Consultation response – NPOS2030 Ambition Document

In November-December 2021, the Dutch National Program Open Science (NPOS) set up an open consultation (archived link) to give all Dutch stakeholders the opportunity to provide input on the NPOS2030 Ambition Document, comprised of NPOS’ vision for 2030, the guiding principles underlying this vision, and the proposed program framework and key action lines.

Here we share our submitted response to the consultation. The response was drafted in collaboration and submitted on 2021-12-22.

Jeroen Bosman  (@jeroenbosman)
Bianca Kramer (@MsPhelps)
Jeroen Sondervan  (@jeroenson)

NPOS2030 Ambition document infographic (source)

Part 1: NPOS Guiding Principles

General remarks:

  • The document lacks a sense of urgency. Apart from the Citizen Science aspect it is not sufficiently clear in what ways this ambition document adds to or deviates from the previous NPOS programme. We also miss reflection on the previous programme. Has that been successful in all respects and if not, how does the current ambition address that? Will those acting in this space (esp. on open access and FAIR data) do anything differently because of this ambition? Will they feel inspired or supported by guidance offered in the abition?
  • We are somewhat disappointed by the relatively narrow scope of the ambition and by the lack of concrete proposals to make real steps forward in practising open science. Especially so, because this should be an ambition for the next 8 years. A period in which it is expected to see lots of developments in different aspects regarding Open Science.

    Just a few suggestions of the type of actions and goals that we miss:
    • in open science in education: embed the open science skill set and mindset in all bachelor and master programmes at universities and universities of applied sciences;
    • in open access: move towards 50% diamond article publishing by 2027 and create a national open source and publicly governed ORE type publication platform;
    • also in open access: create a national campaign to deposit all retrospective output of current  affiliated researchers using Taverne;
    • in rewards & recognition: foster a culture in which journal/publisher level evaluation of publications/researchers is no longer desired;
    • in public engagement: create support to help researchers to add plain language summaries to all their publications and deposit those with the articles in repositories and also create infrastructure to leverage those summaries in public engagement
    • also in public engagement: explicitly reward researchers for using 1% of their research time to check and improve wikipedia on their topics
  • Overall the structure of the entire document could be better and we suggest shortening of the document. Parts of chapter 1 (especially section 1.3) could be integrated in the following chapters 2, 3 and 4. As a reader it is confusing to first read quite elaborately about these topics and then see them detailed even more in separate chapters. We suggest to integrate 1.3 into the three following chapters, thus dealing with the vision, mission and action lines in a coherent way in one place for each of the three domains.
  • The structure of Chapter 1 is unbalanced. It begins with the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, But on further reading, this definition seems to keep standing on its own. Throughout the document, little or no connections are made with the recommendation and to what extent the NPOS adopts this definition in full. By making this more clear and more importantly justify the choices being made that are guided by the UNESCO Recommendation, it would make the NPOS statement much stronger and ‘embedded’. By doing so, it is probably also much easier to connect principles to vision and action lines. 
  • In line with the previous comment, the ‘Guiding Principles’ as they are currently presented seem to be a selection. Moreover, it is not well motivated why especially this set of principles is chosen. This should be explained/justified more. Now section 1.1.1 works as a perfect hook, but the following section(s) are not using that hook sufficiently.
  • We suggest adding a glossary with definitions of the main concepts, to make the document more accessible to readers that are new to open science discussions. It will also help with the consistent use of definitions throughout the document (e.g. now confusion is created by using all kinds of alternatives to the ‘as open as’ adage). 

Remarks on specific Guiding principles:

  • The concepts of digital and academic sovereignty need much more explanation, especially as they are relatively new concepts and because they play an important role in various parts of the document. Also, it should be made more clear to what extent these are considered a driving force for open science (‘the interest of transparent, inclusive and reliable knowledge creation’) or, conversely, as a barrier to openness.
  • The concept of subsidiarity also needs further clarification. It is implied that it will guide the process of the transition and which stakeholder will take up which role. It invokes the question of who this document is for. Is the document voicing the ambition of all stakeholders in NPOS? Also, the implications of this principle should be made more clear. What type of issues do require more national or centralized action even if that might deviate at some points from when and how all individual stakeholders would have acted (as for instance has been done in the case of national read and publish deals). The report mentions several instances of national initiatives, esp. for a number of platforms, OKB and such, as if decisions have already been taken. How does that fit into the subsidiarity principle?

Part 2: NPOS Vision for 2030

  • We miss a more elaborate and contextualised vision for those aspects in the ambition that are new compared to the previous programme. It should be made clear why aspects like citizen science, digital/academic sovereignty, and the ambition to look at public values and to become less dependent on (commercial) publishers are so important. It should be clear to the reader what would go wrong if these were not addressed in the ambition. That is the case as the document is now. We also miss reference to the latest version of the Guiding Principles on Management for Research Information and its recommendations.
  • We appreciate the aspect of making open science normative, but would suggest to not only leave this as something for open science communities to address. There is a clear need for leadership and influential role models to explicitly state a preference for practicing open science and expecting it from others. These could be deans, prize winners, and others.

Part 3: Programme lines and requirements

  • The justification for the programme lines should be made much more prominent. Further on in the document, it is stated that the three programme lines are not the only developments that are deemed important, but that these are the ones where central coordination is considered crucial. The question why this is crucial is unanswered. This should be made much more prominent as an explanation of the choices made for NPOS2030. Also the reason for disregarding other aspects of open science (Open Education, Research Integrity and Reproducibility of scientific results are mentioned) is not very strong. It is stated that these are either already being taken up or relatively new. In our view both do not justify leaving these aspects out
  • The central role of recognition and rewards in the transition to open science should be mentioned early on in the document, and a justification given as to why it is not in itself considered part of NPOS2030. Currently, it is only explicitly linked to Open Access. Similarly, research integrity gets a mention in relation to the organization of publishing, but in the current ambition document it does not seem to be considered an integral aspect of open science.
  • We support the suggestion for alternative programme lines as proposed by the Open Science Communities Netherlands in their feedback (available at ).
  • The programme line Citizen Science seems to take a specific view on the relation between Open Science, Citizen Science and RRI (Figure 3). The emphasis on these as separate developments with only limited overlap encourages compartmentalization, rather than considering open science as an integrated approach towards more relevant, robust and efficient research. 
  • The requirements are not well integrated with the rest of the document. In the introduction to the requirements, it is mentioned that ‘(…) the Programme Lines will address a set of essential requirements needed for this culture change‘ – but this is not reflected in the description of the programme lines themselves.

