"NPG itself has different models in which we publish the
relevant academic content," Wilde explains the role the
academic publisher has given itself in the discussion around open
access. While some journals, like PLoS ONE and its SURF Research Day
keynote speaker Cameron Neylon, are propagating full open access, NPG
believes in a more subtle approach, a more 'hybrid model'
with a variety of different ways of publishing.
"I believe that an industry that has a mixture of different
business models is the future. Probably we will not see a scenario
developing with everything done through open access or everything
only available by subscriptions."
Why do people use different brands of cars?
"Nature itself for example still doesn't have an open access
option. Open access works if it's for a broad audience, if the
title itself is a big megajournal for instance. Nature has on
average around 400.000 readers for print and almost 2 million
online per month, but we publish on average 15 articles a week.
These articles are selected from publications coming from around
1000 authors. 95% of the content proposed to us is rejected for
To explain this differentiation in publishing models, Wilde uses
the example of the car industry. "Why do people use different
brands of cars? That drives their decision making on what car to
purchase and what not in different circumstances. For scientists
there are also different motives. You want to get published as
simple as possible, or to be published because it helps your career
a lot. Those motives or reasons lead to very different
Jason Wilde (foto: Monique Kooijmans)
"NPG has always worked with scientists, so we know their demands
and motives. You have to consider as well the revenue-model which
is most appropriate in an publication. Do you charge the author or
the reader? There are different models to look at, different
streams of revenue to consider which is best in which situation.
Our idea is to spread costs over many different types of revenue.
If there are many more authors to readers it makes sense to spread
the cost over the authors and if there are many more readers to
authors then it makes sense to charge the readers, for instance
Wilde believes - in contrast to PLoS ONE-editor Neylon - open
access will remain one of the models available for publishing. "I
don't think only one model will become totally dominant. It will be
the scientists who drive that development, not publishers. PloS has
shown that their business model is working, but there are still
people who want to protect their work, want to have control over it
to protect the ownership of their work."
China the next logical step
The petition against the recent legislation such as SOPA and the
RWA therefore get the support of NPG. On
principle primarily. "We are opposed such legislation. There
shouldn't be barriers in the communication of science. Those
legislations go against everything science stands for."
In the world of scientific publishing things have not only
changed when you consider publishing models. The scientific world
also witnesses a geographical shift. "China is the place of
significant interest to every publisher. In the 90's we opened an
editorial center in Tokyo. By then we had two editors, now it's
hundred. China is the next logical step for us."
Problems in language proficiency are a reality, but not a
permanent barrier, Wilde notes. "The language of science is
English, also in China. We do however provide a digest, or
abstract, in local languages if needed. Texts written in terrible
language are a hindrance, but this is not a matter in considering
'do we publish or not'. If in manuscripts, the language is a
problem, NPG editors will help as much as they can to improve the
As well as China, the rest of the BRIC-countries does attract a
lot of attention to NPG. India and Brasil are becoming major
nations in educations and science. But Wilde points out in
particular to the development in Russia. "The situation there is
changing significantly. While it was focused on really hardcore
science in the Soviet era, it underwent a collapse afterwards. We
now see a big shift. Russia is starting to rebuild its
infrastructure in science and is making a remarkable comeback."
Within these BRIC-countries, Wilde notes a growing popularity of
a concentration on applied sciences as this is easier for some
growing economies. The focus on 'hard science' had diminished and
this raises some fundamental questions. "There is a growing
economic point of view when looking at the value of doing science.
That poses an important question: if all nations want to 'score' by
applied activities who will be doing the fundamental research?
Because we do need this: if you rule out doing the fundamental
stuff, you will never get far in being successful in innovation and
applied science. Even if there is no immediate application or
commercialization of the scientific research as such."
Thematic journals over disciplinary
The urge for applied sciences can also be seen in the amount and
type of academic journals being published by NPG. "If you look at
NPG itself, for example in the multidisciplinary area of chemical
biology, you see a very encouraging development. When this
journal was launched it brought three primary research manuscripts
a month. So it was a very small area of science, but we could see
this that was an field which was gathering momentum."
"Today this area has grown significantly and the journal is
publishing ten manuscripts a month. So it has become clear that we
identified an important area of scientific research and have , over
the last seven years, worked with the community to build an
important journal. You have to keep asking yourself and scientists
whether we do serve the needs of all issues of research and science
Within this development of more interdisciplinary journals
instead of more specific disciplinary publications Wilde witnesses
a shift to publications with a thematic focus. "Climate change for
example is a subject that goes beyond disciplines. We want to get
the scientists together and new journals and types of publication
can serve this."
According to Jason Wilde this development of very complex,
interdisciplinary approaches points to another significant shift in
science. The question "what is the data behind this?" in those
areas of research is becoming more important in order to bring the
differing scientific traditions and analysis together.
How to respond to fraud?
Cameron Neylon addressed this development as well in his opening
keynote address of the SURF Research Day. He
stated that open access publishing should also help in publishing
all the data behind researchitems, including 'failed research'in
order to learn from that as well. Wilde likes this uncommon
approach as open access to all data could be a way to give room for
other researchers to "reïnterpret the data on their validity."
Openness on data has another important aspect: the fight against
scientific fraud. In Dutch science this issue has become painfully
topical recently. Wilde however warns against overestimating the
magnitude of this problem. "Access to data might be a solution to
see if there are doubts or even fraud."
NPG-editors already use different 'instruments' to check whether
scientists are trustworthy in their work. "If we believe something
is not valid, is wrong even, you can raise questions and address
the worrying elements. When this leads to uncovering really false
aspects in a research of publication a paper will be have to be
withdrawn. But we have concluded that not that many papers are
withdrawn. It is such a small amount. Cases of fraud are rare so
the current system does work very well and has been shown to work
well for many, many years."