Is a dramatic boost to open access imminent? I think so!

By Jan Velterop

Open access has already existed for some 20 years, and longer even, albeit under a different name and on a rather small scale. Its growth, though steady, has been disappointingly slow. However, this year, 2019, has the makings of being a pivotal year for open access. The stars are aligned and the constellation is very promising. A number of developments are coming together.

The one I would like to mention first is Plan S1. Plan S is an initiative by (initially European) research funders, under the umbrella of “cOAlition S”, to boost open access2. I have written on this blog about Plan S before3, and I do realize that whatever I write about it now is not going to be in any way comprehensive, as literally every day there are new comments, criticisms, messages of support, suggestions for improvement, etcetera.

The EU “Open Access Envoy” Robert-Jan Smits recently revealed in a talk at the Academic Publishers in Europe (APE) meeting in Berlin (January 2019)4 that upon the announcement of Plan S, there were tens of thousands of reactions on Twitter and other social media. By now that has likely grown into the hundreds of thousands, and is still growing. The reactions and social media chatter come from all over the world. The size and breadth of the discussion indicates the great interest in Plan S and open access, and I may be mistaken, but in my impression, we are witnessing a greater interest in open access than what we have seen until now.

Although there is much support for Plan S, there are also many criticisms. From traditional commercial publishers, as may be expected, and from scholarly society publishers5, but also from the research community itself. Take, for instance, an open letter entitled “Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky”6 from “Researchers to European Funding Agencies, Academies, Universities, Research Institutions, and Decision Makers”. It is interesting and noteworthy that the signatories to this open letter come in majority from the chemical science community. The physics community, on the other hand, seems by-and-large much further ahead with open access. This is possibly due to the well-established culture of posting preprints – which are open and free to read – in the widely used ArXiv repository7. Young academies8, representing early-career researchers, seem also hesitant to fully support Plan S9.

In his talk in Berlin, Robert-Jan Smits did not hide it, but mentioned4 that there was indeed criticism of Plan S, and he grouped that into three categories:

  1. Genuine concerns – mostly from the smaller society publishers, which support open access, but don’t quite know how to make it work in their environment and financial set-up;
  2. “Fake news” – comments accusing Plan S of being “only about ‘gold’ OA”, ignoring “platinum” OA and repositories, etc. He dismissed those criticisms and those who utter them should just read the Plan S proposals properly;
  3. “Demagoguery” – attempts to derail the process by casting aspersions that are not based in fact, such as the assertion that Plan S “would hamper academic freedom”, that OA stood for “low quality and absence of proper peer review”, for “promoting ‘predatory’ journals”, and that Plan S would be “putting an end to global scientific cooperation”.

The criticisms in the latter two categories are of a spurious, emotional, “shooting-from-the-hip” nature, and they do not cut any ice once you carefully think about them. About the first category, Smits said he has, and cOAlition S members have, sympathy for those concerns, and they will be considering how to help.

In the first issue of this year, the journal Science asked the question “will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers?”10 They immediately provide an answer: “In December 2018, China stunned many by expressing strong support for Plan S. This month, a national funding agency in Africa is expected to join, possibly followed by a second U.S. funder. Others around the world are considering whether to sign on.”

But there is more. Preprints have experienced a strong growth, and the growth keeps accelerating. An increasing number of disciplines are joining the preprint bandwagon. Just a few very recent entrants are, for instance, AgriXiv11, ChemRxiv12, EarthArXiv13, LawArxiv14, NutriXiv15, PaleorXiv16. Obviously, these preprint services are very new, and activity is still very low. But growth can come quickly. BioRxiv, an important preprint server for biology that was established earlier, in November, 2013, contained more than 30,000 unique preprints at the end of January 2019, and keeps showing continued strong growth, according to a tweet posted by Richard Sever, bioRxiv’s co-founder17. Preprints also seem to become more acceptable – and faster – as tools for evaluating suitable candidates for research positions18, previously done most often on the basis of the Impact Factor (IF) of the journals in which they had published.

There is even more. The idea of mandates as proposed by Plan S, prompted Michael Eisen, reportedly in collaboration with bioRxiv, to propose that preprints be mandated, i.e. research funders requiring their grantees to post their manuscripts first on preprint servers, before submitting them to journals. He calls it “PlanU”19. It is the logical consequence of the technical possibilities of publication on the internet which allows the dissemination of research results and their formal assessment by peer-reviewed journals, to be disentangled (I have previously written about that on this blog20, 21, 22).

