Publishing, Societies and Open Access, Part 1: Societies
Publishing, Societies and Open Access, Part 1: Societies
https://asa1cadmoremedia.blob.core.windows.net/asset-28b3beef-b313-43e0-ab9a-0b9fefe5ec17/Society Street OA Bigs Deals part 1.mp4
HEATHER STAINES: Hello, welcome, everyone, to this Society Street session: everything you wanted to know about societies working with publishing partners. We've got a great group of speakers joining us here today. Whether you are just now thinking of forming some sort of partnership, whether you have a longstanding partner arrangement, we hope we can cover questions that you should ask, questions that maybe you already have, and where you might go for more information, as well as what may be up on the horizon in the future.
HEATHER STAINES: Before we get started in the discussion today, I would like our panelists to briefly introduce themselves -- and I guess this is the part I always forget -- I don't introduce myself. But I've remember today. I'm Heather Staines, and I'm a senior consultant at Delta Think. I've got about 25 years experience in the scholarly communication space, both with the publisher and the vendor side.
HEATHER STAINES: I love industry participation and getting folks together to learn from the best. I will ask Simon to quickly introduce himself next.
SIMON INGER: Hi, I'm Simon Inger. I'm currently the COO of Cadmore Media. I'm also the conference chair and co-founder of Society Street, and prior to that, I spent 20 years as a publishing consultant looking at many publishing deals over those years.
HEATHER STAINES: Thank you. Kathryn?
KATHRYN SPILLER: Hi, I'm Kathryn Spiller. I've been in academic journals publishing for about 20 years: starting in commercial publishing; then a self-publishing society; a short spell at Jisc working with societies to create transformative agreements; and currently, with a partnered society, the Society for Applied Microbiology.
HEATHER STAINES: Thanks so much. Kevin?
KEVIN MURPHY: Hi, I'm Kevin Murphy. I work for the Mineralogical Society of the UK and Ireland, otherwise known as MinSoc. We're a small society of less than a thousand members, and we publish two journals, we have a partner and are our first five-year deal, coming at the end of next year.
HEATHER STAINES: OK, and Matt?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Hi, everyone, I'm Matt Giampoala. I work with the American Geophysical Union. We have about 23 journals, and we are partnered with Wiley as our partner, and we're currently going through a transition of most-- a transition of most of our journals to a full open access.
HEATHER STAINES: Great, so let's get started. If you've been paying attention or even if you haven't been, there's a lot going on in the space these days around OA, transformative, or transitional agreements, flipping journals and the like. When we put together this session, there were some concerns raised about, "we don't have the answers to everything." No one can possibly have the answers to everything, and so what we focus on is making sure that you can hone in on the questions that you should ask.
HEATHER STAINES: So I want to start by just getting feedback from our panelists. If you're just now thinking about working with a publishing partner, what are some of the things that you should definitely ask in that process? And I'm going to start with Kevin.
KEVIN MURPHY: So for me, I think a really important thing is to get a nice matchup with a publisher who's got access to the libraries where your journals exist already. I think it's easy to look at a publisher which has access to many thousands of libraries, but if they're not the libraries where your journal has been before, you're going to struggle to make the money that you need to stay sustainable.
HEATHER STAINES: OK. Matt? [BEEPING]
MATT GIAMPOALA: Sorry, my cat was trying to get in on the discussion here. Yeah, so I think you have to collect a lot of your data. You have to understand your authorship base. You have to understand your subscription base. Where they both are globally might not necessarily fully overlap. And understand the implications for how things will change for your customers, both your authors and readers, with the move.
MATT GIAMPOALA: And right now we're trying to keep three things in mind-- sustainability of our operations, broad inclusion in every sense of the word, and then access.
HEATHER STAINES: Fantastic, and Kathryn, you've got a couple of different hats on where you could throw out some questions here?
KATHRYN SPILLER: Yeah, so last year I actually did a tender for our own journals, so I was thinking along these lines. And thinking about values was really important for us, thinking about whether we share the values of the organization in terms of deciding who to invite to tender. But where in the past, it was who's going to give us the best return, now it's certainly for us thinking about, what's the strategy of the organization?
