Emerald should be applauded for adopting a policy since 2014 that states authors may make their accepted manuscript (AAM) freely available at the date of Emerald’s publication – this is more liberal than many large publishers. As part of its Open Research policies, and in response to the widespread adoption of Institutional Rights Retention Policies (IRRPs) in the UK, Emerald has published a ‘Statement relating to rights retention strategies.’ The following critique examines the statement in detail.

The Emerald Green Open Access policy “has allowed authors to self-archive their Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) under a CC-BY-NC licence, should they choose to do so. This allows authors and their institutions to fulfil any open mandates required by funders.

  •  Ignoring for now the fact that it is the publisher, not the researcher, holding the power over the author’s distribution of their intellectual creation (Emerald ‘has allowed’), most funders prefer a CC-BY licence, not a CC-BY-NC licence. Emerald permits authors to use a CC-BY licence if a transformative Agreement is in place, or if an APC has been paid, but note that cOAlition S funders’ financial support for transformative agreements is due to cease after 2024.

a CC-BY-NC licence…protects the rights of the author and publisher by preventing subsequent commercial use of the AAM.”

  • I disagree. Emerald insisting on a CC-BY-NC licence for the AAM does not protect the rights of the author. If I understand correctly, owing to the transfer of copyright, it is Emerald that holds the right to license others, including the author, to make any further commercial use of the article. As the Green OA instructions state “If anyone wishes to use that AAM for commercial purposes, they should see Marketplace [The Copyright Clearance Centre’s ‘Marketplace is your source for copyright permissions, content, and reprints’].” The Non-Commercial element of the licence is therefore there to protect the rights and commercial interests of the publisher. I’m happy to be corrected if this is wrong.

a number of UK universities have implemented a ‘Rights Retention Strategy’ which compels authors to deposit AAMs in their institutional repository.”

  • The use of the word ‘compels’ implies that researchers are forced to deposit their works. On the contrary, institutional RR policies are generally adopted both in support of and with the support of their academic staff.

this [IRRP] approach undermines the rights of authors who lose control over where or how their work is subsequently published or otherwise commercially exploited.”

  • As noted above, institutional RR policies are generally adopted both in support of and with the support of their academic staff. 
  • Assuming the main complaint of Emerald is the CC-BY licence, where any work released under a CC-BY license – the standard OA publishing licence – be it publisher’s version or AAM, can be re-published and commercially exploited. There are millions of articles published under this licence. “CC BY articles in fully-OA journals are by far the dominant type of articles published by OASPA members… CC BY remains dominant in hybrid journals too.” (OASPA blog). This therefore appears to be a broader argument against CC BY generally.
  • If I am correct above, Emerald authors have already lost control over “how their work is…commercially exploited”…… to Emerald.
  • By submitting to Emerald’s conditions for Green OA which include a number of restrictions, authors lose control over how they can use and disseminate their own work. 

this approach is a threat to the integrity of the research published. AAMs could be disseminated widely with no ability for publishers to correct or retract the work and no obligation for those subsequently publishing the work to comply with COPE guidelines.”

  • The same could be argued for any work published under a CC-BY licence – see above. The same is also true about corrections or retractions for works disseminated under the current CC-BY-NC licence. 

the legal basis under which a University can claim to ‘retain’ rights to an AAM is flawed.”

  • Universities do not typically retain rights. The university as an employer typically waives its copyright in articles. With an IRRP, the author grants the university a licence to make the work OA under a CC BY licence. Some universities have opted for policy titles such as ‘Copyright and Publications Policy’ rather than Rights Retention policy to clarify this point. See for example the policy at the University of Edinburgh: “Upon acceptance of publication each staff member with a responsibility for research agrees to grant the University of Edinburgh 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, or a more permissive licence.”
  • I would welcome an explanation from Emerald as to how, in their view, the legal basis of UK universities’ policies is flawed.

This approach ignores the significant value and investment that publishers make in the peer review process and in their journal brands.