Part 4: Key lines of action for the programme lines:

We only highlight the most pressing issues here. We won’t go into specific details (issues around consistent use of definitions, terminology and (business) models, etc.) 

Open Access

  • The action line on applying open access to all output is great but there is not a beginning of ideas on how to realize that. Also it is unclear whether the 100% OA goal is also applied to all outputs.
  • The importance of metadata is lacking in the mission and action lines for open access, though it is said to be part of the OA programme line. Explicit attention for metadata is important in relation to OA of all scholarly output, as well as openness of this metadata. It could be part of negotiations with publishers as well as a consideration in creating publishing infrastructure.

FAIR data

  • We regret that there is no action line on increasing the amount of publicly shared research data sets. It is somewhat disappointing that there is no guidance or ambition on what is expected regarding making data open and open-licensed, beyond just making it FAIR. Additionally we regret that the adage ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’ has been watered down to ‘Open as early as possible, and closed when necessary’. We welcome that early opening up is seen as important but would advise to maintain the gradual nature of closedness, as in the original adage. In that context the concept of protected sharing introduced in this ambition should be framed as a way to share data that would otherwise remain closed and not as an excuse to not share in a fully open manner in cases where that is perfectly viable.

Citizen science

  • We suggest adding a few lines defining citizen science. Also it would help to make clear how citizen science and public engagement are related, but also how they are different concepts.
  • Currently the Citizen Science sections feels not very well integrated with the other sections. We would welcome a vision on the relation between FAIR and open data, open access and citizen science.

Er is wel degelijk een open access citatievoordeel -maar misschien gaat het daar niet om

Reactie op het ScienceGuide artikel ‘Publicaties in open access worden minder geciteerd, maar hebben meer impact’

Bianca Kramer & Jeroen Bosman

[This post in Dutch is a reaction to a Dutch language article in the online magazine ScienceGuide. In it we point at methodological issues in that article where it concerns calculating citation advantage ratios of open access publications.]

Een recent artikel in ScienceGuide ‘Publicaties in open access worden minder geciteerd, maar hebben meer impact’ ‘stelt dat open access (OA) artikelen vaker gedownload, gedeeld en bediscussieerd worden dan artikelen die niet open access beschikbaar zijn (vooral door lezers buiten de academische wereld), maar minder vaak worden geciteerd.

Het artikel rapporteert over onderzoek dat door Springer Nature is uitgevoerd met medewerking van de VSNU en de Nederlandse universiteitsbibliotheken. De stelling dat open access publicaties minder geciteerd worden is echter gebaseerd op een eigen analyse door ScienceGuide van de database Dimensions. Op deze analyse valt ons inziens het een en ander af te dingen, wat we hier met een korte check hopen te laten zien.  

ScienceGuide stelt dat ‘een OA-artikel in 2020 gemiddeld 17 keer geciteerd werd, terwijl verwijzingen naar betaalde artikelen gemiddeld 20 keer voorkwamen’. Als gemiddeld aantal citaties per artikel in één jaar zouden dergelijke hoge aantallen sowieso vraagtekens moeten oproepen.  Voor zover wij kunnen nagaan, is in de analyse van ScienceGuide het aantal citaties in 2020 naar alle OA publicaties in Dimensions gedeeld door het aantal OA publicaties uit 2020: 51,462,310 / 3,092,745 = 16,6 en idem voor gesloten publicaties: 61.099.078 / 3,007,612 = 20,3 (data van 6 maart 2021). Daarbij is niet gefilterd op artikelen, terwijl in de tekst wel wordt gesproken over artikelen. Waar we hier echter op in willen gaan is dat de berekening zoals die is uitgevoerd niet zinvol is en een onjuiste suggestie wekt.

Als de intentie is geweest om na te gaan hoe vaak in 2020 gemiddeld verwezen werd naar een een OA artikel versus een gesloten artikel, zou het aantal citaties in 2020 gedeeld moeten worden door het totaal aantal artikelen in de database (voor zowel OA en gesloten artikelen). Die grove berekening, eveneens uitgevoerd in Dimensions, wijst op een citatievoordeel voor OA artikelen (49,664,551 / 28,393,702 = 1,7 citaties per artikel) vergeleken met gesloten artikelen (56,164,426 / 67,479,719 = 0,8 citaties per artikel).

Het is ook mogelijk om te kijken naar het totaal aantal citaties per artikel (dus niet alleen citaties uit 2020). Als we dat doen voor artikelen uit de jaren 2012-2020 (zie data en berekeningen), zien we opnieuw een citatievoordeel voor OA artikelen, dat toeneemt naarmate artikelen langer geleden gepubliceerd zijn (en dus langer de tijd hebben gehad om geciteerd te worden). Als we de artikelen uitsplitsen naar type OA, blijkt het citatievoordeel het sterkst voor green OA (artikelen gedeeld in een repository) en hybrid OA (OA artikelen in abonnementstijdschriften, die ook gesloten artikelen bevatten). Green OA betekent hier ‘green only’: artikelen die niet ook gold of hybrid of bronze open access zijn.

Omdat gemiddelde aantallen citaties per artikel sterk beïnvloed kunnen worden door een klein aantal artikelen dat extreem vaak geciteerd wordt, hebben we ook gekeken naar de mediaan van het aantal citaties per artikel, een parameter die ook getoond wordt in Dimensions. Hieruit blijkt voor artikelen uit de meest recente jaren geen algemeen citatievoordeel voor OA artikelen versus gesloten artikelen, maar nog steeds wel voor green OA. 

Ten slotte hebben we gekeken naar het percentage artikelen dat (volgens de informatie in Dimensions) ten minste één keer geciteerd is. Het stuk in ScienceGuide noemt de lage citatiegraad van artikelen, naar we aannemen die uit 2020. Dat is niet verwonderlijk omdat artikelen uit dat jaar nog nauwelijks de kans hebben gehad om geciteerd te worden. Sommige artikelen uit 2020 zijn pas net verschenen. Zoals te verwachten is het percentage geciteerde artikelen hoger naarmate artikelen ouder zijn. We zien hier dat, in vergelijking met gesloten artikelen, OA artikelen die ouder zijn 2 jaar wat vaker minimaal één keer geciteerd zijn. Dit geldt in sterke mate voor green OA artikelen, waar het effect voor alle jaren zichtbaar is. Al deze berekeningen en data in deze post zijn overigens beschikbaar.

