Publishing, Societies and Open Access, Part 2 -- Publishers
Publishing, Societies and Open Access, Part 2 -- Publishers
HEATHER STAINES: Hi, everyone. Welcome so much, and thank you for joining us today for this session, Society Partnerships Working Together for a Sustainable Future. I'm joined today by four speakers. I will introduce them briefly, and then we'll go into some discussion. Some of you may have seen a panel that was put together by societies with some of the questions and concerns that they have about working with commercial partners.
HEATHER STAINES: So this is the flip side of that, where we're talking about it from the partner perspective. We have four speakers today. In alphabetical order, we have Neil Appleton. Neil is SVP for business development at Elsevier. Next up, we have Florin Craciun. He is head of commercial and business development for MDPI. Following on will be Shawn Morton, who is senior editorial director for health sciences at Wiley.
HEATHER STAINES: And then next is Robyn Mugridge. She is head of publishing partnerships at Frontiers. I am Heather Staines. I'm a senior consultant at Delta Think and the director of community engagement for the Open Access Data and Analytics Tool. And I'm very excited to be able to moderate this session today. To kick us off, I will ask each of the speakers to do a quick introduction-- what they're doing at their organization, how they're working with partners, and how OA is increasingly figuring into those types of conversations.
HEATHER STAINES: I'm going to ask Robyn to kick us off.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: No problem. So as Heather said, I'm Robyn Mugridge, head of publishing partnerships at Frontiers. So we've been working with societies to publish their journals since 2019. And the focus for us is working with societies to make an immediate change to their journals to open access in a way that's transparent and sustainable for their community.
HEATHER STAINES: Fantastic. Let's go to Neil next.
NEIL APPLETON: Hey, there. I'm Neil Appleton at Elsevier and head up our society business. And for us, very similar to Robyn, sustainable transitions to OA are very much on our mind, often in the context of a portfolio play. And we're very much enjoying the growing and evolving challenges of working with our partners in that context.
HEATHER STAINES: OK, Shawn?
SHAWN MORTON: Shawn Morton, senior editorial director of health sciences at Wiley. I watch over our journal program in the health sciences. Broadly defined, that's a portfolio of about 300 titles, about half of which are society-owned. I and the team have worked closely with societies for something like 20 years. And our advice to those partners has changed over time. And certainly, today, it is very much focused on the migration to OA and how to do it in a way which is sustainable and not overly disruptive.
HEATHER STAINES: And Florin.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Yes. Hello. Florin is the name. I'm head of the commercial and business-development function at MDPI, which means that I'm in charge of our institutional partnerships, programs, and our societies' programs. MDPI, as some of you may know, is an open-access publisher. We've been around for 25 years already. And we've recently started working with societies in helping them to transition from their current status to open access or to better understand what that transition means and entails for them.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. We have certainly quite a cross-section of attendees expected to view and participate in the Q&A for this session. So some of them may be quite familiar with the benefits and possibilities that working with a partner can bring. But others may be from different departments or may have recently started. So I'd like to just give-- if each of you can give a quick overview of the different types of partnerships you participate in, levels of services, or whether there are differences regionally, different things like that so we can paint a picture, a little foundational picture for our attendees that we can base further questions on.
HEATHER STAINES: We'll start with Florin this time.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Yes, interesting question. We've started working with societies fairly recently, I would say, maybe three or four years ago. And certainly, the type of collaboration we have with societies have changed over time. If, in the early days, for example, we were just there to help them publish their journal, the collaboration has evolved more towards having editors in chief or editorial board members or managing editors of our journals engaging with their own editorial staff members just to exchange ideas about what's going on in a particular subject area, how we can collaborate and cross-promote each other's journals.
FLORIN CRACIUN: At the same time, we've started taking over some of the journals, obviously trying to publish the journals on their behalf. And recently, we also started developing our own editorial platform, which allows those societies that still want to publish their own journal to use our infrastructure, so to speak, in order to continue doing it themselves. Nevertheless, I think what's really interesting, for me-- and it's equally exciting-- is that over the past 18 months or so, we've seen those type of conversations evolving even further.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Now, I wouldn't say we have that many societies that know what they want. I think we have a lot of societies who are looking to understand what is the next step in their evolution. And I think the type of conversations we're having with them, at this moment in time, are reflective of their unease about stuff like transformative agreements, various flavors about open access, and obviously, how will they continue to survive and serve their mission and purpose?
