Open Access Plans — S, T, U, so far

By Jan Velterop

Image adapted from the original, by vectorpouch.

In a few earlier posts1,2, I have mentioned, and commented on, Plan S. In September of 2018, immediately after Plan S was presented, Tim Vines published a post on The Scholarly Kitchen3 in which he argues that Plan S, based on funding open access with Article processing Fees (APCs) should be scrapped and instead, OA should be financed by submission fees. He called his idea Plan T (I guess because T follows S in the alphabet). It is an old idea, but a valid one. I have for a long time been in favor of submission charges. After all, getting a paper reviewed and accepted in a journal is like doing an exam, to get a driver’s licence, for instance. One has to pay for such an exam, whether or not one passes or fails. Tim Vines uses the example of a dental check up in his post. You don’t just pay if the dentist finds a cavity to fill or a tooth to extract.

For publishers, moving to a submission fee based business model carries with it a significant first-mover disadvantage. I am reminded of the phenomenon in the 1960s and 70s of authors abandoning society-run journals and flocking to commercial ones, partly because of societies levying page charges and commercial journals presenting researchers with free publication options (free to authors, that is). Tim Vines seems rather optimistic of his Plan T having a good chance of success, given, as he expects that “having submission fees paid directly by funders would also significantly mitigate the first-mover effect, and helpfully the direct payment of publication fees is already part of Plan S.”3

I am less optimistic. Not because I believe that funders would refuse to pick up the bill, but for another reason: what a submission fee would do, is oblige a publisher to guarantee carrying out proper peer review and truly justifying any rejection. That is something many publishers may not – possibly cannot – do, or are most uncomfortable doing.

So, on to the next letter in the alphabet: Plan U. The same day that Tim Vines’ post was published, Richard Sever (of Cold Spring Harbor Publishers and bioRxiv) reacted by firing off a tweet which said: “Plan U: just mandate preprint deposition and let a downstream ecosystem of overlays/journals with various business models evolve in response to community needs. Side benefit: speeding up science massively…”4

Now we’re talking. This is entirely in line with what I proposed in 2015 [in a blog post]5. At first, Plan U appeared on a web site, planu.org, which was anonymous, undated, and doesn’t exist anymore. However, on June 4th, 2019, a formal article entitled “Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates”6 appeared in the journal PLOS Biology. There is no reason whatsoever why this Plan U should not take off, although it may initially go slowly, given the usual inertia in the scientific community at large.

Plan U offers science communication everything it needs. Rapid sharing of research results via preprints, without the sometimes high cost of APCs; options of obtaining peer review and formal journal publication afterwards. And the latter, which can be expensive, only if and when necessary for funding or career development. It even may make the differences between open access and subscription journals fairly irrelevant for the dissemination of research results, as an open access version of every article will in any way be guaranteed via the preprint.

Notes

1. VELTEROP, J. Plan S — and Article Processing Charges (APCs) [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/11/27/plan-s-and-article-processing-charges-apcs/

2. VELTEROP, J. Is a dramatic boost to open access imminent? I think so! [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/02/13/is-a-dramatic-boost-to-open-access-imminent-i-think-so/

3. VINES, T. Plan T: Scrap APCs and Fund Open Access with Submission Fees [online]. The Scholarly Kitchen, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/09/20/plan-t-scrap-apcs-and-fund-open-access-with-submission-fees/

4. SEVER, R. [social network]. In: @cshperspectives [online]. Twitter, September 20, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://twitter.com/cshperspectives/status/1042721777540100096

5. VELTEROP, J. Science (which needs communication) first, careers (which need selectivity) later [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/10/29/science-which-needs-communication-first-careers-which-need-selectivity-later/

6. SEVER, R., EISEN, M. and INGLIS, J. Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates. PLOS Biology [online]. 2019, vol. 17, no.6, e3000273 [viewed 19 June 2019]. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000273. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000273

References

POYNDER, R. The Open Access Interviews: Jan Velterop [online]. Open and Shut?, 2012 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://poynder.blogspot.com/2012/02/open-access-interviews-jan-velterop.html

SEVER, R. [social network]. In: @cshperspectives [online]. Twitter, September 20, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://twitter.com/cshperspectives/status/1042721777540100096

