The following article by Robert Kiley, Head of Strategy at cOAlition S, was originally published in the book titled “We so loved Open Access“, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of SciELO.
For the last 20 years, Open Access (OA) has been at the centre of my professional life.
My first encounter with the concept of Open Access (OA) was during a Wellcome Library Advisory Committee meeting in 2002, where academic librarians expressed concerns about the escalating costs of journal subscriptions. This prompted discussions about Wellcome’s role in addressing the issue, particularly as their funded content was part of what libraries were paying to access.
Fast forward to 2023, and OA has become mainstream, global and, I believe, ultimately irreversible.
Current estimates suggest that more than 50% of the world’s research articles are published open access and that there are around 20,000 fully OA journals. Data also indicates that publishing OA is, on average, cheaper than publishing in subscription journals. For example, an analysis by Delta Think shows that around 45% of all scholarly articles were published as paid-for open access in 2021, but this accounted for just under 15% of the total journal publishing revenue.
However, after two decades of discussions, advocacy, policy development and strategy, can this level of OA be considered a success, particularly when half of all research articles published today is hidden behind a paywall? I think not.
In this blog post, I will reflect on the work I led – both in my role at Wellcome in supporting the implementation of its OA policy and more recently as Head of Strategy at cOAlition S – and highlight five issues that have hindered the transition to OA. On a more positive note, for each issue discussed, I will address how things are changing.
As early as 2005, when Wellcome became the first research funder with a mandatory OA policy, it was made clear that when funding decisions are taken what counts is the intrinsic merit of the work the researcher has undertaken and not proxies, like journal name and impact factors.
Despite this explicit statement, which was backed up by subsequent initiatives, such as Wellcome signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and implementing changes to the grant application form and review process, many researchers continued to believe that their future success depended upon having an article published in a high impact factor journal.
This fear not only discouraged some researchers from publishing in new, fully Open Access issues, as discussed in Issue 4 below, but it also resulted in some researchers not fully complying with OA policies. This non-compliance was in part due to high-impact factor journals being slow to adopt OA-compliant publishing policies.
What is changing to address this issue?
The recent development of initiatives such as the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) and the Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship (HELIOS) – backed by a combination of research funders and higher education institutions – demonstrates a serious commitment to reform researcher assessment.
The dominant business models that underpin scholarly publishing – namely subscriptions and Article Processing Charges (APCs) – are highly inequitable. It would be a significant policy failure if, in the transition to OA, we simply swapped one form of inequity – where subscription paywalls prevented a researcher from accessing research – with another, where APC barriers prohibited researchers from publishing their research.
Although in the early days of the OA APCs were seen as a credible strategy to deliver OA –the PLOS founders described APCs as “a natural alternative to the subscription model” – evidence now suggests that this model tends to exclude authors of particular career stages, genders, and institutions, in addition to also excluding those from certain regions in the world.
What is changing to address this issue?
Aware of the challenges discussed above, multiple stakeholders are currently exploring alternative models which prioritise global equity.
One approach that meets this condition is the Diamond publishing model, defined as one in which neither the reader nor the author pays, but where the costs of publishing are met by academic institutions and/or communities. Although Diamond journals have been in existence since the late 1980’s, they have gained momentum since the publication of the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access in 2022. At the time of writing, over 140 institutions and funders have publicly endorsed this plan, including agencies such as the French National Research Agency (ANR), the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
In addition, we have seen the development of the Subscribe to Open (S2O) model, described as a “pragmatic approach for converting subscription journals to open access—free and immediate online availability of research—without reliance on either article processing charges or altruism”. Currently, 168 titles from 20 publishers are published under this model.
Other publishers, such as PLOS, are experimenting with non-APC or volume-based models, as seen, for example, in their Global Equity Model. Furthermore, cOAlition S has commissioned a study to explore the feasibility of using the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) as a potential model for devising an equitable pricing model for academic publishing.
Transforming a global, academic publishing system – which generates over $10bn in annual revenue and substantial profits for commercial publishers – was always going to be challenging. The task was made more difficult by the researcher assessment system (Issue 1) and the inherent conservatism of some researchers, who saw how the publishing system had worked for their senior colleagues and saw no reason not to emulate them and follow their publishing practices.
However, given that much of the funding to support academic publishing comes from academic institutions and funders, it is disappointing that these two stakeholders did not work more closely together to drive change.
Looking exclusively at funders, although there are a number of dedicated funder groups – such as the Global Research Council, the Heads of International Research Organisation, Science Europe, and the Open Research Funders Group – there was no attempt to align funder policies. Indeed, in 2005 when Wellcome developed its OA policy, it allowed an embargo of 6 months, believing this would align with the NIH policy. In the event, the NIH adopted a 12-month embargo period, which persists to this day.
What is changing to address this?
The launch of cOAlition S in 2018 was the first attempt to get research funders and performing organisations to align on a common OA policy. Over the past five years, membership has grown from 12 to 28, including funders in Australia, South Africa, Europe and the United States. In addition, even where funders have not joined cOAlition S – such as the federal agencies in the US – there has been significant progress towards broad policy alignment on key issues, such as zero embargoes and rights retention.