KATHRYN SPILLER: I think larger publishers now don't all have the same strategy like they maybe did 10, 15 years ago. So I think really asking what that partner strategy is long-term: around, open access; around the transition; around whether they want to work with societies, or whether they're moving towards owned content, and really thinking about the higher level strategy of the organization would be my main thing to ask.
HEATHER STAINES: And Simon, you've been in this space for quite some time. How have you seen the questions change since societies were maybe moving to partners, to get in the Big Deal, to now with these different types of models coming into play?
SIMON INGER: Yeah, I think that's really interesting because I think it actually, for me, comes down to the financial projections. Obviously, all the softer things, and the relationship, and the overarching strategy, is really important. But when you look at the financial projections, there's clearly a whole chunk of assumptions in there about, if we're looking at hybrid or transformative, the rate at which those deals are going to change.
SIMON INGER: Also, of course, publishers give a proposal to the society with a royalty figure in mind projected over time. But I think what's important is sitting behind that royalty figure is a formula which the publisher has for a given business model. But as the business model changes, how is that formula going to change, and what are the impacts of that?
SIMON INGER: So understanding the basis of that formula and how that formula is likely to change in a new business model at least allows you to model the change yourself and look at what happens if this region of the world goes OA before that region of the world, what if this sector goes OA before another sector, and how that affects me because of where my authors are. So I think it's really important to understand that because it's very easy to draw a line and justify it on a chart, but there's always a lot of assumptions behind it. So I think digging there is the best thing, a powerful thing to do.
HEATHER STAINES: And we're thinking about attendees who already have a longstanding partner and maybe have renewed or are coming up for renewal. A few of our speakers mentioned that that was happening. There's probably different kinds of questions that you might like to get into. How has that changed? And this time, I'll start with Matt.
MATT GIAMPOALA: Well, thinking about some of the things that Simon just mentioned, for us, the question has been, are we aligned in how quickly we want to transition the journals? And what are the priorities of the two groups in terms of maximizing revenue versus access and the other things that we've stated are important? So we haven't always been aligned in terms of which journals we want to transition when, and so we've been having those conversations pretty much continually.
MATT GIAMPOALA: So I think anyone new or going into tender needs to have those questions in mind. What would the roadmap ideally look like, and which journals are considered prime targets and why? And does it have to do with the price point for an article publication charge? Does it have to do with the make up of the authors? Are there transformative agreements that make it more possible for some journals than others?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Those are the types of issues we're grappling with. And then Simon, again, the questions that we have guarantees for our royalties and how might those change with any given change in business model. Because rightfully so, if we're choosing to give up revenue, then you could understand why a publishing partner might not want to give you the same guarantee on the revenue.
SIMON INGER: Do you mind if I just dive straight in on that? Because that's just an interesting point. That guarantee, that's a financial guarantee, which is very interesting, but there's one thing that a business model change can't guarantee against, and I know, I've definitely seen this, which is a change in model, changing the submissions. And clearly, then, if the submission rate fails or falls because of a push towards OA in a market that didn't want it, certain subject areas, certain regions that might resist that, then suddenly seeing a decline in submissions, is something that you can't guarantee against.
SIMON INGER: And I've definitely seen some societies trapped in that position where their business model was changing, and they had no control over that, and their submissions went down for a while until it was remedied a couple of years later. But that gave them a lot of ground to make back up.
HEATHER STAINES: And just quickly to Matt before we move along to Kevin or Kathryn, for those who aren't as familiar as they might be with AGU, I know when we talked in preparation of this call, you talked about the number of journals, which ones you added, which ones had flipped. And maybe if you could just say briefly how you've seen the time with your partner affect that portfolio.
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yeah, so we've been with Wiley for just about 10 years. We're in our second contract, and we really entered into the arrangement with the goal in mind to start new journals and new projects. We also started a pre-print server over that time, and the idea was to begin to transform our portfolio by starting new projects and journals. And they really work with us to do that.
MATT GIAMPOALA: So we had one open access journal at the time, and now we have nine, because we started many of them and we flipped to open access during that time. So 10 years later, we're at 23 journals, and nine of them are open access. It's a much different picture than we had when we first embarked with the partnership.