SEVER, R., EISEN, M. and INGLIS, J. Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates. PLOS Biology [online]. 2019, vol. 17, no.6, e3000273 [viewed 19 June 2019]. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000273. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000273

VELTEROP, J. Is a dramatic boost to open access imminent? I think so! [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/02/13/is-a-dramatic-boost-to-open-access-imminent-i-think-so/

VELTEROP, J. Plan S — and Article Processing Charges (APCs) [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2018/11/27/plan-s-and-article-processing-charges-apcs/

VELTEROP, J. Science (which needs communication) first, careers (which need selectivity) later [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/10/29/science-which-needs-communication-first-careers-which-need-selectivity-later/

VINES, T. Plan T: Scrap APCs and Fund Open Access with Submission Fees [online]. The Scholarly Kitchen, 2018 [viewed 19 June 2019]. Available from: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/09/20/plan-t-scrap-apcs-and-fund-open-access-with-submission-fees/

External link

Plan S and cOAlition S <https://www.coalition-s.org/>

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. Open Access Plans — S, T, U, so far [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/06/19/open-access-plans-s-t-u-so-far/

 

2 Thoughts on “Open Access Plans — S, T, U, so far

  1. Jan, I respect you opinion and agree with most of what you are saying here. However, the difficult questions are not addressed. They revolve around this section:

    “[Plan U offers ….] options of obtaining peer review and formal journal publication afterwards. And the latter, which can be expensive, only if and when necessary for funding or career development.”

    The questions I have here are:

    1) In a hypothetical future situation where journal publication would not be necessary for funding or careers for anyone, could we do away with all journals? Or are journals the one and only option to support funding and career decisions? Now more funders and institutions sign DORA one would expect that journals will stop being a vehicle for such decisions.

    2) As there are just “options to obtain peer review”, what should drive the decision to have peer review and who should do the peer review? As the preprint will be the publication, peer review will be entirely post publication. It will not not support processes of selection/rejection but only discussion/improvement. Given that change, would organizing/promoting/overviewing community peer review not be something that lies closer to societies than to journal publishers?

    • Jan Velterop on July 15, 2019 at 07:29 said:

      Jeroen,

      You rightly call a situation where journal publication would not be necessary for funding or careers for anyone hypothetical. It is, for now. That’s why I said that formal publication in journals may still be deemed necessary, in the judgement of the author, or funder, or institution. Of course, that will diminish, and hopefully disappear altogether, when the DORA ethic is universal. But what’s important for me is that the results of research are being freely and openly shared, whether or not they are published in formal journals. If journals are not needed for careers or funding, they may still be useful organising devices for some, although I expect that will wane as well, especially if these ‘organising devices’ are expensive.

      As for your second question, the decision to try to get peer review for articles posted as preprints could be taken by anyone. By authors, by readers, by funders (tied up, perhaps, with obtaining reviews for funding proposals by the same researcher), and indeed editors of journals who may want to formally publish a preprint they find interesting. Rejection is not much of an issue, in my view, as most papers are eventually published anyway, down the cascade of prestige, but selection and improvement may add value. Community peer review would be good, but I would not necessarily just rely on societies for that. Many societies are also publishers and only distinguishable from commercial publishers in the fact that they are not-for-profit. That can – and does, often enough – just mean that their ‘profits’ are called ‘surpluses’. Of course, these surpluses are mostly used for the benefit of the discipline in question, but profits can have benefits, too. Just think of the pension funds for academics which hold shares in publishing companies.

      What Plan U would do is let the open preprint be the method of sharing results, and in parallel to that, the journals the method of formally adding a judgement or a ‘ribbon’, a prestige label. Sharing research results and awarding ‘ribbons’ should be separated. And the services that journals provide may not be deemed necessary by any of the stakeholders for a given paper. If the author or funder wants these services, the system of APCs is a good way of paying for it; if the reader does, the system of access fees (or subscriptions) is.

      By the way, review is not necessarily only post-publication for a preprint. Authors could invite experts in their fields (they may know better who the experts are than some of the journals to which they might submit) to review their manuscripts, and take any critical views or suggestions for improvement into account, before posting their preprint.

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