“At the ISMTE 2019 North American Meeting, Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah and Micah Vandegrift, Open Knowledge Librarian at North Carolina State University Libraries, discussed their different opinions regarding some of the finer points of Plan S. They prepared responses for 10 questions for the meeting but were only able to respond to some of them in person. The following is the full Q&A that they prepared for the meeting, with references added….”
“We strongly support the principle that research must be freely accessible. At the MJA [Medical Journal of Australia], we practise what we believe and make all research freely accessible from publication, a unique feature of a subscription journal. We further support the idea that subscription journals should ensure all peer?reviewed articles are freely accessible after an embargo period and suggest this period be set at no more than 24 months after final publication. We suggest that Plan S is off track in its opposition to hybrid journals. There are many metrics of quality and impact, including media (and social media) attention, but the primary currency by which research quality is judged remains citations by peers; major breakthroughs attract very high citations as the work is replicated then adapted and extended by others around the world, which is in reality how science advances and research is translated. Several of the journals with the greatest impact and highest citations will be excluded under Plan S if they maintain their current subscription models.
When it all boils down to basics, researchers want to have their research published quickly after peer and editorial review, with near perfect certainty in the most prestigious, most impactful place possible. In 2019, authors do not necessarily need a traditional subscription medical journal to achieve this goal, and if this spells the end of the subscription model, time will tell as the market decides. In the meantime and whatever our personal views, researchers will continue to seek to have their work widely read and cited, which is why the top medical journals (many of which remain subscription journals) will continue to attract the best research and will have a wide choice of what to accept….”
“Why is open access so contentious? In large part, I think, because although OA began as a bottom-up revolution it was never widely embraced by researchers. However, OA advocates managed to persuade governments, funders and institutions that their colleagues should be compelled to embrace open access. This has seen a series of ever more stringent OA mandates being imposed on researchers, increasing the bureaucratic burden on them (amongst other things).
Monographs are a particularly contested area because of their length, their narrative form, and the licensing issues that this raises.
It has not helped that OA advocates promised open access would reduce the costs of scholarly communication. In reality, costs have risen.
This last point is particularly troublesome in the UK context as OA policies have been introduced without providing the necessary funding to support them. As a result, researchers can discover that they have been mandated to make their work open access but cannot afford to pay the article-processing charge (APC) needed if they want to satisfy the government’s preference for gold OA.
This has been a challenge even for researchers at wealthy and prestigious institutions. Last year, for instance, Oxford University library had to inform faculty that its OA fund had been exhausted and so they should delay submitting to journals until it had been replenished.
At the same time, the bureaucracy surrounding OA compliance has become so complex that universities have had to recruit legions of support staff to interpret and manage the escalating number of policies (some of which have proved contradictory). Indeed, such is the complexity now that even specialist support staff can struggle to decode the rules.
In short, the UK OA policy environment is far too complex, and it is seriously underfunded. For researchers, this is frustrating and depressing….”
“Plan S has already been credited with sparking something of a revolution in journal publishing. Major publishers are beginning – slowly and reluctantly in some cases – to replace their traditional “big deals” with what are being called “transformative deals”. Often negotiated with national consortia of libraries and research institutes, these combine access to subscription journals with an ability to publish open access without any additional charge.
However, I believe that we should think a lot harder before celebrating a tipping point.
The open access movement has always been intimately bound up with a critique of the whole concept of handing over billions of pounds of public money to wildly profitableprivate companies in exchange for publishing papers that are written, reviewed and edited by academics. Yet the current “transformative” deals do precious little to drive down margins that are often in excess of 35 per cent….
Instead of recklessly funnelling billions of taxpayers’ money into for-profit entities, funding bodies and research institutes could easily support these more sustainable ventures instead. This is already happening in some parts of the world, with initiatives such as Redalyc and SciELO in Latin America demonstrating leadership….
Every time we sign one of these so-called transformative contracts, which often contain multi-year lock-ins, we lose the opportunity to create something more just, sustainable, efficient and effective. We actively work against efforts to return control of publishing to the academic community. It is time to take a step back and to think again about what we really want.”
“So what is research for? Here are three possible answers.
A. Some people believe (or maybe I should say assume) that research is for the world — for the betterment of the lot of society as a whole, the eradication of illness, the understanding of the environment, and generally the benefit of humanity. As pleasant side-effects, it also feeds publishing businesses and advances researchers’ careers.
B. Some people believe (or assume) that research is primarily for the benefit of the economy: that the principle purpose of the whole process is the financial benefit that accrues to publishers and related professions. As pleasant side-effects, it also advances the world’s knowledge and advances researchers’ careers.
C. Some people believe (or assume, or at least give the impression of assuming) that research is mostly about the careers of researchers — about giving them a way to prove their merit and advance up the career ladder. As pleasant side-effects, it also advances the world’s knowledge and feeds publishing businesses….
[Robert Harrington says:]
I would suggest that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with a subscription model.
This may be true for “B”s (who might prefer the subscription model because they think it yields the most revenue) and for “C”s (who might want to place their work in a specific paywalled journal that is well regarded in their field). But it’s much less likely for “A”s, who see great public benefit in free access, and conversely great harm in arbitrary barriers….”
“Open access is often discussed as a process of flipping the existing closed subscription based model of scholarly communication to an open one. However, in Latin America an open access ecosystem for scholarly publishing has been in place for over a decade. In this post, Eduardo Aguado-López and Arianna Becerril-Garcia discuss open access developments in Latin America and the AmeliCA initiative to develop a cooperative infrastructure for scientific communication. They also reflect on how the recent proposals put forward by cOAlition S to foster open access publication in the Global North, could potentially negatively impact open access efforts in Latin America. …”
“A UC Library-commissioned study similarly found the plan “extremely complex, with significant risk on many sides.” If you thought that such a plan would be reworked, or at least scrutinized by university administrators, you would be wrong.
The library’s commissioned study found that a flip from a subscription to a pay-to-publish model would result in a significant funding gap for research-intensive institutions such as UC. The proposed plan would require UC researchers to pay to publish their own output and still obtain access to the vast majority, 85%, of peer-reviewed scientific literature that is subscription-based today.
To solve this funding gap, the UC Library study asks that millions of dollars in grant funding be diverted away from research and used to “top off” library budgets.
When surveyed, this plan drew “extremely negative” reactions from researchers, with the majority of survey respondents indicating that they would not support any research funds from being diverted into a library-led pay-to-publish model. Clearly, there is more work to be done….”
“The British Academy has responded to the revised Plan S consultation. It’s nice of them to grudgingly accept there have been some improvements but I remain dismayed by the continued misrepresentation of Plan S within their documents. I will here quote some of the elements of their response that I believe misread or misrepresent Plan S. This post is strictly my personal opinion based on my academic expertise….”
“At the end of May 2019 cOAlition S issued a second, final version of Plan S, together with guidelines for implementation, in response to the extensive international reactions to the original initiative (September 2018) which announced that grant-funded research would in future have to be published immediately in an Open Access (OA) format. These guidelines were subsequently supplemented by a work plan. We earlier commented on the first version of Plan S; here we assess its successor, finding that many of our initial criticisms remain….”