Interviews, Society & Partner Zone Issue 21

In the Spotlight: King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

Established in 1977, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) is an independent scientific organization administratively reporting to the Prime Minister. KACST is both the Saudi Arabian national science agency and its national laboratories.
KACST functions as a science agency involved in science and technology policy making, doing research, data collection, funding of external research, and other services such as starting science and technology incubators, and acting as the national patent office.

In 2011, Springer embarked on a publishing initiative with KACST to publish five international scientific journals on five strategic technologies (Water, Oil and Gas, Petrochemicals, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology). Since then, another journal has been added to the portfolio: Materials for Renewable Energies, and Springer and KACST are now working on a seventh journal that covers intelligent and complex systems.

In September 2013, Springer staff returned to KACST.

Society & Partner Zone spoke to Dr. Mansour M. Alghamdi, Director of the General Directorate of Scientific Awareness and Publishing at KACST, Chris Bendall, Senior Publishing Editor (Springer), and Ulrike Graiff, Senior Product Manager (Springer) to find out more about the publishing program.

Ulrike and Chris: you worked with KACST in establishing their first 5 open access journals. Can you tell us again about Springer’s role in establishing these journals?

We are very pleased to be KACST’s publishing partner in this exciting initiative! KACST were looking for a partner with the global reputation and proven experience in academic publishing to help them design, launch and publish open access journals that focused on the key technology and research areas that KACST supports. Springer, as the leading commercial Open Access publisher and a pioneer in electronic publishing, matched these expectations. Our considerable experience in launching new journals means we understand the challenges involved very well. We worked with KACST to ensure the concepts of the new journals, their aims and scopes, would be competitive with existing international literature. We also supported KACST in inviting internationally-respected research leaders to join each journal as Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editors.

How has Springer supported KACST in raising the profile of these journals and encouraging submissions since their launch?

We applied our proven international marketing expertise to promote the journals to a world-wide audience. Our marketing effort included email marketing and conference promotion as well as supporting high profile events and the KACST Best Paper Awards.

We’ve also developed practical tools that Editors can use to attract high-quality content as well as services for authors in order to make the publishing process as simple – and enjoyable – as possible. For example, we have recently introduced citation alerts, where authors can be notified of the number of citations their articles have received to stay informed of how well their publication is doing.

What have been the key challenges and opportunities that KACST has faced since launching the journals?

Launching new journals is not easy, and it’s the quality of the content that determines if a journal will be read by a large audience and subsequently attract authors. One important issue is whether a journal gets indexed by ISI and receives an impact factor. This important metric is a major target to work towards and requires a combination of promotional activity and strong editorial strategy and best practice to achieve it. KACST journals are published on “SpringerOpen” as fully supported, open access journals. They are free to read and they are also free to publish in, which will encourage more submissions and lead to higher citations. Ultimately, the success of a journal is dependent upon its initial concept and the editorial board, and this is something Springer aims to get right from the very beginning.

Another key objective for KACST was to continue strengthening the research base in the strategic technologies by providing funds for researchers and working on the science and technology ecosystem such as training, cooperation with international agencies, publishing and incubation. Dr. Alghamdi, can you tell us a little bit about the status of these initiatives and the extent to which they have been successful?

KACST has worked with its partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and abroad to develop the Strategic Plans for Science, Technology and Innovation. These have several objectives, including creating an ecosystem that would support new ideas originated by researchers, from inception right through to implementation and use by end users.

Now KACST is implementing these plans in collaboration with its partners including the Saudi universities, research centres, international corporations and universities. KACST has succeeded in many areas including establishing research centres, incubator hubs, training the researchers not only within KACST but also across the KSA, and providing knowledge resources to researchers and the general public.

Dr. Alghamdi: what are the institution’s plans for evolving the journals? Can you tell us a little about any future initiatives or activities that might be in progress?

KACST aims to provide knowledge to researchers within KSA and globally in the priority areas for KSA: Water, Oil and Gas, Petrochemicals, Nanotechnology and Biotechnology. We have already published five journals, as discussed earlier in this article, and we plan to publish more in areas that fall outside of the scopes of these first five journals. KACST is also translating books and magazines on the key strategic technologies in addition to supporting authors to write and publish books in Arabic and English.

Finally, Ulrike and Chris, do you have any further news or information that you’d like to share about your visit to KACST?

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and the famous Arabian hospitality. We feel that the collaboration is mutually beneficial and in KACST, we have a very forward thinking, co-operative and collegial partner.

Further Information:

KACST

Springer and KACST