A Conversation With BioMed Central’s Cockerill On Open Access Publishing

Abby Clobridge | Information Today, Inc | November 12, 2013

BioMed Central (BMC), one of the leading open access (OA) and STM publishers, announced in mid-September that Matthew Cockerill, managing director, would be leaving the company at the end of the year. BMC was founded in 2000 and was acquired by Springer Science+Business Media in 2008. Last month, I had a chance to sit down with Cockerill to talk about some of his experiences with OA and STM publishing.

Involvement in OA and STM Publishing

Cockerill’s involvement in OA stems from his broad passion for science: “I always had a combination of scientific and technical interests.” He was considering a computer science degree, then focused on physics before eventually being seduced by molecular biology, completing a Ph.D. in the lab of biochemist Tim Hunt. But the timing was serendipitous: “I was finishing up [the Ph.D.] around 1994–95, exactly when the first web browsers were taking off and beginning to influence how biologists were sharing information and how biological research was being conducted.”

He was at the point of leaving the U.K. for postdoctoral studies at Stanford University in biomedical informatics, when his Ph.D. advisor suggested that Cockerill speak to Vitek Tracz, who was then involved in the first generation of web-based scientific publishing. At that point, Tracz had been experimenting with “early iterations of AOL and [was thinking about] how such an online community model could be applied to science.” The result was BioMedNet, which described itself as “an online club for biologists and medical researchers.” Cockerill became so interested in “how biologists might communicate online” that he decided to defer his postdoctoral studies for a year and instead get real-world experience within the publishing industry—a temporary detour that has since turned into a career.