Open Access push in China for NPG

Open Access push in China for NPG

Macmillan Science & Education is capitalising on China’s heavy focus on research and development to push forward an ambitious programme of expansion in Open Access (OA) journals, in partnership with local institutions.

The publisher has had a direct presence in China for just two-and-a-half years, having previously managed the business from Tokyo. It now has 40 staff in Shanghai and 50 in Beijing, and is hunting for new office space, with expansion planned for next year.

Its Nature Publishing Group (NPG) business has developed 10 journals in association with Chinese institutions, most of those being Open Access. In November, NPG announced the establishment of Cell Discovery, China’s first broad-spectrum life science OA journal, launched through a partnership with the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences. Other ventures already under way include OA-only journals Horticulture Research, launched last year with Nanjing Agricultural University, and Light Science & Applications, launched the year before with the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics.

Charlotte Liu [pictured], m.d. of Macmillan Science (Greater China) & Education (Asia), said that since China’s overarching strategy is to become a knowledge-based economy, one aspect of that is to have its own world-class journals. These are published in the English language because it is the global language of research in natural science; and there is a keenness to get research published via OA because there is a strong belief that this increases visibility, and visibility and reputation-building are considered vital for Chinese scientists.

Liu said: “There’s a lot of desire to establish top-notch journals in this part of the world. OA offers an opportunity [to do this]—but it needs to be high quality . . . We are very ambitious because we think we have all the right ingredients globally in OA, especially in China. This year, submissions to our journals have more than doubled compared to last year, and for the next three years we are projecting very healthy and ambitious growth rates.”

China is putting heavy funding into research and development, and ranked third globally in terms of the number of journal articles published in 2011, according to Science & Engineering Indicators 2014. Macmillan Science & Education’s 2014 author survey showed that a particularly high proportion of research scientists in China (80%) have the funding to self–publish via gold OA, with both the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China introducing an OA mandate to their grants this year.

Liu acknowledged that the Chinese publishing market is still highly regulated. “That’s true for all competitors too,” she noted, but she said it did not affect scientific publishers as much as trade publishers.

Censorship issues have not proved a problem in science publishing, she added. “In research articles, we have seen a very open approach from government institutions we have been working with. Issues such as pollution control, food safety and supply—there has been fairly open and honest attention in recognising that science can fund solutions to
these issues.”

Liu went on: “When the first SARS epidemic hit China, there was a lack of willingness to be open and transparent, but when it happened a second time, the Chinese government was very proactive on working on containment. Science has done tremendous work on avian flu—the tone has changed, there is a willingness to be open. It is a virtuous circle. Things are not perfect in China, but it is an indication that, more and more, the government will realise the role of science in solving issues and be very open about it.”  

While China is strong in the physical sciences, Macmillan Science & Education has also based members of its global editorial team who work on humanities and social sciences in Shanghai. “We are starting to communicate a lot more with Asian authors to write for Palgrave, both articles and monographs,” Liu said. “We need people resident in the country so that they are out talking to researchers and finding out what their frustrations are.”