  • IRRPs do not ignore the value of the publisher. Researchers, universities and funders are all aware of the value that publishers can add, and the investment they make to create their products and run their services. For articles published in subscription journals, the publisher continues to receive payment for the work, even if the AAM is made freely available. This argument conflates the publishing service with the original rights of the author to their own intellectual content. In my opinion, the two should be treated as separate entities. The publisher can continue to take advantage of the content given to them at no charge by the author to promote their brand, and thereby make a return on their investment. Let’s not forget either that the peer review process relies on the (generally) unremunerated input of scholars. The unremunerated input from academia is considerable, and not an “investment that publishers make in the peer review process”, but rather an unremunerated intellectual investment by scholars themselves.

The intellectual property [IP] rights in an AAM are a combination of the work of the author and that of the publisher.”

  • My understanding is that the IP rights in the content of the AAM are legally the result of creation by the author and original copyright holder who wrote the work, and then made any changes following peer review. The publisher has not made any intellectual input in creating the content at this point.

Whilst in some cases the university may own author copyright under an employment contract, it cannot unilaterally ‘retain’ the rights of the publisher or co-authors who may not be employees.

  • As mentioned above, the university does not retain the rights of the publisher, nor usually the author, or co-authors. The university is granted a licence to make a copy available. Co-authors will have agreed to the dissemination beforehand – in the same way, they do when the corresponding author signs the publisher’s licence to publish on behalf of all authors.

The Emerald statement does not categorically state that articles backed by IRRPs and submitted for consideration for publication will be rejected. The company says that it remains ‘open to consider any equitable approach that increases Open Access routes for our authors.’ This suggests that articles will not be rejected at submission, or later, on the grounds of prior licences such as IRRPs. Clarity on this matter would be welcome.

The Emerald statement relating to rights retention strategies appears to show some misunderstandings as to how UK IRRPs operate (for example, that the author licences the university – the university doesn’t retain rights). On a broader note, in my opinion, there is a fundamental problem with the statement – like many publishers’ sharing policies: it is based on the premise that it is the publisher who dictates both where and how the author can disseminate their intellectual creation. That is, the publisher imposes restrictions on use by the author. Herein lies the problem. As I continue to reiterate, the boot is on the wrong foot. The author’s own dissemination of their research findings is for the researcher to decide, not an external 3rd party service provider who has had no input to the research process. Emerald’s green OA policy, although more liberal than most, is basically a set of restrictions on the use of the author’s content by the author. For example, AAMs can only be disseminated “On scholarly collaboration networks (SCNs) that have signed up to the STM article sharing principles” and ‘We do not currently allow uploading of the AAM to ResearchGate or Academia.edu.’ Such restrictions are precisely the reason why increasing numbers of UK institutions are adopting RR policies.

With the advancement of open science, the reliability of open bibliometric data providers compared with proprietary providers is becoming a topic of increasing importance. Proprietary providers such as Scopus, SciVal, and Web of Science have been criticised for their profit-oriented nature, their opaqueness, and lack of inclusiveness, notably of authors and works from the Global South. 

At the same time, non-commercial open science infrastructures and open-source software and standards are increasingly being recommended (cf UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, EU Council conclusions of May 2023). Some institutions, such as CNRS, Sorbonne University and CWTS Leiden have started transitioning from proprietary data sources to open ones. 

The question often asked is: how do the open bibliometric databases compare with their well-established commercial counterparts? To contribute to this debate we share our recent experience at cOAlition S. 

Last year we tasked scidecode science consulting to carry out a study on the impact of Plan S on scholarly communication. We required that the results of work have to be disseminated with an open licence, including the data. Therefore our partners at scidecode had to make sure that the bibliometric data they used in their impact study was open and also good enough to carry out the needed analyses. 