FLORIN CRACIUN: So at least from that point of view, it's been a very exciting ride, so to speak, for us, over the past couple of years.
HEATHER STAINES: Thank you. I'll move next to Robyn so we can finish off the larger open-access publisher part of the contingent here today.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: Yeah, I think a lot of the answers that you're going to receive from all of us are going to be relatively similar in terms of the services that publishers-- commercial publishers-- provide to societies. Of course, we work with societies to transition their journals into open access through various methods. For Frontiers, that's an immediate flip to gold open access and facilitating partnerships with institutions to ensure that the APCs are not a concern, for example, to societies.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: But outside of that, I think there's something to be said about the role that Frontiers has played in terms of education and policy changes in the world of open access and open science. So for us, we also provide the services around market intelligence, business intelligence on how changes in the industry are going to affect societies and potentially affect societies if they haven't yet moved to open access or they're not making strides yet towards open access.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: So I think something that I would like to emphasize that Frontiers is particularly doing very well is around supporting societies and giving them the information so that they can make informed choices.
HEATHER STAINES: Thanks. Neil?
NEIL APPLETON: Yeah, it's a good place to pick up, because that kind of strategic vision and communication transparency insight, I think, is core, hopefully, to all of our services to our society partners. For us, at Elsevier, I think the key building blocks for us are strategic vision, because one, there has to be an aligned strategic vision between publisher and partner.
NEIL APPLETON: And that is usually mission-driven in some useful way. Missions differ society to society. But generally, there will be a desire to influence the community in favorable ways. The way in which, of course, we can help substantially is by delivering outstanding author, editor, and reader outcomes. We're lucky ScienceDirect is a-- it's something of a superpower in terms of author and reader engagement, which is fantastic.
NEIL APPLETON: The submission systems that support -- that move from submission to published article obviously count for a lot and influence a lot how editors and reviewers engage with the platforms. And part of our responsibility is obviously to curate those. But I think, more strategically rather than operationally, ultimately, it's about being a champion for you and your discipline and your mission in the community.
NEIL APPLETON: And that, in the current environment, will almost always have an open-access flavor. And to Robyn's point, it can be an immediate flip. It can be a delayed flip. We see a lot of portfolio development that I think we'll talk about today where we're managing the portfolio to right size for community and business model and sustainability. And those conversations are really-- they're really vital and super interesting.
HEATHER STAINES: Right. And Shawn?
SHAWN MORTON: Yeah, I agree with everything that's been said. And I pick up on the point that Florin mentioned, that I think there is an aura of unease that's settling around the broad society community, whereas not so long ago, I would say it was rather a complacent group. So I think there is a growing awareness that publishing is getting more complex, OA is making it more complex. And I would say the way that our business is reacting to that-- and we're doing many of the same things that my colleagues have mentioned-- is that, as one of the biggest-- I think we may be the biggest society publisher.
SHAWN MORTON: If we're not the biggest, we're certainly a very big one. I would say the big move that is moving alongside that change in the emotional state of the society model, generally, is this move from full-service contract publishing as the default with the only real difference between a journal that we publish for a society and one that we own simply being that we own one, and we don't own the other.
SHAWN MORTON: And the contract has a certain duration, and we have to think about renewing it-- is structuring our business so we can address bespoke, discrete concerns that societies have that may not require that we do all of their publishing, but we can pick up parts and pieces of their publishing to help them make this migration from subscriptions to OA, in shorthand, in the smoothest possible way to reduce, as much as possible, that unease, which I think is a real fact at present, and more so this month than last month, with the OSTP announcement.
SHAWN MORTON: I just think there are more and more forces and factors that are making societies realize that this is not a negotiable change and that working with their publisher to figure out how to navigate it is a new form of the society-publisher relationship, which was not necessarily, even in the recent past, such a necessity.