There is also greater coordination with institutions on OA issues, as evidenced by the close collaboration with members of the OA2020 initiative, the (time-limited) financial support for institutionally negotiated transformative arrangements and the development of institutional rights retention policies (IRRP), which mirror the rights retention strategy of cOAlition S.
By joining forces, funders and institutions can play a crucial role in supporting the transition to OA.
In the push to make research articles OA, much attention (and funding) was spent encouraging existing subscription, and in the main, commercially published journals, to develop OA publishing options and eventually to flip to OA. While this approach was reasonable, since many researchers were continuing to publish in subscription/mixed model journals, it likely slowed down the adoption of fully OA journals and emerging scholar-led models, such as pre-printing and publishing platforms that supported a post-publication peer review model.
Ultimately, the goals of commercial publishers, with a fiduciary duty to maximize profits for their shareholders, were invariably at odds with those of funders and institutions. This misalignment is manifestly evident in the response from publishers to cOAlition S’s Journal Comparison Service, where just 28 publishers have provided information on the prices they charge for their services, despite community calls for greater transparency.
What is changing to address this issue?
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of publishing research findings ahead of peer review, with researchers – and not third-party suppliers, like publishers – deciding when and where to publish their research results.
Crucially, preprint servers like bioRxiv, and medRxiv, offer a much faster publication process, typically publishing in-scope submissions within 2-4 days, compared to the estimated 125 days in traditional publication venues. Although the immediate urgency of the pandemic may have subsided, researchers are continuing to make use of preprints, with bioRxiv reporting 3477 new articles published in March 2023.
At the same time, we are also witnessing the emergence of scholar-led, journal agnostic peer review models, such as Review Commons and Peer Community In (PCI), where preprints can be formally reviewed, without having to submit to a journal. As funders are increasingly recognising refereed preprints as equivalent to articles published in a peer reviewed journal, this should help to diminish the impact of journal names, and allow readers and those engaged in researcher assessment exercises to focus on the intrinsic merit of the published research.
Finally, the Council of Europe’s draft conclusions on High-quality, Transparent, Open, Trustworthy and Equitable Scholarly Publishing, highlight the importance of “not-for-profit, scholarly open access publishing models that do not charge fees to authors or readers and where authors can publish their work without funding/institutional eligibility criteria” and “stresses the importance of supporting the development of such models founded on led by public research organisations”.
Though it would be a brave commentator to suggest that commercially published journals will cease to exist in the near future, I think it is likely that their ability to continue to generate significant profits from the public purse will reduce. Moreover, I anticipate that they will focus their efforts on service provision – for example, research integrity services, copyediting and so forth – but will no longer have control over the content created by researchers.
Intrinsically linked to the matter discussed above is the issue of rights retention.
Rights retention ensures that researchers own and control the content that they created, based on the discoveries they made. Typically though, researchers hand over the copyright to their work to the publisher, and all subsequent use of that work (including the author being able to re-use their own content) is controlled by the publisher.
Rights retention was initially considered as a solution to encourage publishers to develop Open Access (OA) publishing options, with the idea that it would be used as a last resort when no other options were available to make research publicly available. In hindsight, as one of the architects of this approach, I believe that this was a mistake.
It gave too much power to the publishers, enabling them to set an APC at whatever price they deemed suitable. Consequently, this led to the emergence of APCs that exceed $11,500.
To be clear, I believe publishers should be fairly compensated for the services they provide, though this should not give them ownership (copyright) of the work, and the prices levied must be commensurate with the services provided. As most publishers have not shared their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service, determining whether the price is fair and reasonable is impossible.
What is changing to address this issue?
Although rights retention is not a new concept – Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously to give Harvard a nonexclusive, irrevocable right to distribute their scholarly articles for any non-commercial purpose back in 2008 – in recent years it has become more mainstream. Specifically, several research funders include rights retention in their open access policies (and provide templated language to researchers to assert their rights). By way of example, those in receipt of a Wellcome award are required to “grant a CC-BY Public Copyright Licence to all future Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs)”, and that all submissions of original research to peer-reviewed journals must contain the statement: “for the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC-BY public copyright licence to any author accepted manuscript version arising from this submission”.
Many universities are also implementing institutional rights retention policies in support of funder policies. In the UK alone, some 16 universities now have such policies, and more are expected to follow.
Several publishers are also supporting rights retention by explicitly stating in their publishing agreements that authors retain the right to share their author accepted manuscripts at the time of publication with a CC-BY license. The Royal Society and the Microbiology Society are two such examples. The scholarly publishing trade association (Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association – OASPA) has also signaled its support for rights retention, commenting that the proposal from the NIH to develop language to support authors in retaining their rights and bring clarity to the submission process for both authors and publishers “is welcomed”.
These combined approaches will help to ensure that, in the future, authors – not publishers – will retain control over how and when their research articles are openly shared.
Some 20 years after the publication of the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin declarations, OA continues to be a topic that generates a huge amount of interest, discussion and passion. And, though progress has not been as fast as I would have hoped, I am confident that it will not take another two decades before full and immediate OA is realised.
In the following opinion piece, Robert-Jan Smits, Europe’s former Open Access Envoy and one of the main architects of Plan S, reflects on the five years of the initiative and shares his thoughts on its future direction. The post was initially published on ResearchProfessional News. Robert-Jan Smits will be one of the panellists at our “Plan S @ 5” webinar on November 2, 2023.