In a post called “Maybe Try Another Kind Of Mandate?”23, Björn Brembs argues for a funder mandate (instead of just a set of guidelines) for the kind of infrastructure which institutions should provide to grant recipients. I like to call his proposal Plan I. It would help researchers comply with mandates such as imposed by Plan S, if their institutions were mandated to provide the infrastructure.

The above relates to open access mandates and preprint trends. However, on top of that there is another trend: that of incorporating open access in license deals with institutions. Those initiatives are sometimes taken from within a discipline – what could be called a forerunner of this is SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics), an initiative24 coordinated by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), and currently counting more than 3000 institutions and funders as partners. SCOAP3, in their own words, “arranges payment of Article Processing Charges at a competitive level, through funds made available from a redirection of former subscription money.” SCOAP3 also operates a repository for all articles published with their support.

But more and more we see consortia of institutions, or whole countries, demanding that publishing with open access for their researchers is part and parcel of any “Big Deal” negotiations with publishers. In these negotiations, for instance, so-called “off-setting” arrangements are worked out (reducing subscription and license costs in line with any APCs paid by researchers from their consortia or countries). For a long time, libraries and their institutions felt that they were not in a position to walk away from a Big Deal if their demands were not met. That has changed. SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) maintains a list25, though they don’t claim it is a comprehensive one, of Big Deal cancellations. The availability of articles via other routes, such as preprint servers, repositories, and, to be realistic, Sci-Hub, gives the institutions the confidence that their researchers do not necessarily have to suffer if a Big Deal is suspended or even cancelled.

All these developments, even though “PlanU” and “Plan I” may not come to fruition in a hurry, and although some of the demands and mandates seem to be in conflict (e.g. the “no-hybrid” requirements of Plan S and the inclusion of hybrid journals in the off-setting arrangements), they mean that the discussion, world-wide, about proper open access to research results has noticeably been intensified. There is no doubt in my mind that that will significantly boost open access in the years to come.

Notes

1. Plan S – Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications [online]. Science Europe. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://www.scienceeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Plan_S.pdf

2. Funders and supporters | Plan S <https://www.coalition-s.org/funders-and-supporters/>

3. VELTEROP, J. Plan S — and Article Processing Charges (APCs) [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/11/27/plan-s-and-article-processing-charges-apcs/

4. Robert-Jan Smits’s talk (Robert Jan Smits at APE Berlin 20190115. Edwin de Kemp on YouTube. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://youtu.be/xDcv_xWnL5s) and the subsequent Questions and Answers (Q&A Robert Jan Smits at APE Berlin 20190115 s. Edwin de Kemp on YouTube. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://youtu.be/Ba1ygB30UGs)

5. For instance: Objections to Plan S [online]. Taking Stock, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://www.asas.org/taking-stock/blog-post/taking-stock/2018/09/26/objections-to-plan-s

6. Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky [online]. Plan S Open Letter. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://sites.google.com/view/plansopenletter/open-letter

7. ArXiv <https://arxiv.org/>

8. The Global Young Academy <https://globalyoungacademy.net/>

9. Opportunities and challenges for implementing Plan S – The View of Young Academies [online]. Global Young Academy. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://globalyoungacademy.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/YA-Statement-on-Plan-S-FINAL.pdf

10. RABESANDRATANA, T. Will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers? [online]. Science Magazine. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/will-world-embrace-plan-s-radical-proposal-mandate-open-access-science-papers

11. AgriXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/agrixiv>

12. ChemRxiv <https://chemrxiv.org/>

13. EarthArXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/eartharxiv>

14. LawArxiv <https://osf.io/preprints/lawarxiv>

15. NutriXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/nutrixiv>

16. PaleorXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/paleorxiv>

17. SEVER, R. [social network]. In: @cshperspectives [online]. Twitter, February 1, 2019 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://twitter.com/cshperspectives/status/1091382947956080641

18. POLKA, J. Preprints in Academic Hiring [online]. DORA blog, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://sfdora.org/2018/08/14/preprints-in-academic-hiring/

19. PlanU (posting not signed) <http://planu.org/>

20. VELTEROP, J. The best of both worlds [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2016 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2016/06/13/the-best-of-both-worlds/

21. VELTEROP, J. Communication and peer review should be universally separated [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/05/25/communication-and-peer-review-should-be-universally-separated/

