Springer Nature Releases Its First ‘Annual Progress Report’

In News by Porter Anderson

Successes cited by Springer Nature include ‘Downloads per article more than doubling from 2017 to 2020 to 902 downloads per article.’

A timeline of Springer and Macmillan’s evolution. Image: Springer Nature

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

See below for details of our Frankfurter Buchmesse program “How the Article-Based Economy Is Transforming Research Publishing” in the all-new Publishing Perspectives Forum set for 3 p.m. October 19, in the Messe Frankfurt Congress Centre, Level 2, Room Spektrum.

‘How Well We Are Delivering’
The progress referred to in Springer Nature‘s release today (October 6) of its first Annual Progress Report is defined by the company as “how well we are delivering as a publisher for the research community.”

We’re glad to see this reference made clear because, of course, progress comes in many forms and in recent days, a new publishers’ movement, the “Publishing 2030 Accelerator” has come to the fore in which the progress in question is that made toward climate-crisis response.

Springer Nature does refer to sustainability in its media messaging today, saying, “We are releasing this report because there is increased scrutiny across the board in how companies are governed, whether they’re acting responsibly and sustainably and how they’re providing value to all their stakeholders.”

And the company points out that since its creation in 2015, “We have chosen to share information about the company that goes beyond regulatory requirements,” citing a “Fully Open Access” report and our annual Sustainable Business Report.” In 2020, Springer Nature announced that it had become “carbon neutral for its direct operations, offices, warehouses, fleet, and flights.”

What’s clear and logical is that the competition is on for researchers whose writings will contribute traction in the research community, enhance transformative agreements with great library networks, and generate visibility in the press.

The Nature of the Report

Springer Nature’s communications stress, “Simply put, we’re holding ourselves to account by sharing more information about what we do and how we do it than ever before.” If the drive to become an open-access destination does, in fact, prompt such self-examination and accountability among publishers, then obviously, that’s good.

Image: Springer Nature, data as of December 2021

For the most part, this report is a promotional piece with very few notes on challenges unmet or disappointments. An upbeat statement is  something all companies have a right to promulgate, of course. But there are also several points at which it does seems that the company examines itself, looking for room for improvement.

On Page 59 of this 66-page report, for example, you can find some points of workplace demographics showing that in terms of “Employees by Continent,” 52 percent are from Europe, 25 percent are from Asia, 19 percent are from the Americas, and 3 percent are from Africa.

In the “Top Three Tiers of Leadership,” we find 59 percent of the workplace are identified as men and 41 percent as women.

And on Page 54, a short bit of text about “Combatting Misinformation Through Science” looks at “speed and accessibility of trusted research and analysis,” though not at issues of taking on disinformation (weaponized misinformation). This is something we’re talking with several academic publishers about this year. In a culture of denial like that which has developed in some markets around the crucial importance of vaccination during the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, how best can major industry players respond?

To be sure, it’s likely that very little of the misinformation, let alone disinformation plaguing the plague, lies in the academic community itself, which of course prides itself, as Springer Nature does, on the efficacy of superb research, the mandate for accuracy, and an allegiance to truth. And on Page 55 of the Springer Nature report, there are some programmatic elements referred to as “Communicating Science to a Wide Audience,” efforts headed in the right direction of announcing accurate findings through public and lay channels.

These are good to see because there’s an increasing need to ask what is the academic and scholarly publishing industry’s responsibility in this reality? Is making good science available–primarily among scholars who know where to find it and how to read it–really getting the job done?

Top-Line Numbers From the Report

Image: Springer Nature

The company highlights these assertions for the news media today:

  • “More than 7 million article- and book-chapter downloads per day on its platforms
  • “More than 2.6 billion in total in 2021, up more than 10 percent over 2020
  • “Increased reuse per article: 5.83 citations per article; up 60 percent in three years
  • “Downloads per article more than doubling from 2017 to 2020 to 902 downloads per article
  • “Fully open-access articles cited on average over more than seven times … with citations from all open-access articles growing by 50 percent between 2017 and 2020”

Such points, the company says, are “driving increased value-for-money for the community. The average cost for each use of an open-access [article]  in one of Springer Nature’s fully open-access journals is €0.24, around 30-percent lower than nearest pure-open-access competitor.”

The report also details some key additional spending:

  • More than “€300 million (US$293.7 million) invested in technology to improve and speed up the publishing experience, ensure research integrity is protected, and misinformation is tackled, €120 million in 2021 alone (US$117.5 million)
  • “Increased investment to accelerate solutions to world challenges–more than €18 million (US$17.6 million) waived in article processing fees in 2021 for researchers in financial need
  • “Increased investment in initiatives that support commitment to be carbon net zero by 2040
  • “Increased investment in those who work for Springer Nature with an additional €5 million  (US$4.9 million) invested in staff training and development, along with an expanded diversity, equality, and inclusion programmes, data collection for better progress monitoring, and new employee networks”

The report also touches on financial performance, mentioning that Macmillan Education saw an 11-percent increase in revenue despite conditions hampered by pandemic effects in education.

You can see Springer Nature’s “Fully Open Access” report here. And you can find its Sustainable Business Report here.

At Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 19 to 23), find Springer Nature’s stand at Hall 4.2, F10

Join us on October 19 at 3 p.m. in the Publishing Perspectives Forum for “How the Article-Based Economy Is Transforming Research Publishing.” Curated and moderated by Sven Fund, senior director with Knowledge Unlatched, the discussion features:

  • Tobias Kuhn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Liz Ferguson, senior vice-president, Research Publishing, Wiley, the United States
  • Philipp Hess, head of publisher relations, ResearchGate,  Germany
  • Dr. Olaf Ernst, chief solutions officer, Oable, Germany
  • Dr. Irina Sens, head of library operations, TIB Hannover, Germany
  • Moderator: Sven Fund, senior director, Knowledge Unlatched, Germany

This session’s description: Academic publishing is changing significantly as its operating system moves away from big deals and more towards the new realities of an article-based economy. While a major driver of this change is open access, the impact is being felt far beyond just a shift in access to content. New players are entering the field, new ways of working are evolving, patterns in searching and discovering content are changing, and new intermediaries are emerging to support the changing requirements. The panel will look at the evolving landscape of scholarly publishing from the perspective of all relevant stakeholder groups.

And that session is just one of two days of special B2B programming featuring leading and influential professionals in the international publishing industry discussing today’s challenges, dynamics, and trends. Attendance is free of charge for all Frankfurter Buchmesse exhibitors and trade visitors. The program language is English. You’ll find full details and developing news here


More from Publishing Perspectives on Springer Nature is here, more on open access is here, and more on scholarly and academic publishing is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.