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Springer Nature are not a friend to Open Access

Times Higher Education just published an article about how Springer Nature, one of the largest scholarly publishers, are helping the transition to Open Access. For those who do not want to login to read, here’s a version without that. I am quoted again in this piece challenging the assertions they make, as I believe that Springer Nature are one of the worst scholarly publishers out there, second only to Elsevier. I have recently seen members of their senior staff publicly mocking OA advocates, which did not exactly endear them to me.

In particular, I chose to comment on this piece as spokespeople from Springer Nature, have a history of making erroneous statements about the company in public*. In an era of fake news, this is not something I approve on, and this sort of disrespectful messaging has to be dealt with. Here are my full quotes that I sent to the journalist, Rachael Pells, below.

“So, if we look at history, Springer Nature (SN) are the definition of bandwagon jumpers. Things like arXiv (1991), SciELO (1997) and PLOS (2000) were leaders on OA from around. SN acquired BMC (2008) and Frontiers (2013, via merger with Nature Publishing Group) to essentially neutralise them as a competitive threat. And also make it look like they cared about OA That does not mean they lead the way. This is like Microsoft saying they lead the way on Open Source because they purchased GitHub. It is propaganda.

In reality, Springer Nature have been dragged kicking and screaming into the OA space. They are part of a multi-billion dollar empire that has thrived based on a business model of preventing access to knowledge. OA was obviously a threat to that, so historically they fought hard against it until the could find a way to subvert it into a new revenue stream. Hence, their love of hybrid and high-APC OA. Even now, SN are launching new Nature-branded journals that are subscription only! That is not leadership. It is showing that they are using their brand strength to continue to pervert the scholarly communication process. Nature Communications costs $5000 (+VAT) for authors to publish their own work. No other industry operates this backwards. I refuse to believe that for an efficient, quality publishing system it costs more to publish a paper than it does to live in Bali for a year. (And I know how much this costs). It is daylight robbery, pure and simple, and the taxpayers and researchers are the ones who suffer. And again, statistically, if you look at the proportional figures, if SN are a “leader” in OA publishing, using the exact same numbers they are also still one of the largest barrier-based publishers out there.”

*Here, all of the statements that are made are demonstrably false based on how SN conduct their business in public (one example here).

One thought on “Springer Nature are not a friend to Open Access

  1. If I was going to question anything here, it would be a four-word phrase beginning “second only…” and that discussion gets tricky.

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