Open access potential and uptake in the context of Plan S – a partial gap analysis

Today we released the report Open access potential and uptake in the context of Plan S – a partial gap analysis, which aims to provide cOAlition S with initial quantitative and descriptive data on the availability and usage of various open access options in different fields and subdisciplines, and, as far as possible, their compliance with Plan S requirements. This work was commissioned on behalf of cOAlition S by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), a member of cOAlition S.

The reports builds on the work described in two of our 2018 posts: Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (1) Open access potential across disciplines and Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (2) Gold open access journals in WoS and DOAJ. The new report extends the methodology and range of data used, including more information on hybrid and green OA from Crossref, SHERPA/RoMEO, and Unpaywall directly Also, it provides more detail, with narrative sketches of publication cultures in 30 fields. In the appendix of the report, some other aspects of the open access landscape are addressed, such as journal size distribution and publisher types.

Uptake and potential of open access types in four main fields

Main results
Within the limitations of our approach using Web of Science (see below), the results show that in all main fields, including arts & humanities, over 75% of journals in our analysis do allow gold open access publishing. This currently consists predominantly of hybrid journals, which authors can only use in a Plan S compliant publishing route when the journal is part of a transformative arrangement or when authors also immediately share their article as green OA. The most striking result is the very large number of closed publications in hybrid journals, also given the fact that most of these journals do allow green open access.

Regarding licenses we find that a sizeable proportion (52%) of full gold OA journals already allow Plan S compliant licenses as well as copyright retention and importantly, that these journals are responsible for a large majority (78%) of articles published in full OA journals by cOAlition S fundees. Results on the green route to open access show that almost all hybrid journals and about half of the closed journals in our analysis do allow green OA archiving. In physical sciences & technology and life sciences & medicine, a 12 month embargo is most prevalent, with longer embargoes more common in social sciences and especially arts & humanities. At the same time, there are examples of journals with a 0 month embargo in all fields, and especially in social sciences these have a considerable share.

Overall, one could say that while there currently is limited compliance with the various Plan S requirements, there is huge variety among fields and at the same time also a lot of potential and opportunity.

Limitations of using Web of Science
We acknowledge the limitations of the report caused by using Web of Science as the sole source to identify cOAlition S-funded research output. The choice to use Web of Science relates to availability of funder information and field labels, that are essential in this analysis. However, apart from not being an open data source, relying on Web of Science inevitably introduces bias in disciplinary, geographical and language coverage, as well as in coverage of newer OA publication venues and many diamond OA venues. In this light, this report should be seen as a partial gap analysis only. In the appendix of the report, we provide an overview of characteristics of a number of other databases that influence their potential usage in analyses of OA options at funder or institutional level, as well as their coverage of social sciences and humanities specifically.

Feedback and next steps
The narrative sketches of a number of subdisciplines provided in the report are largely informed by the quantitative results of the report. It would be interesting to learn to what extent and how they reflect the image that researchers in these fields have of the availability and usage of open access options in their field, and how these are influenced by the publication culture in that field.

The report is intended as a first step: an exploration in methodology as much as in results. Subsequent interpretation (e.g. on fields where funder investment/action is needed) and decisions on next steps (e.g. on more complete and longitudinal monitoring of Plan S-compliant venues) is intentionally left to cOAlition S.

We want to thank our colleagues at Utrecht University Library for their contributions to this work. Any mistakes and omissions remain our responsibility.

The data underlying the report are shared at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3549020

See also: press release by cOAlition S on the report.

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.

Discuss

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

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.

Discuss

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.

Discuss

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