HEATHER STAINES: And Kevin, over to you, you've mentioned that you're coming up for a renewal soon. How are the questions changing from your side?
KEVIN MURPHY: Well I think I'd answer that partly by going back to-- [COUGHING] excuse me, what Simon just said, and that was when you're looking at submissions is to look at what the competitor journals are doing in terms of their models and how is that affecting their rate of submission. So one of our journalists has a competitor which has gone to a completely APC-based model, and I don't think that served them particularly well.
KEVIN MURPHY: So that was something I definitely had in my mind as we were looking at renewal, as we were looking at getting into an agreement initially. So I think that's really important, to watch what the others are doing in your space. In terms of what else we were looking at, I think the question I still have in my head is, what happens when we hit flip point? That point is still not entirely clear to me.
KEVIN MURPHY: We're about 45% away at this point, and almost all of that is through transformative agreements. We have very little in terms of APC income to support that.
HEATHER STAINES: And Kathryn, you're on the newer side with your organization. So perhaps not up for renewal soon, but you're probably trying to get out ahead of some of these questions early.
KATHRYN SPILLER: So we have five journals. So three of them are actually co-owned with Wiley, so there is no transition. The other two, we're transitioning. But in terms of the kind of questions ongoing, whether it's transition time or not, that we are constantly asking for, and I think a key to understanding all the risks and where we're going is the data that decisions are based on.
KATHRYN SPILLER: So in line with some of the things Simon said, the assumptions behind forecasts-- but also, if you're going to tell me as my publishing partner, "it's time to flip this journal", what data are you looking at to base that decision on whether that's going to be successful or not? And I think I've been I guess a little surprised. about how much that data -- the publishers aren't so forthcoming with the detail of that data.
KATHRYN SPILLER: The assumptions behind forecasts don't generally arrive with the forecast, and I have to ask in quite a lot of detail about them. It feels to me like those are the-- I can't understand a set of finances without understanding what's underneath them and any decisions about changing the business model and also around transition agreements.
KATHRYN SPILLER: How does the allocation model work? And I've talked to a number of people, other societies, as part of the Society Publishers' Coalition leading up to this, and I've had a lot of people say to me, for the very first transitional deal, the publisher modeled it really nicely for us and explained it, and they've not done it since. And now there's a whole raft of different deals that work in different ways, so it's becoming a lot more complex.
HEATHER STAINES: I think that data question is so important, and maybe, Simon, you could weigh in on where folks can go to get that data. If they're not yet working with a partner, maybe they don't have as robust internal system as they would like, and what are some of the scenarios that come out of that data that put you in a particularly risky spot?
SIMON INGER: I think one of the things I always look for-- I used to look for when I was doing this work-- is I would map the geography of my subscription income versus the geography of my authorship and actually, as a bonus, versus the geography of my membership, which probably would help me gain more authorship if I worked it really hard in certain areas. And as you get a very nice, neat society with a beautiful spread of subscriptions across the world and a beautiful spread of authorship across the world, then if any one region moves more to OA than another, it doesn't really have any harmful impact on your journal.
SIMON INGER: But if on the other hand, as is often the case with European societies, they have a lot of overseas subscriptions but the majority of their authors are in Europe, and with Europe pushing for open access faster than other regions of the world, it threatens to make the journal essentially free to the rest of the world with only a third of the world paying for its APCs.
SIMON INGER: So that disparity is very dangerous. That tends not to be as much of a disparity in the US. There's still a bias towards the domestic market, the US domestic market, but in that case, it's not the US domestic market that's transitioning the fastest to open access. So it's not as damaging. So it tends to disadvantage Europeans, societies with a European authorship base, over US societies, even if it's a US-centric authorship base.
SIMON INGER: Even worse, when you go to the humanities and social sciences where you might find the author base is actually even national, so you can actually get-- I've seen UK societies in social sciences and humanities where 90% of their authors are in the UK, and one single open access deal in the UK would wipe out all of their overseas subscription revenue. So these are the dangerous mismatches I look for in the data.