HEATHER STAINES: Thanks for that introduction. All of you have had the opportunity to watch the society session that went ahead. And one of the things that has struck me in getting ready for this call, compared to getting ready and having that session, is, there was a lot of focus on the mechanics, how the publication workflow process was going to tie in, what kind of guidance could come. Neil, maybe we can pick up with some things you said about the portfolio approach, the ecosystem approach.
HEATHER STAINES: How does that conversation go if you're a one-journal society, if you're a multiple-journal society? When it comes to mechanical advice, what do you offer, and how does that tie into this larger vision?
NEIL APPLETON: I'm not sure how to unpack mechanical. But certainly, I think the answers are different for different societies. We all know that. The kind of framework that I think about the transition potential in is-- there's a group of societies where the transition actually is really straightforward. You can do it. You can just do it, and you can do it today.
NEIL APPLETON: And you just have to be brave, engage with a partner, go for it. And the market is there because the authors are there, the funding is there, the article volume is there. the desire to do it is there. And that is not a small space. So there is a material segment of the market that sits in the "you can do this now" space. There's also a material segment in the market that is sitting in a space where you could kind of do this, but you need to kind of get on board.
NEIL APPLETON: And essentially, because OA is a price-volume game, from a commercial perspective and from a revenue-outcomes perspective, you need to manage price, and you need to manage volume. And the straightforward transition to OA is right in front of you. It requires some movement, in terms of price and volume, to make it easy instead of challenging. But it's still a very positive place to be in.
NEIL APPLETON: Again, that's a big segment. And then the third segment is the segment that it doesn't make sense. Just doesn't make sense. You're making so much money with your prestigious, small, publishing-scale lead journal that-- and it's doing so well in the subscription model, publishing a relatively small volume with a high-impact factor.
NEIL APPLETON: And it's just not going to transition in an economic way. Now, you might take that leap on a mission-driven pitch. And that's super cool when that happens. But you may not. You may think about, OK, how do I build my portfolio? How do I manage over time to provide different venues for different elements of my community? How do I raise the level of that in terms of quality, over time, and take a longer-term view on that?
NEIL APPLETON: And that kind of portfolio development is really fun for us to engage in and think about. So I think it's lots of different answers for different societies, for multi-journal societies. Of course it's easier for single journals. If you sit in the first bucket, you're fine. If you sit in the second bucket, you're going to get there. If you sit in the third bucket, then you've really, really got to think about how you're going to manage this, because you're going to have to change and change quite significantly.
HEATHER STAINES: All right. Let's stay with the publishers that are mixed-model publishers and go to Shawn next.
SHAWN MORTON: Well, I just want to jump off of something that Neil said. I agree with your basic division. I think for the majority of journals-- majority of societies and the majority of journals that are managed and controlled by societies-- I think one thing about open access that we have a hard time making clear to them and they're coming to slowly is, you rather control your own economic destiny in this model.
SHAWN MORTON: For many journals, it is as simple as p times q. How many articles do you publish, and what are the prevalent APCs in the different marketplaces? And if you're concerned about the economics of your future, and your editor is rejecting 90% of the papers that she's getting, and you're getting 2,000 or 3,000 submissions a year, to some degree, you control your own destiny. But you do have to accept the logic of the model and the economic-- those are your mechanics-- the economic mechanics of the model, which, to me, forces a new relationship on the part of many societies with their editors.