In tegenstelling tot de berekening die ScienceGuide heeft toegepast, lijken al deze data te wijzen op een (licht) citatievoordeel voor OA artikelen, wat in lijn is met een aantal eerdere onderzoeken, waaronder de grootschalige studies van Archambault et al. (2016) en van Piwowar et al. (2018) en de overzichtsstudie van Lewis (2018). Tevens is er een nuttige lijst van SPARC Europe met tientallen studies waarin is gekeken naar het vermeende citatievoordeel. 

Ook in de studie van Springer Nature die door ScienceGuide besproken wordt, is behalve naar downloads en altmetrics data, gekeken naar citaties. Voor 350K publicaties (artikelen, conference proceedings en boekhoofdstukken) uit 2017 die gerelateerd zijn aan de Sustainable Development Goals werd in Dimensions geen direct citatievoordeel gevonden voor OA versus gesloten publicaties, maar wanneer een regressiemodel werd toegepast met correcties voor ‘meerdere variabelen op het niveau van de publicatie, auteur en tijdschrift’ leek er alsnog een citatievoordeel te zijn voor hybrid OA (zie de figuur hieronder, overgenomen uit het Springer Nature rapport, p. 15). In de studie van Springer Nature is overigens in het geheel niet gekeken naar green OA. 

Het is goed te bedenken dat de door ons uitgevoerde analyses afhankelijk zijn van de compleetheid van publicatie- en citatiedata in Dimensions. Elke database met citatiegegevens heeft zijn eigen beperkingen, maar een vergelijkbare analyse in Lens (een vrij beschikbare bibliografische database) geeft hetzelfde beeld (zie data en grafieken). En uiteraard impliceren statistische verbanden niet automatisch causale verbanden. De populaties waarnaar gekeken wordt kunnen onderling verschillen op andere aspecten dan alleen open access status, wat een effect kan hebben op de gevonden patronen. Het kan om die reden bijvoorbeeld ook interessant zijn om te kijken naar verschillen tussen vakgebieden (zie data en grafieken). Een analyse hiervan voert hier echter te ver.

De gevonden opvallend hogere waarden voor artikelen die via green OA zijn gedeeld komt overeen met wat werd gevonden in de studies van Piwowar et al. en Archambault et al. Hogere waarden voor green en ook hybrid OA, vooral ten opzichte van artikelen in full gold open access tijdschriften kunnen mogelijk worden verklaard uit het feit dat green en hybrid open access vooral van toepassing is op traditionele tijdschriften, met gemiddeld een grotere bekendheid en op dit moment nog vaak sterkere reputatie dan veel van de nieuwere full gold open access tijdschriften. Specifiek voor green OA komen daar mogelijk nog 2 effecten bij: het effect van de glossy tijdschriften waarin open access publiceren tot voor kort niet mogelijk was (zoals Nature, Science en Cell), en waar green OA dus de enige mogelijkheid was, en het effect dat veel tijdschriften in Life Sciences artikelen green OA beschikbaar maken via PubMed Central en dat veel auteurs in Physical Sciences artikelen delen in arXiv. 

De stelling in het ScienceGuide artikel dat OA artikelen minder geciteerd worden dan gesloten artikelen, blijkt in onze analyse niet door de gebruikte data ondersteund te worden. Er zijn wel degelijk sterke aanwijzingen dat open access artikelen vaker geciteerd worden. Los hiervan zijn we geen voorstander van het tegen elkaar afzetten van citaties en ‘externe impact’ als doelen, zeker waar dit laatste wordt afgemeten aan een eendimensionale maat als een geaggregeerde Altmetric score. Het doet geen recht aan de vele manieren waarop impact bereikt kan worden en doet tevens geen recht aan aan de vele beweegredenen om open access te publiceren.

Deze post heeft een CC BY 4.0 license.

Consultation on Guiding Principles on Management of Research Information and Data

For the sake of transparency and to stimulate discussion we share our submitted responses to the Consultation on Guiding Principles on Management of Research Information and Data, held in June 2020 in the Netherlands by the Dutch association of universities (VSNU). Below, please find the responses by:

Jeroen Bosman (@jeroenbosman)
Bianca Kramer (@MsPhelps)
Jeroen Sondervan (@jeroenson)

The responses were drafted independent of each other and were submitted on 20200619.

A detailed annotation of the guiding principles, with comments from all three of us, can be accessed here:

Finally, in the appendix we share information on a discussion session on the topic at the 2020 Open Publishing Fest.

Consultation response Jeroen Bosman

Do the principles offer clear and effective guidance for Dutch research institutions?

  • The principals come too late. They have been spurred by and drafted during the most important negotiation for which they should apply. That means that they have lost a chance to make a difference and perhaps more important that the issues dealt with in the principles are potentially too much oriented towards the type of deals and collaborations of that specific deal. They are molded for that (Elsevier) deal but not applied to that Elsevier deal.
  • Overall the principles are too vague in content and language. Terms like community and knowledge institutions, scholarly capital etc. should be used more consequently and should be better defined.
  • Overall it should be made much more clear who has which role in the process and who is to be held to which principles.
  • It should be made more clear to what type of projects/services, with what type of partners, these guidelines pertain. Currently that scope is not exactly clear.
  • The decision process, roles and timeline for an OKB should be made more transparent. There is reference to an ambition, but it is unclear where that comes from. 
  • Many aspects of the guidelines pertain to scholarly metadata. It is common practice for most publishers and certainly for institutions practicing open science to share data fully openly, often with a CC0 license. For those (meta)data you cannot strive to be in control, because you already set the data free. So the guidelines partially conflict with the institutions’ own open science practices.

Are there any significant aspects missing within the principles?

  • The decision process, roles and timeline for an OKB should be made more transparent. There is reference to an ambition, but it is unclear where that comes from. 
  • Many aspects of lock-in and oligopolistic market behaviour are not addressed by these principles. Especially package deals, UX-compatibility, procedure adaptation and collaboration opportunity still make it difficult to switch to another vendor of combine offerings from vendors. See Figure 1 below with forms of lock-in.
  • Principles currently do not preclude public investment to be commercially appropriated, while they allow creativity and IP created collaboratively to be become fully owned by the commercial partner, without the right for institutions to re-use its own creativity and investment in future collaborative endeavours. The principles should very clearly reserve the rights of publicly generated IP to the institutions, allowing them to share in any way they like, preferably fully open with a very liberal license allowing reuse for any purpose by any party.
  • The principles should make it clear that collaborations to create infrastructure or contracts to buy services should not be an integral part of a publish & read contract for content, but dealt with separately and publicly procured. That is important to make sure there will not be too much pressure to creatively search for options that are barely compliant with the guiding principles just to not jeopardize the deal as a whole.

