How Springer Nature responds to public health emergencies

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Wed Mar 18 2020

Author: Guest contributor

SARS-CoV-2 is the new virus responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness known as COVID-19, which has spread to several countries around the world.  Springer Nature is committed to supporting the global response to emerging outbreaks by enabling fast and direct access to the latest available research, evidence, and data.

Written by Fiona Pring, Publisher in Medicine and Life Sciences

Despite being a large global company with many publishing imprints (ADIS, BMC, Nature Research, Palgrave and Springer), Springer Nature was able to rapidly respond to this new global disease threat, to ensure accessibility of relevant resources to those working to address the emergency - including researchers, policy makers and healthcare workers.  Our expeditious response was facilitated by a protocol we have in place for responding to public health emergencies (PHEs).  

Our protocol ensures we deliver a coordinated response to PHEs across Springer Nature imprints, enabling us to act in synergy, promptly and consistently.  The protocol:

  • Defines when we should react
  • Empowers Springer Nature to take rapid action, designating clear areas of responsibility within the company and identifying stakeholders
  • Ensures important research is available to those working to address the PHEIC
  • Enhances real world impact of the content we publish, supporting SDG3: Good Health and Wellbeing (and other SDGs)

We activate the protocol whenever a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) has been declared by the World Health Organisation following an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meeting, and where there is no vaccine approved for clinical use in humans or no readily/widely available vaccine, and no proven effective treatment available. We do not do this for a disease which is always considered a PHEIC or for a PHE declaration at a national level.  

On activation of our protocol, we provide free access for the duration of the PHEIC to journal research articles directly related to the focus of the emergency.  We also strongly encourage early dissemination of research via preprints.

Our landing page for Sars-CoV-2019 and COVID-19 showcases a mixture of research articles, reviews and wider commentary, as well as highlighting additional resources.  We are updating the page regularly as new research and information become available. Our response to this outbreak is affirmed by our commitment to the  consensus statement, “Sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak”, which includes sharing all relevant submitted manuscripts with the WHO, and our support of the initiative from the White House Office of Science and Technology to make all relevant global research and data immediately available in one place via PubMed Central.

We appreciate that our readers would like our content to be free to access permanently and, as the largest open access (OA) publisher (by number of original/primary research articles) with around 30% of articles we publish already available OA, are committed to transitioning our entire journal portfolio to open access through the most rapid and effective route.  We publish around 600 fully OA journals, and have waiver and discount policies in place to ensure that article processing charges (APCs) are not a barrier for any author wishing to publish in these, as well as the ability for authors to publish OA in our portfolio of 2200 mixed model journals.  In addition we offer a free open access support service to make it easier for our authors to discover and apply for funding to cover APCs.  We have been an active participant in discussions with Plan S stakeholders, and are firmly committed to the concept that transformative journals are key in the transition to a fully and sustainable open access research landscape.  We ourselves have transitioned from being an enabler to a driver of the transition to open access given the benefits in terms of higher citations, increased downloads and broader impact publishing OA provides.  However, until the market itself transitions, we will only be able to provide free access to selected subscription content under exceptional circumstances, such as when our PHEIC protocol is activated.

In the meantime, our Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative means that links to view-only, full-text subscription research articles can be posted anywhere - including on social media platforms, author websites and in institutional repositories - so researchers can share research with colleagues and general audiences easily and legally.  We are also committed to disseminating content in a more accessible way to wider audiences, through our news/comment content, Nature Briefing, podcasts and media outreach.

Access free research articles related to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

About Fiona Pring

Fiona Pring
After receiving a BSc in Human Genetics from UCL, Fiona worked in the Royal Society publishing team for 5 years.  She joined BMC in 2010 and is currently Publisher for a portfolio of public and global health journals published by BMC and Springer.


Author: Guest contributor

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