Plan S, the Verschlimmbesserung of Scholarly Information

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Germany steered clear of signing on to Plan S. If you can create the word verschlimmbesserung to describe an attempted improvement that actually makes things worse, you are probably pretty good at spotting and avoiding a verschlimmbesserung more quickly than you can say it….

But if we widen the aperture to align with the mission of Plan S funders and consider whether Plan S is good for science, medicine, humanities, and knowledge, the focus changes, and we can see that Plan S could well actually make things worse….

Plan S undermines this complex ecosystem, making the more selective and curated subscription outlets less viable. In doing so, Plan S flattens the multitude of venues where scholarly information appears, and funnels research towards high-volume, low-cost, less-discerning outlets. …

Plan S is not really about advancing science, or OA, but about harming large commercial publishers (I made this argument here). …

[W]e may find that low-margin society publishers, who are dedicated to advancing their fields, find Plan S makes their operations unsustainable and are forced to divest their publishing assets. As a result, we may well see large commercial players become even larger, and while there be some margin compression in traversing to a Plan S-catalyzed flipped world, net profits of commercial players could well grow….”

OAUNI – wihoforschung

From Google’s English: “In view of the importance of open access (OA), the project investigates the question of how the publication output of German universities has changed in the direction of open access and what role disciplinary and organizational factors play in taking up OA. The aim is to describe the state of development of OA publishing for all universities in Germany and to develop empirical explanatory models. The collaborative partners work cooperatively on the following questions: While SUB Göttingen develops novel OA detection sources such as Unpaywall Data for bibliometric analyzes, the I²SoS subproject investigates determinants of OA publication behavior.

The project is scientifically-reflective-oriented in its aims and thus differs from initiatives aimed at the infrastructural implementation of Open Access (OA). The research design identifies three workspaces that are processed across all locations: 1) University OA publication profiles, 2) Determinants of university OA profiles, 3) Results assurance by means of guided expert interviews. The quantitative data basis is provided by the data infrastructure of the Competence Center Bibliometrics (section Web of Science) and novel OA detection sources. The explanatory models are also based on established data sources of science research and university reporting.

The project aims to improve understanding of current change processes of the scientific publishing system. It therefore addresses current challenges in the areas of scientific literacy and social participation in the scientific cognitive process. The results, including the data and analytical routines, are prepared for specific target groups and, if legally possible, published under an open license….”

The push for open access is finally reaching a tipping point | Times Higher Education (THE)

Last week, Norway signed a landmark open access agreement with Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher. It came barely a month after the country cancelled its subscription contract: a step that several other countries and organisations had already taken.

In early 2017, a consortium of about 700 German universities and research organisations cut ties with Elsevier because the publisher would not agree to what would have been a transformative open access deal. In spring 2018, Swedish universities followed. And in December, Hungary and the powerful Max Planck Society took their stand.

We at the University of California also ended our Elsevier subscription in December and terminated negotiations in February.

We are not small customers. The California contract reached nearly $11 million (£8.5 million) in 2018, and the German contract was considerably larger….”

Observing open access | Research Information

However, it is not until more recently that we have seen the emergence of truly international efforts to coordinate OA. The emergence of Plan S, through cOAlition S, is the newest wave of innovation that seeks to break through the impasse that has developed in some countries. In our report, we observed the US had faltered in its progress toward increasing OA, levelling off at around 42 per cent of overall publication output through OA channels in both 2012 and 2016.  

Of course, it will be several years until Plan S is implemented and we still don’t know how it will finally be realised. However, with recent progress in Germany on Projekt DEAL and the new guidelines from REF 2021, it is clear that not only are both the UK and Germany travelling toward an open future, but also that, since those two countries are among the most collaborative in the world after the US, there are many countries who benefit from the stance taken by those with a progressive agenda.

The UK’s overall percentage of OA content has grown rapidly, outpacing both Germany and the US in recent years. As shown in Figure 1, the UK’s approach to policy around OA has paid dividends. This is not to say that this hasn’t taken significant sustained investment and resource – but innovation seldom comes for free….

In 2021, this will inevitably have an impact on the choices that smaller institutions can make regarding their REF returns, the results of those returns, and the potential funding balance going forward. Research England is clearly not insensitive to these challenges, as it has included a number of options for institutions to argue for exceptions and include a percentage of non-OA outputs. However, the direction is clear: open access will form part of the REF for the first time and it has been thoroughly embedded in the most recent guidance on submission, panel criteria and working methods published by Research England. This is a strong signal to the community and a strong ‘measurement’ that pushes the sector toward open access….”

 

Better than the German Wiley DEAL? The Couperin Consortium reaches a price reduction of more than 13% over four years in an agreement with Elsevier » scidecode

For some, this may seem better than the Wiley Deal in Germany: French universities and research institutions have agreed in principle, through their Couperin consortium, to renew their national licence with Elsevier. In a letter sent on April 11 to Elsevier by Lise Dumasy, president of Couperin, details of the agreement, which is valid for 4 years, effective as of January 1 this year, are revealed.

