The Intersection of Open Science and Publisher Strategy

Q&A with Open Science Specialist, Ruth King

In a recent post, ‘Demystifying Open Science’, Maverick Affiliate Senior Associate for Open Science, Ruth King, provided an overview of open science by approaching it from three distinct organizational aspects: business, operational, and strategy/culture. In this follow-up interview, Ruth delves deeper into the business aspects to discuss how the growing trend of open science intersects with publisher strategy.

Open Science is a large topic with many facets. Can you summarise what you think it means for the publishing industry?

Open Science goes beyond providing open access to the results of research, extending to how research is conducted, reported, shared, and evaluated. In essence, the principles of openness are applied to the entire research lifecycle, in such a way that more parties can collaborate and contribute. Practical examples are transparency in research reporting and early release of information via preprints.

For publishers it means change. Adapting to changing flows of money, new business models, relationships with different parts of the research process, serving new needs and meeting evolving standards. There are big challenges and opportunities.

It is interesting that open science is increasingly being leveraged at international, national and funder levels as part of moves to strengthen research systems. I tend to simplify the concept by thinking of it as ways to get more value from the research. That emphasizes the role of the publisher to keep value in research and to add value where possible.

Can you speak to the implications for business strategy in more detail? 

Strategy needs to take account of the degree to which open access and open science feature in the market that a publisher is serving. That can be quite different depending on regional, subject and customer focus.

Some organisations see a fit with their mission but also financial challenges with business models. Open Access is linked to a need for growth, scale and efficiency which may not align with existing business and there may not be a clear path for new institutional and consortia deals to match subscription revenue. I would say that the biggest risk for most organisations is not doing anything and the key to navigating this tricky terrain is staying close to the mission of the organisation.

Maverick can help you understand your current position in terms of adoption and provide support as you take the next steps. For instance, re-defining excellent author service in the context of open science surfaces the priorities, such as how research data is handled, and provides the confidence to reduce services that that no longer enrich the offering in the way they might have in the past. Also, the options to leverage technology, to partner, or to use vendors are opening up all the time.

You mentioned institutional and consortia deals. What will the future of those deals look like?

That’s a big question! We are in a period of experimentation, I believe, and deals will continue to evolve. I expect there will be continued expectation around transparency, although hopefully with less work for everyone involved as workflows develop. Offering demonstrable value to the research offering may help deals to survive budget cuts.

Bold approaches such as ‘Subscribe to Open’ are seeing success. I think that is because the right chord has been struck on working together towards enabling an open future.

What are your top tips for success?

Don’t neglect your publishing workflow. Whether achieved through investment, vendors or partners, the publishing process needs to work harder, be easier for authors and achieve more for the research. It needs to connect to more and at more points.

Finally, funders are your customers. Develop relationships and understand their needs wherever possible. 


By Ruth King, Maverick Senior Associate, Open Science

Maverick Senior Associate, Ruth King, is a publishing professional with deep experience of open science, change management and process development. She has worked in open access publishing since its conception and brings experience from a breadth of business types, from a start-up company using a new business model to global corporate environments.