UK and USA: Physics Publishers Say They’ll Put ‘Purpose Before Profit’

In News by Porter Anderson2 Comments

A newly announced coalition of three nonprofit physics-society publishers announces its intention to support science.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: AtDigit

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

‘Putting Purpose Above Profit’
Our readers are familiar with the United Kingdom’s scientific publisher IOP Publishing—”IOP” for Institute of Physics—and may be interested with its media messaging this week from offices in Bristol, saying that IOP is forming a new partnership with AIP Publishing (“AIP” for the American Institute of Physics) and the American Physical Society.

The “Purpose-Led Publishing” coalition, these companies say, has come together as “a new coalition with a promise to always put purpose above profit.”

These three houses are nonprofit and they say that all funds they make from publishing are going to “go back into the research ecosystem” as the key element of their three-way covenant.

Such funding, their announcement says, “supports the physical science community globally through a range of initiatives.” Among those initiatives they list educational training and mentorship programs as well as awards and grants, “all geared toward making science accessible and inclusive to everyone.”

Pledging to Toe the Line

Image: Purpose-Led Publishing

The move being made, as outlined on Monday (February 5), sees these three companies committing to a list of operational and philosophical pledges.

These are:

  • To “invest 100 percent of our funds back into science
  • “Publish only content that genuinely adds to scientific knowledge
  • “Ensure our terms are reasonable
  • “Put research integrity ahead of profit
  • “Admit our errors and set them right”

They also write that they’re agreeing not to:

  • “Relinquish our not-for-profit status
  • “Have shareholders for whom we would put profit above purpose”

The news of this coalition’s formation is being transmitted with the requisite quotes from leadership personnel at these three companies.

Antonia Seymour

Antonia Seymour, CEO of IOP Publishing—and also the president of the UK’s Publishers Association—is quoted, saying, “We are so important to the research ecosystem—everything we do is for public and scientific good.

“Purpose-Led Publishing is about our dedication to science, and to the scientific community.

“We’re proudly declaring that science is our only shareholder.

Alexandra ‘Alix’ Vance

Alix Vance, CEO with AIP Publishing, then is quoted, saying, “We’re here to benefit science and all those engaged in its advancement.

“Purpose-Led Publishing lets the research ecosystem know what we stand for as publishers: We authentically lead with purpose and we exist purely to give back to science.”

And Rachel Burley, the chief publications officer of the American Physical Society, says, “Publishing with a Purpose-Led Publishing member not only advances knowledge through high quality, peer-reviewed journals, it also means researchers are investing in the community they’re a part of.”

Rachel Burley

What’s not offered in the announcement provided to the press this week is what has prompted this move. It would be good to know more of the “why now?” rationale behind this interesting move toward solidarity.

Certainly, an intent on the part of nonprofit publishers to use profits in a way that supports and sustains their creative talents seems admirable. Has there been an “inciting incident” here?—some newly developed condition or pressure or other motivation behind the creation of the “Purpose-Led Publishing” handshake?

More may be known about this new move toward unity as time goes by. For now, here’s a short video produced by the Purpose-Led Publishing coalition to announce and enumerate its tenets.

More from Publishing Perspectives on scholarly and research publishing is here, more on the work of the IOP Publishing suite of society journals is here, and more on academic publishing in general 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 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.


  1. Hi Porter, thank you for sharing the news of our new Purpose Led Publishing coalition. The answer to your question, ‘what has prompted us to do this now’ is straightforward. As we move into an open future, there are a number of specific challenges that AIP Publishing, IOP Publishing and the publishing team at APS share in supporting the physical science community. Purpose-led Publishing is about demonstrating to the physical science community what we stand for, what differentiates us and how we can support their evolving needs as we move into an open future.

    1. Author

      Hi, Faye, and thanks for your input here.

      It’s good to know that this promotional liaison of the three companies in the Purpose-Led Publishing coalition is driven by “an open future.”
      As you know, much of our international readership is based in the trade, and the developments around open access are challenges to and of another sector of the business.
      A move that brings three nonprofits into a joint statement of what they offer to the physical science content-generating corps is an interesting one and is something I’m sure we’ll want to know more about going forward.

      On X: @PubPerspectives, @Porter_Anderson

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