SHAWN MORTON: And they need to rethink, where are the zones of control there, and what's appropriate and what's not appropriate when their economic well-being is not so much dependent on what a publisher can do for them in the future as what they can do for themselves with assistance from a publisher? So I agree with what Neil said, but that's the footnote-- the long footnote-- I would put on what I think is an accurate analysis of the way the market is differentiated.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. I want to move to Robyn next because I know that when we planned for this session, we really had a nice, rich conversation about how that conversation looks, depending upon where a partner might be coming from.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And I think there were a couple of points that Neil made that made me think about some of the societies that we work with, because I definitely-- I actually politely disagree. I think that there are societies that have journals that are very high-impact that are doing very well on subscription that can move to open access. And I think there are a lot of societies in that position who are actually seeing that they have the highest demand from their audience for open access because they have this very well-positioned journal.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And actually, there is something that I would agree with with Neil around the portfolio-- so building that portfolio to support that journal so you're not necessarily losing out on all of that revenue that perhaps you were getting through subscriptions. And actually, you're redistributing that revenue through multiple journals in your portfolio and perhaps, at the same time, increasing the market space that you have in this industry compared to your competitors.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: So I actually think that there's a really good opportunity not only to transition a very well-established, probably very high-profile journal to open access, but also, at the same time, increase the market space within the field by redistributing that journal via other journals in the portfolio that perhaps would be launched or other options there, I'm sure.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah. Florin?
FLORIN CRACIUN: Some interesting points over there. And I can't really argue with any of them. I just wanted to add a different layer to the conversation, so to speak, because I found myself doing this very, very often lately, which is, I'm starting to shy away from conversations with societies about the mechanics, about how to. I think if we really wanted to figure out the how, there's so many options out there. It's just a matter of picking the one that works best for them.
FLORIN CRACIUN: And as publishers, I think we are all able, in a way or another, to offer various options. What I'm trying to get at sometimes when I speak with societies is to make them understand that they need to go through a cultural change and through a change of mindset. And I think, in a way or another, all of you have touched on the mindset. Whether we are talking about how they perceive the economics and how the economics of the past-- how they look at the economics of the past and try to figure out the economics of the future is one thing.
FLORIN CRACIUN: How they shape the relationship between the editorial boards and the marketing teams, for example, or how do they draw the line between when can you get involved in the editorial policy and when you cannot-- those are just very, very basic examples of some of the mindset shifts and the cultural changes that some of the societies have to do. And I said a bit earlier, in our introduction, we are, at MDPI, at the moment right now where we simply spend a lot of time with societies, trying to help them understand, why is it that they are trying to make the move?
FLORIN CRACIUN: And one of the things I'd like people who are listening to this panel today, especially if you come from a society, to think of is, why do you want to make the move? Why do you want to leave your current publisher? Why do you want to change the current agreement you have with your publisher? Throughout the past couple of years, I've heard some answers that really made me worry.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Some of them said, because everybody is doing it. But nobody can define that everybody. Because there is no more money from subscriptions from my publisher. And as Neil and Shawn can say, that's not exactly true. So what is it driving the societies to think about a change? And I think that's important because once you start thinking about what drives the change, then you may be able to tackle, why do we need to change, and how do we need to change?
FLORIN CRACIUN: And then we can have more meaningful conversations about the mechanics of the transition.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. Neil or Shawn, want to come back in since you guys went first? Anything to add?
SHAWN MORTON: I just want to pick up maybe one or two points. Going into what Robyn was saying about impact, I think societies and their publications can be tremendously impactful. And historically, they've been, in some ways, decisively impactful in terms of the advancement of science. But a lot depends on how the word impact gets defined. If it's just impact factor, then I think that's where you get a-- there's a potential cultural tension within any society versus what the professional leadership needs to do, as economic stewards, fiduciaries, and what an editor in chief or a team of editor in chiefs might be doing in terms of how they manage the journal in terms of their possibly narrow definition of impact.
SHAWN MORTON: So I do think it comes down to, what is the role of the society in our ecosystem? What are the role of their publications in terms of furthering their community? Who should be enfranchised? All of these things that are cultural attributes that have been in the shade in the subscription model-- they come into the light in the open-access model. And I think they need to be viewed in new ways.
SHAWN MORTON: And it requires a-- Any publisher's relationship with a society is really a three-way relationship because the editor, to some degree, is a free agent in that relationship. So bringing those three elements into greater harmony, I think, is a key characteristic of even considering where open access fits within a short, medium, or long-range thinking or planning of any society.
SHAWN MORTON: [INTERPOSING VOICES]
SHAWN MORTON: --that was one point, but I went on for a little bit. So I'll stop there.
