Most Plan S principles are not contentious

This is a sister blog to “Relax everyone, Plan S is just the beginning of the discussion” and provides the ‘supplementary material’ to that blog. It discusses the points in the Plan S principles that are not particularly contentious.

At the end of this blog is a list of links and commentary to date on Plan S.

Not much new here

The Funders will ensure the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access platforms and journals must provide.

This is perfectly reasonable. The amount of money being invested is huge and quite rightly, the funders want to articulate what they are prepared to pay for. It is also helpful from an institutional perspective to have guidelines that clearly identify which journals are compliant and which are not.

Indeed, there is a precedent. In 2017 the Wellcome Trust introduced a publisher requirement list stating that compliant publishers needed to deposit to PubMed Central Europe, apply the correct licence and provide invoices that contained complete and understandable information. They asked publishers to sign up to these principles to be listed on their ‘white list’.

Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by Funding Agencies or universities…

This point reflects the status quo in the UK at least. Universities across the UK are currently managing open access payments through various funding models. In some instances, such as Cambridge, payments are only made from funds provided by funding bodies with no extra funds provided by the institution. Other institutions such as UCL provide central university funds in addition to those provided by funders. There are a small number of institutions which do not receive any funds from funders but do provide central funds for specific publications.

Of course, if journals were to flip to fully open access then funds currently being used to pay for subscriptions could be freed up to divert to expenditure on APCs for fully gold publications.

Funders will ask universities and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency.

While this might be a little tricky simply because of the individual governance arrangements at institution, it is a sensible thing to aim for.

The above principles shall apply to all research outputs, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1st January 2020.

Open Access monographs ARE contentious, don’t get me wrong. But in the context of this statement of principle, there is concession that there is some work to be done in this space. And we already knew that UKRI intends to include monographs in the post REF2021 (as in, anything published from 1 January 2021). Wellcome Trust have had OA monographs in their policy for years.

The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation.

Now I know this is contentious for us Open Access nerds because there is a sense that repositories are once again being pushed into the shadows, which is what happened with the Finch report. But as noted in the main blog, under Plan S, deposit of an Author’s Accepted Manuscript into a repository is compliant if it is there under a CC-BY licence and with a zero embargo.

Some issues are operational

In a few instances, the queries or concerns raised about Plan S are actually operational ones.

When APCs are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe)

Currently the RCUK (now UKRI) does cap funding to Universities, using a complex algorithm to determine allocations in a given year to support the institutions meeting the open access policy. This has resulted in some institutions (including Cambridge) to identify a preference for publishers  exhibiting actions towards an open access future.

Manchester University has introduced new criteria for payment of APCs. They support “Publishers who are taking a sustainable and affordable approach to the transition to OA, e.g. by reducing the cost of publishing Gold OA in hybrid (subscription) journals via offsetting deals or membership schemes are listed below:…” They include a list of journals for which APCs will not be paid.

The alternative interpretation of this statement will be that individual APCs will be capped. This would have implications for all administrators of APCs. It would have particular implications for Cambridge University because of the relatively high proportion of papers published in expensive open access journals such as Nature Communications. The University would both have to find funds to supplement the cost, and also provide the administrative support for this process. This is where discussions need to happen about redirecting subscription budgets towards open access activities. While Plan S adds some urgency, there is time to have these.

The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.

This is the statement that has some administrative staff highly concerned. In the end it will fall upon them to ensure their research community is up to speed and doing the required activities. But we have had sanctions for non-compliance to Wellcome Trust policies since 2014 so this in itself is not new.

Relevant documents from Science Europe

Commentary, news stories & press releases

There has been considerable discussion about Plan S – here are just a few links that might be interesting.

Published 12 September 2018
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

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