Introducing ROAPE’s new publisher ScienceOpen: An interview with Stephanie Dawson

From January 2024 all ROAPE’s work will be available on ScienceOpen with no paywalls. There will be equal access for all researchers, activists, and readers, wherever they are based in the world, and for the foreseeable future. Here, ScienceOpen CEO Stephanie Dawson discusses why ScienceOpen exists, how it differs from the corporate publishing landscape, and what ROAPE readers can expect from next year, in terms of how they will be able to access and engage with ROAPE journal content.

You have been in your role as Managing Director of ScienceOpen for around a decade now. Before we get into discussing Science Open, could you tell us a little bit about your own background, and what led you to join ScienceOpen as its CEO back in 2013?

I joined ScienceOpen in 2013 for the opportunity to rethink scholarly publishing from within a fully digital context. Before ScienceOpen I had been working at a publisher that was founded in 1749. I worked in the Science/Technology/Medicine department in Biology and Chemistry at De Gruyter for 12 years and saw a lot of changes but was also sometimes frustrated at the ways that the paper still dictated many workflows and processes. I grew up on a ranch in California but have been living in Berlin for over 20 years. I have a degree in Biology from Yale and a PhD in German Literature from the University of Washington. I think I had just the right background to think outside the box.

Turning now to ScienceOpen, can you tell us why it exists, and what it is trying to achieve?

From the beginning we felt that the network potential of a digital environment could provide a richer context for research articles in terms of knowledge transfer but also evaluation and impact assessment. It felt like there were some big issues looming on the horizon and open knowledge sharing could help to solve them faster as a community. ScienceOpen was developed as a freely accessible discovery environment with now over 85 million records for articles, books, chapters and more. We have built an interactive layer that encourages open reviews of preprints and published articles, as well as providing tools for researchers to easily and attractively share their research with a global audience. Our current business model is to provide services to publishers and institutes, from discovery and promotion to open access hosting, metadata support and full publishing solutions. We work with journals but also, increasingly, with book publishers as well.

As an aggregator of academic content we have a lot of experience in machine-readable metadata. We want our customers to have data that not only works well on our platform but across all digital platforms to maximize impact. We work closely with Crossref for Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for articles and books. Our author profiles have been integrated with ORCID from the beginning. ORCID, which stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID, a global, not-for-profit organization is a great example of an open, community infrastructure. ORCID strives to enable transparent and trustworthy connections between researchers, their contributions, and their affiliations by providing a unique, persistent identifier.

You spoke there of open knowledge sharing. The corporate academic publishing industry also talks of moving journals towards an open access model for publishing and knowledge sharing. How are these two visions for open access – ScienceOpen on the one hand, and Taylor & Francis, Wiley, Elsevier etc. on the other – different?

Shifting business models is not easy in any industry and Open Access poses a particular challenge for large corporate publishing houses with a different set up of financial incentives and responsibilities. Of course, they were slow to make changes and tried to lobby against free access to their journals and books. But academics increasingly demand immediate and free access; they want to retain their own copyright. Smaller academic-led operations can be both more idealistic and more agile and offer attractive publishing channels with new models for open access. Born-open publishers and platforms like ScienceOpen have the advantage of tailoring their business models to an open economy and finding out what works.

ScienceOpen CEO, Stephanie Dawson.

ScienceOpen was founded in 2013, and you have been there from the start. How difficult has it been, to swim against the tide of the corporate publishing model? How do you assess the progress that has been made – both by ScienceOpen and other like-minded initiatives and organisations – over the last decade, towards a radically different alternative to the one on offer by the corporate publishing houses?

In 2013 we truly thought that it was just a matter of a few years and the entire paid-access subscription model would be obsolete. The arguments for open access seemed so overwhelmingly convincing – research paid for by public money should be accessible to the public and new digital models could deliver on that better than the library subscription. It was the heyday of the open access ‘megajournal’ – the Public Library of Science (PLOS )was extremely successful with PlosOne, a broadly multidisciplinary journal that was committed to publishing all research that was based on sound science and not on importance or potential impact which really stretched the concept of the journal into a platform. Many new publishers were experimenting with different Open Access workflows.

At ScienceOpen we wanted to create a publishing platform based fully on author-driven post-publication peer review. We weren’t alone – F1000Research (now Taylor&Francis) kicked off the same year with a similar model. It felt like a revolution – but the industry proved to be remarkably stable and resilient. The fabric of research evaluation, career-progression, funding, and university rankings is dependent on a perceived reputational pyramid in the scholarly publishing industry that is difficult to break.

And yet a lot of progress has been made. Open Access has become increasingly standard and a new ecosystem has grown up around it. Journals like ROAPE now have opportunities, tools and infrastructure for making a radical break with corporate publishing and still offer high quality publishing. But it will be important going forward as a community to ensure that big publishing corporations do not suck up all of the library funds with Read and Publish agreements. We need more independent open access publishers and journals!

What can readers of ROAPE expect from the new partnership with ScienceOpen going forward, in terms of how they will be able to access and engage with the content of the journal?

We are really excited to host ROAPE on the ScienceOpen platform. The first thing that readers can expect is full and direct access to all of the volumes of ROAPE in a rich search and discovery environment. With such a large volume of back content readers will want to search for particular keywords or topics, to sort their results by citation, alternative metrics or date to find what they are looking for and to be inspired by related articles. We have an interactive interface for readers and authors that encourages participation in the scholarly discourse. Readers with an academic background and at least 5 published articles can write a review, but anyone can recommend an article or share with their social networks with just one click. Usage and other article metrics are displayed on the journal and article pages for transparency. We strive to put the journal articles in context – Who did they cite? In which journals were they cited? What else has this author published? Although we are called ScienceOpen we have a great deal of research from the humanities and social sciences on the platform and we learn from each new community that joins.

Lastly, for those involved with other academic journals who want to learn more about making a shift away from their current publishing agreement and towards ScienceOpen, how can they go about this and who should they contact?

We would love to help more journals move to open models. Whether a journal is ready to go full open access or just wants to experiment with our open discovery environment, we have services for every level of engagement. We are happy to provide metadata consulting and explore different solutions. Interested journals can just get in touch with me at or with our global business development manager Stuart Cooper at

Stephanie Dawson, CEO ScienceOpen, grew up in northern California, studied Biology at Yale University and received a PhD in German Literature from the University of Washington. She spent over 10 years at the academic publisher De Gruyter in Berlin in the fields of biology and chemistry in both journals and book publishing. In 2013 she joined ScienceOpen as managing director. With ScienceOpen she has been exploring scholarly communication in a digital environment, experimenting with open access publishing, discovery, preprints, open post-publication peer review, community curation, metadata enrichment, and alternative metrics.


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