On 4 September it is exactly 5 years ago that a group of twelve European funding agencies supported by the European Commission presented a radical plan – PLAN S – to accelerate the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications. For more than 30 years, researchers and science policy makers had agreed to the idea of making research results ‘Open Access‘, but progress had been slow. The plan was founded on the principles that scientific publications resulting from research funded by public grants MUST be published immediately and in fully compliant Open Access journals or platforms for all to read. The rationale for these funders to take action was crystal clear: knowledge generated with the support of the public purse should be accessible to society at large and not be locked behind paywalls for the happy few to have access to. Furthermore, the system of subscription based journals was costing the tax payer a fortune each year, notably through the high subscription fees that academic libraries had to pay to a small group of large commercial publishers.
The case for Open Access became utterly clear when the COVID-19 virus spread rapidly across the globe and the science community was mobilized to look for medication and vaccines. From day one, research results and data were shared and made available in real time by both academia and industry to win the race against the clock. And the commercial publishers took their responsibility by joining in and abolishing their paywalls. It would have even been unethical if they would not have done so, with certainly a public outcry as a result. When the pandemic was over, there was therefore every reason to make Open Access the new normal and not return to the old situation. As I often said myself in those days: if we had Open Access to help beat the virus, why not use it to tackle the other grand societal challenges we are facing, from climate change to food security and from the energy transition to social inequality. Although at that time no one really disagreed with this, it proved once again that old habits die hard.
>> Read the full opinion piece by clicking here [pdf].
In September 2018, a group of national research funding organizations, with the support of the European Commission, rallied behind an initiative to make research publications openly accessible to all: Plan S. These visionary organizations came together as cOAlition S, and adopted a set of 10 principles that were intended to function as a catalyst for the accelerated transition to full and immediate Open Access. For most cOAlition S members, the policies and tools that support the implementation of Plan S came into effect in 2021.
Although the full impact of these policies will still take several years to unfold, it is a good moment to reflect on what has been achieved so far. I joined cOAlition S exactly one year after its inception, as its Executive Director, and have therefore been privileged to participate in the journey that the cOAlition S community – Experts, Leaders, Ambassadors, Supporters, and Office – have undertaken, and the remarkable progress we have achieved together.
In five years, cOAlition S has grown from a dozen to a network of 28 funders. What is remarkable is that this reach extends beyond Europe, encompassing agencies from the US, Australia and South Africa. This expansion has sparked a ripple effect, with even non-cOAlition S funders developing policies that are largely aligned with Plan S. This is evident in the US with the August 2022 Nelson memo, Canada, India, Germany and elsewhere. Governments in Europe and beyond have also become more vocal about Open Access to research results, as evidenced in the European Council Conclusions and the G7 Science and Technology Ministers declaration of last May. Plan S and cOAlition S have certainly contributed to a consensus among research funding agencies worldwide that Open Access to research results is a priority that requires international alignment.
During those five years, publishers have changed tack as well. They seem to increasingly recognise that it is no longer about whether they should flip to Open Access, but how they should flip to Open Access. Some of them have made changes to their policies to comply with Plan S principles, or they are exploring new models such as Subscribe to Open, Diamond Open Access, and other non-APC models.
From the start, Plan S adopted an agnostic approach to Open Access routes. Whether it is via publication in full Open Access journals, or titles made available under a Transformative Arrangement, or making the Accepted Manuscript available through a repository, cOAlition S accommodates diverse routes to compliance.
To help authors choose publishing options that are supported by their funder’s Open Access policy, cOAlition S developed the Journal Checker Tool (JCT), a trusted resource now serving 3000 users per month. In support of the Repository Route, we developed the Rights Retention strategy; a strategy that was enthusiastically adopted by many universities and institutions.
Responding to the library community’s calls for price transparency of the publishing services they procure, cOAlition S designed and developed the Journal Comparison Service (JCS), an online platform helping users to determine if prices for publishing services are fair and reasonable.
As the Open Access landscape evolves, cOAlition S evolves with it. Based on progress reports and the very low Open Access transformation rate of Transformative Journals, cOAlition S decided to end its financial support for Transformative Arrangements. Instead, it will direct its efforts to more innovative and community-driven Open Access publishing initiatives.
In collaboration with various international organizations, cOAlition S also pursues work for more equity in Open Access, via a series of workshops, a study exploring if Purchasing Power Parity could improve APC inequity, and a working group exploring new, non-APC-based business models.
In addition, cOAlition S acknowledges the growing need for alternative, not-for profit publishing models, and is actively involved in European and global efforts for Diamond OA: the EC-funded DIAMAS and CRAFT-OA projects, the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access, and the Global Diamond Open Access Summit.
Finally, cOAlition S is contributing to improving research assessment by joining the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA), specifically to encourage those who undertake research assessment exercises, to move away from journal metrics and to better value Open Access publishing by authors.
This is also a good time to thank everyone who was involved in the cOAlition S community. First and foremost, the Experts who represented their funding organizations in the Expert group. They managed to build an online collaborative Expert community that co-created the backbone of our joint policies, and consult each other regularly about policy implementation and challenges. This group is without any doubt cOAlition S’s strongest secret weapon. The Leaders group should be thanked for the confidence they have shown in the Plan S principles and implementation. Thanks are also due to the cOAlition S Executive Steering Group, who meet fortnightly to advise and make decisions on policy matters. Finally, I would like to thank the European Science Foundation – Science Connect for hosting the cOAlition S Office, and diligently managing the human resources and financial aspects of our operations.
