain on your time. The management of such issues can take a low priority when there are ongoing and immediate editorial decisions to be made on current submissions. 

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) provides guidance on how to manage the most common publication misconduct scenarios, but, as well as issues of editor workload, unrecognised in-house tensions can slow down or even block their resolution. Fear of reputational damage, legal concerns, poorly defined responsibilities between editor and publisher and reluctance to share information can easily derail efforts to correct the published record.

Fear of reputational damage is a significant blocker to effective research misconduct investigation and management. Although retractions are seen as positive evidence that publishers and journals are committed to research integrity, some stigma around retractions remains. This is particularly true around egregious cases. Cries of, ‘How did that get past the peer reviewers? ‘and ‘How did the editor allow that through?’ will be inevitable. The embarrassment this can cause is even more acute when the case is that of manipulation of the publication process and involves many articles and journals. Such cases call into question the publisher’s processes, so it is not surprising that publishers will worry that attention around the resulting retractions will negatively impact their reputation.

Legal challenges to editorial decisions are on the rise. Publishers bear the legal consequences of editorial decisions, but editors are responsible for the integrity of the content of their journals. This can lead to direct conflicts of interest between editor and publisher. Long delays result as publishers’ legal teams and editors navigate through the evaluations necessary to resolve editorial and legal conflicts.

Another publisher editor conflict is around the idea of editorial freedom. Editors are rightly in charge of the content of their journals. They have the scientific expertise and access to an expert network to help them make judgements about scientific soundness and value. They should be free to make these judgements without interference from publishers. However, unless they are professional editors, they may not be up to date on publication ethics standards or the latest challenges to research integrity in the publishing industry.  As research misconduct becomes more sophisticated, new expertise, which editors may not have, is needed to tackle it. This is pertinent to cases of manipulation of the publication process which are more about exploitation of the publisher’s processes than scientific content. To an editor, a fabricated manuscript can be indistinguishable from a legitimate one. Only the publisher can fully investigate.

Assumptions that editors who are eminent experts in their field, must also be experts at handling all types of research misconduct, and that by providing advice on editorial issues the publisher interferes with editorial freedom, hinder the resolution of research misconduct issues.

When it comes to responsibility for research integrity, an inflexible demarcation between editorial and publisher responsibilities can leave editors poorly supported and out of their depth. 

The first steps to easing these tensions is to acknowledge they exist and adopt a proactive and collaborative approach to research integrity. This includes a strategy that: clarifies expectations of editors, authors and peer reviewers; sets robust core policies and processes; develops comprehensive resources for editorial staff and academic editors; ensures reliable lines of communication for editors to seek help; and regularly reviews policies and practices. Read more details on the essential components of a good research integrity strategy. 

In addition, a pre-emptive approach to managing manipulation of the publication process, where the publisher, editors and other relevant experts agree on roles and responsibilities, what information will be shared and how decision-making processes will work, are key to the swift and successful resolution of such cases. 

I am running a workshop that explores these hidden barriers and the practicalities of managing research misconduct at my workshop on 15 June. A 15% discount is available for ALPSP members. Find out more about the workshop and registration details.

Publisher Editor interactions

Research misconduct

About the author

Dr Jigisha Patel, Independent Research Integrity Specialist

Formerly a medical doctor and clinical researcher, Dr Jigisha Patel joined the publishing industry over 14 years ago as a medical editor. She later went on to specialise in research integrity. Dr Patel has worked with publishers, authors, reviewers, editors, institutions, and government organizations to resolve many different types of research integrity cases. As an independent research integrity specialist, Dr Patel now works with organizations that are committed to research integrity to reduce research misconduct and manage complex research integrity issues. Find out more.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Product development for the digital age - how do you drive value and innovate?

In order to thrive as a business, scholarly publishers increasingly need to exploit and extend the value that lies within their established products, such as books and journals, whilst also exploring and establishing new products.  

Traditionally, scholarly publishers have not separated or defined the different innovation streams needed to both support existing products and develop new ones. This often means failure to do one or the other - or to do them well. But this must change if publishers are to prosper amidst an ever-changing landscape.

Map your business model portfolio to understand where the risks and opportunities lie

Image A shows an approach we use to help publishing clients that is based on the Strategzer portfolio management tool. After categorising the products as existing or new, the idea is to then develop a strategy to move business models up and to the right, increasing return and reducing risk.  

