In December 2022, the International Association of STM Publishers and the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) released a report: Open Access Publishing in China. The report is openly available in both English and Chinese. This interview with Mark Robertson, consultant to the STM Association on the project, highlights the findings of the report and their implications for the scholarly publishing industry as well as providing background on the STM/CAST collaboration.
Thank you for taking time to answer some questions about this report. First of all, could you introduce us to CAST and STM?
CAST is the largest non-governmental organization of scientific and technological professionals in China and acts as a bridge between the Chinese government and China’s science and technology community. It takes an active interest in China’s academic publishing and open science policy development. STM is the international representative organization for academic publishers in bringing research of all kinds to the attention of a global audience of academia and the wider public. STM has more than 140 members across the globe including commercial publishers, learned societies, and university presses.
How did the Open Access Publishing in China report come to be?
In 2021, CAST and STM signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to broaden their exchange and collaboration. Later that year, a joint report on open access in China was proposed. At the start of 2022, a meeting was scheduled between the two organizations to discuss the aims and scope of the report. It was agreed that the report would be compiled around three basic principles in which both organizations believe:
- First, that different models of publishing can operate in parallel;
- Second, that high quality publishing practice reinforces high standards of research integrity; and
- Third, that collaboration by publishers nationally and internationally is in line with the practice of researchers and should be encouraged
A small editorial team was formed with representatives from each organization to invite and write contributions and work with their communities to compile the report. What was originally envisaged to be a relatively short paper expanded into a more fulsome report, which was published in both English and Chinese in December 2022.
Let’s focus on the report itself for a moment. What are the key findings or takeaways?
Based on the agreed principles that I just referenced, the report is written and organized around four themes — and the findings and takeaways are different for each.
The first – “Open access as practiced globally” – is a primer on open access publishing. This will be invaluable for those working in the scholarly communications community in China as an introduction to open access as practiced globally. And, since it may be a unique report bringing what we know together so concisely, it could be useful for colleagues to read anywhere in the world. Whilst comprehensive in its coverage, it illustrates well the steady and accelerating march of Gold open access globally.
The second section – “Open access publishing in China” – includes a large amount of data on publishing activity in China and references the various policies and initiatives put in place over time to accelerate open science in the country. The highest profile journals, whether published solely by publishing houses in China or in partnership with international publishers, are similarly launching or moving at the same pace to Gold open access as we see in the global statistics. There is also what we could call a domestic publishing industry, publishing in both Chinese and English languages. The publishing models for open access for these publishers are different, as described in the report.
The third section – “Research integrity in open access publishing” – covers the major areas of this work for publishers internationally, and sets up a sort of dialogue between STM and CAST on what is happening in China. As we all know, these are critical issues and the report shows how China is grappling with many of the same problems as global publishers.
And finally, we have case examples of collaborations by some STM members with publishers, institutions, and journals in China. This is not a comprehensive directory of activity and the submissions were included as submitted. We chose a range of publishing houses to illustrate some different ways in which collaborations have been established, including commercial publishers, learned societies, and university presses. The takeaway here is that there are many exciting partnerships underway for the benefit of researchers in China and globally.
What do you see as the implications of these findings for the scholarly publishing industry?
There are more articles authored by researchers at institutions in China being published in international journals than any other country. The report shows that there is a growing trend for researchers in China to publish Gold open access articles in international journals. With a significant number of publishing partnerships and collaborations already in place, and opportunities for many more, the implications for the scholarly publishing industry are positive. In addition, China also has a large domestic publishing program and its evolution to open access is covered in the report. And, having jointly published this report, STM and CAST are planning to continue to work together for the benefit of publishers all over the world and, of course, including those in China.
What was the editorial process for the report overall as well as its component parts?
We started with a small editorial group, as I already mentioned, that invited contributions from STM and CAST team members as well as externally from other organizations and publishers. What was written in English was translated into Chinese and back again into English; any content written in Chinese was translated into English. Some of the contributions from CAST were sponsored by a CAST research project. In addition, CAST used a panel of external advisors, while STM consulted internally. The editorial team managed the workflow and discussed at great length any area that could be confusing in Chinese or English, clarifying in either language where needed. This was a collaborative project based on the principles above between CAST and STM who agreed on the final version of the report.
The report draws on an immense number of sources. What is the data availability for datasets compiled for this report? For example, the datasets underlying the analysis of 4,963 journals published in China and the survey of attitudes of researchers in China towards open access?
Much of the data referenced in the report is from other sources and, as you say, these are referenced comprehensively. Where new or derivative work was undertaken, we can make the datasets available. We would encourage readers to make contact with me or my colleagues on the editorial team. The full analysis of attitudes of researchers in China towards open access has been submitted for publication in an English language journal by those who undertook the research. We can share the citation once it is published.
Is the collaboration between STM and CAST ongoing? What might we see next as a result of this partnership?
The MOU between CAST and STM continues into 2024. STM and CAST have agreed that the editorial group involved with the report will continue to meet throughout 2023 as a working group to raise ideas for ongoing collaboration and potentially new projects. So, keep an eye on the STM and CAST websites for updates.
Biographical Note: Mark Robertson is a private consultant and non-executive director specializing in research and educational publishing, and career and leadership mentoring in Asia Pacific. Mark is the Development Director for Asia Pacific for CHOR Inc (CHORUS), deputy chair of the Media Centre for Educational Research, Australia (MCERA), a non-executive director of Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd, and consults for STM. Until the end of 2017 he was the Research Publishing Director for Wiley in Asia Pacific.