The Plan S mission is certainly not accomplished yet. Looking to the future, we believe there is room for accelerating Open Access even more and making it more equitable. For this, we are working on a “Towards Responsible Publishing” proposal, which aims to foster a community-based communication system for open science in the 21st century. This proposal, set to be released within two months, will be followed by a large-scale consultation with the research community. Additionally, we will be commissioning an independent review of the contribution Plan S has made to the Open Access publishing landscape.
To mark the 5th anniversary of Plan S, we are organizing a webinar on Thursday 2nd November 2023, between 17.00 – 19.00 CET. The event will explore how Plan S has developed since its launch as well as what lies ahead for the future of scholarly communication. We are looking forward to seeing you there!
Leading up to the 2023 SDG summit in September, Nature has launched a series of editorials covering the SDGs. The first editorial raises the alarm that “UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are heading for the rocks” and urges “Researchers around the world …[to] do their bit to change that.” The elephant in the room, however, is that if research is not contributing as much as it could to the success of the SDGs, it is in large part because of the commercial exploitation and gatekeeping of the academic publishing system itself.
Extractive corporate behaviour in general– including that of the largest commercial publishers – has directly contributed to wrecking our world to the point that the international community had to come up with the SDGs, before the planet burns up and splits at the seams due to climate change, growing inequality, and conflict.
More specifically, the big commercial publishers’ ever-increasing publication fees and excessive profits are draining public funds away from research. This holds back scientific progress in all areas, including those that are crucial for reaching the SDGs. How can scientists be expected to “do their bit” to solve global issues if limited research funds are diverted away from research and into publishers’ multimillion profits?
Even more gallingly, most of the sustainability and climate change science is still behind publisher paywalls. As a result, the publications of researchers who actually are “doing their bit” remain largely inaccessible to readers who cannot afford expensive subscriptions.
Let us also not forget that the research done “around the world” – in the regions and by the communities most exposed to the harms of climate change, inequality, biodiversity loss, and poverty – is far less likely to be published in high-ranking international journals, because these journals overwhelmingly publish research from high-income countries.
In a show of commitment, the large commercial publishers have signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact, which allows them to gain respectability points for reducing paper waste at their headquarters and gives them the right to pin the SDG logo on their website. However, the SDG Publishers Compact does not require them to transform their harmful practices. On the contrary, we now know that while their editorials may exhort others to do more, at the same time, they may also, for example, support the fossil fuel industry and take money from the poorest countries in the world for their services. Such actions, in effect, directly undermine the SDGs.
Instead of telling researchers to “do their bit”, publishers truly committed to advancing the SDGs might consider doing their own bit.
If Springer Nature indeed wants science to solve global challenges, they could start by making all sustainability research open – with the same sense of urgency as that which applied to health research during the Covid-19 crisis.
In addition, they could stop asking for extortionate publishing fees, so that taxpayers’ money can actually support research where it is needed.
Academic publishers could do a lot to make sure that research fully contributes to the success of the SDGs. But until they take concrete steps, as those outlined above, their editorials on this topic are just cynical SDG washing.
The following article by Johan Rooryck, Margo Bargheer and Pierre Mounier was originally published on ResearchProfessional News on 22 June 2023. A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe.
Publishers’ outcry at EU plans ignores potential for new partnerships, say Johan Rooryck and colleagues
On 23 May, the Council of the EU adopted a groundbreaking set of conclusions advocating high-quality, open, trustworthy and equitable scholarly publishing. The move drew widespread support from Europe’s academic community, including in a joint response from nine organisations representing funders, researchers and universities.
Some native open-access commercial publishers also welcomed the conclusions. The traditional academic publishing industry, however, was less enthusiastic. Caroline Sutton, chief executive of the trade association STM, was quoted as saying that the conclusions “support a move that would abolish an industry” and “usher in a state-defined system that could stymie academic freedom”.
It is regrettable that legacy publishers feel they must react in such extreme ideological terms. Their anxiety is unwarranted; instead, the conclusions are more likely to lead to an exciting era of public-private partnerships.
As policy documents go, the conclusions are damning. They express barely veiled irritation with legacy publishers, noting that their business and operational models have not kept pace with digitalisation, and that “the increasing costs of paywalls…cause inequalities and are becoming unsustainable”. Academic publishing increasingly looks like a service provider that refuses to listen to its clients.
In its five years, the Plan S initiaitive to drive open access publication has striven to give publishers incentives to accelerate the transition to openness and price transparency. These have boosted numbers of open-access articles but few publishers have embraced a full transition. Consequently, it is not surprising that the EU and the academic community are now considering not-for-profit, scholar-led alternatives.
At the heart of such a publishing model lies diamond open access. In this, the research community owns and controls all the elements of academic publishing related to content: journal and platform titles, papers, reviews, decisions, data, correspondence and reviewer databases. Instead of charging readers or authors, funding would come from institutional partners such as universities, governments, funders and charitable foundations.
