Dr. James Milne was named president of ACS Publications in February 2020, after serving as interim president since September 2019. He joined ACS as senior vice president of the Journals Publishing Group in 2016, having been the global publishing director at Wiley, and having held leadership roles at the Royal Society of Chemistry and Elsevier. He is based in the ACS International office in Oxford, U.K, and shares his time with a second office in Washington, D.C.
New executives often come with a new focus for an organization. Milne brings a commitment to the open science movement and a strong interest in advancing chemistry as a global enterprise. In this interview, he discusses ACS Publications’ support of open science, the ways open science is changing scholarly publishing, and the impact this may have on authors and readers.
What does open science mean for scholarly publishing?
Open science is an incredibly positive development for the dissemination of research to the global community. It is perhaps first worth outlining what open science can encompass, as there are many definitions and scope. Essentially open science typically relates to any research activity and its outputs (e.g., articles, data, code, even referee reports) and enabling this material to be made freely and easily accessible. The goal is to increase the transparency, accessibility, and replicability of research, which are all ambitions ACS fully supports.
In making this a reality, the scholarly publishing ecosystem will need to undergo significant changes. For instance, in deciding to make material freely available to all users, the costs incurred in validating, curating, and preserving information need to be supported differently, e.g., aligning payment with the creator of the content. Many funders are supporting this transition, as they seek to ensure the research they fund is made as widely available as possible.
What is ACS doing to advance open science?
ACS has long been a supporter of open science. For over a decade, we have provided authors with flexible options as to how they wish to publish their content. For example, authors wanting to make their research article open access have the opportunity to do so in any of our 60+ journals. Additionally, ACS publishes two established ‘pure’ open access titles (ACS Central Science and ACS Omega), and as most people are aware, in 2020 we will launch JACS Au, an open access journal aligned to JACS, our flagship journal. ACS also took the lead in developing and launching ChemRxiv, the preprint server for chemistry, and all our journal supplementary files are freely available via Figshare, increasing the accessibility and usefulness of these data sets.
These developments support the mandates being introduced by funders, particularly those based in the EU, while still ensuring the majority of researchers have the freedom to publish in the journal they feel is most appropriate for their work.
We will continue to advance our active support for open science and are currently evaluating several other areas where we can help advance scientific knowledge as aligned to our Society’s mission and vision.
How do you see Read + Publish agreements fitting into ACS’s approach to open science?
For some years, ACS has been working with global institutions to provide innovative Read + Publish arrangements. Under these agreements, for a modest fee, the institution can re-use their subscription spend to support their researchers publishing their articles open access in any ACS journal. Effectively, this re-uses the subscription budget to support and accelerate the transition to open access. ACS is among the leading publishers to drive these arrangements forward; to date, we have Read + Publish agreements spanning 16 countries and reaching over 250 institutions.
What does the shift towards open science mean in a global context?
The global dynamics associated with open science are really interesting. In terms of open science, the EU has, for some time, been taking an active lead. Over the past 12 months, there has been greater interest in the United States, China, and elsewhere.
The shift from reader-pays to author-pays does introduce a different dynamic in terms of who will be supporting the publishing ecosystem in the future. For example, research-intensive nations or institutions will likely need to support and fund publishing activities more than they do today. An academia / corporate dynamic will also come into play, noting how corporate organizations currently contribute towards research publishing through subscriptions, yet publish relatively modest numbers of research articles. These changes will bring significant challenges for publishers, funders, and institutions as the scientific publishing environment transitions in this direction.
What will these changes mean for authors?
Over time, there are likely to be significant changes for researchers who author papers. Securing and aligning funding for article or data publications will become a new norm, though institution-wide agreements may help smooth this task. At ACS, we have pioneered novel systems to ensure a streamlined process is available for authors to link the support provided by a library or funder with published output. These developments are only achieved through close partnerships between ACS and funders and institutions; effective collaboration is really important to reach an optimal solution for all concerned.
People often ask, ‘what happens when an author doesn’t have funding to pay for making their work open?’ For these authors, ACS continues to offer the option to publish in our existing journals at no cost, to ensure that no researcher is disadvantaged. Indeed, at present more than 90% of articles are published in this way. We do expect the uptake of open access to steadily and perhaps significantly increase over the next 5+ years, and this makes it an exciting time to engage with funders, institutions, editors, and researchers to find the best path forward for maximum positive societal impact.
What will these changes mean for librarians?
Many librarians are engaged with ACS to support the transition towards open access, as demonstrated by the significant number of Read + Publish agreements already in place. One of the challenges we all face is connecting funder budgets with library budgets in a way that collectively supports the full output of those researchers mandated to publish open access. I encourage librarians to contact their sales representatives to learn more.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As the community is well aware, ACS journals are well renowned for their exceptional quality and unparalleled service to authors and readers. This core value will not waiver as we transition towards open access and open science. ACS has a reputation as the ‘most trusted, most cited, most read’ scientific publisher and this will remain core to all our activities and developments in the years to come.