A voice for change from within the publishing establishment: Mike Rossner honored as latest SPARC innovator

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Jennifer McLennan

For Immediate Release
July 2, 2009

For more information, contact:
Jennifer McLennan
(202) 296-2296 ext 121
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org

A voice for change from within the publishing establishment: Mike Rossner honored as latest SPARC innovator

Washington, DC – For creating forward-thinking publishing policies to expand access and verify scientific research, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has named Mike Rossner, executive director of the Rockefeller University Press (RUP) in New York the latest SPARC innovator.

Rossner, a scientist by training and director of RUP since 2006, has been a force within the publishing community pushing for change. He has worked to promote wider sharing of research results, while balancing the challenge of sustaining a thriving publishing operation.

Rossner has led the RUP in championing free public access by implementing a policy to release the full contents of their journals after just a six-month delay. Last year, under his leadership, RUP took another step to promote the free distribution of their content by adopting a new copyright policy similar to a modified Creative Commons license. He has been an outspoken advocate for positive change, writing compelling pieces on topics as wide-ranging as support for the NIH Public Access Policy, unfair pricing practices by mega-publishers, and the need for greater transparency in journal metrics. Rossner was one of the first publishers to announce a freeze on journal subscription prices in light of the economic downturn. Most recently, he joined nine other university presses in endorsing a statement of in support of Open Access.

“I don’t see myself as going against the grain, I see myself as doing what’s right,” says the 44-year-old at the helm of RUP, which publishes the Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), the Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), and the Journal of General Physiology (JGP).  Rossner’s track record is proof that traditional, subscription-based publishers can provide public access and remain in business.

Rossner’s innovations go beyond broadening access, extending toward ensuring the high quality of scientific information published in journals in the digital age. In 2002, Rossner developed a leading-edge program to screen digital images in manuscripts accepted for publication at RUP for possible manipulation -- an area of growing concern for all electronic publications.

Ira Mellman, one of the JCB’s senior editors and vice president of research oncology at Genentech in South San Francisco, says Rossner is using publishing as a platform for progress and integrity in science.  “Mike is a good fiscal manager, an innovator, and as deeply committed to science as any laboratory scientist; he is an excellent model for what I think a publisher should be in the 21st century,” he says.

“Mike Rossner is changing the nature of publishing and, along with it, the reality of who can access and read journals,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC. “We’re pleased to name him a SPARC Innovator.”

The SPARC Innovator program recognizes advances in scholarly communication propelled by an individual, institution, or group. Typically, these advances exemplify SPARC principles by challenging the status quo in scholarly communication for the benefit of researchers, libraries, universities, and the public. SPARC Innovators are featured on the SPARC Web site semi-annually and have included R. Preston McAfee of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; Harvard University FAS; student leaders; Ted and Carl Bergstrom; Melissa Hagemann of the Open Society Institute; the University of California; and Herbert Van de Sompel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. SPARC Innovators are selected by the SPARC staff in consultation with the SPARC Steering Committee.


SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), with SPARC Europe and SPARC Japan, is an international alliance of more than 800 academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. SPARC’s advocacy, educational, and publisher partnership programs encourage expanded dissemination of research.