Understanding the ‘direction of travel’ - whether a business model is increasing or decreasing risk - and defining its ‘product value’ both contribute to our analysis. By taking this whole picture view, a publisher can assess if it has a balanced portfolio, where improvements and digitisation are needed and where they should focus their time and investment. 

As the pace of change in scholarly communications continues to accelerate, it may be difficult to predict where your products are headed next. The good news is that publishers are able to minimise risk simply by having a technology foundation that enables them to be flexible, data-driven and user focussed.

Image A Business Model Portfolio based on the Strategyzer Method

Image A: Business Model Portfolio based on the Strategyzer Method

Understand your product value

To improve, prioritise and plot products so they take the right trajectory, the publisher also needs to understand where it sits in the value pyramid (Image B). Where do you think you are on the pyramid? If you, like many publishers, sit towards the bottom of the pyramid, you probably feel like your technology is controlling your decision-making, rather than the other way around. 

Researchers now expect ‘personalisation’ and products and services that offer ‘knowledge’ and ‘insights’. If you fail to deliver these, then you'll risk losing business. Moving up the value pyramid allows you to leverage your core assets and mitigate the risks of the distribution disruptors.  

Image B Digital Product Value Pyramid

Image B: Digital Product Value Pyramid

Control and adjust - take back your technology

You have a vision and plan for your business portfolio. You have an understanding of the value in your products and how to develop them to provide the sophisticated experience users have come to expect. Now you need the control, speed and agility to enable it all.  But how do you get there?

Firstly, you need to regain control of your core asset, your content and data. Far too many publishers store theirs within a monolithic vendor platform that is only supporting a single front end product.  

To move up the value pyramid, you will also need a modular, component-based IT architecture that puts you in the driving seat and allows you to adapt and adjust, test and then build new products and business models.  

Unless you have a significant technology team within your business, finding a technology partner to help you is a key part of your digital transformation journey. It is important that the partner you choose follows an agile approach which will give you the flexibility to adapt over time.

ALPSP has a new product development training course available from 2021. To find out more, visit: https://www.alpsp.org/Events-Training

About the author

Sam Herbert, CEO, 67 Bricks

67 Bricks is a software development consultancy that works with some of the most respected names in scholarly publishing. If you are thinking about how to drive value and innovate in your publishing business, contact Sam at sam.herbert@67bricks.com or tweet @67Bricks.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

An Update from ALPSP Chief Executive: March 2021

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, we are hopefully seeing a way out of lockdown in England. We have made a few changes to the way in which ALPSP conducts its business after successfully launching our new events management system. I hope you will like the way in which we are now able to engage with our members.

Our recent webinar/workshop on Progress on OA agreements with libraries and consortia lead by Alicia Wise from Information Power went well. We broke into working groups which stimulated a good discussion that Alicia will be feeding back in her report. Information Power would like to learn about publisher experiences of seeking or entering into transformative OA agreements with libraries and library consortia. This is for a project being undertaken on behalf of cOAlition S & ALPSP to measure progress on these agreements during 2020, to understand the factors which lead to success, and to develop a set of recommendations for funders, libraries, library consortia and publishers that could lead to more agreements. We would ask that each publishing member organization nominate someone to complete this short online survey.

At the Publishers’ Content Forum in February a wide range of topics were covered. There was an interesting discussion around the desire of the EU to create a digital bridge between Europe and the US. Whether this comes about will be down to the Biden administration, and there would need to be substantial change if this bridge were to be constructed.
We have now launched our new Mentorship scheme. There was a lot of positive energy when I met with both mentors and mentees and I believe that we are off to a great start. The current scheme will finish at the end of July, and we envisage this being a rolling activity. Please email Amanda Whiting for further details.
Wayne Sime
We are looking for a member to represent ALPSP on the Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) Board. Ideally, this would be someone from a society publisher who has an interest in licensing. The post would involve a time commitment of between 15-20 days per annum. This would be a great opportunity to acquire board experience. If you would like further details, please email me.   

To find out more about ALPSP news and events, visit our website, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, or sign up to our email updates.  

