Interview with Beth Bayley, Karger Publishers

In 2021, Karger Publishers committed to being a sustaining supporter of DOAJ. This is great news and we are grateful to Karger for their continued and committed support.  I wanted to find out a bit more about this Swiss publisher so I sent some questions off to Beth Bayley, their Open Science Manager. 

Hi Beth, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. Firstly, I want to thank Karger for their generous support. This is the third year in a row that Karger has supported DOAJ and this is a great opportunity to find out more about Karger.

But first, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Beth Bayley, Open Science Manager at Karger Publishers in Switzerland. Until recently, my title was Open Access Manager, but the role has evolved along with the transition to more open research both at Karger Publishers and at large. Since 2009, I have been with Karger Publishers in different roles and I have been working on Open Access topics since around 2010.  

And can you tell us a bit about Karger Publishers, its history and its journey to the organisation that it is today? What services does it provide?

Karger Publishers has been active as a publisher of scientific and medical content for over 131 years. We are based in Basel, Switzerland, but we’re active worldwide, with about 240 employees in 15 countries.

We’re proud to say that Karger Publishers remains independent – like DOAJ! – and family-owned. We’re now led by the fourth generation of Kargers, our Chairwoman Gabriella Karger

We recently enacted a new strategy to bolster the ways we connect and advance health sciences. We strive to create and provide services throughout the cycle of knowledge – boosting discovery and services for clinicians and patients as well as disseminating and otherwise supporting research in specialist communities.

A very important aspect of our strategy is to embrace, contribute to and promote Open Science, which naturally means a major emphasis on a sustainable transition to open access (OA). Besides ensuring that our policies and services support OA, we’re also working with institutions to innovate flexible Publish and Read agreements (a.k.a. transformative agreements), launching OA journals, flipping journals and adopting the Transformative Journal model for some journals.

Out of over 100 Karger journals, about one third are now gold Open Access, and virtually all the rest are hybrid journals. 

What is Karger doing in the open access space and do you have any exciting projects or new initiatives that you can tell us about?

Where to begin!? Recently, Karger Publishers underwent a reorganization and shifted the company’s strategy. As I mentioned earlier, one of our chief priorities is to advance the sustainable OA transition and embrace Open Science. So far, this has involved a focus on flipping subscription journals to OA, adopting the Transformative Journal model for some hybrid journals, entering OA and transformative OA agreements with our institutional partners, launching platinum – a.k.a. diamond – and gold OA journals, and more. Our guest blog post from the OASPA conference in 2020 gives an overview of our current stance.

What are your personal views on the future of open access publishing and/or academic publishing in general?

Ideologically, OA seems like a no-brainer. In a perfect world, there would be no barriers to lifesaving and enhancing knowledge based on where, or under what circumstances, people are born. However, the challenges to making all high-quality research openly accessible—with all the essential tools to make it discoverable and useful, and everything else publishers do—are real. I think platinum OA, where there is no charge for reading or publishing, could go far to reduce inequity so I’m especially excited about our platinum OA journals, which we call Partner Publications. They help make sure organizations have a voice in the global conversation and remove barriers to readers and authors.  

What do you think that the scholarly community can do better, or do more of, to support the advancement of open access?

For one thing, I would love to see more platinum OA journals, so that cost would no longer prohibit anyone from contributing or accessing insight and knowledge.

Second, I am hopeful that raising awareness among researchers (as well as editorial board members, experts in libraries, and others) about the benefits of OA – and dispelling the myths – might help achieve the critical mass needed in terms of authors who will prioritize publishing OA. 

Why is it important for Karger to support DOAJ?

We very much appreciate and share the ethos of DOAJ’s mission to ‘increase the visibility, accessibility, reputation, usage, and impact of quality, peer-reviewed Open Access scholarly journals.’

Despite the plethora of high-quality Open Access articles available, OA has had a hard time fully shaking the ill-informed reputation that the quality is poor. Of course, that’s in large part due to predatory journals and the attention they’ve garnered. So DOAJ’s tireless efforts to provide a vetted source of trustworthy OA publications are invaluable, creating a resource that researchers and institutions feel they can rely on to find “safe” journals with ethical practices. DOAJ also helps encourage publishers to meet OA best practices, which ultimately improve the quality of OA journals as well as trust in them. Hopefully, it also serves to discourage shoddy publishing practices as more journals strive to be approved by DOAJ. 

Karger Publishers has 28 journals in DOAJ currently. What advantages does this bring to Karger Publishers’ customers, the journal editors, and the profile of the journals?

First, I’d like to note here that we look forward to the number of Karger Publishers journals in DOAJ increasing as we flip and launch more OA journals! 

DOAJ gives readers and authors a source for OA information and content that they can feel confident about. Recognition that we meet DOAJ standards gives our OA journals credibility and reinforces that they meet the same high standards as all our journals. Authors who may want to publish OA or have a mandate to do so can recognize in DOAJ that our journals are peer reviewed and respected. And of course, having articles indexed in DOAJ makes them easier to find, which is always a great advantage and helps to increase impact.

DOAJ inclusion makes our journals more attractive for everyone involved.

There has been a lot of discussions, not least among publishers, on initiatives, such as Plan S and OA2020 and how effective they will be. Do initiatives like this affect Karger?

Yes! OA2020 has arguably had a massive effect, as we have put a lot of time and care into developing OA agreements, whether you call them transformative, publish-and-read, offsetting, or something else. From our seminal agreement with universities in the Netherlands to our most recent one with JISC to agreements in Asia and across the US, they’re a key to how we envision the sustainable transition to open. However, we also face challenges here; for example, some consortia do not include Gold OA journals in the OA agreements, which makes it hard to fully transition to the OA world they indicate they also want to work toward. It’s equally a challenge when only some institutions value such OA agreements and others prefer to stick to subscriptions. 

As for OA mandates, we have long been committed to ensuring every author can meet their mandates, whether through Green or Gold OA. Plan S indeed has had a big impact on Karger Publishers. It prompted a lot of discussion internally and continues to require substantial resources. The best thing to come of it may be the evolution of the Transformative Journal model, which we hope will prove to be the ideal take-off strip to allow our hybrid journals to taxi more quickly into OA. On the other hand, complying with some of the requirements is complicated. And again, the disparity between the interests that are mainly concentrated in one region or community and the interests of our stakeholders in other regions and communities can be frustrating. But I’m pleased to say that all our hybrid and Gold OA journals are Plan S-compliant, whether through Green OA or Gold OA with the appropriate license.  

How is your organization changing or adapting for a future where open access may become the default? Will it have any kind of impact on Karger Publishers and the services it provides?
Stepping back from publishing and disseminating research alone, we’re now focusing increasingly on the entire cycle of knowledge. We’re improving and adding many services to this end, and Open Science practices and activities play an important role. I invite our readers to find out more about what we’re doing and get in touch with us at anytime.

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