We have no time to waste in the transition to Open Access

I think the future scientific publishing market will have to adapt and reorganize just like any other industry that faces a moment of disruptive transition. There are many full Open Access publishers who have shown that it is perfectly possible to have successful companies while delivering publishing services to publish articles in full and immediate Open Access.

Johan Rooryck is a researcher, journal editor, and committed advocate of Open Access publishing. He is Professor of French Linguistics at Leiden University in the Netherlands. In 2019 he was appointed as Open Access Champion in cOAlition S. This role has been created to help present, promote, and develop Plan S as the initiative moves towards implementation. 

Open Science Platform team: The cOAlition S is constantly growing its membership-base. What are the priorities and plans for further development?

Prof. Johan Rooryck: cOAlition S wants to be a global organisation promoting the transition to full and immediate Open Access. We not only welcome Research Funding Organisations, but also Research Performing Organisations that pledge to implement the Plan S principles and policies. Note that cOAlition S is not a traditional membership organisation: it is an informal alliance of research organisations that have publicly expressed their intention to implement Plan S, and to work together towards achieving that goal. Our priority is to not only to try and convince large governmental organisations in countries like the USA or India to join the cOAlition, but also to make sure that research organisations from Southern Europe and LMIC would join us in this endeavor.

According to the sixth principle, cOAlition S members encourage governments, universities, research organisations, libraries, academies, and learned societies to align their open access strategies, policies, and practices. Are cOAlition S members currently involved in such discussions?

cOAlition S is currently involved in a variety of discussions with all stakeholders you mention. We have received support from university organisations such as EUA and LERU, and we stay in contact with these organisations to keep them updated about our activities. We also work with libraries and repository organisations such as COAR to define our Green Open Access strategy. For learned societies that publish their own journals, we have developed a toolkit for Transformative Model Agreements, delivered by Information Power, that is intended to help societies transition their journals to Open Access. We have also established a Task Force to measure the impact of Plan S on Early Career Researchers, including representatives from the Global Young Academy (GYA), Young Academy Europe (YAE), Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA), and EuroDoc. ECRs are concerned that Plan S policies may impact their careers, and we want to engage a dialogue with them to find solutions.

Is cOAlition S considering any form of cooperation with other funding agencies that are not and do not intend to become its members in the near future but are adopting its own open access mandates?

We are indeed in a dialogue with funding agencies such as the German DfG or the Swiss SNF, who have not yet pledged to implement Plan S principles, but whose policies are largely aligned with those of cOAlition S organisations. We hope and expect that all policies will converge towards our own. The Covid-19 crisis certainly has shown the advantages of full and immediate Open Access, and we have no time to waste in the transition to Open Access and more broadly Open Science, to tackle the societal challenges that lie before us.

In your opinion, how will the first principle of Plan S (authors or their institutions retain copyright to their publications) impact the future scientific publishing market? Which publishing model (or overall market model) seem best suited for achieving Plan S objectives?

I think the future scientific publishing market will have to adapt and reorganize just like any other industry that faces a moment of disruptive transition. There are many full Open Access publishers who have shown that it is perfectly possible to have successful companies while delivering publishing services to publish articles in full and immediate Open Access. As stated in our Principle 5, cOAlition S is neutral with respect to the various business models that exist to bring about Open Access. The landscape is changing constantly. What we do care about is price transparency at all levels: we want to know the pricing of the various services that make up an open access fee or publish & read deal. We require this to be able to compare prices and stimulate healthy competition between Open Access publishers.

How will the third principle of Plan S be implemented? Are there specific plans that are under consideration or examples of cOAlition S members providing support for open access infrastructure?

We have no specific plans yet for building specific infrastructure. The gap analysis we commissioned in late 2019 showed that researchers across all fields had a number of options to share their peer reviewed articles immediately and openly. We also commissioned a study whose objective is to identify ways to support publishing initiatives wishing to implement Diamond business models. cOAlition S funders do already support Open Access infrastructure: Europe PubMed Central, OAPEN, HAL Open archive, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the Open Library of Humanities (OLH), and Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) all receive funding from cOAlition S funders. 

There has been a significant change in the updated criteria for Transformative Journal that has sparked some controversy. The cOAlition S has removed the commitment to flip the journal by December 2024. What was the rationale behind this decision?

Discussions with various publishers showed that not all journals in their portfolio can transition to Open Access in such a short timeframe. We decided to take that into account. Such discussions always involve a negotiation. Note that Transformative Journals that have not flipped to Open Access by 31 December 2024 will no longer be supported financially by the funders.

Doesn’t the focus on transformative arrangements carry the risk of limiting the development of new and fully open means of distributing scientific results? 

I understand why you say that, but I don't think that is necessarily the case. cOAlition S has been faulted for focusing primarily on an accelerated transition towards Open Access by legacy publishers and existing journals. But let us not forget that these existing journals are where the grantholders of the cOAlition S funders want to publish. One the one hand, we ask of our researchers that they keep copyright and publish in CC-By. But in return we feel that we have to make sure that they can keep publishing in the journals that they know and love. So that means we decided to focus on creating incentives for the transformation of these journals into Open Access journals, steering them away from the hybrid impasse.

At the beginning of the next year the cOAlition S will launch the Journal Checker Tool that will help researchers find Plan S compliant journals. What steps should publishers take to make sure their journal is included in this tool?

Publishers should make sure that their journals fulfil one of the three routes towards compliance with Plan S that we have formulated. Fully Open Access journals and platforms fulfil those conditions. Publishers who wish to stick with subscription journals will have to give their authors the right to keep copyright and to publish in CC-BY, and additionally allow them to immediately deposit a copy of the AAM or the VoR in a Green repository. Note that publishers such as Sage and Emerald already allow authors to deposit their articles in a repository without embargo. They report no decrease in their subscriptions. Finally, publishers can make sure that their journals are included in a Transformative Agreement: those journals also fulfil the conditions of Plan S.

Does the cOAlition S intend to take a stand on the issue of open research data?

We are of course all in favor of open research data, but do not believe it is necessary to take a specific stand on this issue: it is quite self-evident that we favour this. We believe however that Open Access to articles is a crucial first step, since articles function as the gateway or portal to the data on which they are based.

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