HEATHER STAINES: OK. Well, you can pick something up in the next question. Neil, are you good, or do you want to add anything?
NEIL APPLETON: I'm good, with one tangent that maybe we might come back to, which is that of editorial independence. The industry, I think, has been a staunch defender of editorial independence for a long time. Certainly Elsevier still fundamentally believe that that's a tenet worth holding onto. The interesting thing is this blurring of the lines in the open-access model, because there are incentives-- and Shawn, I think you said it very nicely-- where at an executive level where you've fiduciary responsibilities, the ability to gen-- the responsibility to generate surplus, to invest in programs that go to the community, that deliver good works versus curating the impact of a journal, which can be a little bit of a narrower lens.
NEIL APPLETON: That's becoming more interesting. And I'm very curious to actually see how our partners manage that, because as you say, it's a three-way relationship. For us, it's a tenet that we hold very firm on. For society journals, of course, what we're looking for is leadership, actually, from the society to say, this is where we want to be. This is how we want to achieve what we want to achieve-- and then support that.
NEIL APPLETON: But I think it's a new challenge for us, one that we didn't have to think about 20 years ago.
HEATHER STAINES: Let's dig into that a little bit. I have had numerous conversations at conferences where editorial boards were dead set against a new journal, a new open-access journal, but then were persuaded by passionate folks on the team, author requests for more equitable delivery of content, those types of things. Robyn, within the conversations that you guys are having, how do you balance this need for fiduciary responsibility, but also continuing the editorial independence for the journal?
HEATHER STAINES: What are some of the conversations that you guys find yourselves in?
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: I think the editors are now very, very clued on to what's happening with open access. And they're certainly heavily part of the conversation. However, I have also noticed a gap between the business direction of a society and the goals of an editor of a journal. And the best relationships work when those are a little bit closer together, those goals are married up a little bit more. And still, there needs to be an editorial independence.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And the editor should not be thinking about money and revenue and income when they're handling manuscripts. But at the same time, if they have a general agreement that they're working towards, high-quality acceptances, they have a rough-- a target in mind-- and I'm hesitant to say target, but a number that they have in mind that they want to work towards for a continued benefit of the journal across the years.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And that can be perhaps a gradual growth increase in the number of very citable manuscripts that are going to be published. I think if those goals are aligned across the editors and the society leadership, that's where a publisher can step in and provide data and advice on how to actually achieve those goals once that's really fully aligned.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Can you hear me? OK. I'm actually happy to hear Robyn talk about that. And to take a step back and go to what Neil said a bit earlier, obviously, editorial independence is not something that we want to change any time soon. But some conversations need to happen around the concept of editorial independence. Now, to your question, Heather-- how do you approach those type of conversations-- what we've been doing at MDPI for some time now is to start including editorial board members in the conversations about transition very early on.
FLORIN CRACIUN: The reason why we're trying to do that is because we definitely want to understand, what is the editorial strategy? Why is that editorial strategy in place? And sometimes you can come across a very sound editorial strategy. You need to respect that. And if you take on that journal, obviously you need to stick with it.
FLORIN CRACIUN: But in most instances-- and that's why I said I'm happy Robyn brought up the concept of data and the use of data-- sometimes the data tends to contradict the editorial strategy. And earlier, it was said that open access is simply price times volume. And at the end of the day, we want to have a conversation with these editorial board members about, how do we manage volumes, OK?
FLORIN CRACIUN: Because managing volumes is not so much about launching many other journals. It can also be about launching new sections in journals or actually expanding certain sections or expanding on certain subject areas where there is room for expansion. So editorial independence still remains of importance. But I think what we are trying to bring into the conversation now and is proving difficult-- I can tell you that-- is to put up the numbers, what the data say.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Of course, we can talk about the quality of the numbers and so on, but what the data say and what the editorial board members and the journal editors think that the data say. So clearly, there is room for improvement there on both sides of the conversation. We, as publisher-- we need to improve the way we communicate that, the way we present the opportunities to the editorial board members and so on.
