Thomas tells FutureBook: 'open' is a massive opportunity

Thomas tells FutureBook: 'open' is a massive opportunity

Springer Nature chief scientific officer Annette Thomas has told the FutureBook conference that in academic publishing "the power is no longer in the proprietary, the power is in open", saying the newly merged company will be "taking the prestigious brand of Nature and [going] open, open, open."

Thomas was the opening keynote of today's conference, held at London's Mermaid Theatre. The debates can be followed on Twitter via #FutureBook15.

Thomas, formerly c.e.o. of Macmillan Science and Education, which merged with Springer to form Springer Nature earlier this year, said that when Macmillan Science and Education was formed as a global academic division three years ago, it "very firmly put a flag in the sand around disruption", with the opportunity to transform around workflow.

"We understood that what seems disruptive today - some of which will succeed, but some will fail - is the future for tomorrow," she said. "If we want to be part of that [future], we have to embrace it."

Macmillan set up tech incubator divisions Digital Science and Digital Education, and brought all its employees together onto the King's Cross campus to foster collaboration. "Three years on, a lot of what we have done has worked really well - our science business is growing at triple the rate of the industry, our education division growth is in double digits, and we have a 20% increase in our bottom line," Thomas said.

The growth positioned Macmillan Science and Education for the merger with Springer that took place earlier this year, a merger Thomas described as equivalent to that of Penguin and Random House in the consumer market.

"There has been a lot of noise and a lot of people watching to see what we do next," she noted, describing Springer Nature as the number one in open access publishing, with the largest academic book publishing programme, distributing over 200,000 titles on its electronic platform.

"What's next?" she went on. "It's all about 'open' - 'open' is a massive opportunity to change the way publishing is happening. Nature is an old and prestigious brand - but two thirds of the content from Nature Publishing Group is generated by open publishing, not just open access [articles] but also open data.

"The power is no longer in the proprietary, the power is in open.You will see us taking the prestigious brand of Nature and [going] open, open, open."

Thomas said that being customer-centric and data-driven was a development shared between academic and consumer publishing. "For academic publishing, the researcher is at the centre of everything we do. She is the one that does the research that creates the content; she does the peer review that validates research; she consumes the product; she's the one who needs to publish to advance her career.

"Putting the customer at the centre of what we do is not a 'nice to have' - that person drives everything."