22. VELTEROP, J. What does a new approach mean (for journals, research councils)? [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/07/19/what-does-a-new-approach-mean-for-journals-research-councils/

23. BREMBS, B. Maybe Try Another Kind Of Mandate? [online]. björn.brembs.blog, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: http://bjoern.brembs.net/2018/11/maybe-try-another-kind-of-mandate/

24. SCOAP3 – Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics <https://scoap3.org>

25. Big Deal Cancellation Tracking [online]. SPARC [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://sparcopen.org/our-work/big-deal-cancellation-tracking/

References

Big Deal Cancellation Tracking [online]. SPARC [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://sparcopen.org/our-work/big-deal-cancellation-tracking/

BREMBS, B. Maybe Try Another Kind Of Mandate? [online]. björn.brembs.blog, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: http://bjoern.brembs.net/2018/11/maybe-try-another-kind-of-mandate/

Objections to Plan S [online]. Taking Stock, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://www.asas.org/taking-stock/blog-post/taking-stock/2018/09/26/objections-to-plan-s

Opportunities and challenges for implementing Plan S – The View of Young Academies [online]. Global Young Academy. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://globalyoungacademy.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/YA-Statement-on-Plan-S-FINAL.pdf

Plan S – Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications [online]. Science Europe. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://www.scienceeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Plan_S.pdf

POLKA, J. Preprints in Academic Hiring [online]. DORA blog, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://sfdora.org/2018/08/14/preprints-in-academic-hiring/

RABESANDRATANA, T. Will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers? [online]. Science Magazine. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/will-world-embrace-plan-s-radical-proposal-mandate-open-access-science-papers

Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky [online]. Plan S Open Letter. 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://sites.google.com/view/plansopenletter/open-letter

Robert Jan Smits at APE Berlin 20190115. Edwin de Kemp on YouTube. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://youtu.be/xDcv_xWnL5s

Q&A Robert Jan Smits at APE Berlin 20190115 s. Edwin de Kemp on YouTube. 2019 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://youtu.be/Ba1ygB30UGs)

SEVER, R. [social network]. In: @cshperspectives [online]. Twitter, February 1, 2019 [viewed 13 February 2018]. Available from: https://twitter.com/cshperspectives/status/1091382947956080641

VELTEROP, J. Communication and peer review should be universally separated [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/05/25/communication-and-peer-review-should-be-universally-separated/

VELTEROP, J. Plan S — and Article Processing Charges (APCs) [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/11/27/plan-s-and-article-processing-charges-apcs/

VELTEROP, J. The best of both worlds [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2016 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2016/06/13/the-best-of-both-worlds/

VELTEROP, J. What does a new approach mean (for journals, research councils)? [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 13 February 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/07/19/what-does-a-new-approach-mean-for-journals-research-councils/

External Links

AgriXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/agrixiv>

ArXiv <https://arxiv.org/>

ChemRxiv <https://chemrxiv.org/>

EarthArXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/eartharxiv>

Funders and supporters | Plan S <https://www.coalition-s.org/funders-and-supporters/>

LawArxiv <https://osf.io/preprints/lawarxiv>

NutriXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/nutrixiv>

PaleorXiv <https://osf.io/preprints/paleorxiv>

PlanU (posting not signed) <http://planu.org/>

SCOAP3 – Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics <https://scoap3.org>

The Global Young Academy <https://globalyoungacademy.net/>

 

About Jan Velterop

Jan Velterop (1949), marine geophysicist who became a science publisher in the mid-1970s. He started his publishing career at Elsevier in Amsterdam. in 1990 he became director of a Dutch newspaper, but returned to international science publishing in 1993 at Academic Press in London, where he developed the first country-wide deal that gave electronic access to all AP journals to all institutes of higher education in the United Kingdom (later known as the BigDeal). He next joined Nature as director, but moved quickly on to help get BioMed Central off the ground. He participated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. In 2005 he joined Springer, based in the UK as Director of Open Access. In 2008 he left to help further develop semantic approaches to accelerate scientific discovery. He is an active advocate of BOAI-compliant open access and of the use of microattribution, the hallmark of so-called “nanopublications”. He published several articles on both topics.

 

Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

VELTEROP, J. Is a dramatic boost to open access imminent? I think so! [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/02/13/is-a-dramatic-boost-to-open-access-imminent-i-think-so/

 

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