“Smits hopes the plan will increase the pressure on a handful of influential science gatekeepers, such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, which stand accused of limiting the flow of scientific information through the high subscription rates of their journals. Following almost eight years as EU’s most senior civil servant in research, Smits was appointed special envoy on open science within the European Political Strategy Centre, the Commission’s in-house think tank, in February. He developed the open access plan with Marc Schiltz, president of Science Europe, a body representing national public research funders….
Europe needs a “radical push” on open access, Smits said. “We are today at 20 per cent immediate and full open access in Europe. Fifteen years ago, we were at 15 per cent open access. You can imagine that with this pace we will never reach the target set by the 28 EU science ministers that all publicly funded research be open, free, to readers by 2020.”…
One of the main inspirations for the plan is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the global health charity, which since 2017 has required that papers generated with its funding are made free to read immediately on publication, rather than permitting the six or 12-month delay some subscription journals require. Journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences changed their policies last year to offer a permanent open access publishing route for Gates grant holders.
Similarly, the UK’s Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest medical research charities and another open access leader, has implemented Coalition-S principles. Wellcome grant recipients are required to make their results available for free, through the UK PubMed Central repository, within six months of initial publication, with Wellcome providing funding to its researchers to pay for publication costs….
A few highly cited journals such as Nature and Science will be off-limits for grant holders subject to Coalition-S, unless these publishers change their policies and offer open access….
Smits compares his plan, which follows months of meetings with funders and publishers, to the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges in Europe.
“It’s similarly about breaking the power of very exclusive oligopolies,” he said. “A better system is possible, and the shift is unstoppable.” Plan-S could also serve as a big laboratory for large open access deals, after recent efforts in countries such as Germany and Sweden stumbled.
“It has been a kind of Robin Hood story. We want to take money from publishers’ shareholders and give it back to the labs,” Smits said.
Smits says publishers are “not the enemy”. “They simply have their own agenda, and so do I. They tell me that ‘we can only flip to open access if the US and China are on board too’. But it’s a bit like tackling climate change – someone needs to take the lead.” …”