Commercial providers can be contracted to deliver services such as submission systems, copyediting and typesetting. Contracts with service providers should provide cost transparency, be competitive, time-limited, and free of lock-in mechanisms or non-disclosure agreements.
By separating the content and service-related aspects of publishing, diamond open access opens the possibility for a renewed compact, in which private service providers compete to serve both publicly and community-owned platforms.
This model is a radical departure from the current situation, where private publishers have complete control over the exclusive goods that journals and articles represent for their business. Instead, it gives service providers a commercially viable role; the publishing industry has no need for alarmist statements.
However, ownership and control of content-related elements by the academic community entail responsibilities that require organisation on an international scale.
Scholarly disciplines need to develop common guidelines for reviewing and editorial policies that provide trusted and shared international standards. Similarly, the academic community’s ownership of journals needs to be legally anchored, and sustainable governance models have to be developed and adopted.
Technical standards for platforms, submission systems and metadata must be agreed. International collaborative financing mechanisms must be developed and public-private publishing partnerships must be negotiated and concluded.
To facilitate the move to diamond open access in the European Research Area, Horizon Europe has funded two projects: Diamas and Craft-OA. These will develop technical services and a federated infrastructure for institutional publishers and service providers to share resources such as software, know-how and training with the community.
They also aim to lay the foundations for a network of distributed capacity centres for diamond publishing. These would assist journal editors and institutional publishers in working towards shared quality standards and best practices, and integrate journal outputs into the European Open Science Cloud.
Diamond open access is an opportunity to reshape scholarly publishing but achieving this will take worldwide collaboration and dialogue. That dialogue begins at the Diamond Summit in Toluca, Mexico, from 23-27 October.
Johan Rooryck is executive director of cOAlition S. Margo Bargheer works at the University Library of Göttingen. Pierre Mounier is a coordinator of the Operas research infrastructure. They coordinate the Diamas and Craft-OA projects.
The following article by Johan Rooryck (Editor in Chief, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics) was originally published on Hypotheses. It is part of the diamond papers, a collection of discussion papers exploring community-driven pathways to equitable open scholarly publishing.
The Action Plan for Diamond Open Access outlines a set of priorities to develop sustainable, community-driven, academic-led and -owned scholarly communication. Its goal is to create a global federation of Diamond Open Access (Diamond OA) journals and platforms around shared principles, guidelines, and quality standards while respecting their cultural, multilingual and disciplinary diversity. It proposes a definition of Diamond OA as a scholarly publication model in which journals and platforms do not charge fees to either authors or readers. Diamond OA is community-driven, academic-led and -owned, and serves a wide variety of generally small-scale, multilingual, and multicultural scholarly communities.
Still, Diamond OA is often seen as a mere business model for scholarly publishing: no fees for authors or readers. However, Diamond OA can be better characterized by a shared set of values and principles that go well beyond the business aspect. These distinguish Diamond OA communities from other approaches to scholarly publishing. It is therefore worthwhile to spell out these values and principles, so they may serve as elements of identification for Diamond OA communities.
The principles formulated below are intended as a first draft. They are not cast in stone, and meant to inspire discussion and evolve as a living document that will crystallize over the coming months. Many of these principles are not exclusive to Diamond OA communities. Some are borrowed or adapted from the more general 2019 Good Practice Principles for scholarly communication services defined by Sparc and COAR1, or go back to the 2016 Vienna Principles. Others have been carefully worked out in more detail by the FOREST Framework for Values-Driven Scholarly Communication in a self-assessment format for scholarly communities. Additional references can be added in the discussion.
The formulation of these principles has benefited from many conversations over the years with various members of the Diamond community now working together in the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access, cOAlition S, the CRAFT-OA and DIAMAS projects, the Fair Open Access Alliance (FOAA), Linguistics in Open Access (LingOA), the Open Library of Humanities, OPERAS, SciELO, Science Europe, and Redalyc-Amelica. This document attempts to embed these valuable contributions into principles defining the ethos of Diamond OA publishing.
Scholarly communication is an integral component of research and scholarship. Academic publishing must therefore be collaboratively driven and led by academic communities. All scholarly outputs (including preprints, review reports, revisions, editorial decisions and evaluations, data, editorial correspondence) are crafted by practicing researchers and scholars in the interest of science and society.
Principle 1 entails that all content-related elements (journal and platform titles, papers, reviews, decisions, data, correspondence, reviewer databases) are controlled and owned by scholarly communities. These content-related elements cannot be sold or traded as commodities. Open licenses for content are the default.
Diamond OA journals and platforms, their associations, their publishers, and the organizations that operate or support them (henceforth ‘Diamond publishing’ for short) are legally owned by the scholarly community (e.g. via not-for-profits, scholarly societies, or academic institutions). Their governance model is transparently formulated, openly accessible, long-term sustainable, and responsive to the research communities they represent.
Scholarly results and publications are a public good2. There should be no financial barriers to reading and publishing them. Diamond publishing does not charge obligatory fees to either authors or readers.
Diamond publishing is socially defined as a decentralized federation of local, regional, and global scholarly communities that represent a variety of identities, epistemic traditions, languages, and disciplines. These Diamond OA Communities (DOAC) implicitly or explicitly share the values expressed in the principles of Diamond OA.
