Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (2) Gold open access journals in WoS and DOAJ

(NB this post is accompanied by a another post, on open access potential across disciplines, in the light of Plan S)

In our previous blogpost, we explored open access (OA)  potential (in terms of journals and publications) across disciplines, with an eye towards Plan S. For that exercise, we looked at a particular subset of journals, namely those included in Web of Science. We fully acknowledge this practical decision leads to limitation and bias in the results. In particular this concerns a bias against:

  • recently launched journals
  • non-traditional journal types
  • smaller journals not (yet) meeting the technical requirements of WoS
  • journals in languages other than English
  • journals from non-Western regions

To further explore this bias, and give context to the interpretation of results derived from looking at full gold OA journals in Web of Science only, we analyzed the inclusion of DOAJ journals in WoS per major discipline.

We also looked at the proportion of DOAJ journals (and articles/reviews therein) in different parts of the Web of Science Core Collection that we used: either in the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) / Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) /Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), or in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI).

The Emerging Sources Citation Index contains a range of journals not (yet) indexed in the other citation indexes, including journals in emerging scientific fields and regional journals. It uses the same quality criteria for inclusion as the other citation indexes, notably: journals should be peer reviewed, follow ethical publishing practices, meet Web of Science’s technical requirements, and have English language bibliographic information. Journals also have to publish actively with current issues and articles posted regularly. Citation impact and a strict publication schedule is not a criterion for inclusion of journals in ESCI, which means that also newer journals can be part of ESCI. Journals in ESCI and the AHCI do not have a Clarivate impact factor.

We compared the number of DOAJ journals in Web of Science to the total number of journals in DOAJ per discipline. For this, we made a mapping  of the LCC-classification used in DOAJ to the major disciplines used in Web of Science, combining Physical Sciences and Technology into one to get four major disciplines.

For a number of (sub)disciplines, we identified the number of full gold journals in Web of Science Core Collection, as well as the number of publications from 2017 (articles & reviews) in those journals. We also looked what proportion of these journals (and the publications therein) are listed in ESCI as opposed to SCIE/SSCI/AHCI. For subdisciplines in Web of Science, we identified 10 research areas in each major discipline with the highest number of articles & reviews in 2017. Web of Science makes use of data from Unpaywall for OA classification at article-level.

All data underlying this analysis are available on Zenodo:


Looking at the total number of journals in DOAJ and the proportion thereof included in Web of Science (Fig 1, Table 1) shows that Web of Science covers only 32% of journals in DOAJ, and 66% of those are covered in ESCI. For Social Sciences and Humanities, the proportion of DOAJ journals included in WoS is only 20%, and >80% of these journals are covered in ESCI, not SSCI/AHCI. This means that only looking at WoS leaves out 60-80% of DOAJ journals (depending on discipline), and only looking at the ‘traditional’ citation indexes SCIE/SSCI/AHCI restricts this even further.

Gold all 0

Fig 1. Coverage of DOAJ journals in WoS

DOAJ-WoS table.png

Table 1. Coverage of DOAJ journals in WoS (percentages)

We then compared the the proportion of DOAJ journals covered in SCIE/SSCI/AHCI versus ESCI, to the proportion of publications in those journals in the two sets of citation indexes (Fig 3). This reveals that for Physical Sciences & Technology and for Life Sciences & Medicine, the majority of full gold OA articles in WoS is published in journals included in SCIE, indicating that journals in ESCI might predominantly be smaller, lower volume journals. For Social Sciences and for Humanities, however, journals in ESCI account for the majority of gold OA articles in WoS. This means that due to WoS indexing practices, a large proportion of gold OA articles in these disciplines is excluded when considering only what’s covered in SSCI and AHCI.

Gold all 1-2 large

Fig 2. Gold OA journals and publications in WoS

The overall patterns observed for the major disciplines can be explored more in detail when looking at subdisciplines (Fig 3). Here, some interesting differences between subdisciplines within a major discipline emerge.

  • In Physical Sciences and Technology, three subdisciplines (Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Sciences) have a large proportion of full OA journals that is covered in ESCI rather than SCIE, and especially for Engineering, these account for a sizeable part of full gold OA articles in that subdiscipline.
  • In Life Sciences and Biomedicine,  General and Internal Medicine seems to be an exception with both the largest proportion  of full OA journals in ESCI as well as the largest share of full gold OA publications coming from these journals. In contrast, in Cell Biology, virtually all full gold OA publications are from journals included in SCIE.
  • In Social Sciences, only in Psychology a majority of full gold OA publications is in journals covered in SSCI, even though for this discipline, as for all other in Social Sciences, the large majority of full gold OA journals is part of ESCI, not SSCI.
  • In Arts & Humanities the pattern seems to be consistent across subdisciplines, perhaps with the exception of Religion, which seems to have a relatively large proportion of articles in AHCI journals, and Architecture, where virtually all journals (and thus, publications) are in ESCI, not AHCI.