To assess this, scidecode science consulting conducted an interesting experiment with the aim to prove that the quality of bibliometric references from open metadata sources is at least as good, if not better, as that provided by commercial entities. For this, scidecode selected a deliberately challenging benchmark: a set of publications from Fiocruz, a funder from the Global South with many non-English publications and many lacking DOIs.They then compared the coverage provided by OA.Works, a non-profit data provider using open bibliometric sources such as OpenAlex, Crossref, Unpaywall, etc., with the coverage provided by a commercial database. 

The authors concluded that the resulting data based on open bibliometric sources was more comprehensive and of better quality than the data based on sources provided by the commercial provider. In addition, the use of open source data allows scidecode to comply with the requirement set by cOAlition S to openly licence their results, which would not necessarily be the case if they had used a commercial provider. 

Read the full details and results of the study on the scidecode website.

The following paper by Pierre Mounier (OpenEdition, OPERAS) & Johan Rooryck (cOAlition S), was originally published in Hypotheses, a platform by OpenEdition for humanities and social sciences research blogs.

A discussion paper [1]

1. Introduction 

This paper proposes to establish a global research infrastructure for Diamond Open Access (OA). This infrastructure will aim at providing resources and services to diamond open access communities worldwide to strengthen their role in scholarly communication. It will be a global infrastructure serving communities worldwide, while operating as a distributed system that aligns diverse communities to achieve shared goals.

‘Diamond’ Open Access is a scholarly communication model whereby research outputs are openly available without charging fees to either authors or readers. Importantly, it is a model that is driven by scholarly communities, meaning that they are in the lead and have ownership of the content-related elements of scholarly communication.

The proposed globally distributed infrastructure aims to engage with, provide support for, and align the existing diamond open access ecosystem, as uncovered by the OA Diamond Journals Study and increasingly organized around the endorsing community of the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access (cf. infra). It is a timely proposal, given the growing importance of diamond OA within the public sector coupled with unprecedented political consensus and support in Europe (cf. infra).

The infrastructure will take the shape of a four-level federation, with each level having its own responsibilities to achieve the shared goal of strengthening diamond open access as a leading scholarly communication model. These levels and their responsibilities are presented in this paper, initiating a discussion with diamond OA communities and other stakeholders in the research landscape. We invite you to come forward and join this discussion.

2. Background

This section presents current Diamond Open Access initiatives, which form the basis for knowledge sharing, infrastructure development, and advocacy. It succinctly reports the experience of several communities and important policy developments. Notable community examples include the 20 years of Diamond Open Access in Latin America; the breakthrough study on Diamond OA Journals and Platforms in 2021; the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access – a stakeholder-driven initiative. The sections also points to crucial policy developments, including the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science (2021) and the EU Council Conclusions fostering the engagement of EU Member States in working towards accessible and equitable scholarly publication models (May 2023). 

It is important to note that the examples presented here are just a small subset of the myriad Diamond Open Access initiatives worldwide. The authors are in discussion with initiatives from other world regions that add their own accents and new elements to the global discussion. The Global Summit on Diamond Open Access in October 2023 in Toluca, Mexico was instrumental in this process which is now being complemented with numerous bilateral and multilateral meetings.

2.1. Latin America

Latin America has historically maintained a model of scientific publication without reading or publishing fees that is supported by universities and where the academic sector acts as the main owner and publisher of scientific journals. Several platforms in the region are key components that consolidate the Diamond Open Access ecosystem. The Latindex journal directory, the Diamond Open Access journal platform Redalyc, Scielo, CLACSO, AmeliCA, La Referencia as well as hundreds of institutional journal portals, thematic, disciplinary and institutional repositories, national journal and repository networks are part of the infrastructure. These platforms are characterized by an organically regulated distribution of tasks. Its services support non-commercial scholarly communication. The Latin American model provides a universal benefit: Open Access is collectively sustained for the common good.

Since 2003, Redalyc has aimed to contribute to sustainable Diamond Open Access publishing, by providing diamond OA publishers with training and technology. Although Redalyc emerged as a Latin American platform, since 2018 it is focusing efforts on strengthening Diamond Open Access by indexing journals from anywhere in the world, as long as they meet quality and editorial criteria. Currently, Redalyc holds a collection of 1,575 journals from 749 institutions from 31 countries and it hosts about 800 thousand full-text scientific articles on its platform.

