Concentration in Commercial Open Access: Data from the University of Stockholm

Open Access buttons photo
Photo by h_pampel Concentration in Commercial Open Access: Data from the University of Stockholm

Stockholm University Library  has monitored gold and hybrid publication charges (or Article Processing Charges APCs) for Open Access publishing at Stockholm University. The results are published on in a short posting  by Lisa Lovén and
Liisa Hänninen.

The University of Stockholm has spent 2.967.093 Swedish Krona (SEK) between January and August 2017 for APCs.  Of this total, 60% were paid for Hybrid Open Access APCs and 40% were paid for Gold Open Access APCs. The data show that these four publishers have received more than half of all paid APCs, 1.662.896 SEK:

  • Elsevier: 639.054 SEK
  • Wiley: 583.826 SEK
  • Frontiers: 234.672 SEK
  • Nature Publishing Group: 205.344 SEK
Concentration in Commercial Open Access: Data from the University of Stockholm
Illustration by Lisa Lovén and Liisa Hänninen, taken from, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License

By the way, Springer ranks eleventh with 67.857 SEK, behind BioMed Central (74.535 SEK).

Lisa Lovén and Liisa Hänninen comment this as follows (translated by the author of this article): „The results reinforce the image that has been reported so far, both nationally and internationally, and show that the commercial approach of Elsevier and Wiley is top of the league, long before anyone else“

Similar concentration effects can also be found in Germany (see slides 9 to 13 of this presentation), where in 2016 49.59% of the APC payments reported by the OpenAPC project went to Springer Nature, Elsevier, and Wiley. If one considers frontiers as part of Springer Nature, the share increases to 55.5%.



Springer Nature acquires E-Learning Platform Iversity

sold photo
Photo by afunkydamsel Springer Nature acquires E-Learning Platform Iversity

After Iversity’s insolvency in 2016 the Holtzbrinck Group invested in Iversity. Some days ago Springer Nature’s acquisition of the e-learning startup was reported.

Iversity’s news on the acquisition (in German language) provides some more information, here is a translated piece of it: „For the free of charge course offers (MOOCs) currently offered on the platform, iversity provides a guarantee of existence for the foreseeable future. Discussions are currently underway with various partners on how these digital academic courses can be expanded and financed sustainably in the future.

Part of the new strategy is an exclusive cooperation with the international science publisher Springer Nature, which belongs to Holtzbrinck. In cooperation with Springer Nature, iversity is now planning further steps towards digital study programmes. In the future, both existing and new distance learning courses as well as new courses offered by Springer Nature in the area of continuing vocational education and training will be offered in digital form via iversity. In addition, Springer Nature and iversity intend to jointly test new formats for the further development of classical textbooks.“


The next Elsevier boycott: News on DEAL, Springer Nature & Elsevier

Project DEALAs mentioned several times in this blog the German project DEAL aims to conclude nationwide licensing agreements for the entire portfolio of electronic journals from major academic publishers.  DEAL has two distinctive goals: on the one hand, cost savings and, on the other hand, the extension of contracts to include Open Access components that allow scientists at German institutions to publish Open Access in journals of contract partners at no extra charge.

Yesterday DEAL published two interesting press releases:

  • Progress is reported in the negotiations with Springer Nature: „In order to gain the necessary time for further negotiations on this very complex matter, the two sides agreed a cost-neutral extension of the existing Springer contracts by one year for those organisations whose contracts end on 31 December 2017.“ In other words, DEAL and Springer Nature agreed on a kind of moratorium to continue negotiations on a national consortium. Contracts ending in 2017 will continue to run at no additional cost until an agreement between DEAL and the publisher is reached.
  • Negotiations with Elsevier, on the other hand, are escalating. As DEAL announced well-known scientists and academics resigned from publishing activities for the publisher and thus support the negotiation goals of the DEAL project:
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Wolfgang Marquardt (Jülich Research Center)
    – Prof. Dr. Kurt Mehlhorn (Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, Saarbrücken)
    – Prof. Dr. -Ing. Jörg Raisch (Department of Control Systems, TU Berlin)
    – Prof. Dr. Marino Zerial (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden)
    – Prof. Dr. Anton Möslang (Institute for Applied Materials, KIT)

