A few words on sound science, megajournals, and an announcement about SpringerPlus

By Steven Inchcoombe (Chief Publishing Officer, Springer Nature)  and Heinz Weinheimer (Managing Director, Springer Research Group)

London | Heidelberg, 13 June 2016

Some of the most exciting changes driven by the internet, and the development of open access publishing in the last few years include the explosion in sound science publishing, partly fuelled by megajournals.

Publishers are still experimenting with the megajournal model. The STM Association describes megajournals as “characterised by three features: full open access with a relatively low publication charge; rapid “non-selective” peer review based on “soundness not significance” (i.e. selecting papers on the basis that science is soundly conducted rather than more subjective criteria of impact, significance or relevance to a particularly community); and a very broad subject scope.”

Today we announce that we are ceasing to accept new submissions to SpringerPlus. So what can publishers do to create a sustainable ecosystem, and can the megajournal work as a long-term model?

The growth of sound science

Originally, print journals were restricted by the number of pages they could physically produce on the printing presses, and every extra spread added considerable cost. This model led to selective journals, run by highly trained in-house staff, accepting only the most ground-breaking papers. Whilst these have now also moved online, the benefit of these journals in the modern age is that they act as a filter, selecting the most important developments for the scientific community to read.

In an online world, page numbers and word counts can lose some of their importance. For journals which are not as selective, we can now publish as much research as the community wants to read, at a lower cost. All sound science can be made accessible, no matter what level the impact. From newsworthy, head-turning papers, to the papers of interest only to niche disciplines, and even negative results – everything can be shared. So long, of course, as the science is peer reviewed, and found to be correct and ‘sound’.

The benefits of publishing sound science have been embraced by the scientific community, and there are many sound science journals spread across disciplines. Springer Nature publishes the BMC series, for instance, where each journal caters to its own discipline, from genomics to zoology. But in recent years, the megajournals have garnered the most attention from the publishing community, as they have grown incredibly quickly. Almost every publisher now has a megajournal.

An announcement about SpringerPlus

At Springer Nature, we publish two megajournals. Scientific Reports covers the natural sciences and published almost 15,000 articles in 2015. It has grown at a phenomenal rate.

SpringerPlus, our other megajournal, covers all disciplines, from the natural physical sciences to maths, engineering, the social sciences and humanities. We believe that it was the first and only journal truly covering all disciplines, designed so that an author would never be told that their work was out of scope.

A detailed analysis of these two existing megajournals after the merger led to the decision to streamline our portfolio. We have concluded that SpringerPlus is not sustainable in its current form. We have taken the decision to stop accepting submissions to SpringerPlus as of today, although we expect that it will continue to publish until the end of the year. Of course, this content, as well as all existing research published in SpringerPlus will continue to be preserved, online, discoverable, citable and accessible, without limitation.

Where next?

Publishers are still experimenting with open access business models. We know that different disciplines have very different needs. Open access is far more established in the clinical and natural sciences, where it is supported by funder mandates, and those disciplines have more money to support Article Processing Charges than other disciplines. Increasingly, we have found that researchers in the HSS (humanities and social sciences) and TEM (Technical Engineering and Maths) subjects prefer to publish in journals which cater specifically to them, for example journals in the SpringerOpen portfolio. When you look at the wider publishing landscape, the megajournals which have had the most success (PLOS One, Scientific Reports) cater to a select range of disciplines.

We are proud of SpringerPlus and of what it has achieved since its inception in January 2012. We would like to personally thank each and every author, peer reviewer and editor who has worked to make SpringerPlus a success thus far. We value their contributions, and hope to continue to work with them on other initiatives.

There are many other sound science options within the Springer Nature portfolio, and we are still committed to finding a home for all sound research across all disciplines including clinical medicine, natural and physical sciences, engineering, humanities, and the social sciences. All robust research deserves to be read and built on, in the quest for expanding the sum of what we know about ourselves and our universe. We will continue to experiment with publishing models, with the aim of adding our own small contribution to the progression of science.

Contact

Renate Bayaz | Springer Nature | Communications

tel +49 6221 487 8531 | renate.bayaz@springer.com