SIMON INGER: Most societies before going into a deal have access to that information as well already.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, it seems to me you could be in a dangerous situation if the majority of your funding comes from one funder. They change their mandates as well.
SIMON INGER: It's that too. The mandates also play a part in that.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, Kevin, I know when we talked a bit in preparation for this, one of the questions I had asked you was about where your author base was. Could you tell us a little bit about what you guys found in looking at that?
KEVIN MURPHY: So I'm kind of relieved listening to what Simon just said. We're not limited to any of those small spaces that might cause the ship to sink, so to speak. So we have a significant author base in China, like many publishers do these days, certainly with plenty of people in Europe, including Russia, North Americans. Not that many UK authors, as it happens, particularly not for our second journal, if you like.
KEVIN MURPHY: So it's quite a large spread, actually, including Asia and Eastern Europe, all over.
HEATHER STAINES: And Matt, this matchup, as Simon mentioned, between geography of subscriptions, authors, and members, how's the AGU experience been?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yeah, I'd say we are, we're a lucky case, to have a broad subscription base and a broad authorship base. Our authorship is about a third Asia, a third Europe, and a third US, North America base, many fewer authors in the global south. But it's interesting that we really could be in this best of possible worlds for people navigating the transition -- society, navigating the transition, because we clearly do have a good strong subscription base in the US where that's not maybe going away as quickly, but we still have the APCs coming from Europe.
MATT GIAMPOALA: And I would just highlight that Asia, but China in particular, is a real wild card. Authors there will pay for open access if it's needed to publish in a journal, but there's not really strong mandates for it in China, and we're not really sure what mandates might be coming down the road other than there could be whole new journals starting that are really based in-- global international journals that are based in China.
HEATHER STAINES: And Kathryn, when we spoke recently, I know what resonates in my mind, as you mentioned, a duty of care, that information should be shared, some of this data between the partner and the society. Can you talk a little bit about how these geographies of different publication elements have come to play in your experience?
KATHRYN SPILLER: Yeah, so I guess that feeling of how complex some of these deals are, it comes from my time at Jisc where I was working on trying to get a really simple, straightforward template for a complicated transitional agreement that small societies could work with, at the same time working with colleagues who were negotiating with the likes of Wiley and Elsevier on really big deals.
KATHRYN SPILLER: And knowing how complex they were and how much pressure was coming from the consortia, from Jisc, from the funders to push down the amount of money in that Big Deal, that eventually comes down to society partners getting less royalties. And that, I don't think, is being explained well enough. For example, the bigger publishers aren't doing what the funders really, really want, which is the offset, anti-double dipping offsetting.
KATHRYN SPILLER: As soon as there's 20% open access, you reduce the price for open access. They're not doing that, but it's-- I'm losing my train of thought there, sorry. It's a complex system where, at the end of the day, every time they make a big deal, that's where they drop some revenue. So rather than doing it in a clear way that everyone understands where you offset for the amount of open access, you're losing money through the big deals to the big publishers, and they're filtering that loss down.
KATHRYN SPILLER: So you will see certainly talking to Society Publisher Coalition members a drop in revenue when a big deal is signed, a big transitional deal with a country, but no warning that that was coming and no real explanation in advance of why that's happening or what societies might be able to do to counteract that, which in many cases, is if you can attract more authors in the countries where those deals are signed you'll boost your revenue.
KATHRYN SPILLER: But I often certainly-- from the conversations I've had -- partners find out a deal has been signed when the press release is published.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, I want to loop back to communication, but I just want to just take a little bit more time to dig into this clarity around the impact that some-- the work that I've been doing in the past year and a bit that I've been with Delta Think, we look at market sizing and share, and I think arguably many publishers have been able to say, hey, the content that goes in subscription journals has continued to increase.
HEATHER STAINES: So we won't necessarily decrease our prices, but we won't increase them as much as we could have. But some of the projections that we've made say that the number of articles in subscription is actually going to start to decline more rapidly, and that will be a little bit of a harder case to make. Simon, what are you hearing in that regard?
SIMON INGER: I certainly can't comment on whether or not OA is going to accelerate or decelerate from here and where that money is going, but I do want to just take a step back and think about that formula that a publisher has for dividing up the cash. And if I go back a long, long way to when we were just talking about individual subscriptions, it was easy. So the amount of money came in, the amount of money went to the society, and a percentage stayed with the publisher.