Diamond publishing can make use of commercial service providers for service-related aspects of publishing, such as submission systems, copy-editing, typesetting, and digital preservation. Service provider contracts should provide cost transparency, be competitive, time-delimited, open for negotiation, and free of any lock-in mechanisms or non-disclosure agreements. All data shared with or collected by service providers remains in the ownership of the scholarly community, and must be digitally transportable to another digital tool or platform without additional fees.
Diamond publishing follows aligned quality standards that are co-created in the Diamond OA Communities. Editorial policies (information for authors, reviewers, journal selection and conflict resolution procedures), ethics guidelines, and data policies are transparently formulated and accessible to all readers and authors. Such policies are respectful of the diversity of epistemic traditions and disciplines served by the journals.
Diamond publishing explores ways to increase access to open data and open peer review in a dialogue with their communities. Innovative models for scholarly communication, including post-publication peer review models, overlay journals, and preprint archives, are welcome in the Diamond OA Communities. Tools, services, and code should be made open and interoperable.
Diamond publishing actively supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in every dimension. It welcomes a variety of perspectives, disciplines, languages, and cultures in the interest of bibliodiversity. It robustly promotes and practices multilingualism.
Diamond publishing readers and authors are not digitally tracked as traceable individuals. User data may be aggregated anonymously and regionally to identify trends and usage. Individual data will only be used for transparent, specific, and well-delineated purposes: e.g. review requests, publication correspondence, or invitations for narrowly defined special issues. Diamond publishing generates responsible metadata and metrics that are open, transparent, and designed to help build the scholarly community and consolidate knowledge for posterity.
Diamond publishing is an integral service component of research and scholarship that charges no costs to its users (Principles 1 and 3). As such, it is a distributed infrastructure as vital for research as Large-Scale Research Infrastructures (LSRIs). Its costs must be sustainably borne by academic organizations at the highest national levels worldwide (e.g. funding organizations and ministries of research and education). All Diamond publishing costs and contracts are open, transparent, and fully accountable. Individual remunerations of Diamond publishing personnel are consistent with the sustainability of the entire ecosystem.
1/. These are themselves based on the principles developed by Bilder G, Lin J, Neylon C (2015) Principles for Open Scholarly Infrastructure-v1
2/. Technically, a public good is a good that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Knowledge as a public good is discussed by Neylon (2015).
One thing that crops up in politics is situations where politicians attempt to explain a new law they know people won’t like or agree with, and do so by putting a spin on it that describes it in a way that doesn’t seem so bad. This is also true of the publisher Springer Nature’s (SN) information about self-archiving for papers containing rights retention (RR) language. The information is provided on the page about SN journal policies.
The RR language referred to in the information is typically a template statement provided by the funder or institution. The statement, usually included in the acknowledgement section of the submitted paper, informs the publisher that the author (and original copyright holder) has applied a licence, usually a CC-BY licence, to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) arising from the submission. Any AAM is, therefore, pre-licenced at the point of submission. The Wellcome Trust’s version of the statement (or language) that uses this model is as follows:
‘This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number xxxxx]. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.’
Inclusion of the text is a condition of funding that is signed by the researcher, or more often, their university on the formal grant agreement. The Wellcome Trust instructions state:
“To ensure you (or anyone supported/associated with the grant) can comply with our policy, you must apply a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) public copyright licence to all Author Accepted Manuscripts arising from submissions to peer-reviewed journals that report original research,”
and goes on to instruct researchers that the template text above must be included “in all submissions.”
Some universities are adopting similar policies to empower their authors to retain their rights. In a typical (UK) institutional rights retention policy situation, ‘the researcher enters into a non-exclusive agreement with the university to make all their papers immediately open access under a Creative Commons attribution (CC BY) licence‘ (University of Cambridge). The agreement for the university AAM to obtain a copy with a CC-BY licence and make it freely available is all done and dusted even before the paper is submitted to the publisher.
Let’s take a close look at what SN says in its advice on this matter to authors:
“Springer Nature only ever assesses manuscripts on their editorial merit. If primary research manuscripts contain Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) language, they will not be rejected on the grounds of its inclusion, and we will not remove that text before publication if it is included in a section that is a normal part of the published primary research article.”
The information gets off to a good start. Assessing manuscripts on editorial merit alone is something any author would want to be reassured about. Equally, authors will be pleased to learn that, even if they include rights retention language, SN will not amend the author’s text by removing the RR statement that the author included in the text they created and provided at no charge to SN for publication. So far, so good. The information continues:
“Authors should note, however, that manuscripts containing statements about open licensing of accepted manuscripts (AMs) can only be published via the immediate gold open access (OA) route, to ensure that authors are not making conflicting licensing commitments, and can comply with any funder or institutional requirements for immediate OA.”
This is where things start to get tricksy. Translation – if the author assigns a prior licence to their AAM and submits the manuscript to a SN subscription journal that also offers an Open Access (OA) option (sometimes known as a hybrid journal), then the publisher will only accept it if the author pays for OA publication (sometimes known as ‘gold’ OA). Mind you, SN is not rejecting the manuscript outright; it’s just that they will ONLY accept it if the author pays. So by extension, if they don’t pay, SN won’t publish the paper, which amounts to a rejection. However hard I try, I can’t seem to tally “only be published via the immediate gold open access (OA) route” with “only accepting manuscripts on their editorial merit.” The wording is slippery here. Like those politicians, SN doesn’t ACTUALLY state that if you don’t, won’t or can’t pay, they will reject your paper. But in practice, that is exactly what they imply. This is pure smoke and mirrors.
