Publishers seem to be remarkably resilient. Whereas we live in a world where new companies come and go within the span of a few years, quite a few of the venerable names in publishing are well over a 100 years old. Case in point, it was in 1842 that Julius Springer founded his bookstore and publishing house in Berlin, laying the foundation for today’s company. Over these 180 years, there have been too many highlights to include in this short blog post, though you can find a great overview here.
With any organization that survives so many years, there is an assumption that there must be a lot of tradition. Is there perhaps a prescribed Springer way of doing things? I would argue that, on the contrary, it was an ability to change with the times that enabled Springer to thrive all these years. Which is a good thing, because today change is only accelerating!
Of course, science has been the focus of Springer since the very early days. Many of oldest authors’ names still resonate; Werner von Siemens, Rudolf Diesel. In the early 20th century, things really accelerated with the publication of Nobel prizewinners Paul Ehrlich, Emil Fischer Ferdinand Zeppelin, Max Born, Erwin Schrödinger and of course Albert Einstein.
It was after 1945 that science publishing became truly international. Springer soon branched out to New York, London, Tokyo, Delhi, Hong Kong. It published Chinese works into English as early as 1978. When I entered my first job in STM publishing in 1997, this international expansion was the big story. Enabled by the internet, content soon reached across the whole world. In turn, this led to an exponential increase of authors from China, India, Egypt, Turkey and many others. A lot of my time, I devoted getting to know institutes and researchers in fast growing nations. Today, my team consists of colleagues in 9 countries, which can be an issue when scheduling meetings!
With science publishing now being truly international, the current big trend is to complete the move towards Open Science. Springer Nature's first fully OA annual report was published in August 2022, to measure the collective reach, impact our OA journals are offering the research community. To share some quick facts: Springer Nature’s OA articles are downloaded on average 7,000 times, up to 5 times more than competitors! And at 7 citations average, they are also more influential. Open Access started with the intention to make content freely available at the point of reading. But that is just the beginning. By removing barriers, it becomes possible to share data and collaborate directly. We can add new functionality and tools on top of the content and create an ecosystem of collaboration. Thus we can enhance the value of content, while also making sure content is reliable. Springer was a pioneer in ‘transformative agreements’ that have made all articles from certain countries open, and usage of this content has exploded as a result.
Ultimately, our core mission has not changed: we want to provide a home for all scientific content that deserves to be known to the world, and do this in the most author friendly and efficient way. The tools may change, but the mission stays the same. Onwards to the next 180 years!
Our recently published report: Springer: Serving the global research community highlights how important the author community is to us and gives insights into the options, benefits and experiences of publishing with us.
About the author
Arnout Jacobs is the Vice President of Springer journals in Mathematics, Physics and Applied Sciences. This portfolio consists of ~600 titles including well known titles like Journal of Materials Science, Journal of High Energy Physics, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment and Nonlinear Dynamics. Until 2021, he was the President of Springer Nature Greater China. He has 25 years’ experience in scholarly publishing spanning three continents and various aspects of the industry. Arnout joined Springer Nature in August 2016 after working for other publishers in China, Singapore and the United States, including roles in Research Integrity, Business Development, Publishing and Strategy. He holds an MBA degree from INSEAD in France, and an MA from Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he is now based.