SIMON INGER: And then we got into the big deals, and then it started to be that your titles would be bundled with other societies' titles. And your titles may be peripheral to a deal. It may be core to a deal. And the other guy's stuff may be peripheral or core to the deal, as well. So then you have a formula, and every publisher has their own formula dividing up that revenue.
SIMON INGER: And some of those formula will look at this price. They'll look at downloads. They'll look at impact. They will look at whether or not the title was subscribed to in that institution beforehand or not. There's a whole raft of these components. When you add on top of that transformative deals and the author side of it, apart from the fact that this must be getting horrendously hard to calculate fairly, and whatever the word fairly means in this context, it also must be getting increasingly hard to predict.
SIMON INGER: It also means that it is-- it may be true that some publishers effectively shield societies against sudden losses in certain specific regions whilst others leave them open to losses in regions just by how the formula works if you look at the total pot of money across the globe and trying to divide it up. So it won't necessarily be a universal observation that everybody suffers in the same way when a deal is done in a certain country.
SIMON INGER: It may be cushioned by some publishers, and it's almost exacerbated by others just on this formula. And as I say, this is not me criticizing the formula, because you could pull apart any formula that anyone cared to put together, but they have to have a formula and presumably attempt for it to be fair. But I think that's the really fascinating bit for me, is whether that formula is capable of cushioning the effect through all these societies, take everybody proportionately through this decline in revenue.
SIMON INGER: Because at the end of the day, there will be less money in the system in an OA world than there was in a subscription world. That apart from anything else is one of the original goals one way or another, I suppose, of open access, is for the system not to cost as much as it used to. So whether it can happen proportionately for everybody or there are winners and losers is actually largely down to the shape of these formulae within commercial publishing houses.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah I think that points back to what you said, Kathryn, about the overall strategy of larger publishers and the degree to which they may or may not wish to continue to work with societies. Can you tell us a little bit more about your thoughts on that?
KATHRYN SPILLER: I guess I think it comes down to the fact that the world's changed so much in this field, that before, the real push towards OA when it was lots of big publishers who would launch new journals, and all the library budgets would soak them up. And societies, I think we have been a bit spoiled for many years in terms of the revenues coming in, and sit back, and let the publisher just bring in lots of nice royalties with a big journal.
KATHRYN SPILLER: Obviously, there's push on all sides now to bring costs down, publishing going up, but I don't know. I think that's a really difficult one, really difficult one. I think because of the squeeze, because of the difficulties, because of the way things are changing, it's inevitable that big publishers are going to go in different directions now. And it feels like that's already happening.
KATHRYN SPILLER: It feels like some publishers have quite different aims. You can look at the companies they're buying up and see people talk about the whether big publishers are actually wanting to diversify out of the field by buying up certain data companies. So I think asking the question of, what the strategy for the company is, and what especially the strategy is around working with societies, and looking at what's being offered, I think it used to be quite competitive in terms of, again, 10 or 15 years ago.
KATHRYN SPILLER: I think you'd probably get similar offers from commercial publishers for contracts. We had three offers for our tender last year, and they were wildly different in terms of the percentage. We asked for them all to be a percentage on revenue, and they were really wildly different, and I thought that was really interesting because I think it shows the different strategies of the different organizations.
HEATHER STAINES: I just want to stay at the 30,000-foot level for just a second. And I've just come off of the NASIG library conference in Baltimore, and one of my friends asked me-- and I'm going to direct this to Simon, so think about this, Simon. Is it possible to leave your partner in this era of transitional agreements? And is it as easy as it once was to move to a different partner?
HEATHER STAINES: Is it as easy to get back on your own? Are, in some sense, folks a little bit boxed in by these relationships?
SIMON INGER: I think, actually, during this transformative stage, it's really hard to move. If we had transformed and it was wholly open access, it would be quite easy to move because you're actually more portable in a way than we were in the subscription years, because you have to win each and every deal each and every time, ie., an author submitting an article, so it's done on the merit of the journal alone at that point, whereas in the subscription years, you had to make relationships with all these different libraries to make it happen.