The suggestion that it is necessary to be published using the paid gold route to comply with institutional requirements is, in some cases, completely wrong. At the time of writing, increasing numbers of universities have an OA policy that aims for all publications to be OA. However, many universities DO NOT have a fund for APCs. There are also those universities that have a preference for the repository route for OA:
“The University prioritises open access by means of self-archiving in its institutional repository – the so-called ‘green’ route” (University of Oxford).
An institutional RR policy generally applies to all researchers, not just funded ones. This means that a researcher without a research grant from a funder, in an institution with a RR policy but no APC fund and no transformative agreement with SN, cannot meet their university’s requirement. So no, telling authors they can only publish via the gold route is not ensuring all authors can comply with their institution’s requirements for OA. It gets worse:
“Authors who opt to publish via the subscription route will be required to sign our standard subscription licence terms, which only allow the AM to be shared after an embargo period. The subscription licensing terms are incompatible with any attempt to assert prior rights to the AM, and require authors to confirm that Springer Nature’s standard licensing terms will supersede any other terms that the author or any third party may assert apply to any version of the manuscript.”
If your research is funded by, say, Wellcome Trust, or another funder that employs Author Rights Retention as a means to empower authors, SN is well aware that the author is already committed to meet the terms of their EXISTING grant agreement that they, or their university, signed with the research funder. It is an explicit grant condition. The author has to meet that grant condition or risk serious consequences that could affect future funding award applications. Springer Nature KNOWS this. Many funders and institutions have written to them to tell them so when they originally adopted their policies.
I find this irresponsible of SN. Should the author choose to use the repository (or ‘green’) option for OA, SN is, in effect, trying to bully authors into breaking the conditions of their pre-existing grant agreement. They do this by using the words ‘required to sign‘ our licence.
Not only is it irresponsible, it is disrespectful to researchers and adds significant confusion into the process. It is also quite astonishing that SN asks authors to “confirm that Springer Nature’s standard licensing terms will supersede any other terms that the author or any third party may assert.” This is pressuring the author into agreeing, incorrectly, that SN’s terms trump the pre-existing conditions of the grant that they have already signed. They fail to explain to authors that by complying with SN’s terms, they will contravene their existing agreement with their funder or university.
The statement about SN’s terms superseding any other terms is flaky in any case. If the AAM has a prior licence assigned, it has its licence already applied. Whatever the author signs afterwards does not ‘un-license’ it. A CC BY licence cannot be removed just because SN declares their standard licensing terms will supersede it. Once applied, the CC BY licence assigned to the article is inherent in it and simply takes legal precedence over any conflicting language in SN’s later licensing terms. The University of Edinburgh demonstrates this nicely:
“Going forwards all authors automatically grant the University a non‐exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide licence to make manuscripts of their scholarly articles publicly available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.”
The licences are assigned even before the articles are written. The SN’s advice continues:
“Therefore, authors who wish their research to be immediately openly accessible or whose research is supported by a funder that requires immediate OA (e.g. according to Plan S principles) should select to publish via the gold OA route.”
In essence, if you want to make your work OA as your funder requires, you must pay us to do so. There is an important matter in this information on which SN conveniently remains silent. Not all funders, including cOAlition S funders, will pay APCs (Article Processing Charges) for hybrid journals. This means that should an author, thinking they were doing the ‘right thing,’ select the gold OA option for their paper, they will find themselves presented with an invoice for the full amount. Their funder won’t pay – that is already clear – they will also probably find their institution is unlikely to pay. This is yet another irresponsible statement by omission made by SN.
Nowhere does SN state that it will take any author who breaks the publisher’s terms they sign to court – but it is the implicit threat that they just might that understandably makes authors nervous. Such intimidation is both discourteous to authors who are providing the content at no charge to the publisher, as well as threatening.
Not only does SN likely know full well that their terms conflict with pre-existing conditions of the grant for the author, but they also know full well that the funder won’t pay. The result is that the author finds themself in a horribly conflicting position, with the prospect of having to foot a significant bill. This is frankly despicable.
Note also the advice only refers to funders, it does not mention institutions with an OA or RR policy. The University of Edinburgh has been absolutely clear in its response to publishers like SN trying to ‘pull rank’ by asking authors to agree that the publisher’s terms supersede those of their funder or university:
“Many publishers have introduced restrictive publishing agreements which require embargo periods, and some publishers even assert that their licensing terms will supersede any other prior agreements. We dispute this and if challenged the University will be able to bring a legal claim against the publisher as they have willingly procured a breach of contract against our pre-existing rights.
For a claim of procuring a breach of contract to succeed it must be shown that the defendant knew about the prior contract and intended to encourage another person to break it. Our solicitors have prepared a sworn Affidavit confirming service on all the recipients which will be sufficient to confirm that all the named publishers were indeed advised of our position ahead of article publication and that they have subsequently asked an author to breach the terms of their employment contract by accepting a publishing licence.” (University of Edinburgh).
