An Interview With the Plan S Implementation Committee’s David Sweeney

“Publishing Perspectives asked if it’s a fair comment to say that the demand by Plan S that publishers “open their books” to potential vendors can seem rather aggressive.

“It’s a widespread practice in public procurement issues,” Sweeney said, “to ask vendors to disclose their costs so that you can have something with which to start discussing price. This practice is something that public funders do.” …

“We recognize that we can’t abrogate existing contracts that are in place and there are lots of contacts that are being signed now which cannot just be turned over. I fail to see that it’s quite the tight time scale that people make it out to be.

“My question for those who say it’s too tight a time scale,” he said, “is how long do you want? Given that we’re now talking about implementing principles which were agreed many years ago and that were then set out in transitional models. I don’t remember going back to scratch and resetting this clock for Plan S. We’re imposing the same open access guidelines that we’ve been working on for many years.” …

The argument that just because a scientist publishes in Nature, he or she should have to pay more for the brand value is not, I think, a line we want to take….”

‘I can understand anger against publishers’ | Research Information

“I presently see a lot of anger against the big publishers, and think this anger is the biggest challenge right now. Scientists are the publishers’ main customers, and they’re very dissatisfied with what is going on. There are repeated calls to boycott this or that publisher, which I find somewhat ridiculous because publishers are doing a lot of things that scientists normally don’t acknowledge. For example, the whole issue of data storage and indexing and retrieval. This is a lot of work, and scientists seem to think it just comes from nowhere.

Some scientists are trying to do their own things, and in most cases I don’t think that’s particularly useful. I’m a theoretical physicist, so in my area almost all of the papers are on the arXiv. There are now a few arXiv overlay journals that basically use the data that is stored already on the arXiv, and that means they don’t have to worry about how to store the data, and how to make sure that it will remain accessible for the forseeable future. But we’re doing science here that we hope will still be used in 100 to 300 years’ time, and someone has to think about how to make sure that this data will remain accessible. …”

‘Researchers: stop signing away your copyright’ | Research Information

“The fundamental problem is we’re in this period of transition from the print to the digital, and also between closed and open access. Those two axes of change are causing a huge amount of pain and uncertainty for everybody in the system, for the library community, for publishers, and for researchers and funders. 

For the library community there’s increased demands on funding, and the transition to open access is taking a long time. While the UK has been pushing ahead with moving towards open access both in green through the REF policy and through gold, we’re still paying the same very large amounts in subscriptions for big deals. Then there are issues around ensuring compliance of funder mandates, and there’s a lot of effort going into monitoring compliance. While we’re still in this mixed model you’re still having to do all the old stuff you did 10 years ago, but you also have this additional burden.

There are also problems with the ebook models, there’s a bit of a wild west out there of different business models. Letting a thousand flowers bloom is all very lovely and encourages innovation, but there comes a point where it causes a huge amount of confusion and angst. Then there’s still the whole discussion about the appetite and practicalities of open access for academic monographs – how we make that transition, who funds it….”

Openness: An interview with Daniel Hook, CEO of Digital Science – The Scholarly Kitchen

I think that biggest barrier is the existing system of incentives – people are not made professor for making their research openly available — that needs to change. The current system was never built to scale to the current size of the research world. I think that there will be some radical changes in scholarly communication and evaluation. Research, however, is quite rightly a conservative world. Systems need to be tried and tested – we can’t afford to switch to a system that is susceptible to effects like fake news.  So, I don’t think that change will happen quickly….

As a researcher, I want it to be simple. I don’t want to have to find money from different pots to publish my work. I don’t want to have to understand licensing and copyright law nor do I want to have to understand if my funder’s requirements are at odds with my institution’s requirements of me or indeed my government’s views on what constitutes open. I also really don’t want to have to go through the same thing with my data and my software as well as my journal article. So, in short, yes, I do think that there needs to be simplification. Not wanting to wade into the minefield that is Plan S, I will say that one thing that must be welcome to everyone is that there is now clear coordination going on between different stakeholders. Ideally this would lead to a framework or standard that allows stakeholders to adopt or to sign up to a standardized set of Open Access requirements that are internally consistent and easy to understand….”

Why UC split with publishing giant Elsevier | University of California

Elsevier made a new, quite complex, but novel proposal to us at the end of January. On Monday, our negotiating team gave them a written response outlining our appreciation for Elsevier’s effort, but saying that conditions had to be met for us to sign a contract, and that we thought we were pretty far apart. We knew if they couldn’t accommodate us, there was not much point in continuing to negotiate at this time.

