ALPSP plenary interview: Fred Dylla, Executive Director and CEO, AIP

Fred Dylla, AIP

We are proud to be the gold sponsors of the 2013 ALPSP International Conference. As sponsors we have been granted exclusive access to interview two of the plenary speakers at this years’event in advance of the conference – Fred Dylla and Bernie Folan. Look out for our interview with Bernie Folan early next week.

Fred Dylla is the Executive Director and CEO of the American Institute of Physics, an umbrella organization of 10 scientific societies and provider of physics outreach resources.

Predicated on 40 years’ experience as a practicing scientist, and other professional roles that include adjunct professor, manager of multi-million dollar research facilities, and developer of consortia, Dylla has become a strong advocate for the physical sciences and their fundamental contributions to society. The author of more than 190 publications, Dylla is an advocate for scientific journals and for improved access to scientific information through various business models. In 2009 Dylla helped organize and participated in the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable under the aegis of the US House Science and Technology Committee. The Roundtable developed consensus recommendations for the development of public access policies for scholarly data and publications; many of its recommendations were folded into the America COMPETES Act of 2010. Since then, Dylla has worked closely with colleagues in the publishing and librarian communities and in the federal government to implement public access projects that protect scientific integrity and the scholarly publishing enterprise.

Dylla currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical publishers (STM), and on the Executive Council of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Fred will chair a plenary session, Negotiating with governments: in search of pragmatic public access policy on 12th September at the conference.

Terry Hulbert, Semantico’s Business Development Director spoke to Fred about some of the issues relating to public access including policy changes, the roles of The Scholarly Publishing Roundtable and the Finch Group, and how publishing is evolving in response to public access.

TH: You’ve held many senior roles and worn many different hats in your career to date. How do you feel that this has prepared you for the many policy initiatives you’re involved with?

FD: I believe my work on publishing policy has been helped by the fact that I have seen scholarly publishing from many sides of the business. I was a practicing research scientist for more than 30 years, and I published about 200 papers, routinely accessed the scholarly literature, contributed often as a peer reviewer, and even had the pleasure of serving as an editor for several journals. In my role as CEO of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), I gained a much deeper knowledge of the business, legal, and political aspects of journal publishing. I have tremendous respect for scholarly publishers’ role in the advancement of science.

Throughout my career, I have worked with policy makers on the local, regional, and national levels on various projects and issues that have involved collaboration, compromise, and commitment—all with significant return. During my scientific career, I worked on building a number of partnerships between national laboratories, universities, and industry. This model served me well when, in 2009, I helped organize and served on the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable, which was assembled under the aegis of the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee. We reached consensus recommendations for the development of public access policies for scholarly data and publications, many of which were folded into the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. This legislation is playing out now with the public access policy directives that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued to U.S. federal science agencies in February of this year.

Here at AIP, I am involved in several policy issues, but my primary focus over the past four years has been on public access. Having spent the bulk of my career managing a national laboratory and working as an investigator at a major research university, I feel that I understand the points of view of the various stakeholders. Despite the tension among these groups over public access, I know from experience that, with dialogue and collaboration, we can develop solutions that advance most of our objectives.

TH: Policy debate is seen as a mix of the value that publishers add to the publication process, costs, declining library budgets, the fact that research has been funded by the taxpayer, and more. What are your own views of open access and the associated policy issues?

FD: The more widely disseminated advancements in scientific research become, the better for science in the long run. I fully support public access to scientific literature; I also fully recognize that maintaining the scientific record and making it accessible and discoverable is not free of cost. As with most issues, the question of cost drives the debate. Currently, taxpayers fund an important fraction of research, but the scholarly community funds the expression of the results of this research that ends up in a publication. The financial responsibility needs to shift to accommodate public access.

Public access has the potential to advance science, but only if implemented pragmatically. A healthy, competitive, connected scientific publishing industry is absolutely essential to the practice of science. As we work as a community to increase public access, developing sustainable business models for publishing should be viewed as a shared challenge.

TH: At a high level, what impact are you seeing on society publishers, such as your own, and more broadly throughout the STM publishing industry as a consequence of the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable, Finch Report and ongoing OA policy debates?

FD: Above all, the publishing community is pleased to see the progress that such dialogue invoked by the Roundtable and the Finch Group has had on advancing the issue of public access. For more than a decade, this polarizing issue has fractured the relationship between some segments of the library community and scholarly publishers—two groups that have been traditional allies in a common scholarly mission. We still have a long way to go on this issue, but we have at least reached some common ground on which we can build moving forward.

Recent developments on the public access issue have put scholarly publishers on a fast track to respond to market demand for open access publishing options. Publishers are working hard to diversify revenue streams for their products. Because there are persistent misconceptions about publishers’ opposition to public access, publishers are also trying to communicate their value more clearly to the policy makers and to the public.

TH: Can you tell us more about initiatives and collaboration between publishers, funding agencies, policy makers and the wider stakeholder community that you’re involved with?

FD: The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 called for the federal agencies to engage with all stakeholders in public access to the results of federally funded research, including scholarly publications. Since then, an ad-hoc group of scientific publishers, including AIP Publishing, began discussing, particularly with the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Science Foundation (NSF), potential projects related to persistent article and data set identifiers, discovery and search tools, access to full text and article metadata from articles tagged with agency funding, interoperability between agency and private sector platforms, and archiving and preservation issues. In 2011, we worked together with three agencies (DOE, NSF and NASA) and the CrossRef organization to develop and launch the FundRef project that identifies articles resulting from research paid for by those agencies.

