On Plan S/transformative publishing, or … A disptach in the wake of the Charleston Conference

“–Depending on how much APC funding eventually shifts from libraries to the federal government, will the price mechanism for APCs adjust to accommodate the readiness of grant funding agencies to bankroll APCs?  If so, can we assume the government will have a more price-elastic posture than universities historically have had, given the latter’s tenure and promotion demand-side incentives to publish in high tier journals regardless the cost? If federal agencies are not elastically responsive to prices (i.e., if they reward publication in high priced journals without regard to prices), don’t we just perpetuate the high pricing that librarians have so long lamented, therefore shifting this malaise’s remedy to the public’s dime? Is this fair to the citizenry? How does this affect public funding for other federally funded initiatives?

–Concerns about “existential threats” now appears in discussions about scholarly publishing. Scholarly societies have them. Can societies be assured of stable revenue streams, erstwhile from library journal subscriptions, if some complex admixture of federal government grant funds and university funds fund APCs?

–There seems to be no discussion among librarians about an “existential threat” to their own profession. If funding of journals shifts from universities to federal funding agencies, doesn’t this cut out librarian involvement in selecting and funding journals? Correlatively, wouldn’t this reduce their budgets? Also, would this reduce their collection development role  to APC bean-counting, much of which will become the purview of offices of research whose involvement will merely be one of marking APCs as a line item in grant funding disbursement accounting? Would this be a good or a bad thing? 

–Where is discussion about the opportunity cost of diverting a portion of hard-to-get state-funded research dollars to funding APCs? What research, e.g. for renewal energy, or cancer or agricultural research for developing countries, now goes by the wayside?  

–Will societies and university publishers just gradually assimilate the newly emerging APC regime for their economic survival in funding membership activities, without discussions about possible threats to financial stability or discussions about the larger philosophical premises of doing so?

 

–On the philosophical issues, shouldn’t society publishers worry about governmental ideological manipulation of who within their memberships gets grant-funded APCs?  Sure, one could make that argument about federal grant funding per se. But doesn’t the latter arguably addresses an externality that (in an ideal world) concerns the common good, while APC funding is an externality that does *not* necessitate federal subsidizing–given that scholarly publishing mechanisms can and should be developed that don’t require federal subsidy?  These are points everyone should ask regardless of political affiliation.

–From what one speaker at Charleston said, the complexities of negotiating with publishers has a new overlay: tortuous internecine discussions among consortial members. If  this is true of all consortia, one has the sense that consortial leaders now have to have to engage game theoretic scenarios not only with respect to publishers, but also their individual members. Just imagine how much more complicated all this will now become with the pressures on libraries to pay for APCs. Isn’t it undesirable to introduce this added complexity, at least at this juncture? Why not just work on contracting the number of journals published, about which . . . 

–I’ve been arguing for contracting the number of journals, a la something like Bradford’s Law. A refinement on that: we need to distinguish two rationales for contracting the journal space. These are:

Rationale (1.) An argument on the principled basis that it is desirable to contract the number of journals, given that the ever-growing glut of journal articles undermines the common good of discoverability and assimilation of research findings.

Rationale (2.) An argument from economic reality: library budgets are relatively flat so we need to deconstruct Big Deals or even the number of subscribed journals regardless the journal sales model.

Shouldn’t big consortia use their negotiating power to argue that the ever-rising prices of journals (not to mention pressures for APCs merely to replicate the price dynamics of toll-access publishing) necessitates contracting the number of journals?  This point extends not just to toll-access publishing, but also gold ones? If so, pursuing rationale (1) for contracting the journal space aligns neatly with rationale (2) for doing so. I.e., rationale (2) becomes the vehicle for accomplishing rationale (1).

–I’ve also argued that consortia with journal negotiating power should educate their faculty about the need to contract the journal space. A refinement to that, too: the discussions should focus on rationale (1) above, rather than (2), which concer

The Open Access Landscape – an overview

A presentation by Jan Erik Frantsvåg at the 1st Basel Sustainable Publishing  Forum September 9th 2019.