Figure 1 – Six forms of vendor lock-in

Consultation response Bianca Kramer

Do the principles offer clear and effective guidance for Dutch research institutions?

There is unclarity regarding both the scope of the principles and how they are to be implemented:

  • It is unclear whether the principles apply to infrastructure regarding research information (metadata on research outputs) or also to infrastructure supporting the creation of research output (e.g. data analysis and archiving, publication from preregistration to peer review). 
  • More specifically, it is unclear whether the principles apply only to the creation of a ‘Dutch Open Knowledge base’ (or projects that could contribute to that) or also to collaboration on, or procurement of, other research tools/platforms – either by individual institutions and/or consortia of institutions.
  • It is unclear whether the principles apply only to collaboration with commercial parties, or equally to collaborations with non-profit and/or public parties. This is not simply a distinction between ‘buy’ and ‘make’ – as collaborations with external non-profit and public third parties can be considered and invested in similar to agreements with commercial third partners.
  • It is unclear to what extent the main aim of the principles is to ensure open availability of metadata (including provenance) for any party to use and build upon (consistent with open science practices), or conversely, to control access to and use of metadata. If the former, it could be helpful to separate requirements for provenance and openness of metadata from ownership and governance of the infrastructures themselves. 

The above points are fundamental questions that are, in my opinion, not sufficiently answered in the document. Part of this is due to ambiguous use of terminology in the document. More clarity on scope, and specificity in use of terminology, would be helpful. 

Are there any significant aspects missing within the principles?

  • In the principles, focus seems to be on transparency and interoperability at the level of (meta)data: “data in-data out” (including attention to enriched/derivative data, which is good). However, what is lacking is attention for open source, open algorithms, and IP for creation of the infrastructure.
  • It is not sufficiently outlined what the role of public procurement in the selection of third parties will be, and what measures are envisioned to prevent soft vendor lock-in, for instance uncoupling unique content provision from exchangeable service provision.
  • The participation of third parties in infrastructure governance (GP6) should not jeopardize the principle of community-owned governance. In particular, public contributions to infrastructure should not be allowed to be commercially enclosed, but should remain open to the community to use and build upon, also after a contract with a third party has ended.
  • The fact that these principles have been developed as an extension of an initial set of principles agreed upon with Elsevier for collaboration on services for a Dutch Open Knowledge Base remains deeply uncomfortable. It would have been far preferred if the Dutch Research Institutions would have independently drafted and consulted on such principles, and defined ambitions for a project like an Open Knowledge Base, prior to negotiations with any third party.

Consultation response Jeroen Sondervan

Do the principles offer clear and effective guidance for Dutch research institutions?

This set of principles is a good and important start for the urgent discussions on this topic and which we should be addressing continuously within academia for the next few years. But this is only a start. It seems that important aspects (e.g. ownership, interoperability and ‘community’ governance) are being addressed, but what is confusing in the entire structure of the document is how ‘metadata (and research information)’ and ‘research data’ are as it seems being used as similar entities. 

The introduction (heading 2) is focusing on metadata and the importance of this type of data to be open for others to ‘access, reuse, enrich and describe according to existing, open standards, identifiers, ontologies and thesauri’. Principles for research data, which are very much needed and may have similarities with, but also specificities compared to metadata, are not made explicitly. 

However, it’s important to make these principles meaningful for both categories from the start to leave out any ambiguity in following discussions. This must be made much clearer across the entire document. Are these principles applicable to both categories? Are there any exemptions, and why? Will they differ regarding the use of third party infrastructure and services? Are there principles missing, which can only be applied to one of the categories?

Another important issue, which can lead to a tunnel vision in the discussion(s) is the use of the term ‘commercial third parties’. This is too narrow. These principles should be applied to every entity (profit, non-profit, governmental, etc.) academia will be dealing with outside its own premises in regard to developing infrastructure and publishing services. 

The way in which the ‘Open Knowledge Base’ is presented in the document reads as it is already in jugs and jars. A sentence like ‘the Dutch research institutions have the ambition to create themselves an Open Knowledge Base (OKB)’ could be read as if the idea of the OKB was first, and we needed these principles to back it up. 

Is this idea of the OKB consolidated amongst the institutions? Have discussions being held in faculty and amongst universities? This is unclear. I’m not aware of any consolidation of this idea of an OKB other than two public blog posts published recently that address the concept of an  OKB. The discussion should be the other way around. We first work on a common ground and broad acceptance of these principles and then we should start thinking about an OKB and its features.

Are there any significant aspects missing within the principles?

  • It’s important to have clarity on definitions that are being used throughout the document. What do ‘we’ mean with specific terms being used. What do we mean by e.g. ‘community’, ‘ownership’, etc. etc. A list of definitions could help clarification.
  • The word licensing, or better ‘open’ licensing is nowhere to be found. The document would gain strength if this is explicitly stated as part of the principle(s) (e.g. in the ownership and/or interoperability sections). The scholarly metadata should ideally be licensed under a CC0 license in order to be reusable as much as possible. How does this relate to the ownership as stated in GP6 – Community owned governance? This principle seems to focus on research data only. For this type of data other licenses could or should apply. Here you see the evident importance of being absolutely clear about the typologies of ‘data’.    
  • Make more explicit under what conditions the future infrastructure (and/or publishing services) would be operating (e.g. open source, open standards/APIs, data licensed under CC0, etc.etc.). Important to define the bare minimum. 
  • Add ‘control’ to ownership, so it is clear that academia not only owns but also keeps control (under these guiding principles) of the research (information) data. 
  • How to achieve transparency in the entire process should be made more explicit. Something like the ‘transparent agreement system’ (GP3) is too vague or even more so unclear and should be explained. So, not only transparency measures for ‘technical, legal and operational agreements for metadata sharing’ but for the entire governance on these guiding principles. 



Fig. 2 Open Publishing Fest session

On May 28, we organized and moderated a 1-hour panel discussion on the proposed guiding principles during the Open Publishing Fest, with participants including researchers, non-profit and for-profit tool providers, and proponents of open infrastructure. A video registration of the session is available on YouTube.

