Thursday 29 July 2021

Spotlight on Standalone Plain Language Summary of Publication Articles (PLSP), Future Science Group

- Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of six for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers at the ALPSP Awards session on Wednesday 15 September at the opening of the ALPSP Virtual Conference & Awards 2021. The winners will be announced on the final day of the Conference on Friday 17 September

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. 

Tell us about your organization

Founded in 2001, Future Science Group (FSG) is a scientific publisher focused on breakthrough medical, biotechnological and scientific research. From our small beginnings to our evolution into a leading global publisher of journals, eBooks, digital hubs and events, the nature of FSG has remained constant: we are independent, future-focused, and passionate about the sharing of scientific ideas.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

There is a huge amount of interest currently in plain language content – material that translates the findings of original research into a format that is understandable by non-specialists (from patients and their caregivers to Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) and decision-makers). We saw a real need to improve the availability and discoverability of this extremely valuable content, and to address this, we have introduced a new standalone article type – the Plain Language Summary of Publication (PLSP).

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

Over the past couple of years, we’ve both been lucky enough to be involved in various projects related to plain language content, including participation in a PLS of Publications Workshop held by Envision Pharma Group and working with Patient Focused Medicines Development on the creation of a how-to guide for multi-stakeholder co-creation of plain language summaries of peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. We have also been focusing on FSG’s own plain language offerings, including the development of PLSPs. PLSPs provide a summary of a recently published research article (both from FSG and non-FSG journals) to be read and understood by non-specialists, and facilitate knowledge dissemination, patient–physician dialogue and the improvement of the care pathway.

PLSPs are submitted like any other article and undergo full peer review prior to acceptance for publication. Not only do we conduct internal review to ensure the information from the original study has been accurately conveyed in the PLSP, all PLSPs are sent out for external review by subject experts and experts in plain language content, including patients and patient advocates. To help with this, we have assembled an Advisory Panel of experts, listed on our dedicated website, who conduct these reviews for us, along with additional individuals we approach on a case-by-case basis for each article. 

Once accepted for publication, the PLSP is laid out using a specifically designed visually enriched template featuring graphics, call-out boxes and even audio clips, to ensure they are in a lay-reader-friendly format. They are published open access to ensure they reach their intended readership, and as standalone articles they have their own DOI (making them citable and discoverable) and are indexed in the same way as all the rest of the journal content.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

Many publishers are starting to introduce or even mandate plain language options, such as short-form lay abstracts or the opportunity to include slightly longer PLS within an article’s supplementary materials. However, finding this content, or even knowing it exists, is difficult, with the content often buried within the paper or online material. We felt that this type of content is so valuable for non-specialist readers, it deserved to benefit from the advantages that a standalone article confers – the quality assurance of peer review, accessibility, discoverability and the highest production standards.

We are already seeing that our target audience (non-specialist readers) are discovering PLSPs. Through Altmetrics, for instance, we can see that patient organisations are posting links to relevant PLSPs on their Twitter feeds.

What are your plans for the future?

We’ve been really encouraged by the positive feedback and enthusiasm we have received for the PLSPs so far – since the publication of the first article in August 2020 (which, at time of writing, has been downloaded over 1,800 times), further PLSPs have been published or are in process, and we have received a huge number of enquiries from those interested in publishing PLSP in future. In addition, following a high level of interest, we are now introducing a writing service for plain language articles, separate from our editorial process, to further aid our authors in the publication of this content.

What has shone through for us since the start of this project is that there is clearly a need and a desire for content of this sort; we are continuing to look at ways to fine-tune and improve the PLSPs we publish, and are also looking to introduce some further plain language article types in the near future.

To our knowledge we are the first, and so far only, publisher to provide PLS as standalone articles, with all the benefits this confers in terms of quality and discoverability, and we hope to continue to build on this success with the publication of more and expanded plain language content.

For further information, please visit:

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2021 website for more details and to book your place. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021 are sponsored by HighWire

About the authors

Joanne Walker is Head of Publishing Solutions at the Future Science Group, having been with the company since its conception. Joanne works across FSG’s journal and digital platforms to help medical publication/education planners identify the right publishing solutions for their content.

Laura Dormer is Editorial Director at the Future Science Group and has 18 years’ experience in the publishing industry. Laura is responsible for overseeing FSG’s journal portfolio, and has a particular interest in journal development, publication processes and publication ethics.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Spotlight on Opening the Future, CEU Press / COPIM

 – Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of six for the 
ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers at the ALPSP Awards session on Wednesday 15 September at the opening of the ALPSP Virtual Conference & Awards 2021. The winners will be announced on the final day of the Conference on Friday 17 September

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists. 

Tell us about your organization

COPIM is an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, publishers and infrastructure providers working on bringing about a new OA publishing ecosystem. Their remit is to build a revenue infrastructure, and examine production workflows and metadata, experimental publishing and archiving. The project is working with colleagues across the sector to document existing, and open up new, ways of funding open access monographs.

CEU Press was established in 1993 to reflect the intellectual strengths and values of its parent institution, the Central European University, and is a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy. It is widely recognised as the foremost English-language university press dedicated to research on Central and Eastern Europe and the former communist countries. With a new Executive Chair on board in 2020 and a new Director in 2021, CEU Press enthusiastically took up the challenge to work with COPIM to help shape and pilot a new funding model, aiming to convert the Press to a fully open access monograph frontlist publisher over three years.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards? 

