It has become fashionable recently to praise the work of Robert Maxwell as a great innovator in science publishing. Articles and memoirs have pointed out how he capitalised upon a wider public interest in science as well as greater spending on scientific research to create and commercialise the modern world of science journal publishing. It was typical, though, of Maxwell, not just to have discovered an opening, but to have discovered at the same time, a man who could capitalise upon the opening. The genius behind Robert Maxwell’s genius was Ivan Klimes, who died on April 20 2024 in Oxford. As Publishing Director at Maxwell’s Pergamon Press, he was the mastermind behind the so-called “salami slicing“ of journals to create new specialised outlets for the rapidly growing subdivision of disciplines in the sciences, especially in the life sciences. His broad range of scientific interests ensured the coverage of new topics as well as the commissioning of review articles and books, which brought researchers up-to-date, and in a position to review all aspects of controversial topics. The great monument to Ivan’s work at this time lies in the continuing market dominance of Elsevier, the final home of the Pergamon Press titles that he had created. The debt that they owed him was never acknowledged by the seller of these journals, or indeed by the buyers.

Ivan’s fascination with science, and science communication, came early and remained throughout his life. He started his career as a science journalist in his native Prague, becoming, in those days behind the Iron Curtain, a member of the Czechoslovakian Academy of sciences, and the leader of the union of science journalists. In 1968, he was speaking at a conference in Copenhagen, attended by himself and his wife, when the Prague Spring turned into a Russian invasion. He described driving out of Denmark and across the German border. Turn left for home – or turn right for the English Channel. All of us  who knew him are grateful for the choice that the couple made. In England, he found employment with the IPC Magazine group, working on New Scientist. It was here that Robert Maxwell found him.Two Czech speakers bent on changing the course  of global science publishing in English.

Life was always turbulent at Maxwell‘s Headington  Hill Hall, Oxford, headquarters. Ivan left prior of the sale of the company, dismissed by Robert, and Kevin, Maxwell, then, respectively, chairman, and chief executive of the science publisher. Whether or not this was because of the industrial indiscipline of speaking Czech to the father in front of the son (who did not understand the language) is uncertain. More certain is the fact that they had dropped the pilot who guided them to this point. Soon after they sold the company and embarked upon the frenzy of acquisition and disposal that became the story of Maxwell Communications Corporation.

For a moment, Ivan was lost, and felt deeply isolated. To their great credit, the International Thomson Organisation (now Thomson Reuters) came forward and a plan was developed to create a new science journal publisher with an entirely new look. Rapid Communications of Oxford would not only move quicker to fulfil the niches that Ivan still saw as worth  developing, but it would publish science research far more quickly and get  information back into the hands of researchers with revolutionary speed. Far from  taking the normal 12 to 18 months, the new company promised publication in 6 to 8 weeks. This breakthrough was enabled by the use of a new technology, the fax machine. Typescripts would be faxed to peer reviewers with the request that they were to be returned the same way. As an advisor to Ivan, both in his previous company, and now in this one, I was privileged to watch at  first hand the enthusiasm that he applied, and the enthusiasm that he  engendered in others as they watched him apply it. His openness and his anxiety to serve the science that he loved were infectious qualities. He founded his new company in one of Oxford, oldest habitable office buildings, a mediaeval bakehouse. at the very edge of the river. Standing upright in his first floor office, inevitably meant cracking one’s head against its ancient beams. Yet there, he continued with a succession of new launches, including a groundbreaking, neuroscience journal, until the folding of his company into the Thomson corporate group, and then it’s resale to Wolters Kluwer presaged his own retirement.

In addition to his great skills as an innovative publisher, Ivan was a man of huge, personal generosity, with a real capacity for mentoring and friendship. I can testify to both, having served with him when he was a Director of the British Publishers Association cooperative venture, Publishers Databases Ltd, and having enjoyed his company, and his vision and sagacity while he was a non-executive director of my own company, Electronic Publishing Services Limited. And as a dining companion he left nothing to be desired, especially in the days when he was a routine diner at the Hungarian restaurant, Gay Hussar, where his knowledge of central European cuisines was an education in itself. We should remember a pivotal figure in the creation of the modern science journal,in a  publishing world that has now transitioning into scholarly communications, and for those who knew him, the loss of the most companionable, knowledgeable and empathetic of friends.


