Unlocking the potential of research through technology and partnerships

By: Laura Graham-Clare, Mon Nov 29 2021
Laura Graham-Clare

Author: Laura Graham-Clare

How is Springer Nature helping millions of researchers to discover and access research content? If you ask a researcher what matters most from their published research, they will inevitably tell you it is to reach the right community of readers. That community will be vastly different, depending on which discipline or area of research they are in, but the fundamental goal is consistently about readership.

As a publisher, we proactively look for ways to ease access to research from our platforms and elsewhere. It’s imperative that researchers have easy access to the Version of Record (VOR) and we are innovating with technology and partnerships to make the discovery and access of publisher-provided research as easy as possible.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed working environments for everyone, with a rapid shift to full-time remote working for many. With researchers suddenly working from home en masse, there was a collective struggle as they attempted to gain access to research in the ways they were used to (e.g. onsite IP). This trend increased the urgency with which we needed to figure out new ways to enhance our remote access provisions to support researchers, students and faculty seamlessly from wherever they were working. While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be evaluated for a long time to come, what have we learned from researcher access behaviors?

Persisted access: seamless access to SN content for more than 13 million unique users
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Persisted access has been the most impactful change we’ve made over the past two years to ease researcher authentication and access, addressing a major pain point for our readers and providing a great user experience. At the start of the lock-down in March 2020, we identified a huge drop off in authenticated usage of our content platforms (SpringerLink and Nature.com), and a correlated increase of anonymous denials, coming from researchers now trying to work from home, off campus and via unrecognized IPs. We wanted to make it painless for our users to access the content they needed, so we developed persisted access: known institution authentication information is stored via a cookie in the user’s browser, enabling a solution that works seamlessly for researchers wherever they are.

As a result of this change, 38% of visitors accessing our platforms now use persisted access - that has led to a 70% reduction in denials for previously authenticated users at the start of the pandemic, and dramatically improved user experience, with far fewer customer service troubleshooting calls on authentication.

Springer Nature is the only publisher to offer this solution with such a generous duration of persisted access -- currently 180 days. We built the solution to be flexible, so that we’re able to extend and reduce the duration of persistence without interrupting user access, which allows us to refine it during the uncertainty of the pandemic. In the beginning of 2020, this enabled us to react quickly and we were able to support researchers straight away as lock-downs around the world began: authenticated usage increased immediately, but perhaps even more importantly usage in 2021 remains higher than before the pandemic, meaning that the solution is increasing access for even more researchers around the world working off campus.

ResearchGate syndication enables readers to discover and access Springer Nature content over 5 million times each month in 2021

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Springer Nature and ResearchGate began a pioneering content-sharing pilot in 2019 in response to a number of challenges, such as how to streamline authentication, enable seamless access, and support researchers in finding the version of record, the most reliable form of research according to a survey we conducted. Springer Nature was the first publisher to proactively engage with ResearchGate to identify a collaborative solution to these challenges, recognizing the highly engaged network of researchers using the platform, and the opportunities to enhance their experience by increasing their ease of accessing content.

As a result of the syndication, content usage has increased: for some participating journals up to 19.5%. Institutions are receiving a clearer understanding of their institutional usage, and are gaining better visibility with patrons utilizing their subscribed content via ResearchGate. And most importantly, researchers are enjoying a better experience, having access to content directly from the platform.

The pilot was extended into a long-term partnership in 2020, recognizing these benefits. As of 2021, our partnership has 1,730 journals syndicated. There are over 1.08 million articles syndicated, with daily updates of new content. ResearchGate users are discovering and accessing this content over 5 million times each month.

Promoting and enhancing access

These are just two examples where our innovative approach to partnerships and technology have increased ease of discovery and access for researchers. In addition, we continue to collaborate in cross-industry partnerships that promote and enhance access:

  • SeamlessAccess: Springer Nature was the first publisher to implement the SeamlessAccess experience of federated access on Nature.com in November 2019. SeamlessAccess eased the authentication and access experience for over 750k researchers on Nature.com this year.
  • GetFTR: Through GetFTR we’ve made it easier for researchers discovering content on websites like Dimensions, Researcher, and Semantic Scholar to access the Version of Record (VOR) on SpringerLink and Nature.com. Participating discovery services and scholarly collaboration networks include Digital Science products (Dimensions, ReadCube, Figshare, Syimpectic), the Researcher App, and Semantic Scholar. Through GetFTR researchers have accessed the version of record on our content platforms over 11 million times a month in 2021.

Read more about our remote access provision and visit our remote access page.

Laura Graham-Clare

Author: Laura Graham-Clare

Laura Graham-Clare is Head of Community Content, based in London. Working between our publishing, sales and marketing teams, she is focused on thought leadership trends, content creation, and developing insights and information resources for staff, librarians, researchers and information professionals.