The end-user portal of cOAlition S’ Journal Comparison Service (JCS) launched on 28th September and is now live.
Publishers are being invited by Plan S to populate their transparency data* into the JCS. The JCS is a secure, free, online service aiming to enable those who procure publishing services to better understand what they are paying for. It also represents a way for publishers to achieve greater transparency on their services and related pricing.
*Publishers are invited to use either the Fair Open Access Alliance (FOAA) Publication Services and Fees Framework or the Information Power framework to feed their (2021) data into the JCS by 31 October 2022.
OASPA has received the following guidance and practical input from Plan S about filling in journal transparency data into the available frameworks to populate the JCS:
- Where to put what? And what happens when some cost values are not specifically mentioned (e.g., Honoraria)? It is in the gift of the publisher to allocate prices across the services as it sees fit. Get it broadly right and don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way.
If there are elements that you are unsure where to include, Plan S recommends that you add them to the most appropriate section, and then indicate this in the document you reference in the Price Transparency or Notes column as appropriate. For cOAlition S, developing the JCS has been about striking a balance between detailed listing of every possible price element and making it feasible for a publisher to complete.
If it becomes apparent that it would make sense to include an additional price element, then that can be considered at a later stage. Plan S anticipates establishing an Advisory Panel – made up of librarians and publishers – to make recommendations as to how the Frameworks could be developed over time and made even more useful in the future.
- How many files need to be sent in per publisher? Each publisher will need to submit just ONE spreadsheet (irrespective of size of portfolio), with one row of data per journal title.
- Tell your story on a separate URL (if you choose) and add the link along with your data: Categories in the frameworks are broad enough that all costs can be reflected where publishers best feel they fit. In addition, there is also a price context field that takes a URL. A publisher can explain things further (briefly or in detail) on the associated website.
Plan S guidance is that publishers are welcome (encouraged) to provide a link to a document where further information about their services can be provided. In the Information Power template, this link should be provided in column P (Price Transparency Context) and in the FOAA-based framework in column Z (Notes).
OASPA suggests that publishers who feel the need can use this link-out facility as a chance to tell your story and paint a more detailed picture (should you wish) to clarify, contextualize and have reasonable control of the narrative around your pricing and services information. This may be particularly helpful in cases where a publisher might feel that elements are defined differently by different publishers (e.g.,: desk rejection, first decision) in their entries. Linking out can also be helpful in cases where a non essential field is left blank in the JCS.
- Are all fields mandatory? Can fields that do not apply for a given journal / publisher (or that need disproportionate amounts of work) be left empty in the frameworks?
Some fields are mandatory, and it is mandatory that the total of all the price fields (NOT costs) add up to 100. Other fields are optional and can be left blank. E.g., the ROR field is an optional field. As described above, a publisher can enter a URL and link out to explain further.
The framework templates indicate for each column where the field is mandatory or not. If a publisher omits data for a mandatory field, validation will fail and the publisher will not be able to deposit data until their error has been corrected.
Plan S requires publishers to adhere to a common standard so that the JCS can facilitate comparisons between different journals/publishers/disciplines.
- How can a publisher correct/update entries? You can replace the data as often as you like. But bear in mind that data is for the past year only, i.e. information being sought by 31 October 2022 is for the full year 2021. So, the information is unlikely to change often. In the future, users (i.e., librarians) will be able to see how data/prices and allocations have changed over time. But note that publishers cannot upload multiple years’ data in one go as the system will only accommodate one years’ data.
- Why the focus on “research articles published” when reviews count (sometimes significantly) towards accept/reject rates? The focus of Plan S’ work is on research because funders typically do not pay for review articles. Publishers can say in notes that reviews are included if that is what is preferred. Or that the total review percentage is ‘X’ for this journal.
- What happens if you don’t submit data by 31 October? There is no obligation and participation is a choice for publishers. One of Plan S’ principles is that fees paid should be commensurate with services delivered, i.e., fees should be transparent; the JCS is about sharing this information in a standards-based way.
The information in the JCS will only be open to those librarians who sign an agreement and actively participate in OA agreements with publishers. If publisher data is not in the JCS the Journal Comparison Tool (JCT), if searched, will report that the publisher’s journal/s do/does not participate in the price comparison service.
Researchers do not (and will not have) access to the JCS, but they do have and will retain access to the JCT as a tool informing them of funder-compliant venues for publication.
More information on the launch of the end-user portal at the end of last month is available from Plan S in their announcement.
OASPA has worked with publisher members in the past on achieving clarity and transparency on their websites. The JCS now takes this one step further by bringing the data into one place. Publisher data will be comparable by users of the JCS (librarians who have signed the relevant agreements).
The deadline for publishers providing price and service data for 2021 is the end of October 2022 and will be a route to achieving transparency on pricing and services as defined by Plan S.
ADDENDUM OCTOBER 19 2022
- Plan S strongly encourages all publishers to share their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service (JCS). Those who procure OA publishing services – typically librarians and library consortia – are calling for greater transparency around prices to help ensure that the prices that are levied are commensurate with the services delivered.
- Journals that do not share their transparency data will still be deemed to be compliant with Plan S, assuming all the other Plan S requirements around immediate OA publication are met. Note, however, funders within cOAlition S reserve the right to change conditions attached to publication of research funded by cOAlition S members.
- The Journal Checker Tool (JCT) will make it clear whether a journal is or is not sharing price and service data through the JCS. So, while the compliance algorithm will not change based on JCS non-participation, authors who support values of openness and transparency may decide to submit their manuscripts to another journal if they learn, via the JCT, that journal transparency data have not been shared.
- The data must adhere to one of the frameworks and pass the validation process – and if a field is mandatory, then it must be supplied
- The data the publisher publishes on their public web site must be made available under a CC0 licence so it can be ingested