Leveraging the ocean of opportunities to drive value to research communities

Research Publishing
By: Harsh Jegadeesan, Tue Apr 23 2024
Harsh Jegadeesan

Author: Harsh Jegadeesan

Chief Publishing Officer

Drawing on his background in the tech industry, Harsh Jegadeesan reflects on the changes that are disrupting publishing, and what we as a sector can learn from the tech industry in how we harness and adapt to continue to serve the research community and drive impact. 

New Content Item © SN

As publishers we have always told ourselves that publishing has been ‘through a digital transformation’. Whilst it is true that academic publishing led the content industries in making its content available online, some of the publishing platforms and processes have not changed since I was a researcher 25 years ago. So can we honestly say academic publishing is set up to meet the needs and expectations of the digitally native generation?  

I don’t believe we can. And if we are going to continue to deliver value and provide the expected digital experience worthy of the growing community of digital natives there are things we can learn from the tech industry to help us do this. I coin this, our OCEAN of opportunities.

Open and Inclusive

As we all know, publishing needs to become more Open and inclusive. As I explain here, open science and open research are creating unprecedented opportunities to drive home the value of research not just for academia, but for all. But to harness this, we need to be more inclusive - publishing incremental research findings and negative results, as well as sharing data, code etc. all of which are key to enabling replication and reproducibility. This is important so we can build on existing knowledge and ultimately deliver solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges. 

Here there are significant lessons we can learn from the tech industry. Take the development of Open Source software. Open Source levelled the playing field as it allowed anyone to reproduce, validate, and improve it. Around 35% of all published articles are gold open access, but by contrast 99% of modern built software leverages Open Source. This has delivered democratisation of access, enabled participation from all corners of the globe, increased efficiency by preventing duplication, and accelerated innovation and impact by enabling the transition from research to innovation to entrepreneurship. 

Imagine the full impact of this in research publishing. The latest State of Open Data report shows a willingness from researchers to share data and code. But over three quarters of those surveyed were still not doing so, citing lack of clarity around sharing policies from funders, lack of support (either systems based or guidance as to where to share) from publishers, lack of time and confusion around data management as the three key reasons. Reasons that have stayed consistent over the past three years of the study. A mindset and system change is needed to develop solutions to support researchers in driving forward open research practice and then encourage their use. This is underway at Springer Nature with technology-driven platforms and processes like Protocols.io, GitHub, Code Ocean and Figshare being integrated with our systems. However, if we are to really see the same impact that has been seen in the tech world, then collectively we, publishers, funders, institutions, need to be working more collaboratively to: engage and evaluate open research behaviours and advocate best practice; encourage good practice through journal policies and author information; provide credit mechanisms and support greater transparency on things like good data management and open data; and partner more with the community to continue to develop research solutions in line with needs. Whilst a lot of this is happening, consistency across all players is key if we are to truly make open research second nature, and create an environment where it is adequately supported.

Community and Collaboration

C stands for community and collaboration.  Publishers have the unique opportunity to support and develop communities, enabling greater collaboration through engaging tools and platforms. As the recent Ithaka S+R report outlined, as scholarly communications and publishing infrastructure changes, the one constant driver of that change is delivering a valuable author experience. With our journals, we have an excellent starting point because what is a journal if not a community of contributors? Are we, though, hand on heart, making the best use of digital technologies to connect these communities and support global collaborations?

The physical journals of yesteryear need to truly transform into virtual communities - places that bring people together not just to passively read or download an article online, but to actively engage, discuss, network, and collaborate with others around the globe in real-time. Across the sector we have seen a sharp uptake in interdisciplinary collaboration via early sharing and, in-house, we have seen an increased use of our Research Communities - a forum used by researchers, authors and editors across disciplines to share and discuss their latest findings. The appetite is out there for ways to collaborate that sit beyond the physical and traditional journal experience - we need to get better at enabling it through forums, networks, enabling early sharing and collaboration on protocols, data and code. Why? Because as points of global challenges have shown us, interdisciplinary, real-time collaboration leads to the expedition of knowledge and the development of key strategies, across sectors and stakeholders, to tackle everything from climate change to vaccine development.


Researchers have rightly increased expectations of the service they expect from us, and those expectations vary globally. The E for experience is where we have the most to learn from other sectors, particularly those in the B2C world.

