The Scientific Community Supports Funders Mandating Open Access, Adds Balance to the Discussion of the Plan S

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, April 9, 2010 | © Courtesy of Tom Ipri /Flickr.
University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, April 9, 2010 | © Courtesy of Tom Ipri /Flickr.

More than 1,800 researchers have endorsed the plan by science funding bodies to transition to Open Access their models of disbursing funds to researchers, as the European Plan S continues to garner international backing, such as from China.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Launched on November 28, 2018, an online statement by scholars from around the world has effectively affirmed the importance of Open Access scientific progress, the barrier-free dissemination of research results and the pivotal role that funders can play, such as through their mandates, in maintaining or changing the existing system of scholarly publishing.

Though this statement does not refer to the Plan S or specific models of Open Access, despite its de facto endorsement of Gold Open Access, it recognizes that communication between different scientific publishing stakeholders will be essential to the shape that transitions to Open Access will be taking, while countervailing the criticism the plan gathered.

At the end of the day, it is funding organizations, such as universities, that are creating incentives for scholars and researchers to choose publication venues for their articles, e.g., by concluding subscription contracts with large publishers of paywall-protected journal. In this respect, the Plan S does not rule out publishing in closed-access journals, as long as pre-print versions of published articles are available from institutional repositories or archives. This is illustrated by the Open Access transition plans of the University of California that considers backing off from renewing its journal subscription contract with Elsevier that entails yearly costs of about 11 million USD in exchange for accessing the publisher’s portfolio of 1,500 periodical titles.

For this reason, the University of California, as both a beneficiary of public funding and a body that makes independent budget allocation decisions, would like to conclude with Elsevier a publish-and-read contract that includes both journal subscriptions and the offsetting of article processing charges for articles published in Open Access that total on a yearly basis about 1 million USD in fees paid to this published alone. Yet Elsevier considers the subscription-based publishing as the basis of its business model, while showing willingness to implement Open Access on a limited basis.

However, for increasingly underfunded state-financed universities, such as the University of California, the annually increasing costs of journal subscription contracts, such as more than 11% that Elsevier has been charging between 2013 and 2018, could be becoming difficult to shoulder.

This could also be the reason behind the intention of China’s scientific organizations, such as the Natural Science Foundation of China, to effectuate a transition to Open Access in the long term, in correspondence to the objectives of the Plan S that effectively seeks to change science funding and evaluation criteria.

This shows a global momentum behind Open Access, that across its different models has grown to more than 20% of total scholarly article output worldwide in 2016, as governmental and philanthropic funders of scientific research seek to reduce the lock-in effect of paywall-based models that require regularly renewed subscription agreements with usually rising costs that they entail, such as through read-and-publish agreements.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA, April 9, 2010 | © Courtesy of Tom Ipri /Flickr.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared in OpenScience, 12/12/2018,

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