Wayne Sime
Chief Executive, ALPSP

Friday, 29 January 2021

What does good look like when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion?

Amidst all the turbulence of 2020, one striking positive was an increased attention to diversity and inclusion, sparked in particular by the death of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter movement. Society, it would seem, is increasingly unprepared to tolerate discrimination of the basis of social demographics, and that is something to be warmly welcomed.

Focusing on the publishing industry, we have seen dramatic shifts in the way companies are working. As the pandemic struck across the globe, businesses were suddenly forced to embrace flexible and remote working in a way that many had previously resisted. Almost overnight, working from home became the new normal – the days of commuting to an office now seem like distant memories for many of us. D&I advocates have long argued for flexible working as an important strategy in increasing workforce diversity, for example in creating opportunities for those returning from parental leave to progress their career while also spending time with their family. And while we need to remember that working at home during a global pandemic – with its requirement for home schooling, closure of leisure facilities, and fights for workspace and wifi access with the rest of the household – is emphatically NOT the same as 'regular’ remote working, there are nevertheless benefits to these adjustments to our expectations of how people can work. Which company could now make an argument that working from home can’t be accommodated, when it is all we have done for nearly a year?

In some ways, this feels like a fertile landscape for making progress in diversity and inclusion. But – as always – things are never that simple. We saw some positive movement in 2020, but we also experienced a number of backward steps. The UK Gender Pay reporting requirement was waived, thus the ability to track trends over time has been set back. Britain’s departure from the EU means that workers’ rights and protections are now under review. And, as the pandemic evolves, the economic fallout is still disproportionately affecting those at the bottom of the social scale.

So, as we head into 2021, it feels necessary to regroup and ask ourselves, as a sector, are we getting it right on D&I, or do we need to rethink our focus? My answer to this – as you can probably guess – is no, we’re not getting it right and yes, we do need to rethink.

While I am encouraged to see D&I so high on the agenda of so many publishers, I am often concerned by where the energy and effort is directed. We’ve seen lots of publishers focusing very heavily on what I see as inclusion-related issues, such as the choice of personal pronouns for staff and authors, or the shift to talking about ‘belonging’ and ‘bringing your whole self to work’. While these are significant and important activities, it does feel like a stage has been skipped that – now more than ever – should be the foundation of our work in improving diversity and inclusion.

To explain this, let’s think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

As Maslow argues, needs at the lower end of the hierarchy are ‘deficiency needs’. Meeting them does not increase motivation or fulfilment, yet it is essential that they are attended to. At the top of the pyramid are ‘growth needs’. These can only be effectively achieved when our deficiency needs have been met. 

In other words, it is vital to consider how well as the physiological and safety needs of your workforce are being met. I know from my work with teams that, at the moment, many employees are struggling. None of us can feel safe from personal danger during this pandemic, and news that new variants are even more transmissible is only increasing our anxiety. Many sufferers of domestic abuse are living in fear, imprisoned with their abusers for the best part of a year. And those on lower incomes sharing houses or living alone in small properties may not feel that their home situation is safe, secure or conducive to productive work.

Let me be clear: I absolutely do not think work on inclusion-related issues should stop. But just now it feels as if crucial areas such as safety and security have been left behind. My question to publishers across the globe would be whether – in this strange and disorientating world we now occupy – focusing on growth needs at this time may not be the only priority – perhaps, if your staff are feeling unsafe, those deficiency needs are where you need to put at least some of your efforts?

At Umbrella, we see our work as being fundamentally about social justice. No one’s life outcomes should be defined and decided by their gender, race, or social class. We need to ensure all issues are being addressed – fair pay, transparency, equitable working conditions and personal health, as well as those around how we self-identify, what we want to bring to work, and the culture we experience when we are there. Without resolving the structural inequalities that prevail in our industry, particularly around low pay, without meeting our employees’ needs for safety, security and freedom from fear, we cannot hope to build an inclusive culture, or achieve the social justice towards which we all aspire. 

Dr Nancy Roberts is a specialist tutor for ALPSP virtual training courses which cover Creating an Inclusive Culture, Introduction to People Management in Publishing and Becoming a Leader in Publishing.

About the author

Dr Nancy Roberts, Business Inclusivity/Umbrella and ALPSP Tutor

Dr Nancy Roberts has spent 20 years in the publishing sector working in production and operations for companies ranging from Penguin to Cambridge University Press, before leaving to specialize in diversity and inclusion. 

