Articles from 49 subscription journals on nature.com - including from Nature, the world's most cited scientific publication - can now be shared freely between subscribers and non–subscribers around the world.
Macmillan Science and Education is using technology developed in its Digital Science business to enable the "frictionless" sharing of articles between researchers, in what the publisher describes as "a ground-breaking publishing initiative that will make it easy for readers to share an unprecedented wealth of scientific knowledge instantly with researchers and scientists across the globe".
Nature, its broader family of Nature journals, and 15 other science journals will be covered in the development, with researchers able to share the full texts of all articles in the journals for personal, non-commercial use, and can annotate the text in order to share their comments with colleagues. The technology behind the development comes from Digital Science's ReadCube programme, part of Macmillan Science and Education's tech business Digital Science.
Meanwhile in a second strand to the venture, 100 general media outlets are being invited to embed shareable links to the same content, so that articles written about the science findings for the general reader can also link through to the original research papers.
Macmillan Science and Education c.e.o. Annette Thomas commented: "We exist to serve the information needs of researchers, to help them in their work, and ultimately in making discoveries in order to improve the way we all live. We have, over many decades, published a wealth of world-leading scientific knowledge through our family of journals. Today we are able to present a new way to conveniently share and disseminate this knowledge using technology from one of our innovative and disruptive divisions – Digital Science – to provide a real solution to the global problem of how to efficiently and legitimately share scientific research for the benefit of all."
She told The Bookseller: "Within the academic space this step is completely unique, because it's combining access to the highest impact scientific content in the world with the first technology that allows frictionless sharing to subscribers and non-subscribers, and also annotation of content. Scientists collaborate more and more, yet there has been no optimal tool to share knowledge – it [the academic space] really hasn't kept up with technology in the consumer space, such as restaurant reviews, or your music library."
She added: "This isn't about Open Access in the main – it's not the fact that the content is free, it's the way that I as a scientist will be empowered to share content back and forth, and annotate it…. Sharing of this kind of content already happens – via email, or dropbox – but it isn't frictionless, and we want to facilitate the scientific process. It's happening first with nature.com, but we hope it will be taken up by other publishers as well. Digital Science has relationships with dozens of publishers and we hope others will want to take advantage of this technology."
Thomas said she had "no fears" that the new venture would impact on subscription revenue, commenting: "Sharing is already happening. You have to have courage, doing what's right for researchers and society at large."
The wish to further the wider spread of scientific understanding is also behind the move to allow 100 media outlets to embed links to the original research papers. Macmillan Science and Education is not giving details of which publications are on the list, other than to say that the BBC is one of them, but they are said to be those with a particular emphasis on science stories, and to include some blogs.
The two strands of the venture are launching with a rough pilot period of a year, during which they will be refined based on usage and feedback from the community.
Early praise from the venture came from Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chair and co-founder of the Open Data Institute, who commented: "I'm impressed that Macmillan Science and Education has taken this step to make their content more sharable and they should be applauded for taking a significant step towards greater openness. This will extend the reach of scientific articles and the research results they contain, making them more widely available across the world. I'm looking forward to seeing how today's announcement forces the pace of change in the academic publishing community. I anticipate the day when a majority of articles and supporting research data are published openly by default".