NPG's article-sharing trial a success

NPG's article-sharing trial a success

Nature Publishing Group's 12-month content-sharing trial will "continue indefinitely" following "positive results" and no sign of an adverse effect on subscriptions.

In December 2014, a 12-month content-sharing trial was set up to enable subscribers to 49 journals on to "legitimately and conveniently" share the full text of articles of interest with colleagues without a subscription via a shareable web link, enabled by publishing technology company ReadCube.

The trial was also extended to 100 media outlets and blogs around the world that report on the findings of articles published on, allowing them to provide their own readers with a link to a full text, read-only view of the original scientific paper.

The year-long trial found that the most popular method of sharing scientific articles had been via the media and blogger referral programme, which gave readers of articles free, read-only access to the full text of scientific articles in news stories and posts. Reports of Nature journal articles from international media outlets drove the most traffic to the trial. The most popular article of 2015 was "A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance" published in Nature in January 2015.

In order, the most popular news outlets were: the BBC, Guardian, New York Times, Science Magazine and Washington Post. Peer to peer sharing, where subscribers send or post shareable links to journal articles on tended to be mostly (67%) between subscribers and non-subscribers, with the remainder mainly accounted for by sharing between those who already had subscription access.

The trial had no adverse implications for subscription-based journals either in terms of institutional business or individual article sales, the publisher reported. The free read-only links were shared all across the globe but the most active sharing was instigated by subscribers in: the USA, the UK, Japan, Germany, China, Canada, Spain, France, India and the Republic of Korea.

Steven Inchcoombe, managing director of Nature Research Group, Springer Nature, said: “Our original aim had been to open up our treasure chest of scientific knowledge to both researchers and society at large, so we are very pleased that this content sharing trial has concluded with positive results. This means that the initiative to offer on-platform, convenient sharing of the full text of articles using ReadCube’s enhanced PDF technology will continue indefinitely. No-one in our industry has so far been able to do this, that is, to create the policy, supply the content and provide the digital platform.” 

Nicko Goncharoff, director of publisher relations at Digital Science, of which ReadCube is part, added: “Nature’s progressive policy combined with ReadCube technology enabled us to provide a positive, sustainable option for conveniently sharing subscription journal content. This is a significant step toward addressing researchers’ needs to share articles and knowledge while giving publishers and authors visibility on sharing activity.”

This initiative was developed in order to help researchers collaborate, and provide the public with a way to read scientific content that has not been available to them before, the publisher said.