When I first talked about open access and the decline of the scientific journal, 20 years ago, it was fortunate that I had Dirk Haank available to tell the world not to listen to demented consultants with no skin in the game. When I spoke some 15 years ago, about the inevitable declined of the subscription science Journal, it was pleasing to hear Kent Anderson reassuring us, all that I was simply a mad dog out on license. Now, as I read the strategy revision for their open access policy published by the Gates Foundation, on April 7, I am very happy to indulge the Panglossian philosophers of the scholarly communications marketplace once again and while I wait for them to tell us that nothing has really changed and everything will go on  just as before in the best of all journal, publishing worlds, I am heading down to the marketplace to link arms with Cassandra. We shall chant “ O woe! O woe ! The day of the open access, journal is nearly over, and it’s end can be told with confidence!“

Of course, this might take another 15 years. I’ve reached an age myself when time is not a very worrying factor. In the 57 years that have passed since I started work in the educational and academic publishing sector I have been acutely, aware that commercial publishers, while being politely prepared to entertain speculation about the future, have necessarily to attend to  this year’s financial results and the expectations of investors. When my speculations were deemed too far-fetched, my clients in the boardroom tended to say “our strategies are clear – follow the money!” Today, my response to them would be quick, and immediate:“Watch what the funders are doing with the money, and then, follow the data! “

Many will argue that Gates is a small funder in terms of article contributions. It’s work creates around 4000 articles a year, and through its payment of APCs it contributes a mere $6 million per annum  to the coffers of scholarly publishers . But it is an influential player and in its revised open access strategy it may have detected something which is present in the minds of the larger funders, and eventually of governments themselves. What is the duty of the funder in terms of ensuring that articles detailing research results are available to the community at large? In the time of Henry Oldenberg in the 1660s, the answer would have been to get them into the Transactions of the Royal Society. Today, it is to get them onto an authorised pre-print server with a CC-BY license as soon as possible after the research is completed and the article is ready, and to accompany it by linked datasets of the evidential material on a similar license on a similarly approved site. Speed is of the essence, access to all is key and critical. Subsequent reuse of the material in a journal, subsequent acts of peer review and downstream reuse are not the key concerns of the funding foundation. By this fresh twist in the end of its open access policy, the Gates Foundation have saved $6 million, which can now go back into the research fund . And by using F1000 , who already supply the internal Gates, publishing systems, to create F1000 Verixiv, the pre-print server of choice, they have provided tools, which researchers can use (or not) to fulfil the mandate.

If other funders follow this route, then the scholarly communications research community in science faces a choice. For many, more pressurised by getting the next research program underway than anything else, it will be simple to leave things there, and not necessarily press forward to eventual journal publication. For others, given the needs of institutions for publication, to secure tenure or satisfy other funders requirements, publication will remain essential until the way in which science results are assessed, begins to change.One of the things that I recall from conversations with Eugene Garfield, in the 1980s , was his repeated assertion that better ways than citation indexing would be found to assess the worth of science research articles. Like Winston Churchill on democracy, he maintained vigorously that what he had created was the “best worst way“ of doing the job. The challenge now, I would suggest, is whether some latter day Garfield can perform his 1956 breakthrough, and create a way of indexing and illuminating what is good science for a modern world. That measurement and indexation has to be available as soon as possible after the first appearance of the claim, wherever it appears in digital form.In the meanwhile, getting the knowledge immediately into the marketplace, and getting the data available to aide reproduceability supports other research in progress and supports integrity. And that is critical for funders and researcher alike.

Such new systems will emerge in their own time. In the meanwhile the way we measure, achievement, t which have been gamed and manipulated endlessly and need in any case to be renewed or replaced , experienceincreasing pressure,. This applies as much to peer review as anything else. If publishers are to stay in the loop, then they need to change their relationships as wellAs the relationship between Gates, andF1000 shows, whatever takes place in terms of “publication “ and where it takes place in the ecosystem may become more important to the institution or the funder to the researcher or the research lab. In terms of attracting sponsorships, investment, and industrial research cooperation,  universities may have more interest in publication than most, especially if the research community sort out a better way of ranking science than by citation indexng.(Footnote: what a clever man that Vitek Tracz was! The Tesla of science publishing! Long after his retirement, we shall be using the tools he created for white label sponsored publishing! )

So there it is! Cassandra and I have now done a full lap of the forum, and I can feel that the rotten vegetables are getting ready to fly through the air! next time, if I survive, I plan to “follow the data” myself, and look at the role of publishers as data aggregators, data curators, and data traders. and we shall remember the old saying: “how do you know if the searcher is a person or machine? Well, only machines read the full article!“

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