Interviews, Issue 8 June 2011

Springer and the Helmholtz Association Sign Agreement for Open Access Membership

Springer talks to Heinz Pampel of the Helmholtz Association, a new member in Springer’s Open Access Membership Program, about Open Access publishing.

Herr Pampel, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can we start by asking you to explain a little about the Helmholtz Association and its work?

Pampel: The Helmholtz Association is dedicated to improving the quality of human life and helping to solve major problems in 6 core fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Aeronautics, Space and Transport. We are the largest scientific research organisation in Germany, with 30,000 people working across 17 different research centres. We also have one of the largest research budgets of EUR 3 billion.

Before the formation of the Helmholtz Association, there already was a federation of large scale research centres within Germany. Since 1995 the centres operate as the “Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres”.

The Helmholtz Association was one of the initial signatories of the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities” in 2003. What benefits has being part of this declaration offered the Association and its scientists?

Pampel: The Berlin Declaration has provided tremendous benefits! It is an incredibly important milestone in the development of open access publishing and has had a significant impact in promoting the benefits of open access to the wider scientific community. These benefits have been felt by both the Helmholtz Association and our scientists as our research is now published much more quickly and is accessible to a much wider audience.

Have there been any challenges or issues with regards to open-access publishing that you have had to address? If so, can you give any examples?

Pampel: Open access is such a pioneering activity that in the early days, there were many different opinions about the best way to proceed. The greatest challenge was in re-thinking the cost aspect of scientific publishing. With traditional publishing models, the cost of publication is recouped by charging the end user a fee to access the content. With open access publishing, access is free but there are still costs associated with publishing articles.

Our task was to think about the best way of restructuring existing pricing models so that these costs could be covered. It was clear that new pricing models were needed, but it has not always been clear as to which would be the best model to adopt.

What key benefits do you think that open access to research articles and data offers scientific authors over traditional publishing models?

Pampel: I think the main benefit is, as I mentioned before: scientists now have the satisfaction of seeing the results of their research available to a large audience in a much quicker timeframe. Another enormous advantage of open access publishing is that research results, once they are available in the open access space, will remain accessible indefinitely and will continue to be available to ever increasing numbers of researchers.

In August of last year, Helmholtz Association joined Springer’s open access Membership program. What prompted you to make this decision? What benefits do you expect the agreement to offer authors?

Pampel: Springer is an important scientific publisher and the Helmholtz Association was very pleased to see them move towards open access publishing. We are happy to be able to work with Springer to develop this important new field of publishing and to continue to provide the benefits that open access offers, namely rapid access to new research by a large number of scientists and the continuing availability of research results once they have been entered into the open access system.

Finally, what do you think might be the key challenges facing open access publishing in the long-term? What can publishers do to help authors in this process?

Pampel: Many developments have taken place in open access publishing in such a short space of time and there are certainly more developments to come. I think one of the challenges ahead is the development of innovative strategies to combine articles and research data. The important factors with open access publishing are the flexibility and the capacity of publishers and authors to adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances. It is very important for these two groups to maintain constant contact with each other to keep up-todate with the changes and to spot new opportunities as they arise.

Springer’s Open Access Membership Program

In cooperation with our partner BioMed Central, Springer offers an Open Access Membership Program which enables academic and research institutions, societies and funders to actively support open access, and help ensure the most widespread dissemination of the research published by their investigators.
In order to meet the cost of publication, authors who publish in a SpringerOpen journal are asked to pay an article-processing charge (APC) per published paper. Our different Membership packages, tailored to suit every institution and their individual needs, enable our Member institutes to remove some or all of the financial cost from the individual author.