With this agreement, French universities and research institutions will have access to the publisher’s „Freedom complete edition“ journal bundle including e.g. The Lancet and Cell Press. However, the consortium does not guarantee to the publisher that all its members will adhere to the national licence….

Here are the main points:

  • Most surprising: This agreement provides for a gradual 13.3% reduction in license costs over 4 years -5% in 2019, -4% in 2020, -3% in 2021 and -2% in 2022, in total -13.305% over four years.
  • There is 25% discount on article processing charges (APC). There will also be a compensatory clause if these APCs increase by more than 3.5%. Excluded from this discount are – as I understand it – only the society journals, e.g. The Lancet and the Cell Press titles. Included are all Open Access journals and hybrid journals. The 3.5% threshold refers to annual price increases.
  • Regarding Green Open Access the agreement allows automatic access 12 months after formal publication to the „accepted author manuscript“ (AAM) or post print directly on Elsevier’s service Sciencedirect. After 24 months the pdf file of this manuscript will be deposited on the HAL platform (the CNRS Open Access Repository). The license to make AAMs available is more restrictive than most Creative Commons licenses. It allows reading, downloading, printing, translating, text & data mining but does not allow redistribution or re-use (neither commercial or non-commercial)….”

Norway and Elsevier meet a nine million Euro agreement including a Gold Open Access clause » scidecode

“The Norwegian consortium for higher education and research and the publishing house Elsevier agreed two days ago to a national license. This provides Norwegian researchers not only access to articles published in Elsevier’s journals (including the society journals as The Lancet or CELL Press) but also the opportunity to publish their results Open Access. Seven universities and 39 research institutions will benefit from the two-year agreement….

In similar agreements, e.g. in Finland, an Open Access publication was by far not allowed in all Elsevier journals. But according to Openaccess.no the contract covers up to 90 percent of the articles published by scientists from members of the consortium. Only the society journals (about 400 in total) will be excluded….

Just as with the Wiley DEAL in Germany, this agreement also strengthens the allegedly unpopular Hybrid Open Access, which was even disallowed by Plan S. The agreement with Elsevier in France is different and should strengthen Green Open Access.”

German Publishing Giant Claims Blocking Ads Is Copyright Infringement, In Yet Another Lawsuit Against The Industry Leader | Techdirt

Of course, big publishers don’t let little things like losing court cases at every level of the legal system stop them from pursuing their attack. As the Heise Online site explains (original in German), Axel Springer is suing Eyeo yet again, this time for alleged copyright infringement (via Google Translate):

“Advertising blockers change the programming code of websites and thus directly access the legally protected offerings of publishers,” explains Claas-Hendrik Soehring, Head of Media Law at Axel Springer. “In the long run, they will not only damage a central financing basis for digital journalism but will also jeopardize open access to opinion-forming information on the Internet “

As Eyeo’s company spokesperson pointed out to Heise Online, this claim is ridiculous. Adblocking software operates within a person’s browser; it simply changes what appears on the screen by omitting the ads. It’s no different from resizing a browser window, or modifying a Web page’s appearance using one of the hundreds of other browser plugins that are available. It’s completely under the control of the user, and doesn’t touch anything on the server side. …”

Change ahead: How do smaller publishers perceive open access? | Impact of Social Sciences

“Small and medium-sized publishers also tend to operate much less profitably than large global publishers, which makes it difficult for them to to build new infrastructures and develop innovative offerings….

More than three quarters of all small and medium-sized publishers who took part in the survey published books and journals in the humanities and social sciences, reflecting the fact that global publishing companies dominate the market in natural sciences….[W]hilst all the participants in the survey publish scholarly books (usually fewer than 100 per year), most of them publish academic journals as well….

A vast majority (90%) of the 33 survey participants reported a slow or significant increase in Open Access requests from their authors. One third believed that Open Access will become the future standard of scholarly publishing; another 60% assumed that it will complement existing services….

Nearly half of respondents preferred Gold Open Access as a business model to Green and Hybrid Open Access. This cohort, as to be expected, also turned out to be more open-minded towards and experienced with Open Access publishing than the circa 30% who prefer Green Open Access….

Only a third of respondents reported making their Open Access publications accessible via established platforms such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), and no more than 27% say they have a self-archiving policy. Only 20% of the publishers rated their staff’s knowledge of Open Access as “very good” and there are considerable differences depending on disciplines and publishing programmes….

Most expect a decline in sales as a consequence of the free availability of “their” works and associate Open Access with legal uncertainties, unclear business models and pressure from politicians and funders. However, a considerable number of publishers apparently have also not yet paid much attention to the issue. Only 67% of the participants state that they are familiar with the content of the “Berlin Declaration“, a fundamental document of the Open Access movement, and 43% say the requirements for Open Access publications are unclear to them….

Overall, “traditional” publishers are more open-minded than might be expected about the topic of Open Access and for good reason: funder announcements, such as Plan S, that they will move to only accepting Open Access publications are rapidly becoming more effective. Scholarly Publishers who do not adapt their services to this changing demand, or who are unaware of it at all, are likely to have a rude awakening in the future.”