This guest post is one of a series from sponsors of the OASPA Conference in 2020. Please note that the views in this post do not represent an official view or statement from OASPA. The post is from Beth Bayley of Karger Publishers.
Each year at the OASPA conference, the collective discussion advances further beyond, ‘Will OA become the standard for scholarly communications?’ to ‘How?’ and ‘What next?’
For Karger Publishers, independent and family-owned, the question hasn’t always been easy. Technically, Karger is medium-sized (a small large publisher, or a big small one, some say), and we’re mindful of using resources to invest and absorb risk wisely. We’re based in Switzerland, where we prize innovation but also planning and prudence. It’s plain to us that the world needs the most effective scientific communications, which means OA with ever more Open Science measures underlying every strategic decision. But it’s equally clear that a well-established publisher dedicated to connecting and advancing health sciences, with practices and networks honed under a subscription model, cannot flip (pun intended!) the whole operation on its head overnight. We’ve sought a progressive yet careful path, and always come back to two key words: Sustainable Transition.
This means developing custom, transformative ‘read-and-publish’ deals. Working with countries, consortia, and institutions to ‘flip’ them and support their own sustainable transitions is crucial to tipping the balance and ensuring a stable OA market for the long term.
We also aim to co-found more Platinum OA ‘Partner Journals.’ And another essential step is, arguably, the hardest: flipping journals.
We have flipped 11 journals in two years under Karger’s new strategy and launched another, making 36 of our 106 journals OA in 2021, and anticipate flipping more yearly. Why emphasize ‘sustainability,’ not speed? For one, many authors – crucial to an OA future – still aren’t prioritizing OA. And needless to say, OA is a starkly different business model from subscriptions: Revenue doesn’t convert dollar for dollar. Neither we nor our stakeholders would benefit from a hasty conversion. ‘Sustainable’ for all means balancing potential downsides with smart pacing (especially amid the COVID-19 crisis). It also includes a steady drive to improve efficiency – from costs to workflows to technology to communications – and integrating more products and services to support and enhance the entire knowledge cycle.
We’ve found no perfect, ready-made ‘how-to-flip’ template. Every journal is unique, and we build on lessons as we go, with efforts led by an Open Science Task Force. Important tasks include honing workflows and collaboration with key journal leaders, Editors-in-Chief, and societies. And then there’s the challenging task of rigorously weighing all variables to select which journals to prioritize for OA.
The process involves collaboration between different units at Karger and hashing out ambitious but realistic business plans – not to mention analyzing data on journals and the market. We’ve built up a hefty spreadsheet with criteria (with some initial support from Delta Think) – but cold, hard numbers still require thoughtful qualitative analysis and context from our Editorial Development and Publication Manager experts. Among other key considerations are the readiness for OA in a subject area or region, competitor journals, and the ability to sustain an initial drop in submissions that frequently accompanies a flip.
We still see challenges and risks – not least that the level of engagement and commitment to OA varies dramatically among authors, libraries, and other stakeholders, making it harder to plan and optimally serve everyone’s needs. But we’re driven to keep listening and working together to play an active role in this much-needed transformation.
Beth Bayley is Open Access Manager at Karger Publishers in Switzerland. After several years working within the technical production and editorial units at Karger, she is now working with Academic and Research Markets. For over a decade, she has been closely involved with Open Access matters, developing policy, contributing to strategic insights and implementing them, and working with colleagues throughout the company to ensure that the needs of authors, readers, institutions and funders are anticipated and well served.
We are grateful to Karger Publishers and all of our 2020 conference sponsors for their support.