We all have our favourite websites that make interacting with them, whether buying a flight or booking a hotel, a good, if not pleasurable, experience. Can we say the same about our own websites? 

Technology is playing a vital role here. It is enabling us to personalise the experience for researchers - make content recommendations, help them identify the right peers to collaborate with and identify the right journals to submit their research. But these are ultimately just tweaks to existing products and services. As an industry we are restrained by processes that support an older traditional publishing experience - one that is arguably not set up to scale as we respond to the growth in OA, make full use of the opportunities of new technologies, or provide the more integrated transparent experience called for by the community. For example, the use of mobile phone apps is still very limited to help researchers, for instance, track the progress of their submission as they would say a Deliveroo order or Uber request.

We have been thinking about this a lot at Springer Nature and have been exploring how technology can help us drive and improve the publishing and research experience. This prompted us to move away from the legacy submission systems and build our own -  Snapp. By starting  from scratch we have not had to build on top of antiquated and restrictive systems but have been able to embed new technologies and a digital author experience from the start. This has enabled us to streamline the submission process, provide greater transparency, integrate ways to identify OA funding, entitlement and data sharing, and do all of this from a single login point for all submissions regardless of journal. The result - a redefined experience for authors, reviewers, and editors - shifting time away from admin heavy tasks and the management of multiple systems, and back to where they want to spend their time, on the research. 

In order for the whole publishing experience to be truly revolutionised we need to put editors, authors and reviewers firmly at the centre, better understand the way they want systems to work and provide a more agile response to those changes more suited to the future of publishing.

Artificial Intelligence

Unsurprisingly the A stands for AI. Researchers want to focus on research and are looking for tools to help them write grant applications and research papers, do peer reviews, and stay on top of their fields - AI will and can help.

We have been using AI for years - exploring how emerging technologies can help us meet our mission to accelerate solutions to the world’s urgent challenges, unlock the potential of science and research, advance knowledge and to inspire and improve the lives of generations to come.

A recent survey undertaken by Nature found that more than 50% of researchers said they believe AI tools will be very important or essential to them in their work, and over half already think AI has the potential to save scientists money. 

Given this acceptance from our communities, the question isn’t whether the future is Human or AI.  The question is how we can best combine our tech know-how with our strong commitment to ethics and integrity, to unlock the full power of AI and make researchers' lives easier.  

Networks and Network effects

Finally, we come to N for networks and network effects

As publishers, we are privileged to sit in the middle of a global network of authors, funders, editors, peer reviewers, contributors, customers, etc. All working with us in different ways throughout their careers.

Research doesn’t happen in isolation and research doesn't stop with papers being published. Research findings feed into the innovation ecosystem, impacting policy, driving entrepreneurship, and therefore driving impact by enabling solutions to the world´s greatest challenges. 

As publishers, we have a role to play in supporting research and innovation networks, enabling network effects to drive impact. 

What then does all this mean for publishers and publishing in a changing world?  For me the message is clear. 

Publishers' value proposition remains solid, and technology can help us unlock the OCEAN of opportunities, helping us evolve and ‘disrupt’ to ensure we transform and continue to add value for generations to come.

Next steps for publishers should see us evolving from being merely content pipelines, to incorporating platforms dedicated to value exchange where global research communities meet, collaborate, share research and drive innovation and impact.

Apple and the iPhone grew to dominate a market and blow established players such as Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and LG out of the water by exploiting the power of platforms and integrating their handset business (essentially a pipeline) with the App store. This helped developers worldwide offer apps to customers - thereby facilitating value exchange. And as Apple demonstrates, firms needn’t be only a pipeline or a platform; they can be both. 

New Content Item © SN

Harsh Jegadeesan

Author: Harsh Jegadeesan

Chief Publishing Officer

Harsh Jegadeesan joined Springer Nature in 2022 as Chief Solutions Officer and was appointed Chief Publishing Officer in March 2023.  Harsh is responsible for the continued growth of our journal and book publishing businesses and for driving our leadership of open access.

Harsh has over 20 years of experience leading diverse global teams to innovate, incubate and scale new digital products and platforms to drive significant business growth. Previously, Harsh was the Vice President of Products and Strategy at SAP SE. 

Harsh trained as an engineer and holds a PhD in Computer Science from BITS, Pilani India and has completed the Accelerated Development Program at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.