SIMON INGER: But whilst we're in the midst of this transformation, I would think it's very, very difficult. And again, looking at it from the commercial publisher's point of view, how on earth do you do the maths to work out what a fair amount is? Where do you even start with that? You are presumably just plucking some figures out the air and hoping you can deliver on it. At that point, because it's going to be really hard to-- you'll never have the data to properly understand the extent to which each title has morphed towards open access in all of the different clients and consortia that a deal exists with.
SIMON INGER: So I think actually fully open access titles will ultimately be very portable from publisher to publisher, even potentially easier to take back into under self-control, self-publishing at that point, because again, with any big deals, it was always impossible to bring it back into your own control because you were never going to be able to chase down 20,000 libraries for $5 each, which is where we are with some of the very, very big deals that we've got.
SIMON INGER: So yeah, I think whilst we're transforming very, very hard to move.
HEATHER STAINES: I want to go to Matt. Matt, we talked about the different types of content in the AGU portfolio. And you mentioned that you had a review journal, and that it seemed to you maybe some different models could potentially be the best match for that type of content.
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yeah, so that particular journal has a pretty low number of articles published each year. And so if you do the cold calculation of what it would be to publish in that journal, the author charge would be very high. And on top of that, it's commissioned, so it will be a little bit insulting to chase down a potential author if they come write this giant paper, and we're going to charge you so many thousands of dollars for it.
MATT GIAMPOALA: So it seems like even though under the current model, we do have some people taking up open access as an option, it doesn't seem like we could mandate that if we fully transition the journal. And so we're thinking about how might we engage with subscribe to open or other types of models. And the question that comes up there is, if we're with a big commercial publisher, will libraries really want to engage with us on subscribe to open?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Maybe we would be better off if we took that one on its own and individually went to the libraries and said, we want to do subscribe to open under transitioning our subscriptions because that model is a little bit of wanting the libraries to cooperate with us in making a new sustainable business model that opens up all the content but doesn't disappear the subscriptions.
HEATHER STAINES: Mm-hmm, and Kathryn, with your different experience hats on, are there societies that are experimenting with more than one model at the same time?
KATHRYN SPILLER: Yeah, so when I first started working with the small societies on transitional agreements, certainly, from the Jisc perspective, they were open to any models and part of my remit was create new models, think of new models, invent anything you like that might work. The majority aim towards read and publish and a single fee for all the reading and all the publishing obviously adjusted for whether there was a high output institution or not.
KATHRYN SPILLER: But one of the societies that I worked with, even though they initiated a read and publish, still, they then decided to put all their journals in subscribe to open. And there are certainly all the subscribe to open deals that I did. They had a green element, so just in case they didn't meet the threshold and couldn't make everything open, we agreed that if they had a self-archiving policy that fitted the criteria needed for any funded authors then as a back up.
KATHRYN SPILLER: One of the societies I worked with also came up with an idea which I thought was really interesting of having read, publish and join. So something that only a society can add value to the deal so that rather than just getting publishing included, any corresponding authors who published under the deal got a free year's membership, which I think is a very clever way of building-- A bit like Simon mentioned earlier about comparing geography of those three components-- subscribers, authors, and members, and that really brings all that together and hopefully grows your membership from your author base.
KATHRYN SPILLER: So some interesting experimenting going on. I guess the tricky thing is from the partner perspective is we don't really have a say or an option that the commercial publishers are going down the one route, and that is the read and publish route. That I'm aware of, that is the route they've chosen, and I'm not sure that there is option to really change that.
KATHRYN SPILLER: I think that would be a really interesting conversation and a good opportunity for big publishers. At this point, what happens when we reach a tipping point is the question that nobody is willing to answer. I literally get blank. So if I ask, what happens after 2024 if planners do insist on this deadline, and stop funding hybrid, and stop funding transition and agreements?
KATHRYN SPILLER: And everybody either says that won't happen, or yeah, good question, but nobody's answering that question. And I think it would be really interesting to get some viewpoints from societies and partners for publishers to really get some views from us on where we might go with this, what stage 2 might look like after transitional deal if we're not ready to flip everything, which we're not going to be. There's going to be content-like reviews that's commissioned.