Gold PT 1-2 large
Gold LM 1-2 large
Gold SOC 1-2 large

Gold AH 1-2 large

Fig 3. Full gold OA journals and publications in Web of Science, per subdiscipline

Looking beyond traditional citation indexes

Our results clearly show that in all disciplines, the traditional citation indexes in WoS (SCIE, SSCI and AHCI) cover only a minority of existing full gold OA journals. Looking at publication behaviour, journals included in ESCI account for a large number of gold OA publications in many (sub)disciplines, especially in Social Sciences and Humanities. Especially in terms of an analysis of availability of full OA publication venues in the context of Plan S, it will be interesting to look closer at titles included in both SCIE/SSCI/AHCI and  ESCI per (sub)discipline and assess the relevance of these titles to different groups of researchers within that discipline (for instance by looking at publication volume, language, content from cOAlitions S or EU countries, readership/citations from cOAlition S or EU countries). Looking at publication venues beyond traditional citation indexes fits well with the ambition of Plan S funders to move away from evaluation based on journal prestige as measured by impact factors. It should also be kept in mind that ESCI marks but a small extension of coverage of full gold OA journals, compared to the large part of DOAJ journals that are not covered by WoS at all.

Encore: Plan S criteria for gold OA journals

So far, we have looked at coverage of all DOAJ journals, irrespective of whether they meet specific criteria of Plan S for publication in full OA journals and platforms, including copyright retention and CC-BY license*.

Analyzing data available through DOAJ (supplemented with our mapping to WoS major disciplines) shows that currently, 28% of DOAJ journals complies with these two criteria (Fig 4). That proportion is somewhat higher for Physical Sciences & Technology and Life Sciences & Medicine, and lower for Social Sciences & Humanities. It should be noted that when a journal allows multiple licenses (e.g. CC-BY and CC-BY-NC-ND), DOAJ includes only the most strict license in its journal list download. Therefore, the percentages shown here for compliant licensing are likely an underestimation. Furthermore, we want to emphasize that this analysis reflects the current situation, and thereby could also be thought of as pointing towards the potential of available full OA venues if publishers adapt their policies on copyright retention and licensing to align with criteria set out in Plan S.

Copyright criteria (CC-BY and copyright retention) of DOAJ journals_empty

Fig 4. Copyright criteria (CC-BY and copyright retention) of DOAJ journals

*The current implementation guidance also indicated that CC-BY-SA and CC0 would be acceptable. These have not been included in our analysis (yet).

Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (1) Open access potential across disciplines

(NB this post is accompanied by a second post on presence of full gold open access journals in Web of Science and DOAJ)

In the proposed implementation guidelines for Plan S, it has become clear there will be, for the coming years at least, three ways to open access (OA) that are compliant with Plan S:

  • publication in full open access journals and platforms
  • deposit in open access repositories of author accepted manuscript (AAM) or publisher version (VOR)
  • publishing in hybrid journals that are part of transformative agreements

Additional requirements concern copyright (copyright retention by authors or institutions), licensing (CC-BY, CC-BY-SA or CC0), embargo periods (no embargo’s) and technical requirements for open access journals, platforms and repositories.

In the discussion surrounding plan S, one of the issues that keeps coming back is how many publishing venues are currently compliant. Or, phrased differently, how many of their current publication venues researchers fear will no longer be available to them.

However, the current state should be regarded as a starting point, not the end point. As Plan S is meant to effect changes in the system of scholarly publication, it is important to look at the potential for moving towards compliance, both on the side of publishers as well as on the side of authors.

To get a first indication as to what that potential for open access is across different disciplines, we looked at a particular subset of journals, namely those in Web of Science. For this first approach we chose Web of Science because of its multidisciplinary nature, because it covers both open and closed journals, because it has open access detection and because it offers subject categories and finally, because of its functionality in generating and exporting frequency tables of journal titles. We fully recognize the inevitable bias related to using Web of Science as source, and address this further below and in an accompanying blogpost.

For a number of (sub)disciplines, we identified the proportion of full gold, hybrid and closed journals in Web of Science, as well as the proportion of hybrid and closed journals that allows green open access by archiving AAM/VOR in repositories.  We also looked at the number of publications from 2017 (articles & reviews) that were actually made open access (or not) under each of these models.