Below some of the points that were raised in this discussion:

  • It is important to take a values-driven approach, which can then be translated into what is built and how
  • Focus should be on providing rights, rather than on regulating/restricting collaboration
  • Opportunities and barriers for (smaller) players, and the need for clarity on the criteria for participation
  • Do the principles represent the needs of the research community?
  • More clarity is needed on what is wanted, also in terms of openness
  • Better alignment with existing principles, like the SPARC NA Good Practice Principles for Scholarly Communication Services
  • Tools from external parties can be used, but implementation and control of infrastructure has to remain in an academic-controlled organization


Nine routes towards Plan S compliance – updated

by Jeroen Bosman & Bianca Kramer

Changes in Plan S compliant options as of May 31, 2019

On May 31, cOAlition-S, the group of funders responsible for Plan S, published the updated Plan S principles and implementation guidance, addressing feedback received during the public consultation period.  Based on these details we updated our scheme of nine routes towards compliance.

The information in the principles and guidance document involves some changes and additional details compared to the draft implementation guidance that was made public on November 27, 2018:

  • the option for cOAlition-S members to approve the use of the CC BY-ND license for individual articles
  • addition of transformative model agreements and transformative journals to the options for transformative arrangements that allow hybrid journals to be compliant
  • specification that funders can (but are not obliged to) financially contribute to transformative arrangements, up until 2024
  • removal of the requirement for transformative agreements to include a scenario for  subsequent full transformation to OA

Some of these  changes effect the compliant routes available. We hence made adaptations to the scheme and the list of routes. For each of the routes the scheme shows examples (please treat them as such), assessments of effects on various stakeholders and on overall cost and also whether the route aligns with expected changes in the evaluation system.

Other changes in the principles and implementation guidance do not have a direct effect on the possible routes, but do have the potential to  influence their feasibility and effects. These include the postponement of the formal commencement point of Plan S with one year to January 1 2021,  the relaxation of some of the requirements for repositories, requirements for transparency  of costs and prices, the stipulation that funders will only financially support transformative agreements after 1 of January 2021 where they adhere to the ESAC Guidelines and the elevation to the 10 principles of the commitment to revise evaluation criteria.

The routes

In our view it is useful to discern 4 potential gold routes, 1 hybrid route, 1 hybrid/green route and 3 potential green routes.

  1. Using existing or new APC-based gold journals / platforms.
  2. Using existing or new non-APC-based gold journals / platforms (a.k.a. diamond).
  3. Flipping journals to an APC-based gold model, by publishers or by editors taking the journal with them.
  4. Flipping journals to non-APC-based gold (diamond), by publishers or editors taking the journal with them.
  5. Using a hybrid journal that is part of a transformative (model) agreement with a funder, institution or consortium, or that is a transformative journal. Funders can choose to support this route financially until the end of 2024.
  6. Publishing your article open access and CC-BY(-SA) in a non-compliant hybrid journal and self-archiving that article in a compliant repository.
  7. Archiving the publisher version, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  8. Archiving the accepted author manuscript, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  9. Sharing preprints (e.g. in dedicated preprint archives) and using overlay journals for peer review.


We hope this is valuable in supporting discussions or that it will at least provoke some comments. For the latter you can either use the comments function below, use Hypothesis or use the Google Slides version of the scheme.

The scheme (click to enlarge)

Nine routes towards PLan S compliance 20190531

Plan S feedback

Feedback on the guidance on the Implementation of Plan S by

Bianca Kramer

Jeroen Bosman

Dated 20190208



We have a few overall recommendations:

  • Improve on the why: make it more clear that Plan S is part of a broader transition towards open science and not only to make papers available and OA cheaper. It is part of changes to make science more efficient, reliable and reusable.
  • Plan S brings great potential, and with that also comes great responsibility for cOAlition S funders. From the start, plan S has been criticized for its perceived focus (in intent and/or expected effects) on APC-based OA publishing. In our reading, both the principles and the implementation guidance recognize for all forms of full OA publishing, including diamond OA and new forms of publishing like overlay journals. However, it will depend to no small extent on the actual recognition and support of non-APC based gold OA models by cOAlitionS funders whether plan S will indeed encourage such bibliodiversity and accompanying equity in publishing opportunities. Examples of initiatives to consider in this regard are OJS journal systems by PKP, Coko open source technology based initiatives, Open Library of Humanities, Scoap3, Free Journal Network, and also Scielo and Redalyc in Latin America.
  • The issue of evaluation and assessment is tied closely to the effects Plan S can or will have. It is up to cOAlitionS funders to take actionable steps to turn their commitment to fundamentally revise the incentive and reward system of science in line with DORA into practice, at the same time they are putting the Plan S principles into practice. The two can mutually support each other, as open access journals that also implement other open science criteria such as pre-registration, requirements for FAIR data and selection based on rigorous methodological criteria will facilitate evaluation based on research quality.  
  • Make sure to (also) provide Plan S in the form of one integrated document containing the why, the what and the how on one document. Currently it is too easy to overlook the why. That document should be openly licensed and shared in a reliable archive.
  • In the implementation document include a (graphical) timeline of changes and deadlines.


Looking at your first question for feedback (Is there anything unclear or are there any issues that have not been addressed by the guidance document?) we would like to bring a number of issues to your attention.


Feedback on article 2:

  • There is uncertainty over acceptance of overlay journals and generally journal external peer review systems. The implementation document lists as a basic requirement for journals and platforms that they are registered in DOAJ or applying for registration with DOAJ. The problem is that we are not sure whether DOAJ will list/accept non-journals peer review platforms or overlay journals. They do list SciPost physics, but Scipost considers itself a full fledged publication platform. We understand that it is the cOAlition’s intention to support this route, but as it is in some ways unchartered territory, it would be wise to specifically indicate how quality certification is done for non-journal venues


Feedback on article 8:

  • Acknowledging the resulting limits on potential (re)use, consider including an opt-out of the license requirements by accepting CC-BY-ND when requested, in order to increase support of humanities.


Feedback on article 9:

  • Acceptance of separation of publishing and peer review in 2 locations/systems.
    The implementation guidance text potentially casts some doubts about the eligibility of overlay journals when the publication (including any revisions following peer review) resides on e.g. a preprint server or repository, rather than being published on the overlay journal platform. In these cases, only the peer review is taken on by the overlay journal, and the article would of course be listed as being included in the overlay journal. In terms of the four traditional functions of publishing, the overlay journal would serve the functions of certification and dissemination, but not those of registration and archiving.
    Open Access platforms referred to in this section are publishing platforms for the original publication of research output (for example scholarly articles and conference proceedings). Platforms that merely serve to aggregate or re-publish content that has already been published elsewhere are not included. In this regard, it is also interesting to note that Jean-Sebastian Caux commented on our earlier version of the then-eight routes that he does not consider SciPost an overlay journal in that sense of the word, because SciPost does publish articles on its own platform ( A possible way to elucidate the intent of cOAlition S in this regard  might be to explicitly mention (perhaps added to the paragraph quoted above) that overlay journals taking on peer review and publishing the resulting articles are compliant, even when the articles themselves do not reside on the platform of the overlay journal. But this is indeed relatively uncharted territory.


