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OSTP Mandate will Increase Scholarly Society Focus on Author Services

The recent OSTP Public Access memo requiring US Government funded research articles to be made freely and immediately available to readers is a significant milestone in the transition to Open Access (OA). The OSTP mandate will further accelerate the shift to (APCs) and Transformative Agreements (TAs), away from subscription fees as the source of journal funding. A growing number of journals are now reaching a tipping point where the percentage of OA articles undermines their ability to charge subscription fees.

For better or for worse, the funding model transformation will be coupled with a shift away from a reader-centric culture to an author-centric approach. Organizations that have spent decades focused on serving readers will be driven by the necessity to think harder about how to serve authors. The skills and sensibilities that historically made a “good publisher” at an individual and organizational level are in flux. In this context, if OA publication now represents the new baseline for author service, OAplus explores the potential for how authors can be better served.

Setting aside peer review, a core function of journals is that they provide a mechanism for authors to share their work with peers. As noted by Sir Mark Walport, the former UK government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, “Science is not finished until it is communicated.” Research communication is therefore a key vector for improving publisher service to the author community. OAplus services such as content enrichment (e.g. video summaries) and generating content appropriate for new audiences (e.g. plain language summaries) can increase impact and extend author communication to groups like policymakers and the general public.

In the reader-centric culture, such communication enhancements would be automatically bundled into journal articles and their cost written off as a “reader benefit” eventually recouped through increased subscriptions. However, in the emerging author-centric environment, there is an opportunity for journals to define, package, and serve authors with OAplus services. This will require an analysis of author needs, thoughtful packaging, and appropriate marketing implemented with the right partnerships.

In summary, OAplus is a thought experiment about how scholarly societies might adapt to the fast-changing publishing environment. Is there something your scholarly society could do to help authors enrich their content and reach new audiences?

Richard Wynne

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