    The German Rector’s Conference cites some of the scientists on its website (translated by the author of this posting):

    Wolfgang Marquardt: „More and more scientists around the world are working for open access and fair cost models. The arbitrarily high prices put a strain on the acceptance of the division of labour between science and publishing. The academic libraries are increasingly forced to restrict their services. This results in a growing danger for the scientific discourse in the specialist disciplines.“

    Kurt Melhorn: „For science, an unrestricted Open Access component is indispensable. This is the only way to ensure that current research results are fully accessible. Publishers must adapt their business models to these possibilities of digital publishing.“

    A similar boycott, led by recognized mathematicians, was launched as early as 2012. If one ignores the damage to the publisher’s image caused, however, it did not have any consequences.

And one more thing about Elsevier: Penn Libraries started the operation beprexit and are documenting their migration planning from Bepress to an open source option for hosting Penn’s institutional repository. The migration is motivated by the acquisition of Bepress by Elsevier. Here is a statement from the beprexit website:  „In August, bepress sold their company to Elsevier, a business with a history of aggressive confidentiality agreements, steep price increases, and opaque data mining practices. In their acquisition of bepress and other companies like SSRN and Mendeley, Elsevier demonstrates a move toward the consolidation and monopolization of products and services impacting all areas of the research lifecycle. We are worried about the long-term impacts from these acquisitions and are concerned that such changes are not in the best interests of the library community. Therefore, we feel obligated to begin exploring alternatives.“


What is the relationship between Springer Nature & Frontiers?

Frontiers Research Foundation Logo
Frontiers Research Foundation Logo, taken from:

In preparation for a presentation at the Open Access Days in Dresden, I collect information on the shares of commercial publishers in the APC-based Open Access business.

When I deal with this topic, I always stumble upon the publisher Frontiers:

  • Back in 2013 Nature reported „Nature Publishing Group buys into open-access publisher“ and noted: „the company [Nature Publishing Group] said it was taking a majority investment“.
  • Wikipedia tells us: „The investment spurred collaboration with Nature Publishing Group, such as the integration of Loop profiles into Nature journals on, as well as collaboration with other Holtzbrinck companies such as the Frontiers for Young Minds blog on Scientific American. Though Holtzbrinck still has a minority share in Frontiers, the two companies operate independently, and in 2014, the two groups „made the decision … to make a clean separation and never to mention again that [Nature Publishing Group] has some kind of involvement in Frontiers.“ Nevertheless, Wikipedia identifies the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group as the Frontiers Group’s parent company. Springer Nature in turn is the product of the merger of Springer Science+Business Media and Holtzbrinck Publishing Group’s Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education.
  • As Leonid Schneider points out in 2015: „The current administrative board of Frontiers lists as signatory Michael Brockhaus, Head of Group Strategy at the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.“ Meanwhile Mister Brockhaus left the board.

To be honest, the relationship between Frontiers and Springer Nature is somewhat unclear to me: Is Springer Nature holding shares in Frontiers (if so, to what extent?), is it only a strategic alliance, does Springer Nature only use Frontier’s services for a fee?

I would be very grateful for information and feedback by the readers of my blog!

Update: Leonid Schneider drew my attention to Richard Poynder’s interview with Kamila Markram, CEO and Co-Founder of Frontiers, in 2016.

Fake Review bei Springer

Bereits 2012 berichtete Josh Fishmann im Chronicle of Higher Education, dass Wissenschaftsverlage es Autoren recht einfach machen, Reviews zu eigenen Einreichungen zu erstellen und so die Qualitätssicherung zu unterlaufen. Springer musste nun 64 Artikel zurückziehen, da es Wissenschaftlern gelungen war zu diesen Texten derartige Fake Reviews zu produzieren. Mehr dazu in Telepolis: Fake Peer Review – Springer Nature zieht 64 wissenschaftliche Artikel wegen fingierter Gutachten zurück.