The following statement was written by the members of OASPA’s Board of Directors:
The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) is a community of publishers and related organisations committed to supporting the transition to a world in which open access becomes the predominant model of publication for scholarly outputs. OASPA therefore welcomes the launch of Plan S, recently announced by a coalition of 11 leading funding agencies from across Europe, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council, as an important step in the transition towards full and immediate open access for scholarly research.
The statement of Commissioner Carlos Moedas about Plan S puts forth a strong commitment towards making open access the predominant model for communicating scholarly research outputs. OASPA believes this announcement will further strengthen fully open access journals and publishers, and accelerate the transition of mixed-model publishers towards fully open access publication models.
In the weeks since cOAlition S announced their 10 key principles for supporting the transition to open access, those within the open science community have engaged in numerous discussions about the possible implications of this initiative as well as questions about how it will be implemented. Last month at the 10th annual Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing, members of OASPA had the opportunity to discuss Plan S and to pose a number of these questions directly to Robert-Jan Smits, the Open Access Envoy of the European Commission, who has led the development of Plan S. The video recording of Smits’ presentation, as well as the subsequent discussion, is available here.
In OASPA’s view, there are several important strengths of this initiative that have the potential to drive meaningful change in the very near future. Notably, cOAlition S already includes 11 leading funding agencies and has invited others to join. Through this collaborative approach, the initiative can help to coordinate open access policy at an international level, which is in the interests of all stakeholders.
In the preamble to the announcement of cOAlition S, the President of Science Europe, Marc Schiltz, emphasised the need to “fundamentally revise” the current approach to research evaluation. Such reform is essential if scholars are to be empowered to publish in journals that provide them with the best quality of service, value, and wide dissemination, rather than being judged on their ability to publish their work in a limited range of high-prestige journals.
Since its launch 10 years ago, OASPA has played an important role in ensuring that every member of our organisation meets a stringent set of requirements with regard to peer review and publication practices as a condition of their membership. Therefore OASPA welcomes the comments about the need to ensure that the journals and platforms that are used for open access publishing exercise the highest quality policies and practices.
Additionally, OASPA welcomes the commitment to make the necessary funding available to enable all researchers to publish their work under an open access model without any undue financial burden. The details of exactly how these funds will be made available is of critical importance, since there is a risk that smaller publishers, scholarly societies, as well as innovative new publishing platforms may be placed at a significant disadvantage unless specific provisions are made to include them in any centralised funding arrangements that are developed. A key element of OASPA’s mission is to “ensure a diverse, vibrant, and healthy open access market that supports a wide variety of innovative solutions and business models,” and therefore we would welcome the opportunity to provide guidance and recommendations for how the funding of open access publications should be implemented within Plan S.
Another key aspect of Plan S around which important questions still remain is how the APC price caps that are mentioned in the guiding principles will be implemented. In addition to questions about the exact level of these price caps, there are questions as to how these price caps will be structured, and whether researchers will be allowed to use outside funding to help cover any charges in excess of the price caps. OASPA fully supports the aspiration of the cOAlition S funders to ensure the best possible value for their scarce resources, while also recognising potential concerns about the use of price caps as a means of ensuring value across a diverse range of publication venues and formats.
Similarly, there are questions as to whether, and how, the cOAlition S funders will make resources available to open access publications that do not rely on an APC-based business model. There are a growing number of open access publications, particularly those in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, which rely on innovative non-APC funding models. While fully recognising the challenges of developing policies to support a diverse range of business models, OASPA wholeheartedly believes in the importance of supporting a range of open access funding models. We would therefore welcome the opportunity to provide input as the implementation plans are being developed in order to help ensure adequate support for innovative models beyond APCs.
One aspect of Plan S that has been the subject of wide discussion, including multiple questions posed to Robert-Jan Smits at OASPA’s recent conference, is the degree to which “green” open access will be permitted as a means of fulfilling the requirements within Plan S. In response to these questions, Smits raised a valid objection to the ambiguity of terms like “green” and “gold” in describing open access models, and then went on to clarify that any models that adhere to the 10 guiding principles within Plan S would be permitted. Smits indicated that authors will be permitted to publish in toll-access journals that allow them make a copy of their accepted manuscript freely available at the point of publication, and under a suitable open access license, with no embargo period. However, one of the key principles announced within Plan S is that publication in “hybrid Open Access” journals would not be permitted, which leaves unresolved questions about whether any allowances for publication in journals that are not fully open access will be permitted in the final implementation plan. While this is likely to be one of the aspects of Plan S that will be widely discussed, OASPA very much welcomes that the focus of Plan S is to implement and support publication in fully Open Access journals.
In addition to the points discussed above, there are a number of other practical questions that will need to be addressed as part of the upcoming implementation process. The scholarly communications landscape is complex, and in order for the cOAlition S funders to achieve their ambitious goals they will need to work closely with the community as they begin to develop their detailed implementation plans. OASPA is fully committed to supporting the transition towards a future in which research outputs are made openly available, innovative new models are allowed to flourish, and publishers of all shapes and sizes are able to compete on a level playing field. As such, we not only welcome the ambitious vision put forth by cOAlition S, but we also offer our assistance in developing the forthcoming implementation plan and helping to make this vision a reality.