Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The OA Interviews: InTech’s Nicola Rylett

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?

Nicola Rylett
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.



Arun K.Shanker said...

Good article
I have edited two books for Intech
1. http://www.intechopen.com/books/show/title/abiotic-stress-response-in-plants-physiological-biochemical-and-genetic-perspectives
2. http://www.intechopen.com/books/show/title/abiotic-stress-in-plants-mechanisms-and-adaptations
The authors of the chapters are experienced researchers in their areas and their publications are good.
What I want to say is that Intech is not a scam company on the other hand most of its books are very useful to many in the scientific community

Arun K. Shanker said...

The real value of OA byt companies like Intech can be seen here in the following scenario
Lets take a scenario like this-
There is a scientist or a team of scientists in an internationally reputed research organization with say about a modest 100,000 $ fund for a three year research project. The PI is reputed in his/her field and has got the funding deservedly. There is about say a 5000$ for publication. They have done a through review of the scientific hypothesis they are testing. In tech contacts one of the post docs or junior researcher in the team and offers to publish a book chapter (which actually is a state of the art review or compilation) for say 600$, the post doc or junior researcher benefits carrier wise by the ( fast) publication.
The PI accepts and assigns the job of writing to them- they get it published with what ever review process In tech has (the chapter is a review)
Now there is a student in a small town in India or any other third world country studying in a college with poor library holdings and he/she has only just about something more than the lecture notes the teacher gives to learn on. But he/she has an internet connection and has the ability to search for relevant material and lands up on Intech chapter of the Post doc or junior researcher. High quality peer review or not the student is highly benefited simply in terms of knowledge gain.
So in effect these intech books are good.
I don't know about the business model but definitely there is benefit for readers and writers.

Anonymous said...

They are churning out books at break-neck speed - last week it was 1,763 now it's 1,769. They're primary motivation is money, and with their business model, they make more money producing large quantities of poorly reviewed/edited books, than with smaller volumes of well-edited, high quality books that institution are willing to pay to access.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was an employee of Intech for 3 years (including the time this interview was published), I can tell you the following about the "peer-review" that is conducted in InTech:

-the editor for a certain project is often not appointed until the submission of full chapters, and in those cases publishing process managers with no scientific background (mostly hold bachelor degrees in English) are required to accept the abstracts. Often the editor, upon finally accepting to review the book, rejects many full chapters as they do not have much scientific value in their opinion, and the publishing process manager's job is to persuade the editor to accept them anyway, or find an editor of another book to accept it there. This is all, of course, only in the interest of profit and nothing else.

-I personally had several situations where the book editor, upon realising what type of company InTech is, simply quits. This sometimes happens when the book is just about to be published, and then the "editor" whose name is put in the book is actually the publishing process manager!!! In this way I have edited more than one book, lucky me!

Please be aware that I am not a disgruntled employee and am working in a completely different field now. Also, practises in the company may have changed. But knowing the motives of InTech and the completely incompetent management, I highly doubt it.