Open Access, Society & Partner Zone Issue 14

Special Feature: BioMed Central

As the open access debate gathers momentum, Society & Partner Zone spoke to BioMed Central about their open access program and its importance for our society and publishing partners

BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. The publisher now products 216 open access journals and is actively engaged in supporting the scientific community and libraries in establishing open access funding to support and encourage greater open access publications. BioMed Central was acquired by Springer in 2009.

Society & Partner Zone spoke to Beverley Acreman, Commercial Director for BioMed Central about the organisation’s open access program and how it uses social media to communicate and promote its work.

Bev, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can we start by first asking you to tell us about BioMed Central and your role there?

I am the Commercial Director for BioMed Central and my role is to lead the global sales, marketing, customer services, advertising and PR and Events teams here. Everyone here passionately believes in Open Access as a sustainable model for the future of science publishing, especially in the biology/medicine/public health arena, and we are excited about the opportunities now our parent company, Springer, has launched SpringerOpen to publish OA journals outside our core field.

What is the relationship between BioMed Central and Springer? How do the two organizations “fit” together?

BioMed Central was acquired by Springer two years ago, and we work closely together to bring the benefits of a large organisation (their sales reach and expertise for example) where it makes sense. We also provide Springer with a leading platform for their new open access journals. Of all of the companies I’ve worked with, this has been the best acquisition/integration I’ve come across: Being owned by Springer has brought a long-term strategic outlook that was more difficult to achieve whilst we were being run as a start-up. Springer is more interested in the long term future of the business and has invested substantially in BioMed Central since the purchase. Springer’s infrastructure is helping us to realise potential for growth. For example, Springer’s global network of offices now allows us to have staff in key locations, such as China, India, Japan and the US. Importantly, it also helps us as we continue to strive to provide an industry leading service to our stakeholders, whilst managing the growth.

What is the synergy between BioMed Central’s open access journals and SpringerOpen?

We publish the open access content in the traditional BioMed Central areas; Springer are launching true open access (OA) journals within their areas of strength in science and technology, social sciences and the humanities. They are able to take advantage of our flexible, author facing platform, membership support team and digital marketing outreach.

How does BMC work with Societies? How do you approach partnering with them?

BioMed Central works with a number of societies and we are increasingly approached to respond to bids; the only difference in offerings compared to traditional publishers is that we are open access and naturally feel this offers additional advantages to those societies opting for this model (as well as it being the right model for research publishing, it is being borne out with the cut backs to library funding in Europe, North America and other regions).

How do you use emerging techniques such as Social Media to interact with societies and provide support?

BioMed Central has build up an extensive network of inter-linked social media channels, from Twitter, through Facebook, to LinkedIn. Societies and their members have the ability to engage with us directly via these channels, and we provide up to the minute information on all aspects of our publishing business and open access in general. Those societies who publish with us can take advantage of this expertise to extend their own reach.

Social media has become a fundamental part of our overall communications strategy, allowing us to assist in connecting up the scientific community so that the dissemination of scholarly research is as swift and as open as possible.

What do you think the future of Open Access will be, now that the initial hiatus has calmed down?

I don’t think the initial hiatus has calmed down! OA publishing has been going for a fraction of the time of the subscription publishers and I’m proud of the part BioMed Central played in pioneering the movement. When you see large companies like Springer investing wholesale in an OA programme, you know that others are going to have to sit up and take note. What we need is to continue to advocate institutional/national mandates and engage authors in areas outside the bio/med/life sciences about the benefits open access offers them and spread its reach to brand new areas. SpringerOpen is going to play a major role in this.

What do you think the biggest issues will be facing societies as the digital information industry grows and changes over the next 3-5 years?

I think the biggest issues societies are going to face depend upon the space in which they operate. For the pharma/medical and biology societies, I believe they are going to continue to come under increasing pressure to enable open access to their research, while for those in the hard sciences budget cuts are going to hurt them more over the next few years. I can’t see a digital initiative damaging those societies who have survived the huge disruptions of the last ten years. Partnering with an industry leading digital OA publisher would future proof them though!