FLORIN CRACIUN: But on the other side, I'm hoping that editorial board members, with the help of society's management-- they change the way they are approaching the conversations with us and come to the negotiations, if you will, with a more open mind.
HEATHER STAINES: Shawn, anything to add?
SHAWN MORTON: I was just going to make a distinction that I was taking for granted. But it's probably an important one to make for the audience, is-- and most of our journals are not born open access. They're not gold open access. They're hybrid journals. They have a subscription component that is a certain size and has a certain history. And then they have a growing open-access component that is happening alongside it.
SHAWN MORTON: So the journal is fundamentally mixed. And the ratio is changing all the time. So a lot of what we're trying to help the society do is watch that weather system and plot our way forward based upon the movement of the open-access content relative to the subscription content, all in the frame of a message that the era of the subscription as the predominant model is clearly ending.
SHAWN MORTON: And when it might really be over, even though it will never entirely be gone-- but it's going to become less and less significant-- that just bears watching. And you have time to do that. But don't think it's optional. You really have got to grapple with these issues. You've got time to get yourself aligned around them because if you don't want to flip your journal, the market may flip it for you anyway, at some point in the future to be determined.
SHAWN MORTON: And so, again, a majority of the discussions we're having with societies-- they have a mixed portfolio, or they have, even more commonly, an exclusively hybrid portfolio-- part subscriptions and part OA.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. I want to have, I think, about two more questions, because we certainly want to have time after this panel for some Q&A. I was recently at the NASIG meeting in Baltimore, and some societies were chatting with some librarians. And there was a question. In the era of transformative agreements or transitional agreements-- and this was, of course, before OSTP came out.
HEATHER STAINES: Some societies were wondering if a transitional agreement or transformative agreement would make it impossible to shift from one partner to another. And this was a question that I had asked in some of the planning calls. And I got different responses back. So let's start with Neil. What's your thought? Does it make it harder to move, easier to move?
NEIL APPLETON: So do transformative agreements make it harder or easier to move, I think is the question, right? And [CHUCKLES] the answer is, it depends. If you're a hybrid journal, and you're in a set of transformative agreements, they're not really transforming your journal. They're preserving your journal. They're preserving the old money that used to flow in under the subscription model whilst-- and the transformation that's taking place is the blend of articles that's moving, like Shawn was saying, towards open access, because now you're getting a bunch of articles that were in the subscription model now in an open-access model, being paid for by the transformative agreement.
NEIL APPLETON: So you're preserving the old revenue stream. And as long as the publisher that you're moving to has a transformative agreement, you should be able to move pretty freely. If the publisher doesn't have a transformative agreement, then suddenly, you're dealing with a loss of one of those revenue streams. And that can be quite challenging. If you're a gold open-access journal-- and transformative agreements, for me, are a little bit of a misnomer because there's nothing to transform.
NEIL APPLETON: You're already this beautiful butterfly, this open-access journal. And transformative agreements in that context tend to be more like bulk-discount kind of deals and so on. And in that context, again, the transfer-- relatively straightforward because it's not like the kind of deals that Springer does or Wiley does, Elsevier does, are that different, the-- so the actual movement of the volume that you move with the journal-- not too problematic.
NEIL APPLETON: And you do have to think, of course, how you're going to get the same volume of submissions from each of the different publishers. But it's not a huge impediment to move in from our perspective.
HEATHER STAINES: Shawn?
SHAWN MORTON: Can I add something to that, Heather?
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, go ahead.
SHAWN MORTON: I agree. It is harder to transition journals now than it was 20 years ago, just because journals are more complex. They have lots more moving parts. Transformational agreements or transitional agreements don't make it any harder. They're just another facet that make you want to have enough time to do the job well, which is now a year or more, whereas before, you could do it in three to six months.
SHAWN MORTON: So that's the big factor. I think what is different and becoming more difficult for the publishers all the time-- and the societies should know this if they don't already-- is, it's harder for the publishers to value these journals. So if a society is looking at a possible transition as just an economic transaction versus these other things, be aware that it's becoming harder and harder for the publishers to raise the risk premium for themselves by bidding the business up than it has been in the past, because they have to factor in all this uncertainty in their long-range projections, which are much harder to make than they were even a few years ago, which is a very mercantile concern to layer on top of what Neil said.