AmeliCA is an initiative supported by UNESCO and led by Redalyc and CLACSO to articulate the dialogue with different actors in order to strengthen the recognition and sustainability of Diamond OA publishing and non-commercial Open Science. AmeliCA’s goal is to promote the value of non-commercial approaches to achieve Open Access.

Many declarations in Latin America have focused on different aspects of Open Access: to safeguard access to information (“Declaración de Salvador sobre acceso abierto,” 2006), to safeguard the protection of academic and scientific output in Open Access (“Declaración de México En Favor Del Ecosistema Latinoamericano de Acceso Abierto No Comercial,” 2017), to promote the development of public policies for the implementation of Open Science (“Declaración de Panamá sobre Ciencia Abierta,” 2018), the declaration for a new academic and scientific evaluation for a science with social relevance in Latin America and the Caribbean (FOLEC-CLACSO, 2022), and more recently the Declaration on Open Science of CSUCA (Central American Higher University Council) and the Manifesto on Science as Global Public Good: Non-commercial Open Access (2023), one of the results of the reflections at the Global Summit of Diamond Open Access held in Toluca, Mexico from 23 to 27 October 2023. 

2.2. The OA Diamond Journals Study

March 2021 marked a milestone: the publication of the OA Diamond Journals Study (OADJS, Bosman et al. 2021) undertaken by an OPERAS-led consortium. Commissioned by cOAlition S and funded by Science Europe, this study explored “collaborative non-commercial Open Access publishing models for Open Access (a.k.a Diamond OA)” and provided an analysis of the global landscape of OA diamond journals and platforms. The most important finding of the study was that Diamond OA worldwide can be characterized as a largely fragmented archipelago of 17.000 to  29.000 journals. Most of these journals are relatively small, multilingual, and diverse, but despite this, they represent 44% of all articles in fully Open Access journals. In addition, 11.500 of these journals are in DOAJ, testifying that Diamond OA journals meet the DOAJ threshold of quality. One of the recommendations of OADJS was to build a Diamond Capacity Hub that would align, coordinate, and improve the sustainability of Diamond OA.

2.3. The Action Plan for Diamond Open Access

In response to the findings of the OA Diamond Journals Study, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), cOAlition S, OPERAS, and Science Europe launched the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access in March 2022. This is a plan to align and develop common resources for the entire Diamond OA ecosystem, including journals and platforms, while respecting their cultural, multilingual, and disciplinary diversity. Over 150 organizations have endorsed the Diamond Action Plan to work together in a community.

In line with the ambitions of the Action Plan, the 3y–€3m DIAMAS project and the 5y–€5m CRAFT-OA project, funded by Horizon Europe for Diamond journals in the ERA, are taking forward the goal to provide the research community with an aligned, high-quality, and sustainable Diamond OA scholarly communication ecosystem, capable of implementing OA as a standard publication practice across the ERA. These projects intend to create a community, supporting services, and infrastructure for Diamond Publishers who adopt common standards, guidelines, and best practices, which will be co-created and adopted as an Extensible Quality Standard for Institutional Publishing (EQSIP).

2.4. Growing political support

Political support for Open Science has been growing in alignment with initiatives taken by the public research sector. Increasingly, governments are including Diamond Open Access as the way forward for scholarly communication worldwide. 

At the global level, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 41st session in November 2021 and has been instrumental in providing a framework for Open Science policies and practices worldwide. It outlines a common definition, shared values, principles and standards for Open Science at the international level and proposes a set of actions conducive to a fair and equitable operationalisation of Open Science. In October 2023, UNESCO announced that it would host the Secretariat of the globally distributed cooperative for Diamond Open Access.