KATHRYN SPILLER: There's going to be journals with authorship in clinical settings where there's no transitional agreements, all sorts that aren't ready to flip. So the big question is, what comes next?
HEATHER STAINES: Matt, as you've got your hand up?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yeah, so I wanted to just tag on to that because right now we are in this transformative space we're navigating, and understanding the deals that are being negotiated on our behalf is really important. And so one of the key things that we as societies need to always be asking is, what are all these deals? How are they really structured?
MATT GIAMPOALA: And the biggest one is, do they cover hybrid subscription journals only, or do they cover for OA and hybrid subscription? And it would be interesting really to hear from some librarians on this, again, about where they are wanting to go three years down the line when they renew. Are they going to move some of the monies if they were only in a deal that covered subscription hybrid open access?
MATT GIAMPOALA: Are they going to transition to covering the full open access journals? Because like I said, we're now deciding which journals to transition right now. And if we make that decision and we haven't taken into account the balance of, well, these deals cover only subscription hybrid open access, and these deals cover both, we could take a journal that was getting open access support and then put it into a model where it's no longer getting that open access support from the from the transformational deal.
MATT GIAMPOALA: And again, so what's the library going to do in three years? I hope that their plan is to shift those dollars over and to open up to those fully OA journals to reward the ones who have transitioned, but it's a little bit of a reading-the-tea-leaves situation.
HEATHER STAINES: I envision a whole other panel with librarians talking about this. But Kevin, I saw you smiling when Kathryn was saying that she sometimes just gets a blank stare. What's your experience been?
KEVIN MURPHY: Well, because we're a very small organization, we're very much in the, this is what's on offer, so this is what we're taking. And so far, we've been very happy with the payoff that we've had in our first four years, I should say. But I don't know that a big commercial publisher would look at an organization like ours. Now, I think to go back to the very start of the conversation, it was about having the same ideals, the same philosophies, as the publishing program you choose, and that was very much what we did.
KEVIN MURPHY: And so I think I can't really comment to say what would somebody else want to come in to partner with us if we decided we no longer wished to continue with our current partner. I'm not confident that a large commercial publisher would want to necessarily go with that. I liked Kathryn's comment about tying membership to the business of read publish and membership, actually something we're looking at the moment.
KEVIN MURPHY: Because I think that brings value adds that the large commercial publishers don't have. They don't have those direct links to the author base in the way that we do. We have members who come to conferences, members who buy our books members, members who take our chartered status. Whatever your offerings happen to be, they don't necessarily have that. And I think that's a really nice idea to consider, given that one of the main reasons for being in a society is being taken away, that of journals that nobody else has access to.
HEATHER STAINES: I think that communication which was mentioned earlier is so incredibly important. And so maybe in the time we have left, if you're talking to a new potential partner or you're in the process of renewing with your current partner, what is your ask about communicating? And I think not just on the level of that these deals are under consideration, but how can you communicate that internally within your organization?
HEATHER STAINES: How can you communicate it out to different stakeholders like authors? Matt, it was it was something that you mentioned as being important on the AGU side, so maybe we can start with you.
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yeah, so there's so much information that we want our authors to have, especially if we're making a transition of a journal, and it takes real partnership with the publishing partner to make this happen. We do proactive communications on our side as well as any communications our publisher does, but we have direct communication with people who've chosen to either review for us, or publish with us, or interact with us in our meetings and other spaces.
MATT GIAMPOALA: So we're trying to communicate out to the authors, this is what you can expect, and that brings up, well, what can they expect? And so we have we have a ton of questions that are still a little bit unanswered. How can we guide authors to know that they are covered under a transformative agreement or that they're covered under the Research4Life initiative where we're giving people from those countries access to a waiver?
MATT GIAMPOALA: How can we get them to answer all the questions we need when they come to publish with us so we can go down the line and see if they have funding through one of these mechanisms before we then get to, do we need to give you a waiver? Because we certainly don't want them to either start with, I need a waiver, if they might have funding from elsewhere, or to just be dissuaded from publishing with us and just move on to the next easiest place. So that kind of communication is really important to us, and I think we really need the publisher to help us, because we can't just leave it as incumbent on the authors to know.