Feedback on articles 9 and 10:

  • The are quite some (technical) requirements for journals and repositories. We would like to see cOAlition S to commit to support the implementation of those requirements by smaller (esp. non-APC-based) journals and repositories. This can be done by (financially) supporting technical solutions and co-organize training, materials (e.g. video) and meetings to help implementation.
  • The requirements for journals do not seem to apply to hybrid journals in transformative agreements. This creates the strange situation that a lot of hybrid journals will be held to much lower standards than full OA journals, platforms and repositories and do not have to invest until (in some cases, depending on agreement timing) 2025. To redress this to some extent, we would like to advise relaxation of the technical and other requirements mentioned in article 9.2 and 10.2  (XML, JATS (or equivalent), API, CC0 metadata incl. references, and transparent cost/prices) for instance until 2021 (instead of 2020).


Feedback on article 11:

  • It says now “COAlition S acknowledges existing transformative agreements. However, from 2020 onward, new agreements need to fulfil the following conditions to achieve compliance with Plan S”. There is a chance that by pre-2020 signing of long term contracts hybrid could remain compliant even after 2024. To avoid that we would change the wording to include a maximum running period length for existing (pre-2020) contracts to be acknowledged. E.g. change this into “COAlition S acknowledges existing transformative agreements with contract periods that do not go beyond 2022”.
  • We also recommend replacing ‘existing transformative agreements’ with ‘existing off-setting, read-and-publish and publish-and-read agreements’ to prevent confusion as to what is meant by ‘transformative agreements’.
  • It says now “The negotiated agreements need to include a scenario that describes how the publication venues will be converted to full Open Access after the contract expires.” To avoid leaving room for multiple interpretations of the flipping deadline we would change the phrasing in such a way that it is beyond any doubt what is meant exactly. (E.g. “at the moment the contract expires”, or “within a year after the contract expires”.)



Nine routes towards Plan S compliance

by Jeroen Bosman & Bianca Kramer

NB Please note there is a separate, updated post based on the Plan S implementation document of May 2019

Changes in Plan S compliant options as of November 27, 2018

On October 22 we posted Eight routes towards Plan S compliance. Meanwhile, cOAlition-S, the group of funders responsible for Plan S, has put out a guidance document detailing  implementation of the plan. Based on those details we updated our scheme of routes to achieve compliance.

The information in the guidance document involves some changes and additional details compared to what was made public on September 4:

  • compliance of self archived (green) publications, with a few strict requirements (it has to be immediate, with copyright retained and with a CC-BY, CC-BY-SA or CC0 license)
  • compliance of hybrid journals if they are part of a transformative deal with maximum length of 3 years.
  • publications in mirror / sister type journals are not compliant
  • no cap (yet) on APC-levels

These and some other, smaller changes effect the compliant routes available. We have hence adapted the scheme and the list of routes. For each of the routes the scheme shows examples (please treat them as such), assessments of effects on various stakeholders and on overall cost and also whether the route aligns with expected changes in the evaluation system.

The routes

In our view it is useful to discern 4 potential gold routes, 1 (temporary) hybrid route, 1 hybrid/green route and 3 potential green routes.

  1. Using existing or new APC-based gold journals / platforms.
  2. Using existing or new non-APC-based gold journals / platforms (a.k.a. diamond).
  3. Flipping journals to an APC-based gold model, by publishers or by editors taking the journal with them.
  4. Flipping journals to non-APC-based gold (diamond), by publishers or editors taking the journal with them.
  5. Using a hybrid journal that is part of a transformative agreement with a funder or institution. This is a temporary option (until the end of 2024).
  6. Publishing your article open access and CC-BY in a non-compliant hybrid journal and self-archiving that article in a compliant repository.
  7. Archiving the publisher version, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  8. Archiving the accepted author manuscript, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  9. Sharing preprints (e.g. in dedicated preprint archives) and using overlay journals for peer review.


We hope this is valuable in supporting discussions or that it will at least provoke some comments. For the latter you can either use the comments function below, use Hypothesis or use the Google Slides version of the scheme.

The scheme

Nine routes towards Plan S compliance

Eight routes towards Plan S compliance

by Jeroen Bosman & Bianca Kramer

[also see the update of this post (‘Nine routes towards Plan S compliance‘), published after the Plan S implementation guidance became available]  

Plan S

Much has already been said and written about Plan S, the initiative of a group of European research funders to drastically increase and speed up the transition to full open access. Instead of adding to that with statements on whether it is a good idea or on which elements we like and which we do not like, here we present and dissect eight possible routes towards compliance. For each of those routes the scheme shows examples (please treat them as such), assessments of effects on various stakeholders and on overall cost and also whether the route aligns with expected changes in the evaluation system.

The routes

In our view it is useful to discern 5 potential gold routes and 3 potential green routes.

  1. Using existing or new APC-based gold journals / platforms.
  2. Using existing or new non-APC-based gold journals / platforms (a.k.a. diamond).
  3. Flipping journals to an APC-based gold model, by publishers or by editors taking the journal with them.
  4. ‘Soft-flipping’ journals to APC gold (leaving subscription/hybrid intact): this means creating a APC-based full OA sister journal with same scope, editors, policies etc..
  5. Flipping journals to non-APC-based gold (diamond), by publishers or editors.
  6. Archiving the publisher version, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  7. Archiving the accepted author manuscript, on publication, with copyright retained and an open license.
  8. Sharing preprints (e.g. in dedicated preprint archives) and using overlay journals for peer review.


We hope this is valuable in supporting discussions or that it will at least provoke some comments. For the latter you can either use the comments function below, use Hypothesis or use the Google Slides version of the scheme.

The scheme

Scheme with characteristics of eight routes towards Plan S compliance

Plan S – response to alternatives proposed by Kamerlin et al.

The recent substantial critique* by a group of mainly chemistry researchers to Plan S has garnered a lot of discussion on Twitter and in blogposts (e.g. Plan S, Antwort auf die Kritik), mostly around the risks the authors associate with the implementation of Plan S in its current form. The authors, in their well-thought-out piece, also include four solutions as alternatives to Plan S, and these have as yet, to our knowledge, not been given as much attention they deserve. To further the healthy debate around both Plan S and alternative (existing) options for open access, we hereby provide our point-by-point response to the four scenarios sketched by the authors (below in cursive) and how we feel they relate to the goals and methods as proposed in plan S. 