Hungary and Elsevier agree pilot national license for research access and Open Access publishing

“Hungarian Electronic Information Service National Programme (EISZ) and Elsevier, a global information analytics business specializing in science and health, today agreed a new pilot license for research access and Open Access publishing in Hungary.

The three-year agreement means researchers affiliated to EISZ consortium member institutions across Hungary have access to 16 million publications from over 2,500 journals published by Elsevier and its society partners on ScienceDirect, Elsevier’s leading platform of peer-reviewed scholarly literature. The agreement also facilitates a cost-neutral transition to Open Access and enables Hungarian researchers from EISZ affiliated institutions to publish their research Open Access without researchers having to pay an APC. More information on the Open Access Pilot can be found here….”

OPEN SCHOLARSHIP position statement from the Biochemical Society and Portland Press

“Currently: ? We publish two fully-OA journals, and one of these is currently sustained by article publishing charges (APC) at an article-by-article level; in addition, we publish five hybrid journals where authors may opt to pay an APC to have their article published OA. ? For titles on the hybrid model we avoid ‘double dipping’ (charging twice for the same articles) through two routes: APCs are discounted for corresponding authors based at subscribing institutions; in addition, subscription prices are set, each year, based on the number of paywalled articles in the preceding years to account for OA content published in hybrid titles. ? There are a variety of mechanisms employed by different publishers to avoid double-dipping. We are supportive of efforts to standardize and agree common principles around transparent pricing of hybrid journals that demonstrate, objectively, the avoidance of double dipping….

Looking ahead: ? We are seeking to transition our hybrid journals to full-OA in a way that supports researchers and keeps the Society financially viable. ? We strongly believe that the ability to publish research should not be linked to individual researchers’ ability to pay; we are enthusiastic about all opportunities to remove author-facing invoices from OA publishing. To enable a transition away from paywalls, we seek to offer as much APC-free OA as possible that will be supported though continuing and new partnerships with institutions, consortia and funders….

Decrypting the Big Deal Landscape: Follow-up of the 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report

“As of 2017, the European University Association (EUA) assembled a unique collection of ‘Big Deals’ data on agreements between scholarly publishers and (national) consortia of libraries, universities and research organisations. This was carried out in the light of mounting higher education institution concerns about the increasingly unsustainable cost of subscriptions to scholarly publications. In 2016, EUA committed to “establishing an evidence base about current agreements and on-going negotiations with publishers in collaboration with NRCs”.1 Subsequently, data collected by EUA has served as the basis for two reports released in 2018 and 2019, respectively.2 Big Deals now receive increased attention due to their potential to ‘flip’ entire segments of the scholarly publication market from closed to open access publications. Big deals have also been widely criticised for locking-in library budgets, due to constantly increasing subscription costs. The 2019 EUA Big Deals Survey Report surveyed covered 30 European countries and found that over €1 billion is spent on electronic resources each year, including at least €726 million spent on periodicals alone. Big Deals are said to limit competition and innovation in the scholarly publishing system3 and curb universities’ and consortia’s financial freedom to pursue other priorities. However, recently, several European negotiating consortia and scholarly publishers have concluded Big Deals that allow eligible authors to publish articles in open access formats in specific journals. Known as ‘transformative agreements’, these contracts are also supported as one way to comply with future funder requirements that will apply as of 2021 under Plan S.4 In a system that is largely defined by Big Deals, this report aims to inform the transition to open access debate, by providing additional insights and indicators on these agreements’ costs, publication volumes and timelines. This has been achieved by placing EUA Big Deals data into context….

