Monday, 5 September 2022

Guest Blog - Frontiers Public Trust, Societies and Open Science

Public Trust, Societies and Open Science 

In the context of extreme global events, I find myself turning more and more to the possibilities of a collective response. Scientists have made enormous efforts in recent years for deeper and faster collaboration. And scientific research publication bears a profoundly important social responsibility. On both these fronts, society publishers are in the vanguard.

The context for their efforts is stark. Too frequently, in an often poor-quality, binary public debate, public trust in the veracity of science, in its intentions and its cost, falls away. Political accountability grows weaker when we don’t have the science, the trade-offs, and the difficult choices in view.

At Frontiers, we want to help change that. We are a fully open access publisher. We want all science to be open. To us, global, existential threats call for scientific breakthroughs at pace, based on full and immediate access to the latest research.

Now the move to open access is underway across parts of the publishing industry, and I know the appetite for it is building. But in my view, the pace of change does not match the aspirations I sense in society publishers. As the campaign group cOAlition S itself points out, more than half of the two thousand transformative journals enrolled in the Plan S program have missed their annual targets in the move to full open access. Meanwhile two thirds of the world’s science remains behind a paywall.

Add to this the arrival of transformative agreements – "read and publish" or hybrid deals – which have in our view sown confusion and opacity, and of course, societies are looking hard for certainty and clarity. With a decision to publish open access – and the commitment to deeper and faster scientific collaboration – I believe they can find both. It is possible to find the right fit. It is possible to meet the appetite for open access while protecting, and growing, sustainable income.

At Frontiers, we offer a platform that is industry standard while also being open to a tailored approach to a society’s specific needs. We can extend the brand, dissemination, and financial future of societies. We support societies with guaranteed minimum incomes, when necessary. We are building partnerships and agreements with funding institutions across the world to broaden opportunities to society authors. And we work hard to be financially transparent with our partners, to share our evidence and expectations of sustainable profit. We believe the traditional subscription model leads to excessive costs. It is still the case that the average price of an article in a legacy journal is significantly higher than it is in open access journals.[1]

So, we need to realign expectations. And with flexibility, ambition, and focus, I think commercial and society publishers have an enormous opportunity to drive change that is both good for business, and good for society. As we face down global challenges, open access science can grow our chances of success. And it can help meet public appetite for accountability, transparency, and trust.

[1] It is not transformation if nothing changes, 2022 (figure 2), Frontiers, 2022

About the Author

Robyn Mugridge

Robyn joined the Open Access publisher Frontiers in 2018. In 2019 she moved onto the role of publishing partnerships manager and established the Publishing Partnerships department. Promoted to head of publishing partnerships in 2022, her work now focuses on strategic collaborations with societies and associations, supporting them as they engage with their communities and develop their publications by transitioning to open access publishing models.

Further Information


Frontiers Publishing Partnerships @FrontPartners

Frontiers @FrontiersIn

Robyn Mugridge @MugsPubs



Robyn Mugridge

Guest Blog from ALPSP Conference sponsor - Silverchair

Why Having Independent Partners Matters

We at Silverchair recently announced that we have received a significant growth investment from our new capital partner (Thomson Street Capital Partners) to help us continue to scale our business and offer even more valuable products and services to learned and professional society publishers (i.e. the LPSP of ALPSP).

One of the crucial and most desirable aspects of the investment is that enables Silverchair to remain an independent, non-conflicted partner for society publishers. The feedback of the society publishers in our community has been resoundingly positive, as the investment is designed to increase the breadth of products and services available to them as well as attract additional society publishers into their community—with our ultimate goal of assembling and supporting a strong, sustainable community of independent publishers who can leverage Silverchair’s services and their peers’ knowledge and experience to react and thrive together as industry conditions change.

ITHAKA’s Roger C. Schonfeld recently provided his (independent) analysis of the TCSP investment in Silverchair in SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog, under the title of “Keeping Publishing Infrastructure Independent,” noting that “Silverchair remains vital infrastructure for some 400 scholarly publishers, which can feel a sense of relief that it remains independent.”

But Why Does the Independence of Your Key Partners Matter? 

As our President Will Schweitzer says (a lot), “Our top priority is to support our customers’ top priorities—in everything we do we must help publishers make money, save money, and best achieve their missions.” 

Maintaining independence allows Silverchair to avoid 1) conflict of interest or 2) conflict of priorities with our independent society customers. To expand on these two types of conflict:

1.     Many forms of partner conflict of interest are obvious – such as using platforms or services from a publisher that also publishes journals in your field and thus competes for finite authors, manuscripts, OA dollars, and subscription dollars. It is questionable how these partners can fulfill their legal responsibilities to their shareholders and yet also put society interests ahead of their own in the long run. However, there are legal structures and financial constructs that societies can use to try to identify and control for these obvious conflicts, so they can be seen as at least somewhat manageable.

2.     A partner’s conflict of priorities are less obvious (and more dangerous). An owner can put their own product development priorities above that of their customers’ needs when determining their forward roadmap or can cut back partner-facing resources, such as account management or client services. They can slow down the pace of product development in one area in order to refocus resources to other technology platforms (especially if they are a large organization with a variety of platforms). They can gather and use data about your submissions, authors, and registered readers to further their own author recruitment and sales. They can throttle support services to customers in order to have more staff to pursue these other strategies, which can disrupt operations or delay a society’s own product development plans. Crucially, these conflicts of priorities are not easy to name and control for in legal/financial terms, and thus the society may have little recourse if partner priority conflict worsens mid-relationship. (Worse, these examples are all drawn from real experiences society publishers have shared with us.)

This is why Silverchair puts such emphasis on our independence. We serve no other corporate parent or funder strategies. We run an open roadmap so that all of our customers can watch in real time (and have meaningful input into) the priorities and development of our platform. We succeed in the long run only if our society customers succeed in the long run, and so we are laser-focused on making that happen.

Silverchair believes that thriving, independent society publishers are an essential component of an optimal scholarly publishing future, and the lack (or diminishment) of these publishers would be a huge loss for researchers, professionals, and science writ large in society.

Independence matters – for you and your partners.

Want to learn more about our plans? Jake and other members of the Silverchair team are excited to be attending the ALPSP meeting and would love to set up a time to chat. Get in touch:

Jake Zarnegar

Chief Business Development Officer