SHAWN MORTON: But I think, again, if you're an economic fiduciary to a society, and you see switching publishers as a possible way to refinance your business and avoid just the logic of what your current publisher is telling you, I think that's going to be harder and harder to do. And it's probably pretty hard already, if that's how you interpret transition.
HEATHER STAINES: Mhm. Robyn?
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: I think one of the reasons why this question is quite difficult to answer in a straightforward way is because transformative agreements are not very transparent or clear. And it's very difficult to clearly say, well, actually, they're progressing open access, or actually, they're entrenching us with subscription. And I think one of the things to point out is, recently, Plan S, cOAlitionS, gave us their report on the status of how the transition is going for many of these transformative journals.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And it was a very small proportion there that had actually met their targets for open access in this time period. And that suggests, just based on that data, that actually, transformative agreements aren't progressing things forward at the speed we'd like to see. There is certainly an argument that transformative agreements could do more and could go further and could progress much more quickly.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And that's why I personally believe that transformative agreements are essentially prolonging the move to open access and that an immediate flip, for many journals-- not all, but for many journals-- would actually provide a way to get ahead of this move that is going to happen. As Shawn said, it is inevitable.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, we found, in our analysis at Delta Think, many of the same things you've just mentioned, Robyn, around the transformative agreements and transformative journals. Florin?
FLORIN CRACIUN: Yeah, a couple of things here. And obviously, you've got two native open-access publishers and two traditional publishers here. So obviously, our views will be slightly different on the subject. On a personal level, I've been in this industry for a long time to really appreciate the fact that traditional publishers have built us up to the point where we are right now. So it only makes sense that some sort of a transition phase is considered in order to give everybody the chance to actually move from the old status quo to the current status quo.
FLORIN CRACIUN: And I think when you look at transformative agreements through that lens, that makes sense, OK? There is another thing, though, that needs to be added in here. I think that to say that it doesn't make any difference, or it's easier for us, as a society, to move from one publisher to another as long as they have a transformative agreement in place, is slightly misleading because as Robyn says, many of those agreements are opaque, and many of them are not public, not to mention that that literally makes the society dependent on a publisher that has transformative agreements.
FLORIN CRACIUN: What if that publisher no longer has a transformative agreement, for some reason? Let me put it the other way. What if, all of a sudden, the rules of the game are changed? What if-- and we've heard this from the Swedes, the Danish, the Dutch librarians and consortia-- what if, all of a sudden, these libraries-- they pull off the support for hybrid journals? What happens then?
FLORIN CRACIUN: What do you say to the society? And again, one of us has said that the answer to the question is not really straightforward. But I think it's important to look at those points I've raised. And the other thing I need to mention here-- because I lead the institutional partnership program at MDPI-- we go and speak with these national consortia, and we see one important thing.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Only the top open-access publishers-- MDPI and Frontiers and maybe two others-- are included in the conversation, which is great for us, right? But then again, we ask them, why don't you invite any other open-access publishers? And they tell you, they don't have the bandwidth. Now, what happens if, all of a sudden, a society breaks away from a publisher?
FLORIN CRACIUN: They want to do their own thing, whether they get their editorial platform and whatever. What happens then? Can they be part-- can they get money directly from a consortia, either through a transformative agreement-- Although, I take the point that transformative agreements for open access are not really the same thing. But the point remains.
FLORIN CRACIUN: There are, right now, instances of open-access publishers that are deemed to be too small, based on the number of articles published. And they are never invited to the negotiation table with these institutions. So not a straightforward question to answer. But there are a lot of moving parts here. And some of them are not so much in the courtyard of the publisher or of the society.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Some of them are also in the courtyard of the national consortia, the governments, and so on.
SHAWN MORTON: Can I say one thing? I think one thing that societies have always wanted/needed from publishers, be they traditional or open-access, is advice and guidance. What to do? And I think the environment-- it is hard to provide general answers to these very specific questions because much of it has to be then tailored to the situation, the history, the position of any given society in the marketplace.