Some methodological remarks:

  • We used the data available in Web of Science for OA classification at the article level. WoS uses Unpaywall data but imposes its own classification criteria:
    • DOAJ gold: article in journal included in DOAJ
    • hybrid: article in non-DOAJ journal, with CC-license
      (NB This excludes hybrid journals that use a publisher-specific license)
    • green: AAM or VOR in repository 
  • For journal classification we did not use a journal list, but we classified a journal as gold, hybrid and/or allowing green OA if at least one article from 2017 in that journal was classified as such. This method may underestimate:
    • journals allowing green OA in fields with long embargo’s (esp. A&H)
    • journals allowing hybrid or green OA if those journals have very low publication volumes (increasing the chance that a certain route is not used by any 2017 paper)
  • We only looked at green OA for closed articles, i.e. when articles were not also published OA in a gold or hybrid journal.
  • Specific plan S criteria are not (yet) taken into account in these data, i.e. copyright retention, CC-BY/CC-BY-SA/CC0 license, no embargo period (for green OA) and being part of transformative agreements (for hybrid journals)
  • For breakdown across (sub)disciplines, we used WoS research areas (which are assigned at the journal level). We combined Physical Sciences and Technology into one to get four major disciplines. In each major discipline, we identified 10 subdisciplines  with the highest number of articles & reviews in 2017 ((excluding ‘other topics’ and replacing Astronomy & Astrophysics for Mechanics because of specific interest in green OA in Astronomy & Astrophysics)
  • We used the full WoS Core collection available through our institution’s license, which includes the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE), the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), the Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI) and the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI).

All data underlying this analysis are available on Zenodo:


As seen in Figure 1A-B, the proportion of full gold OA journals is relatively consistent  across major disciplines, as is the proportion of articles published in these journals. Both are between 15-20%. Despite a large proportion of hybrid journals in Physical Sciences & Technology and Life Sciences & Medicine, the actual proportion of articles published OA in hybrid journals is quite low in all disciplines. The majority of hybrid journals (except in Arts & Humanities) allow green OA, as do between 30-45% of closed journals (again except in Arts&Humanities). However, the actual proportion of green OA at the article level is much lower. As said, embargo periods (esp. those exceeding 12 months) might have an overall effect here, but the difference between potential and uptake remains striking.


Fig 1A-B. OA classification of journals and publications (Web of Science, publication year 2017)

Looking at subdisciplines reveals interesting differences both in the availability of open access options and the proportion of articles & reviews using these options (Fig 2).

  • In Physical Sciences and Technology, the percentage of journals that is fully gold OA is quite low in most fields, with slightly higher levels in energy fuels, geology, optics and astronomy. Uptake of these journals is lower still, with only the optics and geology fields slightly higher. Hybrid journals are numerous in this discipline but see their gold and green open access options used quite infrequently. The use of green OA for closed journals, where allowed, is also limited, with the exception of astronomy.  (but note that green sharing of preprints is not included in this analysis). In all fields in this discipline over 25% of WoS indexed journals seem to have no open options at all. Of all subdisciplines in our analysis, those in the  physical sciences fields display the starkest contrast between the ample OA options and their limited usage.
  • In Life Sciences & Biomedicine, penetration of full gold OA journals  is higher than in Physical sciences, but with starker differences, ranging from very low levels in environmental science and molecular biochemistry to much higher levels for general internal medicine and agriculture. In the Life sciences and Biomedicine discipline, uptake of gold OA journals is quite good, again especially in general internal medicine. Availability of hybrid journals is quite high but their use is limited; exceptions are cell biology and cancer studies that do show high levels of open papers in hybrid journals. Green sharing is a clearly better than in Physical sciences, especially in fields like neurosciences, oncology and cell biology (likely also due to PMC / EuropePMC) but still quite low given the amount of journals allowing it.
  • In Social Sciences there is a large percentage of closed non-hybrid subscription journals, but many allow green OA sharing. Alas the uptake of that is limited, as far as detected using Unpaywall data. In this regard the one exception is psychology, with a somewhat higher level of green sharing. Hybrid OA publishing is available less often than in Physical Sciences or Life Sciences, but with relatively high shares in psychology, sociology, geography and public administration. The fields with the highest shares of full gold OA journals are education, linguistics, geography and communication, with usage of gold in Social Sciences more or less corresponding with full gold journal availability.
  • In Arts & Humanities, the most striking fact is the very large share of journals offering no open option at all. Like in Social Sciences, usage of gold across Humanities fields more or less corresponds with full gold journal availability. Hybrid options are limited and even more rarely used, except in philosophy fields. Green sharing options are already limited, but their use is even lower.