Nancy is the founder of Umbrella, a tech startup which uses data analytics, AI and machine learning to help businesses realise the benefits of a more diverse workforce. In her portfolio career, she is also Head of Technology and Content at Maverick, providing specialist consultancy to publishers, and delivers management and leadership training for ALPSP, the PTC and independently. 

Nancy has a PhD in Postcolonial Feminist Literary Theory and an Executive MBA from Cranfield University. She is also a NED for Break the Mould CIC and sits on various advisory boards, including We and AI, a non-profit aiming to educate and inform the public about the risks and benefits of AI, and the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of UKRI. She is deeply passionate about social justice and the importance of data in monitoring and achieving this goal.

Monday, 11 January 2021

How scholarly publishing and communications could benefit from the UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme and offer a lifeline to young people

ALPSP blog

We are all acutely aware of how difficult 2020 has been for many different reasons but the effect of COVID-19 on unemployment is likely to continue for some time to come. It is widely acknowledged that COVID job losses have hit young people the hardest and as with other recessions it is going to be much more difficult for this generation to get work, without experience, in a highly competitive job market. We know from experience that this early unemployment can have catastrophic effects on their future chances.

We understand that it remains very difficult for many publishers to plan or commit to new hires, as there is still so much uncertainty in how the next few months and year will play out. Businesses need to remain resilient, agile and think outside the box to make the most of every opportunity. The government has continued to offer varying amounts of support to different industries with various initiatives, to help them to survive and navigate their way through these difficult times.  One such initiative, that is open to all industries and Atwood Tate are delighted and proud to support is their ‘Kickstart Scheme’.

Kickstart is a UK Government scheme which provides funding to employers to create thousands of job placements for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit. The Government will fund 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours per week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions, for six months. £1,500 is also available per placement for support and training. To qualify for funding, the placements created need to be new jobs and should not be vacancies that you would have created anyway without Kickstart. You also need to commit to the placement lasting for six months and being for a minimum of 25 hours per week. The positions should not require extensive previous training as they are entry level roles and you will need to provide support that enables the young person to become more employable as a result of the placement. 

The Government’s ambition is for companies large and small throughout the country, to hire as many ‘Kickstarters’ as possible and they are hoping to create 250-300,000 placements from the scheme. Atwood Tate are passionate about promoting and facilitating the scheme’s reach within our industries and feel that scholarly publishing and communications could offer the opportunity to create some fantastic and inspiring work placements for young people. As well as offering a chance for young people to get some much needed work experience at an extremely difficult time, we are also hoping that the jobs created can inspire them to consider future opportunities that they may not have thought of or realised were open to them. With our industry’s continued commitment to improving diversity and inclusion, this scheme offers the perfect platform to give a chance to individuals that would ordinarily struggle to get ‘a foot in the door’ due to the extreme competitiveness of entry level positions. 

As part of the Government’s stipulations, to apply directly for Kickstart funding you must be able to offer 30 placements within your business. If you are creating between 1-29 placements you need to apply through a Gateway organisation. Atwood Tate are very pleased to be acting as a Gateway so that we can apply for funding on our client’s behalf. More information on how we can help with this is available on our website.

We have already submitted applications in November and December last year and hope to continue to make further applications throughout 2021. The final placements for the scheme will start in December 2021.

Further information on the Kickstart Scheme is available on the Government website

If you would like any further information on how Atwood Tate can work with you to maximise the scheme’s benefit within our industry or have any other questions, please contact me by email or call 01865 339630.

Lynne Willoughby

About the author

Lynne Willoughby has been a Director with Atwood Tate since 2011. She has previous recruitment experience as one of the original co-founders of Inspired Selection along with many years of publishing experience in Academic, STM and Educational Publishing.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

ALPSP Virtual Conference & Awards 2020 Report: The legacy of COVID-19 on scholarly communication

This year’s ALPSP conference may have felt very different to previous years – experienced in front of a screen in one’s office, living room, or kitchen instead of in a hotel conference centre sitting side by side with hundreds of one’s industry colleagues. It still addressed the key issues that scholarly publishing faces, though: open access, transparency and trust, and – perhaps more urgently than ever – diversity, equity, and inclusivity within an industry that still has much to do on those fronts.