(1) One possible solution would be to convince all subscription (TA) journals to make all papers fully OA after an embargo period of 6-12 months, without APCs. In this environment, libraries would still buy subscriptions to allow scientists to catch up with the most recent developments, and the broader public would have access to all research without a paywall (but with a slight delay). While this plan does not provide immediate access to everyone, it is a safe and easy solution that would be beneficial for most stakeholders. Under this model, most publications would be read by scientists in the first 6-12 months after publication, and after the embargo period is over, no further costs should be accrued to access a scientific paper. In a modification of Plan S, rather than an indiscriminate blanket ban on all non-pure Gold OA journals, it would then be possible to exclude any (non-society) journals that won’t accept this policy from the list of ‘allowed’ journals. This will likely still result in some journals being excluded as possible publication venues, but is a smaller infringement on academic freedom, and could become an acceptable situation for most researchers and a model to which any journal can easily adapt without compromising on quality. We note that according to Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s Open Access Envoy, even an embargo period of 6-12 months is “unacceptable”, but he does not explain why  29 exactly that should be the case. Very recently, Belgium accepted a new law following this exact 6-12 month embargo model. This embargo period is intended to “give authors the chance to publish their papers in renowned journals, and prevents that publishers are damaged by a loss in income from subscriptions’, as is the opinion of Peeters’ cabinet.”

This option is currently executed by a number of journals/publishers, and is often referred to as delayed OA. While this would indeed be an option that would not disrupt the current reputation-driven publication system (the disruption of which is arguably one of the goals of plan S), it has also several issues:

1) by limiting immediate access to subscriptions, it would limit access to only those researchers (typically from richer institutions) that can afford those subscriptions, excluding researchers from other institutions, non-affiliated researchers, members of society, NGOs, small and medium (and large) companies, start-ups and non-profits, from immediate access to scientific and scholarly findings and the benefits flowing from that. Thus, this is arguably not an optimal solution for most stakeholders.

2) Currently, most delayed open access models do not include an open license for the publications involved, making this a read-only model rather than a true open access model that enables access as well as re-use.

3) Currently, as far as we know, publishers making journals available free to read after a number of months or years do not guarantee in any way that they will remain available. If the journal is sold to another publisher, volumes may become unavailable again.

4) This does not solve the problem currently unsustainable subscription prices, one of the very reasons of the push for OA.

NB1 The law recently approved in Belgium deals with the authors’ right to archive and sharing the manuscript of a publication after 6-12 months embargo, e.g. in a repository, not with the publisher making closed publications open on the publisher platform. It therefore more closely relates to solution 2 proposed by the authors. (see below).

NB2  It is unclear why the authors seem to argue that society journals should be exempted from this model (“it would then be possible to exclude any (non-society) journals that won’t accept this policy”).


(2) Another model, which can be implemented in conjunction with point (1), is a mandate on depositing preprints in appropriate online repositories (Green OA), similar to the Open Access requirements of the US National Institutes of Health . This is the model frequently employed by scientists to meet funders’ Open Access requirements. These are then easily searchable using a range of search tools, including (but not limited to), most easily, Google Scholar. This is a solution with great benefits to the reader and limited risks to the author, as it allows for rapid early-stage dissemination of research, the provision of real time feedback to the authors, while opening up research to the scientific community and general public much faster than waiting for the very long publication time scales inherent to some journals. (…)

There seems to be a misunderstanding here around the difference between preprints and the deposition of published articles (either publisher version, or the author-version after acceptance by the publisher). The OA requirements of NIH and many other funders concern the latter (e.g. through deposition in PubMed Central). While this model has indeed resulted in a large proportion of publications from NIH (as well as, for instance, the Wellcome trust) to be OA, where an embargo is involved (such as with NIH) it has the same drawbacks regarding non-immediate access as discussed above for scenario 1. As with scenario 1, it also does not provide incentives for publishers to change their publication model nor for funders, institutions and researchers to change the reputation-driven publication system.

NB The further benefits discussed in this scenario (early-stage dissemination, real-time feedback, circumventing long publication time scales) are benefits that are associated with preprints. Additional benefits of this model include a demonstrable trace of the scholarly record (e.g. being able to see changes made in an article as the result of peer review and community feedback).

(3) We note here also that more and more reputable publishers are now adding high quality open access publications to their repertoire of journals. In particular, we encourage fully open access journals published by scientific societies. A brief (but by no means exclusive) list of examples of such journals include ACS Central Science , ACS Omega , Chemical Science , RSC Advances , the Royal Society journals Open Biology and Open Science , IUCrJ and eLife , among others. A move to a fully open access landscape is clearly going to become much easier when there are more journals that can guarantee the same level of quality control and sustainability as current reputable subscription journals, as venues to disseminate one’s work. It may be a slower transition, but making this transition in an ecosystem that supports it does not infringe on academic freedom as Plan S does. Clearly, the overall march towards Open Knowledge Practices seems inevitable, as well as desirable, as researcher consciousness about the means of research dissemination, the possibilities, and the important ethical issues surrounding closed science increases. We must be careful to encourage this march in a way that does not replace one problem with another.    

The increase in the number of good quality open access venues (both from commercial and non-profit publishers, as well as from scholarly societies) is fully in line with what Plan S aims to stimulate. While there are clearly different opinions on the ways in which this development is best stimulated, there appears to be no difference in opinion as to the benefit of having a wide array of qualitatively good full OA publication options. It is encouraging to see that the authors include in their examples journals  for multiple disciplines that do not claim to be selective based on perceived impact, but judge research on the basis of soundness (like ACS Omega and Royal Society Open Science), indicating that they do not equate quality with selectivity per se. It should also be noted Plan S includes the commitment of funders to apply rigorous criteria as to the quality of full OA publication venues, although the exact nature of these criteria remain to be decided on. Plan S also wants to cap APCs. Though it is as yet unknown at what level, it probably will be at a level below the highest APCs currently asked for by full OA journals. It is interesting to see that the examples given have APCs ranging from 0 to 2500 USD.