Part 1 explains the methods used to obtain the underlying data as well as limitations and responsible use of the data. Part 2 links the publication outputs of journal articles and reviews to the large five publishers’ market share. It seeks to provide a bigger picture of the relation between subscription costs and publishing output. Part 3 sets out an analysis of the price-per-article for each country and publisher, calculated on the basis of subscription prices and publication volume. It provides European negotiators with comparative Big Deals price per article data in 26 countries. Part 4 takes a closer look at the timeline of Big Deal agreements collected by the EUA Big Deals Survey. It shows that the 2018-2020 period is crucial for negotiations with scholarly publishers (in terms of market volume). Negotiations that occur during this time may also be crucial for the further development of ‘transformative’ agreements and therefore compliance with Plan S requirements. Part 5 provides a brief summary of our main findings, contextualises them with current developments and provides policy recommendations….”

Jisc secures two-year OA pilot with Microbiology Society | Research Information

“Jisc and the Microbiology Society have announced a two-year pilot transitional open access (OA) agreement. The ’publish and read’ deal will allow researchers at participating institutions to publish an unlimited number of open-access articles, as well as access to the society’s full portfolio in return for a ‘cost-neutral’ fixed fee. 

The Microbiology Society is the first small learned society publisher to strike a transitional deal through the Jisc consortium. Jisc Collections undertakes negotiations and licensing for 180 UK universities and is close to agreeing similar deals with Portland Press, the International Water Association and the European Respiratory Society….”

Jisc secures two-year OA pilot with Microbiology Society | Research Information

“Jisc and the Microbiology Society have announced a two-year pilot transitional open access (OA) agreement. The ’publish and read’ deal will allow researchers at participating institutions to publish an unlimited number of open-access articles, as well as access to the society’s full portfolio in return for a ‘cost-neutral’ fixed fee. 

The Microbiology Society is the first small learned society publisher to strike a transitional deal through the Jisc consortium. Jisc Collections undertakes negotiations and licensing for 180 UK universities and is close to agreeing similar deals with Portland Press, the International Water Association and the European Respiratory Society….”

Guest Post – The Future of Open Access Business Models:  APCs Are Not the Only Way – The Scholarly Kitchen

“While there is still life in the APC model, the overall view seems to be  that it is a transitional model which is in decline. What is certain is that if real progress is to be made towards OA without significant damage to publisher revenues (and in consequence academic publishing), greater collaboration will be necessary between major stakeholders. Transformative agreements underpinning such collaborations are the most promising business model to-date in the OA ecosystem; the SPA-OPS report’s accompanying toolkit includes an implementation model and specimen contract templates, and the hope and expectation is that societies will use this to offer transformative agreements from next year….”

Guest Post – The Future of Open Access Business Models:  APCs Are Not the Only Way – The Scholarly Kitchen

“While there is still life in the APC model, the overall view seems to be  that it is a transitional model which is in decline. What is certain is that if real progress is to be made towards OA without significant damage to publisher revenues (and in consequence academic publishing), greater collaboration will be necessary between major stakeholders. Transformative agreements underpinning such collaborations are the most promising business model to-date in the OA ecosystem; the SPA-OPS report’s accompanying toolkit includes an implementation model and specimen contract templates, and the hope and expectation is that societies will use this to offer transformative agreements from next year….”

News & Views: Have We Reached Peak Hybrid? – Delta Think

“Although it’s still not perfect, the data about scholarly output has improved over the last couple of years. We recently analyzed all 110m records in the Unpaywall data set to see if we could determine the uptake of OA at scale and set it in the context of non-OA output. The results might surprise you….

Even allowing for different methodologies, like-for-like underlying trends appear consistent. It seems that even before the effects of Plan S have fully manifested, hybrid share of output is slowing. Note that the overall number of hybrid articles continues to grow – it’s just that other content types are growing more quickly.

 

There could be a number of reasons for this. For example, most of the funders pushing for OA rolled out their mandates over the last few years. We may therefore be seeing a natural slow-down as localized silos of OA uptake are nearing saturation. Meanwhile, until mandates in other areas of the world change or appear, further wholesale shift is unlikely….

Further deep analysis of the data lies outside the scope of this piece. But we leave you with one thought. If hybrid share is already in decline, but transformative agreements are on the rise, then will Plan S have the effect of slowing down the very change it’s trying to accelerate?…”