Monday 5 September 2022

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



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