Finally, the debate about Open Access, and APC, ignores the Diamond (also known as Platinum) model of OA publication. Diamond publication is a fully sponsored mode of publication, in which neither author nor publisher pays, but rather, the journals are funded by a third party sponsor. An example of Diamond OA is provided by the Beilstein Journals, all publications for which are covered by the  non-profit Beilstein Institute in Germany . Similarly, there is no fee for publication in ACS Central Science, and all publication costs are covered by the American Chemical Society . It is important to ensure the moral and ethical integrity of that sponsor. But, when performed in an ethically uncompromised framework, this would be an ideal model for publications by scientific societies, whose  journals could then either be sponsored by funders and other donors. In such a framework, rather than simply transferring costs from readers to authors, while allowing questionable journals to flourish and exploit APC, quality control can be ensured by financially supporting high quality not-for-profit publications. Would this not be a much braver step for European and National funders to mandate, than  a push for pure Gold OA?  

Plan S explicitly does not state a preference for an author-paid APC model. Other forms of pure gold OA, like indeed diamond and platinum OA, are fully in line with plan S. Diamond not being compliant is thus a misunderstanding. Depending on the implementation, the stated intent of funders to “provide incentives to establish and support full gold OA versions where appropriate” might also take the shape of enabling diamond/platinum models. One possible model for this would be the announced plans for a publication platform financed by the EC that will require no APCs from authors or institutions.  

Overall, the four solutions proposed by the authors all represent tried-and-tested solutions that are practiced in various settings, and all are providing valuable contributions to progress in open access (or in some cases, free-to-read access) of research articles. Two of them (3 and 4) are, as models, fully in line with plan S. The other two (1 and 2) facilitate access but fall short of the ambitions of plan S to not only provide immediate open access to research articles, but also to stimulate a shift in publishing away from a subscription-based journal system. Whether those ambitions and their proposed implementation are deemed to risky, too forceful and/or too limited in geographical scope to be beneficial to research and researchers remains a topic of debate even (or perhaps especially) among proponents of open research practices, which include both the original authors and ourselves.

Bianca Kramer (@MsPhelps) and Jeroen Bosman (@jeroenbosman)
Utrecht University Library

Bianca Kramer is currently also a member of the EC Expert Group ‘Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication 


*The piece is also published as part of a  post on the For better science blog

Linking impact factor to ‘open access’ charges creates more inequality in academic publishing

[this piece was first published on May 16, 2018 on the site of Times Higher Education under a CC-BY license]

The prospectus SpringerNature released on April 25* in preparation of its intended stock market listing provides a unique view into what the publisher thinks are the strengths of its business model and where it sees opportunities to exploit them, including its strategy on open access publishing. Whether the ultimate withdrawal of the IPO reflected investors’ doubt about the presented business strategies, or whether SpringerNature’s existing debts were deemed to be too great a risk, the prospectus has nonetheless given the scholarly community an insight into the publisher’s motivations in supporting and facilitating open access.

In the document, aimed at potential shareholders, the company outlines how it stands to profit from APC (article processing charge)-based gold open access in an otherwise traditional publishing system that remains focused on high-impact factor journals. From this perspective, a market with high barriers to entry for new players is a desirable situation. Any calls for transparency of contracts, legislation against exclusive ownership of content by publishers, public discussion on pricing models and a move towards broader assessment criteria – beyond impact factors – are all seen as a threat to the company’s profits. Whether this position also benefits the global research community is a question worth asking.

The open access market is seen by SpringerNature as differentiated by impact factor, making it possible to charge much higher APCs for publishing open access in high impact factor journals. Quite revealing is that on page 99 of the prospectus, SpringerNature aims to exploit the situation to increase prices: “We also aim at increasing APCs by increasing the value we offer to authors through improving the impact factor and reputation of our existing journals.”

First, this goes to show that APCs are paid not just to cover processing costs but to buy standing for a researcher’s article (if accepted). This is not new: other traditional publishers such as Elsevier, but even pure open access publishers such as PLoS and Frontiers, tier their market and ask higher APCs for their more selective journals.

Second, this prospectus section shows SpringerNature interprets impact factors and journal brands as what makes a journal valuable to authors and justifies high APCs – and not aspects such as quality and speed of peer review, manuscript formatting, or functionality and performance of the publishing platform.

Third, and most striking, is the deliberate strategy to raise APCs by securing and increasing impact factors of journals. SpringerNature admits it depends on impact factor thinking among researchers and seeks to exploit it.

The explicit aim to exploit impact factors and the presumed dependence of researchers on journal reputation is in sharp contrast with SpringerNature (to be precise BioMedCentralSpringerOpen and Nature Research) having signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). By signing, these SpringerNature organisations agree with the need to “greatly reduce emphasis on the journal impact factor as a promotional tool” as the declaration states.

Additionally, in their 2016 editorial, “Time to remodel the journal impact factor” the editors of SpringerNature’s flagship journal Nature wrote: “These [impact factor] shortcomings are well known, but that has not prevented scientists, funders and universities from overly relying on impact factors, or publishers (Nature’s included, in the past) from excessively promoting them. As a result, researchers use the impact factor to help them decide which journals to submit to – to an extent that is undermining good science.”

The information revealed through the prospectus now raises the question whether signing DORA and the Nature editorial statements were in effect merely paying lip service to appease those worried by toxic effects of impact factor thinking, or whether they have real value and drive policy decisions by journal and publisher leadership. It could be argued that commercial publishers are foremost responsible for their financial bottom line, and that if enough researchers (or their institutions or funders) are willing and able to pay higher APCs for high impact factor journals, then that is a valid business model.

However, scientific publishers do not simply “follow the market”. For better or for worse, their business models influence the way academic research is prioritised, disseminated and evaluated. High APCs make it harder for researchers without substantial funds (eg, researchers from middle- and low-income countries, unaffiliated researchers and citizen scientists) to publish their research (or require a dependency on waivers), and a continued push for publishing in high impact factor journals by publishers, researchers and funders/institutions alike hampers developments towards more rigorous, relevant and equitable research communication.

How do we break out of this? It is promising to see initiatives from publishers and funders/institutions such as registered reports (where a decision to publish is made on the basis of the research proposal and methodology, independent of the results), the TOP guidelines that promote transparency and openness in published research, and moves towards more comprehensive assessment of quality of research by institutions and funders, as highlighted on the DORA website.

This will all help researchers do better research that is accessible and useful to as many people as possible, as might alternative publishing options coming from researchers, funders and institutions. Simply adding an “open access” option to the existing prestige-based journal system at ever increasing costs, however, will only serve to increase the profit margin of traditional publishers without contributing to more fundamental change in the way research is done and evaluated.

Jeroen Bosman (@jeroenbosman) and Bianca Kramer (@MsPhelps)
Utrecht University Library

* The prospectus has since been taken offline. We secured an offline copy for verification purposes, but unfortunately cannot share this copy publicly.