Alberto Pepe on Authorea's Business Model (AMA)

The Authorea Team

On September 15th, 2016 Authorea CEO and Cofounder, Alberto Pepe, encouraged the Reddit science community to ask him anything. Below are a few excerpts from the AMA on the topic of Authorea's business modelClick here for the full thread.
Read general AMA excerpts here or specific discussions on the topic of quality control in publishing or metrics/ranking/impact.

How can you claim to be in support of open science/open scholarship when authorea is closed source and a commercial application?



Co-Founder | Authorea

hi Hipstie- I am glad you ask the question and I am sorry I did not get to answer this yesterday. I see you make two separate points, namely: how can you claim that Authorea supports Open Science if it is (1) not Open Source, and (2) a commercial application? I'll answer the two points separately.

(1) First off, Open Source and Open Science are not the same thing. I understand that they are related, but I would need a bit more convincing as to why the only way to support Open Science is via tools that are Open Source. I know a number tools, companies and initiatives that are not "Open" but that have nevertheless made a contribution to Openness. Is that a bad thing? One example which comes to mind is Github which is NOT Open Source, but it has served as a catalyst for Open Source in the last decade. I am not sure what is Github's decision behind being closed source, but I will tell you why Authorea is (currently) closed source: as much as we strive for openness in as many departments as possible, and we remain fully committed to opening up access to scientific research, we need to be sustainable as a project. Which brings me to the second point.

(2) When I was in academia, I was myself under the impression that commercial applications were detrimental to openness. All my academic work has mostly been funded by research grants (NASA and NSF). Most academic projects I created and worked on, however, ended when the research grant was over. The advantage of building a commercial application which has an underlying business model (that works) is that the chance to create a sustainable, long term, more impactful project is higher. Authorea is a commercial application not because we are aiming to make huge profits, but because we believe that it is great to make a product that is so good that people and institutions will pay for it (to create long term sustainability) and with a strong social mission that can truly change an industry in dire need of change (academic publishing).

I understand that being a commercial application does not mean that we need to be closed source. There are some great examples of commercial Open Source projects. We have decided to experiment with our current model, at least for now. If you take a look at our open product roadmap, you will notice that we are actually open sourcing a fundamental part of Authorea very soon: the document exporter. We are doing it because a lot of power users felt that the way the export process works today is too much of a "black box". Plus, they would love to contribute themselves to new export styles. It is a no brainer and we are now open sourcing the exporter. Open sourcing the entire platform is a possibility in the future. We need to determine if we would still have a business if Authorea was fully open source. Installing Authorea on a dedicated server for an experienced programmer takes about 2 hours and if we had to fully open source the code, there is a chance our b