MATT GIAMPOALA: Yes, libraries and institutions can do their part in informing the people who work there, but we need to do our part in informing them that we're part of these deals.
HEATHER STAINES: Mm-hmm, and Kathryn, you initially brought up the communication aspect. What suggestions would you have on how that could be improved?
KATHRYN SPILLER: Well, if you're at the point of choosing a partner, I think it is absolutely key to judge their communication throughout that tender process. I think that how they present their proposal that they've written plus any presentation and-- we really focused on asking about communication throughout that process when choosing a partner.
KATHRYN SPILLER: And then certainly, in terms of what we were asking for, we made sure that there was a certain amount in the contract about the frequency and level of reporting. And I have found through conversations with Society Publisher Coalition members that the level of detail and the frequency of reporting really varies across and it's totally dependent on what societies have pushed for and asked for.
KATHRYN SPILLER: So I think the key message is, really, you have to be pushy. You have to be demanding. You have to ask for what you want for and really push hard for it. And if you do, you will get it. If you don't ask for anything, you'll get the bare minimum. The publisher level, the key contact at the commercial publishers, are often overloaded. So if they've got society partners pushing for things, they'll answer them.
KATHRYN SPILLER: But I think, yeah, judging on the performance, the communication levels, the openness, the transparency through the tender stage is really key. But then getting as much as possible in the contract that ensures you get the information you need on a regular basis is key.
HEATHER STAINES: And Kevin has a smaller society. Has that been your experience? You really need to advocate for what you need?
KEVIN MURPHY: Absolutely, I'd agree with what Matt and Kathryn said just there, Matt in particular about that point of letting authors know what they're entitled to, where they stand, and the deal between us and their library or their institution and publisher. That's critical for us, and we worked really hard with our partner to get that right. Because as Matt said, you run the risk of losing authors if they feel that's too complex.
KEVIN MURPHY: They didn't really want to fish through all of the stuff that the publisher partner had made available to libraries but not necessarily to authors. And I think that was a critical discovery for us. The other point was for a small publisher, probably not with the expertise we need in-house was to hire a good consultant, to get somebody who knows what it is we need to know, because we don't necessarily know that, and work with the partner to make sure we get that out.
KEVIN MURPHY: Yeah, I like lots of regular reports with lots of detail, data, and not just the one annual report that comes six months after you actually needed it for your council meeting or something.
HEATHER STAINES: And as an, I can say, former consultant-- Simon, that sounds weird to say that, but I'll say that-- tips and tricks on making sure you get the best communication process in place with your partner?
SIMON INGER: Well, it is always he who shouts loudest gets the most attention in these things. And actually, there's an interesting effect, because one of the things that happens to a lot of societies-- not the three here today-- is that if they do outsource their publishing operations, they lose publishing expertise internally and don't know what the questions are to ask apart from anything else. So that's very tricky.
SIMON INGER: If you flip this on its head as well and think about from the publisher's perspective about what they communicate, the trouble is the more they communicate, the more they will invite people to disagree and say, well, actually, I don't want my title in this deal. I want it in that one but not this one, which would be, again, absolutely impossible to administer. So I think quite a lot of this silence is actually also because, if you weren't silent, it would be impossible to manage all the feedback or the questions that came from it.
SIMON INGER: So it is very, very difficult, I think, genuinely, to manage this situation.
HEATHER STAINES: Yeah, well, this has been a fabulous conversation. I wish we had more time. There's so many, I think, additional layers that we could go into, things like the benefits that come from working with a commercial partner where you're not negotiating these agreements, where you may have assistance on the Plan S APC transparency that it would be hard to get at yourself, but just other unknowns like connecting into your partner's manuscript cascade system, and which way additional manuscripts could flow.
HEATHER STAINES: As new agreements come in in new countries, you could find yourself with a whole new set of authors that really weren't possible before. So it's so exciting to hear these questions, and I really look forward to continuing this. Thanks to all of our speakers today, and thank you for joining us.