The FundRef collaboration spawned two additional projects, begun in 2012: (1) A pilot project to link DOE research reports to journal articles with shared authors, with six scientific publishers participating, and (2) an NSF-funded investigation of authors’ and publishers’ attitudes and approaches toward linking to data shown or referred to in peer-reviewed articles in astronomy and plasma physics.

In February 2013 the OSTP called for U.S. federal agencies to develop budget-neutral plans for public access to the published material that results from agency-funded research. This development caused the ad-hoc working group to expand its discussions to include a broader representation of publishers. The collaboration resulted in the development of The Clearing House for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). CHORUS is a multi-agency, multi-publisher portal and information bridge that identifies peer-reviewed journal articles that result from federal research funding. It provides convenient public access, enhanced search capabilities, and long-term preservation for these articles. Among the CHORUS participants are publishers represented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the American Association of Publishers, and the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM). By the end of August, 70 publishers have endorsed CHORUS. CrossRef is a valued service provider.

CHORUS is being offered to the U.S. federal agencies as a means to satisfy the requirements of the OSTP directive.

TH: Are there any initiatives or projects that you are particularly proud of, or which you would point to as outstanding exemplars of what can be achieved?

FD: FundRef, which identifies articles resulting from federally sponsored research, is a prime example of what can be accomplished with collaboration and commitment among the stakeholders. FundRef solves the crucial problem of identifying agency-funded peer-reviewed articles, and it serves as a model to validate the public-private partnership central to the CHORUS proposal. FundRef’s successful deployment makes us confident that similar partnerships, like CHORUS, can deliver the resources needed to support agency responsibilities.

TH: There is much talk of the impact of fundamental policy changes on smaller publishers and the suggestion that many will struggle to survive. What is your view of this and how do you see the future landscape for these smaller organisations?

FD: Many smaller professional societies primarily fund their budgets through revenue from one or two related scholarly journals, and they will be hard pressed to survive under this business model if flexibility isn’t factored into the existing or proposed embargo periods. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandated in 2009 that articles resulting from NIH-funded research must be deposited into their PubMed Central database after a 12-month embargo. This gives publishers a window to recover their publishing costs before making the article free to the public. In biomedical fields, research progresses rapidly and is well funded by both public and private agencies. Timely information is critical, so publishers can sustain the subscription revenue essential to their businesses even with the expectation of public access with modest length embargo periods. However, I have a colleague at a small scientific society who gives a powerful argument about the effects that a short embargo period would have on the society. The inability to pay may trump short-term access for a niche field of study. It is feared that many researchers would simply wait out the embargo period rather than pay for the most current published works. The journal and by extension, the society would not be able to sustain itself.

In its February 22, 2013, public access directive to the federal agencies, OSTP suggested a 12-month embargo as a guideline. The language left open the option for flexibility. We continue to advocate that the agencies take the challenges of the diversity of publications into careful consideration.

TH: Are you able to give us some insight into any differences in the policy debates and initiatives in the US and the UK and/or the EU?

FD: In some areas, they are very similar. The US and UK have arrived at their current outlook for increasing public access by bringing stakeholders together to offer recommendations. The Scholarly Publishing Roundtable (US) and the Finch Group (UK) both made progress on finding common ground, underlying the importance of including all stakeholders in the development of public access policy. The US is proceeding more slowly than the UK, and the US can learn from the challenges the UK is currently experiencing with public access implementation. Developing fair terms of public access is indeed highly complicated. But, if the community works together to think through all of the issues very carefully, it will be time well spent. From my vantage point I have not seen that the development of public access policy in the EU has involved active involvement of all of the stakeholders.

TH: Finally, do you anticipate any fundamental shift in the publishing process as a consequence of these evolving policies? Are we in for a revolution or evolution?

FD: Open access is often referred to as a revolution, but evolution is really a better analogy to describe what is happening in publishing today. Revolutions, whether in science or politics, are a purely human construct, and they are characterized by periods of disruptive (and often violent) change. Revolutions are something of a zero sum game: one political system must be overthrown for another to thrive—and as any student of history can tell you, they don’t always end well.

Evolution, on the other hand, is a natural march through time of an intimately connected ecosystem of species. Evolution is change but it is not always violent; and it tends to respect what works. Just as there are many modern creatures that have remained evolutionarily stable for millions of years, there are fundamental processes in scholarly publishing that should not so easily be discarded—peer review, editorial review, archiving, hosting, and the like. Journals largely are the gatekeepers of these processes.

We do not need a revolution to achieve open access, and in fact, we are already evolving toward a model of publishing where the public enjoys reasonable free access to federally funded research while journals continue to play a central role in science by publishing peer-reviewed research and maintaining the highest standards.

A similar evolution in publishing has already occurred over the last generation. Just 20 years ago, the business model of all academic publishers centered on print journals, and virtually none had any sort of online presence. Today the publishing industry has largely evolved into business models centered on the web. This didn’t happen overnight. There were many experiments and forays into digital archiving that came up short. But today researchers everywhere enjoy easy access to archives that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

I think that public access policies will similarly evolve in the next five–10 years, and scientific publishers will be evolving alongside. There are plenty of examples in nature of creatures that co-evolve—like Darwin’s flowers and finches on those isolated Pacific islands. Co-evolution is the healthiest way forward for public access and scientific publishing. Kill off the finches, and the flowers may whither on the vine.

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