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A novel idea: publishers adding value to OA publications

Here’s a post from a little while ago. TA publishers thinking about how to build on OA repositories

19:19 08/10/2007, Peter Suber, Open Access News: Stephane Goldstein has blogged some notes on the ALPSP conference, Repositories – for better or worse? (London, October 5, 2007). Excerpt:

…This was genuinely interesting, and the question in the title proved to be satisfyingly open. Had such an event been run a couple of years ago, I suspect that the overwhelming consensus on the day would have been ‘for worse’ – but on this occasion, there was a real debate, symptomatic perhaps of changing attitudes.

This is not to say that concern and worry about the development of repositories has vanished among learned societies – far from it. However, the discussion at the workshop underlined a willingness from many quarters to think about new business opportunities. These include the provision of value added services and enhancements as text harvesting, dynamic formatting and Web 2.0 applications. There was a suggestion that, on this basis, publishers could actually generate revenue from repository usage, effectively by providing services that can exploit their content. The possible role of publishers in relation to data publication was also evoked, and this elicited much interest.

To my mind, one of the most interesting ideas raised by one of the societies was that ‘publishing’, as an all-embracing term, is an outdated concept. The view was that, from a business modelling, perspective, it is better to deconstruct ‘publishing’ into distinct but related processes that form an integral part of the research endeavour: broadly, (i) selection of scholarly material, (ii) validation, and (iii) editing – each of which could in principle be offered as a service, with cost implications, in its own right. Incidentally, this is not dissimilar from the view contained in RCUK’s original draft position statement (June 2005) on access to publication outputs.

All in all, this was a useful afternoon, and I can recommend ALPSP’s programme of such activities (not the first I’ve attended), even for non-publishers….

PeterS: Comment. One of the brightest futures for all stakeholders is for TA publishers to see OA as a business opportunity, not a business killer, or to reconfigure their operations to make it a business opportunity. This is the path of adaptation, not resistance. In this future, publishers accept and even encourage OA to peer-reviewed articles, and make their money by selling enhanced editions of the basic OA texts and selling tools and services to build, and build on, that OA foundation. There have been earlier signs of movement in this direction, from priced access to priced services for adding value to OA literature, but Goldstein’s notes suggest that this meeting was one of the strongest to date.

PMR: This seems to me an obvious market opportunity for science publishers and especially chemistry ones. The pace of innovation in chemistry – apart from the RSC’s Project Prospect in which our collaboration played an important part – is near zero. Yet the opportunity for enhanced services is enormous. Any publisher taking an active role here will rapidly leapfrog their competition. Spend the investment on things the community wants – not wasting effort on supporting subscritpions and policing access. There’s a huge role for “repositories” – not just of hamburger PDFs but real science. Anyone looking for new opportunities can contact us – we are serious.
Of course it depends on the chemical community actually appreciating enhanced and better chemical publications – if all they worry about is their citation count and not the scientific content we have a problem.

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