PT 1-2 large

LM 1-2 largeSOC 1-2 large

AH 1-2 large

Fig 2. OA classification of journals and publications in different subdisciplines (Web of Science, publication year 2017)

Increasing Plan-S compliant OA 

Taking these data as a starting point (and taking into account that the proportion of Plan S compliant OA will be lower than the proportions of OA shown here, both for journals and publications), there are a number of ways in which both publishers and authors can increase Plan S-compliant OA (see Fig 3):

  • adapt journal policies to make existing journals compliant
    (re: license, copyright retention, transitional agreements, 0 embargo)
  • create new journals/platforms or flip existing journals to full OA (preferably diamond OA)
  • encourage authors to make use of existing OA options (by mandates, OA funding (including for diamond OA) and changes in evaluation system)

We also made a more detailed analysis of nine possible routes towards plan S-compliance (including potential effects on various stakeholders) that might be of interest here.

Towards compliancy

Fig 3. Ways to increase Plan S-compliant OA

Towards a gap analysis? Some considerations

In their implementation guidance, cOAlition S states it will commission a gap analysis of Open Access journals/platforms to identify fields and disciplines where there is a need to increase their share. In doing so, we suggest it would be good to not only look at the share of currently existing gold OA journals/platforms, but view this in context of the potential to move towards plan S compliance, both on the side of publishers and authors. Filling any gaps could thus involve supporting new platforms, but also supporting flipping of hybrid/closed journals and supporting authors in making use of these options, or at least considering the effect of the latter two developments on the expected gap size(s).

Another consideration in determining gaps is whether to look at the full landscape of (Plan S-compliant) full gold journals and platforms, or whether to make a selection based on relevance or acceptability to plan S-funded authors, e.g.  by impact factor, by inclusion in an ‘accepted journal list’ (e.g. the Nordic list(s) or the ERA-list) or by other criteria. In our opinion, any such selection should be presented as an optional overlay/filter view, and preferably be based on criteria other than journal prestige, as this is exactly what cOAlition S wants to move away from in the assessment of research.  Some more neutral criteria that could be considered are:

    • Language: English and/or at least one EU language accepted?
    • Content from cOAlition S or EU countries?
    • Readership/citations from cOAlition S or EU countries?
    • Editorial board (partly) from cOAlition S or EU countries?
    • Volume (e.g. papers per annum)

Of course we ourselves already made a selection by using WoS, and we fully recognize this practical decision leads to limitation and bias in the results. For a further analysis of inclusion of DOAJ journals in WoS per discipline, as well as the proportion of DOAJ journals in ESCI vs SCIE/SSCI/AHCI, see the accompanying blogpost ‘Gold OA journals in WoS and DOAJ‘.

To further explore bias in coverage, there are also other journal lists that might be worthwhile to compare (e.g. ROAD, EZB, JournalTOCs, Scopus sources list). Another interesting initiative in this regard is the ISSN-GOLD-OA 2.0 list that provides a matching list of ISSN for Gold Open Access (OA) journals from DOAJ, ROAD, PubMed Central and the Open APC initiative. It is especially important to ensure that existing (and future) publishing platforms, diamond OA journals and overlay journals will be included in any analysis of gold OA publishing venues. One initiative in this area is the crowdsourced inventarisation of (sub)areas within mathematics where there is the most need for Fair Open Access journals.

There are multiple ways in which the rough analysis presented here could be taken further. First, a check on specific Plan S compliant criteria could be added, i.e. on CC-license type, copyright retention, embargo terms, and potentially on inclusion of hybrid journals in transitional agreement. Many of these (though not the latter) could be derived from existing data, e.g. in DOAJ and SherpaRomeo. Furthermore, an analysis such as this would ideally be based on fully open data. While not yet available in one interface that enables the required filtering, faceting and export functionality,  a combination of the following sources would be interesting to explore:

  • Unpaywall database (article, journal, publisher and repository info, OA detection)
  • (article, journal, affiliation and funder info, integration with Unpaywall)
  • DOAJ (characteristics of full gold OA journals)
  • SherpaRomeo (embargo information)

Ultimately, this could result in an open database that would allow multiple views on the landscape of OA publication venues and the usage thereof, enabling policy makers, service providers (including publishers) and authors alike to make evidence-based decisions in OA publishing. We would welcome an open (funding) call from cOAlition S funders to get people together to think and work on this.


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