SHAWN MORTON: And so there's never been a greater need for all of us to speak clearly to our societies and spend time with them to understand their needs and where they fit in this future, because most of them will. But it will be different for society A versus B versus C. So again, regardless of where we are sitting, I think our importance in this process has never been greater, and societies have never needed publishers more.
SHAWN MORTON: And they're going to continue to need us. And we're going to continue to thrive together if we thrive at all. And I think we will.
FLORIN CRACIUN: Yeah, and if I may just add one quick thing on that one, we started with the idea of sustainability in mind. I think we also need to take into account-- well, actually, how to think together with societies and all the other stakeholders in the industry. How do we make the game fair for everyone? And when I say the game fair, I mean, how do we ensure that all publishers have a shot at signing up a society?
FLORIN CRACIUN: How do we make sure the societies-- they know that they can go to any open-access publisher and sign up an agreement with them? How do we know that institutions-- academic institutions, the funders-- they can fund research that's being published by societies, whether they are published by a publisher with a transformative agreement or not? So I think we need to start having those conversations, to your point, Shawn.
FLORIN CRACIUN: But what's the right venue to do that? I don't know. But I'd love to hear that.
HEATHER STAINES: This has really been a great conversation. And I know we've got-- I've got lots more questions that we can take over into the Q&A. A few last words before we break. Neil?
NEIL APPLETON: So for me, we were actually talking about equity there. But actually, interestingly, we're talking about equity for publishers. And I tend to look at equity from a different end of the telescope, particularly the author perspective. And that's where I think this debate and this flux that we're in is not short. It's going to take a lot of time because we have some seriously fundamental issues.
NEIL APPLETON: And we've talked mostly today about publisher-society relationships. But authors [CHUCKLES] are really intrinsic to those communities and do not have equitable access to funding. And so a "one size fits all" model works for none of us, we all have our segmentation, and a fully OA publisher has a completely legitimate and strong place in the infrastructure of our industry.
NEIL APPLETON: But the reality is that the fabric of our industry has changed. And the volatility that Shawn talked about earlier is here to stay. And it's here to stay for quite some time, for a generation. And we should buckle in for that ride and be really open to each other, be informed, listen to the data, as Florin said, be engaged, be transparent which is super important, because the right options for our authors, who I consider our primary customer-- they are different, depending on what discipline you're in and what geography you're in, who your funders are.
NEIL APPLETON: And so it's really important to keep that in perspective as well.
HEATHER STAINES: All right. Shawn, a few last words?
SHAWN MORTON: One, this was really fun. And two, I think the future of societies is bright. And there are many ways that societies will remain extremely relevant. But that will require some change. And as Neil says, that will take a while. And it's an interesting period. It really is.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. Florin?
FLORIN CRACIUN: Yeah, good fun. And thank you for the opportunity to be in this panel. One of the things that I had in mind is simply to suggest to societies to engage with us. Tell us what works for you. Many of us-- we have our strategy teams. We do our planning in-house and so on. But sometimes we could use with-- good ideas and good advice from the outside.
FLORIN CRACIUN: So come to us, any of us. Tell us how the future looks for you. And give us a chance to see whether we can accommodate that future or that plan of yours into the commercial offering or the models we put forward to you. So we need your help as much as you may need help from us.
HEATHER STAINES: Great. Robyn?
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: I feel honored to have the last word. But what I would say is, Shawn made a point that the role of the publisher, at this time, is perhaps more important than ever. And if I can finish with something, I'd like to say that perhaps we should flip that. And the society and the role of the society in academic publishing is more important than ever, at this time. And there's many challenges for societies.
ROBYN MUGRIDGE: And I think our role is to support them in finding a way to open access that is sustainable and the right model for their communities so that they can continue in the long term.
HEATHER STAINES: Well, thanks, everyone. It's been a pleasure from my side as well. And I look forward to this conversation continuing in the Q&A. Thank you on behalf of Society Street and the program committee. And we hope to see you soon.