This guest post is one of a series from sponsors of the OASPA Conference in 2019. Please note that the views in this post do not represent an official view or statement from OASPA. The post is from Martyn Rittman of MDPI.
The First Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum (held September 9) brought together a unique group of participants to discuss some of the challenges facing scholarly societies as they look at entering the world of open access publishing. While the change can seem daunting, attendees left with a much better understanding of the challenges facing scholarly societies in the current climate as well as suggestions of possible solutions. All talks from the day are available from https://sustainablesolutionstoopenaccess.sciforum.net.
The event started with a provocative introduction from Prof. Antonio Loprieno, Former Rector of the University of Basel, President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and President of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA). He championed scholarly societies as democratic, bottom-up organizations, before reflecting on how the shift to digital information challenges notions of authorship and science communication. This set the scene for the rest of the day, succinctly capturing the current changing environment.
The morning saw presentations from Johann Rooryck (Plan S Champion) and Alicia Wise (Information Power) with a strong focus on Plan S. Dr Wise shared results of consultations with societies, which found 27 different models for societies moving to open access, and of which direct author charges were in the minority. She also previewed a toolkit for transformative agreements that has since been launched.
Representatives from different societies provided their points of view on a transition to open access. While all were in favour of a change, the approaches were very different, based on their revenue models and perception of researcher attitudes in their field. We heard that the Swiss Chemical Society will soon make their journal Chimia free to access and publish in, supported by other society revenues. The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute is currently exploring options, but seeking greater transparency from publishers to help them determine how to set article processing charges. The European Association of Social Psychology is able to take advantage of the DEAL agreement with Wiley to make some articles open access. However, its partners in the US are not motivated to switch to open access so progress is difficult. Because of their reliance on publishing income, they either need to find new sources of revenue or face giving up society activities. Prof. Bart van Tiggelen, Editor-in-Chief at the European Physics Letter Association, brought in the view of academics supporting open access, and how there is an issue with continuing to rely on current prestige-based assessments of journals and individuals.
Each of the four societies presented different challenges, aspects of the open access debate, and solutions to the situations they face.
In the afternoon, the focus turned to open access publishing. It started with a keynote from Jan Erik Frantsvåg surveying the open access landscape and showing how open access has enabled access for countries excluded from toll-access publishing. He also showed the diversity of open access publishers, with a large number of small publishers in addition to larger ones.
Saskia de Vries presented the Fair Open Access Alliance, showing how journals can make a successful transition from subscription to open access, and putting out a call for transparency in pricing for publishing services. A number of publishers are already committed to greater transparency and this is becoming a more prominent feature in debates around Plan S.
Six open access publishers then presented their approaches, including presenting available tools and sharing their experience of working with societies. They are all keen to see a thriving society publishing market and interested in supporting the transition to open access, in line with Plan S.
Some participants commented:
“One of the important things is that learned societies play an important role in the research cycle. While open access is perfectly in line with their mission of knowledge dissemination, there seem to be much uncertainty regarding maintaining revenue streams to finance their other activities.” (Dr Xenia van Edig, Copernicus)
“The most impressive thing about the 1st Basel Sustainable Publishing Forum were the fresh perspectives on offer. Whole panels explored the views of OA-only publishers, or learned society publishers. I learned a great deal from this, and very much appreciated the opportunity to understand nuances.” (Dr Alicia Wise, Information Power)
The transition to open access is not an easy one, but attendees were able to discuss a variety of possible solutions to support learned societies in a changing environment and ensure a strong future for publishers and scholarly communities.
Dr Martyn Rittman received his PhD in physical chemistry at the University of Warwick before completing postdoctoral positions at the University of Reading and the University of Freiburg. He joined MDPI in 2013 as an editor and is currently Publishing Director. He is a strong supporter of open access, open science, and preprints.
We are grateful to MDPI and all of our 2019 conference sponsors for their support.