‘Opening the Future’ - a new funding model for publishing open access monographs through a consortial library membership scheme.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The model was developed by COPIM, a £3 million project funded by UKRI and the Arcadia Fund, supporting Community-led Open Publication Infrastructure for Monographs. A project team, directed by Martin Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck (University of London) is working with the CEU Press to pilot migrating the whole of its monograph output to open access. Professor Eve is a co-founder of the Open Library of the Humanities, a publishing platform funded by an international consortium of libraries. CEU Press’ lead on the project is Dr Frances Pinter, former CEO of Manchester University Press, the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and founder of Knowledge Unlatched - an open access funding initiative. 

In essence, the Opening the Future model works like this: library members pay a small annual fee to get unlimited multi-user eBook access to packages of the well-regarded Press backlist; and the membership revenue is then used by the Press to produce new open access (OA) monographs. There are no hidden catches, there is no bait and switch, and no double-dipping: library membership fees will pay for only those books that do not already have funding. If a proposal for a book comes to the Press with partial OA funding already in place, the Press will use Opening the Future membership fees to share the production costs and publish the book OA. Publishing the OA titles is a rolling process: as soon as the Press has the funds to produce a title they can publish the next one in line, and so on.

The aim of this approach is to continue to yield a sustainable source of revenue for a press while achieving the desired commitment to making more titles OA. Given the current global library environment and existing budget pressures that have now been exacerbated by Covid-19, a consortial model of funding promises a cost-effective solution for OA that means no single institution bears a disproportionate burden.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

It has been said there is nothing new under the sun. Yet, as we exploit our new digital world we find new ways of doing old things. Sometimes this requires a totally new business model. Other times marrying something old with something new is just as innovative, and requires a whole new mindset to make it successful. That is what our Opening the Future initiative is all about. The old subscription model is married to a membership scheme creating a community, enabling publishers and librarians to work together to achieve open access and reduce collective library spend on monographs. 

This model brings together a Subscribe to Open (S2O) model (currently being tested by a number of journals) with the concept of membership to a cause devoted to building a knowledge commons and populating it with open access monographs. Leveraging the backlist to pay for the publishing costs of the frontlist is novel to book publishing. It is also unusual in that it is predicated on dynamic scaling and makes books available as soon as enough money is raised. It is not an all or nothing model as in many other OA initiatives; there is no need to wait for hundreds of members to open up books. Frontlist titles are made open one by one with each additional ten members. Within just a few months of launch at the end of January 2021, the first few books are already fully funded. 

Unlike the S2O model for journals (which we support), the risk of this model is lower for the publisher. That is because the publisher can continue publishing the books closed if membership targets are not met. The model does not preclude OA funding from other sources, and indeed encourages publishers to take up funding from research funders and institutions where available. But it recognises that in HSS subjects such funding cannot cover all the costs of maintaining the diversity of publishing programmes and services sought after by authors themselves. The knowledge infrastructure and scholarly communications landscape of HSS are very different to STEM subjects. So, Opening the Future is significant because it is a new way for small and medium sized university and specialist scholarly presses to survive and thrive. 

No other model can be funded from either the acquisitions budget or an OA budget, giving libraries much more flexibility on where they find the funding for this initiative.

No other model caters to both libraries that have most of the backlist books already – in which case the frontlist is available at a far lower rate than otherwise would be the case – and to libraries that do not have the books and for whom the backlist is an easy and very inexpensive way to make these otherwise pricy books available to their users.

What are your plans for the future?

In January 2021 COPIM released the code written for the Opening the Future website, which collects and processes library signups. The software is freely available for any publisher to adapt and use themselves - it is a generic signup system for open access projects that have consortial membership models. This code will be one component of a practical ‘toolkit’ that COPIM will produce on how presses might transition to sustainably publishing OA monographs. Other elements of the toolkit will include a report reviewing revenue models in OA publishing, financial modelling spreadsheets, communication and advocacy materials, and more.

The programme is already growing. In June 2021 COPIM was delighted to welcome a second pilot publisher to the Opening the Future initiative: Liverpool University Press, the UK’s third oldest university press, with a distinguished history of publishing exceptional research since 1899, including the work of Nobel prize winners. LUP will offer libraries subscription/membership access to a choice of two modern language backlist series.

Plans for further expanding use of the model and creating an OA Book Hub serving many similar presses are already underway, and COPIM is working with industry partners Project MUSE, LYRASIS, Jisc and OAPEN to explore how the programme might scale up. We are also participating in policy discussions and working groups with the ultimate aim being to facilitate a viable route for small and medium sized academic presses with leverageable backlists to flip their frontlists to open. 

If enough libraries and publishers participate, with clusters forming around disciplines, then both the research and teaching requirements globally can be well served by monographs which otherwise would not be available to any but those in the wealthiest institutions. There will be sufficient funds flowing into this sector to support a diverse and healthy monograph programme. Libraries will be redirecting their acquisitions budgets more efficiently and effectively to making monographs open and thereby fostering the health of disciplines through the support of essential knowledge infrastructures.

For further information, please visit:

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2021 website for more details and to book your place.

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021 are sponsored by HighWire.

About the authors

Martin Paul Eve is Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London. A co-founder of the Open Library of the Humanities he has been a member of the HEFCE Open Access Monographs Expert Reference Panel, the Universities UK OA Monographs Working Group, and several other expert panels on HE and open access.

Frances Pinter is Executive Chair of CEU Press. She was CEO of Manchester University Press, the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and founder of Knowledge Unlatched.

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.