The history of Open Access (OA) publisher InTech is a complicated and somewhat confusing one. According to a Scribd presentation, the company was founded in Vienna in 2004. Over the subsequent seven years it has undergone a series of name changes, moved country, and attracted considerable criticism, both for the quality of its peer review and the way in which it markets its services. The company appears to inhabit a strange binary world: while some accuse it of repeatedly spamming researchers, and preying on the vulnerabilities and egos of researchers in order to make money, the company itself maintains that it is a victim of misinformation and misperception, and that it has a growing and happy customer base. As evidence of the latter, it cites a survey that it commissioned earlier this year. 81% of those responding to the survey, says InTech’s new marketing director Nicola Rylett, rated their publishing experience with the company as either 'excellent' or 'good'.
What do we make of these conflicting pictures of InTech? The quality of peer review can be difficult to assess. Nevertheless, the publisher has acknowledged problems with its peer review in the past, and when I drew Rylett’s attention to a chapter in one of its recently published books she agreed that the quality was “unacceptable”. It also seems fair to conclude that the company’s marketing techniques leave a lot to be desired. However, Rylett insists that InTech is addressing these issues. To that end, she explains, it is currently recruiting a new middle and senior management team.
It seems clear that InTech has proved very successful in selling its pay-to-publish services to thousands of researchers around the world. But can it persuade the wider research community, the scholarly publishing industry, and the Open Access movement to endorse it?
InTech first came to my attention in 2007, when researchers began to raise questions about a Vienna-based company called I-Tech Education and Publishing which, they complained, was sending out unsolicited emails inviting scientists to contribute chapters to books — for which a 380Euros publication charge was being demanded. Many appeared to be concluding that the company was engaged in either mass spamming, or scamming, or possibly both.
At the time, I contacted the CEO of the company Vedran Kordic, who posted a response to the American Scientist Open Access Forum. “[M]ore than 1,500 authors published to date in the open access mode by us,” he said. “There is no one of them thinking that this is a kind of online cheat or that we are working on pay-publish mode.”
Over the next couple of years the complaints appeared only to grow, and by now researchers were posting their grievances on blogs as well as mailing lists. At some point the company changed its name to In-Tech. It also began to launch scholarly journals.
In November 2009 the company changed its name again — to Sciyo. It also created a second web site that appeared to be running in parallel to In-Tech’s site (intechweb.org). And shortly afterwards it announced that anyone publishing a book chapter with the company would receive royalties. These would be based on the number of times an author’s work was downloaded.
An OA publisher paying royalties was a novel idea; an idea, however, greeted with some scepticism. Nevertheless, it stimulated me to contact the company again — an enquiry that led to my doing an email interview with Aleksandar Lazinica, who introduced himself to me as the CEO of Sciyo ...
If you wish to read the rest of this introduction and the interview with Nicola Rylett please click on the link below.
I am publishing it under a Creative Commons licence, so you are free to copy and distribute it as you wish, so long as you credit me as the author, do not alter or transform the text, and do not use it for any commercial purpose.
To read the interview and introduction (as a PDF file) click here.
IN-TECH HAS ISSUED A STATEMENT AND A RESPONSE TO THE INTRODUCTION TO THIS INTERVIEW. IT CAN BE READ IN THE PDF FILE LINKED ABOVE, OR ALTERNATIVELY HERE.