ALPSP Keynote 2020
ALPSP Keynote by Sherri Aldis,
Chief of United Nations Publication

The conference began on Wednesday evening with the announcement of the winners of the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. From an exceptionally strong shortlist, the judges – led by David Sommer, co-founder of 2015 winner Kudos – choose two winners: Jus Mundi, the Paris-based multilingual search engine for international law, and WordToEPUB, a free EPUB creation tool with built-in accessibility features. Sustainable scholar-led open access publisher the Open Library of the Humanities was also highly commended. 

The awards were swiftly followed by our opening keynote from Sherri Aldis, chief of United Nations Publications, who offered some insights into the organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what they might mean for scholarly publishing and research in the COVID-19 world. The seventeen goals, she explained, were a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by ending poverty, protecting the planet, and improving all lives; publishers, she said, had a vital role to play in achieving them. 

Aldis noted that publishers had recognised not only that the SDGs aligned with their own missions but also that there was market demand for them too, and had consequently published more than 8,000 titles relating to them. Some – like Hachette’s children’s books 17 Ways to Save the World and Iqbal and his Ingenious Idea – were published in partnership with the UN, whose own titles were freely available but were also monetised through value-added enhancements. She shared some of the ways that publishers could contribute towards achieving the goals: promoting the SDG agenda by using its framework to categorise their content; reducing inequality by producing content accessible to people with disabilities; and adopting sustainable business practices through changes to supply chains and production. Aldis encouraged publishers to sign the new ten-point SDG Publishers’ Compact that would be launched at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, and to use the SDG logos to show their support.


The next day focused on “Transparency and trust in scholarly communication: changing access, business models and funding”. The afternoon began with a discussion of the long-term legacy of COVID-19 on trust and transparency. Chris Winchester, CEO of health science communications consultancy Oxford PharmaGenesis, noted publishers’ moves to make content freely available and reusable during the pandemic, and suggested that there’d be no going back from this; instead, the development would spread to other potentially life-changing and life-saving research. Introducing the Open Pharma initiative of which he is co-founder, he explained that its immediate priority is to secure for authors publishing company-funded research the same rights to publish open access as authors whose research is funded by other sources; eight publishers including PLOS, Wiley, and F1000 have already endorsed this position.

ALPSP Conference session 1 2020

Winchester was followed by Marshall Brennan of the American Chemical Society, whose ability to deliver a compelling talk while simultaneously feeding a baby made him the star of the conference. Discussing the extreme public response to a preprint hosted on ChemRxiv criticising the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVOD-19, Brennan considered the responsibilities preprint servers have to the general public in terms of correctly framing the research posted there; he also mentioned the steps ChemRxiv has taken in response to the controversy, such as retaining the right to deny posts it deems inappropriate, including those whose conclusions might lead a non-expert to take actions injurious to their health. The session’s final speaker, Simine Vazire of the University of Melbourne, argued that we need more nuance in peer review beyond acceptance and rejection, and noted that both incentives and human nature encourage researchers more towards making new discoveries than detecting errors in existing work.

The day’s second session explored a global direction for Open Access and Open Research. Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director of F1000 Research, spoke of the varying attitudes towards open research across continents and disciplines, noting the particular challenges faced in the humanities and social sciences, where funding for publication can be problematic and output types may differ from those in the sciences. She was followed by Professor Judith Sutz of the University of the Republic in Uruguay, who shared some of the findings of her research into the design and implementation of university research policies and suggested that new tools and approaches were need to transform the research evaluation system. 

Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research at the Wellcome Trust, then spoke about how cOAlition S aims to make OA a reality after more than a decade of talk. He was followed by Elizabeth Marincola of the African Academy of Sciences, who explored the many barriers to open access scientific publishing in that continent. She focused particularly on peer review – noting its systematic bias, the lack of representation of African researchers among reviewers, and their lack of familiarity with the nuances of the review process – before introducing AAS Open Research, a scholarly publishing platform offering the immediate publication of work by researchers supported by the AAS and its funded programs. The session’s final speaker was Alwaleed Alkhaja, copyright librarian at Qatar National Library, who observed the fall in journals supporting Arabic-language publishing – from 618 to 185 on DOAJ in the past five years – and shared some of the successes of the library’s open access fund, providing funding for OA publication on a national level, uniquely in the region.

