Nature Publishing Group's Publishing Model


The House of Commons (U.K.) Select Committee on Science and Technology investigated Open Access publishing alternatives, and pursuant to this obtained written evidence from Nature Publishing Group consisting of answers to specific questions about "pay to publish." Here are excerpts from the document. Given the current discussion on Open Access publishing, this may be of interest to you.

Nature Publishing Group's Publishing Model: Evidence to the House of Commons, April 2004.

Question: You stated that, under a pay-to-publish system, Nature would have to charge authors between £10K and £30k per article. Can you supply a breakdown of the costs that would necessitate this charge?

The £30,000 figure was arrived at simply by dividing the annual income of Nature (£30 million) by the number of research papers published (1,000). This assumes that author fees would be the only source of revenue (ie. a totally open access model).

The £10,000 figure is derived from estimates of the costs of selecting, reviewing, editing, designing and producing the research article element of Nature and the amount NPG would need to charge in order to cover these expenses adequately...

The reason for these high costs is the high investment Nature is obliged to make in the selection process, including de-selecting over 90% of the papers received. At present, Nature receives more than 10,000 papers per annum through its open submission policy.

Question: What proportion of the average article cost is taken up with peer review? Can you supply a breakdown of the costs of peer review?

Unlike many other journals where peer review is a distinct and sometimes external process, Nature does not use external academic editors, or have an external editorial board. Internally, it has a large number of highly qualified, experienced, professional editors as well as supporting administration staff who manage the peer review process. However, the actual reviewers used are professional scientists who are carefully selected by Nature's internal editors. The staff cost for this activity represents 43% of the total cost for the creation of peer reviewed content for Nature....

Question: What provision do you make for teaching staff to reproduce material you have published as part of undergraduate and postgraduate student packs and courses?

All NPG authors of original research retain their copyright (they provide NPG with a "licence to publish"). As copyright holders, they, and any academic institution where they work at the time, may reproduce the authors' contribution for the purpose of course teaching. Thereafter, use of copyright materials in the U.K. is subject to copyright law and fair dealing ('fair use' in the US), which provides exceptions for the "non-commercial" reproduction of selected articles for teaching and private study.

I just reproduced the snippits that I thought were particularly interesting. The rest of the official document can be found at the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Here.

More like this

Here in the UK, back in 2003 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee launched an investigation into scholarly publishing. Their first step was to hold a series of oral evidence gathering sessions and the first of these was with a group of publishers, including the Managing Director of Wiley Europe, John Jarvis. On speaking about public access, Jarvis said:

"I will say again; let us be careful because this rather enticing statement that everybody should be able to see everything could lead to chaos. Speak to people in the medical profession, and they will say the last thing they want are people who may have illnesses reading this information, marching into surgeries and asking things. We need to be careful with this very, very high-level information."… Question 19

I am reliably informed that there were gasps around the room as he said it and those there could only believe that it is a view he now regrets vocalizing! (The Committee�s report is still worth reading if you haven�t seen it…)

With all these pounds/dollars being thrown around by Nature, you would think a few would have found their way to the know, the scientists who do the 'actual' work to decide whether an article is worthy of publication in their august publications.

In all my years of acting as a referee for journals, they've never offered any compensation. Perhaps I've been mislead...maybe I should have gone after 'a piece of the action', like the rest of them.

As it is, I think I'll step up my submission to open access journals, which looks to be a revolution in publishing, every bit as much as the Gutenberg printing press.

so nature has been claiming all along that it is not possible to successfully running an open-access, yet selective journal that only publishes a few articles. well, now that the era of funder-mandated archiving has begun, what is nature going to do ? is it going to change its business model, or shut shop ? or are we suddenly going to see how it was indeed possible, all along, to run a "selective" journal that allows free access to its scientific content ?

ps. i have posted more thoughts at:

@LMG: Open Access != non-profit

Somebody is paying (to deposit the paper instead of to read it) and somebody else is getting paid (to publish it).

PLoS is non-profit as it's a charity. Step up reviews *there* if you like...