This situation is becoming more absurd as more and more institutions, in agreement with their community of researchers, adopt institutional rights retention policies to support their researchers (see, for example, the N8 statement). As more are adopted, the more SN squirming around prior rights becomes both irrelevant and ridiculous. If publishers like SN won’t respect authors’ needs and wishes to retain their own rights, then their institutions are stepping in to support them.
Nowhere in their information for authors does SN state that it will reject manuscripts that the author wishes to make immediately OA with a CC BY licence via the repository route, and that are submitted to be published behind a paywall in a subscription journal. By being slippery in its use of language, the publisher avoids publicly stating this fact. The method SN uses is not one of REJECTION, but of DEFLECTION: i.e. we don’t actually state we won’t publish your paper (reject) if you insist on asserting your rightful rights and enabling immediate OA via a repository; we will just force you to pay for gold OA.
A reminder of SN’s claim, “Springer Nature only ever assesses manuscripts on their editorial merit.”
I find it quite astonishing that a major service provider, such as Springer Nature, continues to argue that it’s perfectly alright for them to dictate to researchers what they can and can’t do with the papers describing the findings of their research. It is not alright. As I have written before, it is the author and original copyright holder that is licensing the publisher (service provider) to publish their work, not the other way round (see Licence to publish – the boot is on the wrong foot). Publishers do not think up research questions, plan and design research, carry out research, fund research, provide research facilities, or write up research results. They should not, therefore, have the authority to dictate to whom, when and where the results of that research can be disseminated. Authors have rights, and they can exercise them for the benefit of themselves, other researchers, research, and society in general.
I notice that the OASPA response to the NIH RFI 2023 (24th April 2023) includes the statement:
“OASPA has always called for immediate open access to scholarly outputs and so we welcome the move to remove embargos from publications…The widespread adoption of depositing the accepted manuscript into PMC will provide a catalyst to fully take advantage of the range of business models that are not based on APCs (Article Processing/Publishing Charges) or transformative agreements. Furthermore, the proposal of developing language to support authors in retaining their rights and bring clarity to the submission process for both authors and publishers – as well as clear conditions for reuse of published works – is welcomed.”
In favour of zero embargo + no APCs + rights retention + clarity. Springer Nature is a member of OASPA.
On 3rd May 2023, Jisc announced a 3-year deal between UK universities and SN. Although the deal has been agreed, Jisc reported that concerns remain “around Springer Nature’s approach to author rights retention, which some respondents felt created barriers to equitable open-access publishing worldwide, Jisc said.” This, together with SN’s verbal sleight of hand described above, demonstrates how far the service provider remains from the direction of travel towards modern Open Scholarship and respect for researchers. Note too, that not all papers are included – “free-to-read publishing will be available in Nature and Nature research journals, although this option will be restricted to a certain number of papers,” – and many researchers do not fall under such deals.
If nothing else, SN should at least be straightforward and open. It should remove the doublespeak: state publicly and clearly that any manuscript submitted for publication non-OA in a hybrid journal and with RR language enabling the author to disseminate their AAM without embargo under a CC BY licence will be desk rejected. At least that would be clear.
We’re delighted to announce that the University of Cambridge has a new Self-Archiving Policy, which took effect from 1 April 2023. The policy gives researchers a route to make the accepted version of their papers open access without embargo under a licence of their choosing (subject to funder requirements). We believe that researchers should have more control over what happens to their own work and are determined to do what we can to help them to do that.
This policy has been developed after a year-long rights retention pilot in which more than 400 researchers voluntarily participated. The pilot helped us understand the implications of this approach across a wide range of disciplines so we could make an informed decision. We are also not alone in introducing a policy like this – Harvard has been doing it since 2008, cOAlition S have been a catalyst for development of similar policies, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the University of Edinburgh for sharing their approach with us.
Some of the issues that cropped up during the pilot were outlined by Samuel Moore, our Scholarly Communications Specialist, in an earlier post on the Unlocking Research blog. The patterns we saw at that stage continued throughout the year-long pilot – there was no issue for most articles, but some publishers caused confusion through misinformation or by presenting conflicting licences for the researchers to sign. We do recognise that there are costs involved in high quality publishing, and we are willing to cover reasonable costs (while noting our concerns around inequities in scholarly publishing). The fact is that some publishers are trying to charge the sector multiple times for the same content – subscription fees, OA fees, other admin fees – all while receiving free content courtesy of researchers that are usually funded by the taxpayer and charity funders.
Many researchers and funders are understandably becoming firmer in their convictions that publicly funded research should be openly and publicly available. We are fortunate that at Cambridge we are in a position to support this through our support for diamond publishing initiatives (in which the costs of publishing are absorbed for example by universities and no fees are charged to the reader or the author), through read and publish agreements negotiated on behalf of the UK higher education sector and through payment of costs associated with publishing in fully open access venues. Rights retention gives researchers a back-up plan for when other routes are not available to them, e.g. when a journal moves unexpectedly out of a read and publish agreement or a publisher does not offer any publishing route that meets their funder requirements.
This is not the end goal, we have work to do to reach an equitable approach to global scholarly publishing, and we can learn a lot especially from how South America approaches these issues. We welcome opportunities to work together with others around the world to create a more sustainable and equitable future for scholarly communications.
Read more about the new Cambridge Self-Archiving Policy on the Cambridge Open Access website.