In Switzerland, Springer Nature Presents Author Survey on Open Access

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Springer Nature reports on what it says is the first survey ‘dedicated to understanding the views of book authors on open access across all subjects and regions.’

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Audience Reach Leads Reasons Cited for Open Access
The results of a survey presented last week at the University of Geneva in the OAI 11 – The CERN-UNIGE Workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication indicate there may be a generational divide in how open access is viewed among researchers.

Springer Nature’s “The Future of Open Access Books” survey saw positive attitudes about open access among responding junior researchers, as well as among researchers based in Europe and Asia, as well as among previous authors of open access books.

The company put together its findings from the 5,509 responses of 2,542 book authors who completed the survey. Of those respondents, 407 had previously published at least one open access book, 2037 authors had not published an open access book, and 98 authors reported that they didn’t know whether they’d published an open access book previously. Of the full sample, 917 book authors had published one or more chapters as open access in an otherwise non-open-access book.

It’s interesting that Springer’s paper reports , “While a number of previous surveys have explored authors’ views on open access, there has never been a survey dedicated to understanding the views of book authors on open access across all subjects and regions. It’s worth noting that the researchers saw response too small to report perspectives with confidence from some regions—Africa, South America, and Australasia.

North American respondents show somewhat less enthusiasm for open access than did those from other parts of the world. For example, while the majority of authors responding agreed that all future scholarly books (monographs or edited collections) should be made available via open access, including 55 percent of those who had not yet published in open access, but North American respondents were at 48 percent in their agreement with this.

In more results, bulleted out for brevity:

  • Reaching a large audience was the top reason to publish open access, selected by 68 percent of open access authors and 57 percent of non-open access authors.
  • The reputation of the publisher in their field was the top factor influencing where book authors decide to publish (68 percent non-open access and 52 percent open access book authors).
  • The ability to publish open access and availability of an online platform were more important to open access book authors (23 percent and 22 percent, respectively) than non- open access (1 percent and 14 percent).
  • When asked whether it was important to them that their book was available in print, 83 percent of non-open access book authors and 73 percent of open access book authors agreed or strongly agreed that this was important.
  • Only 28 percent of non-open access authors and 40 percent of open access authors said it would be probably or definitely acceptable for their book to be used for commercial purposes (such as being reprinted by a third party in a book that is then sold).
  • The top reasons a book author had not published open access were lack of willingness to pay a publication charge (37 percent) or an inability to find funding (25 percent).

Questions around funding, of course, are among those that dog the topic of open access in many settings. In relation to those concerns, the report says:

  • Forty-seven percent of authors indicated they did not have any funding for their last book, with considerable variance by subject area and region: 53 percent of humanities and social sciences and 63 percent of clinical medicine respondents reported no funding for open access from their main funder or institution.
  • Regionally, more authors in Australasia said that no open access book funding was available to them (72 percent), compared to 55 percent of authors in Europe.
  • The majority of authors surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that funders should provide more financial support for publication of books via an open access model (84 percent of open access book authors, 71 percent of non-open access book authors).

The managing director of books at Springer Nature, Niels Peter Thomas, in a prepared statement for the release of the survey after its presentation in Switzerland, is quoted, saying, “We launched a dedicated open access book publication program in 2012. … The results of our survey clearly indicate that reaching a large audience and fostering interdisciplinary conversations about their work are the two things authors most hope to achieve when writing books.

“If we’re to increase take-up of open access books, more needs to be done to convince book authors and funders about the opportunities and benefits of open access in scholarly publishing.”Ros Pyne, Springer Nature

“Offering authors the option to publish their books open access at Springer Nature is a sustainable way to advance discovery by helping book authors increase readership and awareness for their books.”

Ros Pyne, Springer Nature’s director of open access book, points out that “The findings seem to indicate a high level of satisfaction and continued engagement with open access from existing open access book authors. … However, if we’re to increase take-up of open access books, more needs to be done to convince book authors and funders about the opportunities and benefits of open access in scholarly publishing.”

And, indeed, one of the recommendations from researchers in the study itself is that “More needs to be done to increase awareness and understanding of open access, and to reduce skepticism, particularly amongst more senior researchers, and within North America, to accelerate take-up of open access book publication. Senior researchers have particular importance, due to their influence on junior colleagues’ publication decisions and career progression.”

These recommendations continue, “We need to help allay areas of concern, particularly around the perceived quality and reach of open access books. Publishers should focus on communication about their peer review and quality-assurance processes.

“There’s a role for the wider community, too, for example in supporting and maintaining resources such as the OAPEN Library and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) that have set standards for acceptance.”

The directory, in fact, as of May 15, was listing 2,099 books published in 2018 as open access, which represented an increase of 38 percent over 2017.


More from Publishing Perspectives on open access is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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