The future is bright for those who embrace change

Since the last editorial for Learned Publishing, a lot has changed. At the time of writing for the April issue, the UK was watching the global spread of COVID-19 but was not yet in lockdown. Since then, a large part of the world has been shut down, and most regions are now starting to slowly return to a new normal. The effect of both the virus and the responses to the virus have dramatically affected lives and livelihoods.

The effect on scholarly publishing and research has been dramatic, although it is likely that we will feel further effects in the next year or two as the fallout of the economic hiatus emerges. In the meantime, looking back at how the industry has responded during the past few months can help to plan for the future. As we emerge from lockdown, it will be increasingly important to evaluate our role within research communication, the value we add, and our resilience in the face of massive disruption.

So how did we do?

Following the call from the Wellcome Trust back in January, many (if not most) publishers responded positively by making relevant content available for researchers. Subscription publishers, such as Springer Nature, made all articles related to COVID-19 free to view. Others, like Emerald, made funds available to cover the APCs of topical articles which their open access journals chose to publish. EDP sciences and Berghahn Journals made all their content freely available – not just articles relating to the pandemic but their entire portfolios (where they had permission) in order to support researchers working from home without on-campus access to their institutional holdings. In China, the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) provided free access to COVID-19 resources, including research papers that had English abstracts.

Cross-publisher initiatives were also a positive outcome in the recent months. For example, with the agreement of several publishers, ReadCube launched a programme to facilitate free access to research on COVID-19 for researchers, journalists, health workers, and others. Upon registration users can gain access to publications from various publishers, including Springer Nature, JAMA, and Wiley.

And many other organizations also provided support where they could, for example, Kudos provided free access to its premium service, Kudos Pro, which received over 5,000 sign-ups. Publishing platforms also had to deal with variable workloads, such as HighWire reporting a sevenfold surge in the use of its systems (largely driven by the hosting of MedRxiv and BioRxiv, with some articles receiving over 4 million page views). For many organizations, this meant meeting unprecedented demand alongside staff needing to work remotely while maintaining contact with colleagues and systems.

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by Pippa Smart, Wiley Online Library

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