Knowledge for everyone

The Max Planck Society has been working intensively for ten years with Copernicus Publications and also cooperates with other providers of Open Access journals

November 10, 2011

Open Access publications are available free-of-charge to everyone worldwide and today represent a significant share of information provision in several disciplines. As one of the first players in the field, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) - an international association of 10,000 geoscientists - began, in 2001, together with Copernicus Publications, to transfer specialist journals to the then extremely new business model.

“We aimed to provide free access to all scientific publications for everyone. With Open Access we managed to establish a new model of public, transparent peer review,” explained Ulrich Pöschl of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and initiator of the first interactive Open Access specialist journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

The Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz came up with the specialist journal concept. The new journal quickly established itself, thanks to cooperation with the scientific community of the EGU and the Copernicus Publications. “The journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics was included in the Thomson Reuters’ Science Citation Index after just a year and achieved the highest impact factor in its specialist field within just a few years,” said Arne Richter, co-initiator alongside Pöschl and Crutzen and the publisher of the journal at the time.

The public peer review concept is based on a manuscript being published as a discussion article after a brief initial evaluation. The opinions appear online in the form of quotable comments in an openly accessible discussion forum. The scientific community can participate in the discussion and the author subsequently publishes his revised manuscript as a reviewed article in the specialist journal.

The concept was quickly transferred to other newly established journals and, in some cases, to established traditional journals. The costs were met by the EGU and Copernicus in the launch phase, and authors could trial the new service free-of-charge. Once the journals were established, moderate publication charges based on the number of pages were introduced to ensure long-term, independent operation. “Since 2007, after just six years, we succeeded in turning a profit with Open Access. We have shown that not only does Open Access make science freely available and improve quality assurance, it is also financially viable,” said Martin Rasmussen, the current publisher at Copernicus Publications, explaining the sustained success.

Copernicus now publishes 16 international Open Access journals on behalf of the EGU. In total, the publishing house manages 25 scientific journals with Open Access, 14 with public peer review and 11 with traditional peer review. Eleven titles altogether have a Thomson Reuters impact factor in the top range of the respective discipline in all cases. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an EGU journal, not only has the highest impact factor in its specialist field, is also the most comprehensive with 12,000 published pages in 2010.

The costs and publication fees remain relatively low compared to Open Access journals worldwide and, despite its major success and high impact factor, ACP manages to keep the rejection rate very low thanks to transparency and self-regulation through the public peer review: only approx. 15% compared to around 50% for comparable traditional journals. This makes scientific quality assurance and the publication process efficient, fast and affordable.

Since January 2008, the Max Planck Society has encouraged its own authors to publish directly in Copernicus journals with central invoicing of publication charges incurred. “The agreement with Copernicus Publications is a good example of successful Open Access cooperation, which we have entered into with many publishing houses. We are specifically aiming to promote not just Open Access, but also innovative quality assurance concepts,” explained Ralf Schimmer of the Max Planck Digital Library.

The collaboration with Copernicus is just one in a series of initiatives with publishing houses, such as Biomed Central, the Institute of Physics Publishing (New Journal of Physics), the Public Library of Science and SpringerOpen, with which the Max Planck Society has concluded agreements to cover publication charges for its own scientists. Alone in 2011, similar agreements were made with three further publishing houses including Wiley Open Access, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journals and Frontiers. The Max Planck Society is constantly enhancing the infrastructure required to provide its scientists with effective support to publish their research results in an open and publicly accessible way.

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