Forecasting the Future

In the scholarly publishing world, spring brings the annual return of STM Trends, a future-forward look at the entire ecosystem of scholarly communications by members of the STM Association. STM Trends captures the most impactful changes in research and publishing in a single themed image. This year's theme: The Beauty of Open at Scale


How did we land on this year's theme?

Throughout the next three to five years, there will be a sharp rise of Open Access within scholarly communications. In an eco-system that is Open-at-Scale, there will be many new opportunities for scalable tools for knowledge discovery on massively available content. We expect that this will likely have a significant impact on the ecosystem of scholarly communications, most likely in a very positive and beautiful way – and, as the motto says: it will change things At Scale.



Breaking it down — 2026 Forecast

In our Annual STM Trends Forecast, we foresee a proliferation of platforms offering Open Access, which is depicted in STM Trends 2026 graphic as open sunflowers. Each sunflower serves certain users including bees, butterflies, birds, influencers, scarecrows, and beehives. Similar to sunflowers, Open Access will open up and blossom the research process for faster dissemination of knowledge and rapid discovery. This year’s graphic is not about business models – it is about how the essence of scholarly communications might change.

The majority of content and other research outputs will be available on multiple platforms, open and free-to-read. Platforms will scale by applying tools like artificial intelligence and text and data mining. Also, the number of different platforms will increase sharply.

In contrast to the current climate, publishers’ content and publishers' platforms are probably no longer hardwired. We foresee a play of platform proliferation and pluriformity. New types of platforms may emerge, and existing ones may sharpen their profile differently. It will be important for publishers to do the right thing in terms of content syndication, be present on the platforms that matter to their users, and follow the play of interaction between these platforms.


Infographic legend of key symbols



Authors, Editors
& Peers


A New Generation
of Researchers




Those who guide audiences to information they like


Efforts to thwart
fake science


Sources of quality,
trusted research




A Guided Tour of our Field

The field of sunflowers with all the content platforms is a very busy place. The bees are the authors, editors, and peer reviewers who are the most active players in creating research outputs. The publisher platforms try to attract the bees in particular. In fact, one of our future forecasts is also that in an Open Access world the competition for the best authors and peer reviewers will intensify.

Butterflies are the next generation of researchers – they dwell off too many new platforms, such as preprint servers for early claims and immediacy, and they like social media!

Similarly so for the birds, who are new audiences, curious for science news. For example, this may include doctors or patients wanting to get Covid information, practitioners, engineers, policymakers, citizens, concerned parents, and so forth.

The farmer is the Funder of Research fertilizing the soil while facilitating this fruitful and productive field. The farmer is harvesting when the fields have ripened.

However, not all is happy and cheerful in these open sunflower fields. A key problem within this proliferation of platforms and abundance of open information is the need for trust. Based on the problem of fake science and fake information, the scarecrows in the field warn against misinformation. A world of Open Access needs a new locus of trust. Information will appear in many places and in many versions. We need to secure the Version of Record that was peer-reviewed.

The beehives in the frontline are where research outputs are processed along with the principles of trust, quality, and peer review, where authors can go for recognition and reward.
To no surprise, this is also exactly what publishers can offer and support in this ecosystem: advancing Trusted Research.





How STM Trends is created

STM’s Annual Trends is created annually by our Future Lab, a discussion forum of over 30 STM members. In a group discussion, participants identify key technology-driven trends that are likely to impact the STM publishing industry in the next three to five years. Our methodology is based on the Delphi-method for technology forecasting. The outcome of this is translated every year into an infographic that looks up to 5 years ahead.

The Editing Committee of the 2026 Edition

IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg (chair of STEC/ FutureLab), Heather Staines (DeltaThink), Anita de Waard (Elsevier), Erin Foley (CCC), Marten Stavenga (J Benjamins), Hylke Koers (STM), Joris van Rossum (STM), Eefke Smit (STM)


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