Elsevier wanted to keep meeting with us, and we have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (March 1), but yesterday they approached our faculty directly — faculty who are editors of Elsevier journals, who they have working relationships with — and also the media, and presented a rosy view of the offer they’d made to us. Their characterization of the offer left things out, and they didn’t mention what we’d proposed as conditions. They went public with it. So, we announced the end….”

Search is on for new steward to deliver Plan S open access, as Smits bows out

“Robert-Jan Smits finished his one year mandate as the European Commission’s open access envoy last week and will be replaced for now by Robert [Kiley], head of open research at the Wellcome Trust, until a long-term coordinator for the Plan S open access initiative is appointed.

Smits, who is leaving the Commission to become president of the Eindhoven University of Technology, says there is a shortlist of two candidates to take over the position on a permanent basis….”

Why UC split with publishing giant Elsevier | Berkeley News

“Elsevier made a new, quite complex, but novel proposal to us at the end of January. On Monday, our negotiating team gave them a written response outlining our appreciation for Elsevier’s effort, but saying that conditions had to be met for us to sign a contract, and that we thought we were pretty far apart. We knew if they couldn’t accommodate us, there was not much point in continuing to negotiate at this time.

Elsevier wanted to keep meeting with us, and we have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), but yesterday they approached our faculty directly — faculty who are editors of Elsevier journals, who they have working relationships with — and also the media, and presented a rosy view of the offer they’d made to us. Their characterization of the offer left things out, and they didn’t mention what we’d proposed as conditions. They went public with it. So, we announced the end….”

Much Ado About MOOCs: Where Are We in the Evolution of Online Courses? | EdSurge News

A lot has changed since 2012 or, the year the New York Times dubbed the “Year of the MOOC.” The premise back then was that classes would make high-quality online education accessible for all—and for free. Today, many MOOC providers now charge a fee. They’ve rolled out bundles of courses called ‘Specializations’ or ‘Nanodegrees.’ And popular providers like Coursera and edX are increasingly partnering with colleges and universities to offer MOOC-based degrees online.

So, seven years after the “Year of the MOOC,” we’re wondering: Where are these courses and companies today? And how are universities responding?…

Last year, the number of learners who had taken at least one MOOC crossed 100 million, but the number of learners added was just 20 million, which was less than 23 million for the last two years. So the rate at which new users are coming into the MOOC space is decreasing.

The number of courses has been growing steadily at the same rate now. We have more than 11,000 courses from 900 universities. As for the MOOC providers, Coursera is the biggest one—with the most revenue and the most number of users, and also the most number of employees. Udacity ended 2017 with 500 employees, but they had layoffs, and ended 2018 with 330 employees….”

Open access ‘seems such a seismic change’ | Research Information

“There isn’t a single challenge that runs evenly across all of the disciplines, but the biggest one we’re facing is how we can make open access work in a way that preserves what’s good about current scholarly publishing activities, and is also sustainable and allows for innovation. It’s very difficult to move past open access at the moment. It seems such a seismic change in how we think about the way we publish. 

In the UK open access has largely been implemented through hybrid journals, and the recent Plan S announcement is very firmly positioned against hybrid journals – so the system is still clearly being shaken up. There may have been a sense that journal publishing had settled down into this hybrid model, but it didn’t deliver entirely on the promise of open access and allowed publishers to preserve what they were doing without having to innovate quite so much. We’re going to have to find ways of working around that. 

A particular concern for people like me, a historian working in digital humanities, is how we accommodate books in all of this. The business models for book publishing are not really there yet, although there are some interesting experiments. It’s also the case that digital and open book content is largely excluded from ways of measuring usage. The price of a lot of academic books is an issue as well. Are there ways that we can work together to try to bring cost down?  That’s not an easy problem to fix either, but it’s an ongoing challenge in terms of recommending books to students and inequalities of access to this material….”

Open-access pioneer Randy Schekman on Plan S and disrupting scientific publishing

Nobel laureate Randy Schekman shook up the publishing industry when he launched the open-access journal eLife in 2012.

Armed with millions in funding from three of the world’s largest private biomedical charities — the Wellcome Trust, the Max Planck Society and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — Schekman designed the journal to compete with publishing powerhouses such as NatureScience and Cell. (Nature’s news team is independent of its journal team and its publisher, Springer Nature.)

eLife experimented with innovative approaches such as collaborative peer review — in which reviewers work together to vet research — that caused ripples in scientific publishing.

And for the first few years, researchers could publish their work in eLife for free. That came to an end in 2017, because the journal needed more revenue streams to help it to grow….”