Thursday’s final session explored business models for Open Access in a post COVID world. Vivian Berghahn, MD at Berghahn Books, described some of the different approaches the company had taken to fund open access publication, such as Knowledge Unlatched’s crowd-funded model for books and – in partnership with Libraria – Subscribe to Open for journals. Simon Ross, CEO of Manchester University Press, talked us through their journey towards having the largest output of open access books of any university press. Though OA titles may still sell – one sold 320 copies in print alongside 5,000 free downloads – it can be hard, he said, to make the economics work across a list, particularly when university presses are so dependent on print sales. He expected Manchester would continue to look at what he described as a ‘pick ’n’ mix’ of models, with direct-to-consumer sales offering potential compensation for the downturn in the institutional market. The session’s final speaker, Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS, also emphasised the need for a mixed economy in open access, but her focus was on meeting the diverse needs of a wide range of stakeholders: a mixture of flat fees, institutional deposit accounts, PLOS Community Action Publishing, and bundled APCs for consortia could, she believed, enable the company to achieve cost recovery plus a capped 10% margin for reinvestment, while avoiding excluding researchers from publication.


The final day of this year’s conference explored how publishers can deliver a more inclusive and diverse scholarly communication ecosystem. Patrick H. Alexander, Director of the Pennsylvania State University Press, kicked off the opening session, “Diversity and Inclusion in our sector: what do we know, and where do we need to do more?” with two telling observations: that there is not a single university press at any of the 107 historically black colleges in the US, and that there are only 2 BAME heads of the American members of the Association of University Presses. Ruth Howells, Deputy Director of External Affairs at the Publishers Association, shared some statistics from the association’s survey of the wider UK publishing industry which showed that 13% of its employees were BAME, 10% LGB+, and 1% transgender; 19%, meanwhile, had attended an independent or fee-paying school. Nancy Roberts of Umbrella called for pay transparency as a means of increasing the diversity of talent applying for roles and decreasing the gender gap; she also noted in passing how much advocacy work is uncompensated. Anoushka Dossa, Director of Talent at Creative Access, closed the panel by speaking about the organisation’s #morethanwords campaign which invites employers to commit to change in hiring diverse candidates; investing in staff from under-represented groups to progress to senior roles; and creating an inclusive workplace where diverse staff feel valued.

The second session focused on “Creating Diverse and Inclusive products, tools and services”. Opening speaker Nicola Nugent (Publishing Manager for Quality and Ethics at the Royal Society of Chemistry) discussed several reports that the RSC had produced on women's retention and progression in the chemical sciences and whether publishing in the chemical sciences is gender biased, and the organisation’s framework for action in scientific publishing: Improving inclusion and diversity in the chemical sciences and the joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing. Magdalena Skipper (Editor in Chief at Nature), then addressed the importance of inclusion within peer review, while Jennifer Gibson discussed the ways in which eLife, where she is Head of Open Research Communication, has prioritised diversity and inclusion, with particular successes in geographical diversity and sexual orientation inclusion.

The conference’s final panel session explored the impact of COVID-19 on our ability to create a diverse and inclusive publishing industry. Professor Edda Tandi Lwoga of the College of Business Education in Tanzania shared some of the consequences of the virus on African research and publishing, noting that funding has been diverted and fieldwork and conferences delayed, with slow, limited, or expensive connectivity creating additional problems; more positively, however, collaboration has increased. Randy Townsend shared how the American Geophysical Union, where he is Director of Publications Operations, has used the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd as a ‘respectful opportunity’ to identify and implement improvements in its diversity, equity, and inclusion through Eight Deliberate Steps ranging from diversifying the organisation’s governance and committees through to partnering with leaders across STEM to remove systemic racism and foster culture change. Simone Taylor of AIP Publishing then shared data from the Workplace Equity Project, noting how the experience of working from home varies hugely according to personal circumstances can cause feelings of isolation and exclusion.

banner displaying logos of conference sponsors

You can find out more about this year’s conference on the ALPSP website.

By Alastair Horne, Lecturer in Publishing at the University of Stirling