New research highlights UK academic publishing’s ‘integral role’ in innovation

New research highlights UK academic publishing’s ‘integral role’ in innovation

New research has highlighted the “integral role” UK academic publishing plays in facilitating innovation, prompting a warning from the Publishers Association to policy makers considering new Open Access models. 

The report by economic consultancy Frontier Economics, entitled “Publishing’s Contribution to Research and Innovation”, says academic publishing is recognised as “a key part of the research and innovation landscape, and a success story for the UK economy”.

Testament to the strength of UK academia and research, the report states despite having only 4% of the world’s researchers, the UK nonetheless accounts for 16% of the most cited journal articles.

Publishers exported around £1.4bn’s worth of academic journals in 2017 (PA Publishing Yearbook figures), and supported the UK’s £33bn R&D sector. They perform “many time-consuming and expensive tasks”, without which innovation would be “less effective”, the report acknowledges. This it does across four various stages of the “innovation cycle”, with core contributions including: helping to assess research for funding allocation, by providing metrics for funding decisions; maintaining research quality and integrity through the peer review process; helping to make research outputs useful, attributable and discoverable; and creating and developing tools and work with industry to make data easier to absorb, for example, through data platforms, collaboration management and sector-specific tools.

For Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, the research hammers home the need for UK policy makers to take the “utmost care” in relation to Open Access developments.

Lotinga commented: “This report outlines the huge contribution that the academic publishing industry makes to our world-class research base, a contribution which is not always very well understood. The research shows the many different ways that publishers use their highly specialised skills to make research go further and do more – and it comes at a crucial moment for the sector.

“Recent developments around Open Access including Plan S and the forthcoming UKRI OA review must be approached with the utmost care by UK policy makers, or it could risk jeopardising a hugely important industry that is a vital part of the UK’s research and innovation ecosystem.”

Steven Inchcoombe, chief publishing officer for Springer Nature, which company is responsible for 30% of all immediately accessible OA articles globally, wrote for The Bookseller just last month that what is being proposed under Plan S "will not benefit the whole research community". The initiative for open-access science publishing, launched in September by Science Europe, means scientists and researchers who benefit from state-funded research organisations and institutions would have to publish their work in open repositories or in journals that are available to all by 2020.