Timeline of open research at Springer Nature


During the infancy of open access, BioMed Central (BMC) was founded as the first commercial open access publisher in August of 1998. The first BMC article published on July 19th, 2000.


In early 2004, at the height of the debate on open access and STM publishing, Springer began looking into a system that would accommodate those that wished to publish open access in a subscription journal. In the spirit of experimentation that is part of our culture, Springer Open Choice was launched. Today, more than 1,900 journals across Springer Nature offer optional open access.

Always embracing innovation in research, Nature Publishing Group (now Nature Research) launched its first full open access title, Molecular Systems Biology, in 2005. Between 2006 and 2007, Nature Research continued to develop open policies, launching a self-archiving policy with 6 month embargo in 2007, and introducing Creative Commons licences in 2007.


SpringerOpen launched in 2010, offering a portfolio of fully open access journals for its authors. Nature Communications was also launched, a significant move as the first Nature-branded journal to offer optional open access. Shortly afterwards, in 2011, Scientific Reports was launched. OA options were also introduced for Palgrave Macmillan journals. 

Due to high demand, open access books were added to the SpringerOpen portfolio. Palgrave Macmillan follow in 2013, publishing the first monograph to be funded by the Wellcome Trust the same year.

During this period, we continued to strengthen our policies to support open research: in January 2012, Springer brought its hybrid open access option, Open Choice, into line with the fully open access journals published by SpringerOpen and BMC, offering CC BY as the standard licence. Palgrave Macmillan also began to offer CC BY across journal articles, Palgrave Pivots and monographs.

In a bold move, Nature Communications announced that it would become the first Nature-branded fully open access (OA) journal. The title was launched in 2010 as a born-digital hybrid journal, publishing both open access and subscription content, but this move made it the most highly-cited open access journal in the world. An independent statistical analysis of the articles published in Nature Communications, carried out by the Research Information Network (RIN) found that open access (OA) articles were viewed three times more often than articles that are only available to subscribers. RIN also found that OA articles were cited more than subscription articles.

It was also a significant year for new launches: Scientific Data was announced, offering researchers a publication outlet for descriptions of data that are citeable and grow the visibility and re-usability of datasets from research. Nature Partner Journals were also launched as a new series of high impact journals published in association with world-leading institutions and partners.

To support the transition to Gold OA, a new funding support service was launched. Free of cost, the service enables authors to find out what funding is available to them and to gain support in applying for funding.

Continuing to support the changing policy landscape and recognising a growing interest in OA books, both Springer and Palgrave Macmillan announced the availability of publishing book chapters. The first OA Palgrave Pivot was also published.

A broad drive across the research, funding and publishing communities is under way to make the availability of research data more transparent. Following trials across Springer Nature, standardised policies on data sharing were introduced. The new policies reduce the complexity of data availability requirements to four simple types. These have already been rolled out to over 1,400 journals, and have attracted interest from funders, community standards groups and other publishing groups. The policy text was released under a Creative Commons licence to improve community standards and, with the Research Data Alliance, a working group has been established to explore industry-wide data policy standardisation and implementation.


In April 2017, Research Data Support was launched to assist researchers who have datasets they want to make easier to cite, share and find. The service provides a secure portal for data upload, and data and metadata are curated and improved by professional research data editors. Any author who is submitting their manuscript to a Springer Nature journal, or who has already published their research with Springer Nature or another publisher can use this service.

Springer Nature also announced that it had become the largest academic publisher to open up reference lists to advance data discovery and reuse. Working closely with Crossref, Springer Nature makes the metadata for reference lists available across all academic books and owned journals (and as an option for society partners). The references are available through the Crossref Metadata APIs and Metadata Search including the ‘link references’ tool for matching references to DOIs.    

Nature Research also expanded its portfolio of open access titles to include a family of three new, high quality, selective, open access multidisciplinary journals: Communications Biology, Communications Chemistry and Communications Physics. The appetite for high quality open access options is at an all-time high and projected to continue growing. In a recent survey of almost 8,000 Springer Nature authors, 67% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that open access is the future of academic and scientific publishing.

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