In Europe, political support for Diamond Open Access took a step forward and solidified with the Council of the European Union adopting conclusions on high-quality, transparent, open, trustworthy, and equitable scholarly publishing on 23 May 2023. EU Member States in these conclusions supported unanimously “the development of aligned institutional and funding policies and strategies regarding not-for-profit open access multi-format scholarly publishing models in Europe with no costs for authors or readers, and to set and implement roadmaps or action plans for a significant expansion of such publishing models.” 

Representative organizations of the public research sector in Europe welcomed these conclusions in a joint statement (May 2023). The statement was co-signed by the European University Association (EUA), the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER), the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), the Association of ERC Grantees (AERG), the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA), the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (Eurodoc), Science Europe, cOAlition S, OPERAS, and ANR.

3. A common Diamond infrastructure [2]

These rapid developments have accelerated the need and the momentum to build a common infrastructure for scholar-led and owned OA publishing. This infrastructure must be international and long-term sustainable. It must integrate existing services and be capable of supporting bottom-up Diamond initiatives. 

The initiative to federate Diamond Open Access initiatives must be a global endeavor because science and scholarship are global. Therefore, collaboration must be sought with pre-existing initiatives in Diamond OA  elsewhere in the world. Redalyc-Amelica stands out as a prime example of how to organize Diamond OA at the regional level. All local, national and international Diamond Open Access infrastructures should collaborate globally to align their practices and training, share services and tools, and work on the interoperability of their platforms. This collaboration should take the form of a globally aligned and coordinated set of open infrastructures, that promotes cooperation and interoperability at all levels, sustainably supports scholar-led publishing communities with a solidarity-based model, and that is adequately recognized and valued by research assessment systems.

Such an infrastructure should also be fully distributed: similar to those of Latin America and the Caribbean – other world regions (Africa, Europe, Asia, North America) should develop regional Diamond Capacity Hubs that federate and align a set of smaller national, community and institutional Capacity Centers that deliver services and guarantee quality standards of Diamond OA journals in various languages and for a variety of disciplines.

In the rest of this paper, we outline the organization of this global collaboration.

4. A global four-level federation

The essence of our proposal is captured in the following figure:

Diamond OA federation

4.1. Diamond Open Access communities

The basis and foundation of the federation consists of Diamond Open Access communities that curate scholarly journals, books, and other outputs. Journals represent communities of authors, readers, reviewers and editors with a shared interest in a specific scholarly topic, as defined in the aims and scope of the journal. The work at this level is editorial and scientific: editors solicit reviews and formulate recommendations and decisions. They adhere to and apply international quality standards and guidelines in running the journal. Guidelines for authors and reviewers are clearly provided, as is the governance of the journal (team and board). The journal community also ensures that the journal title’s ownership cannot be transferred, and the continuity of governance is ensured via procedures for selecting the editorial team and board. Journals are interconnected at the disciplinary level. Books will be considered as well, in view of various scholar-led initiatives that are adopting Diamond models. Similarly, Diamond elements that cannot be categorized as journals or books, such as Diamond Publish-Review-Curate models (which include preprints and Open Peer Reviews), as well as contents in repositories; are grouped here under the general term ‘outputs’.

4.2. The Diamond Capacity Centers (DCCs)

Moving up one level in the proposed organizational structure, Diamond Capacity Centers (DCCs) provide first-line assistance to Diamond journals. They provide close support to journals, including technical tools, financial administration, a submission system and platform, dissemination platforms, mediation for copy-editing/ typesetting services, assistance with legal matters related to governance and ownership, guidelines, best practices, and training of editors. Additionally, DCCs help journals align with quality standards and guidelines. They also handle multilingualism and provide support in national language(s).

The DIAMAS study has found that national DCCs, as in Croatia (HRAC), Finland (TSV), France (OpenEdition), and Spain (FECYT) already align and coordinate services for Diamond journals in their respective countries. The national level is a valuable one because it is most attuned with national legislation, institutional networks, and academic traditions that need to be taken into account for Diamond journals.

There are many types of DCCs. Geographical DCCs can be distinguished from disciplinary ones. Geographical DCCs encompass centers that can be local and institutional (based in a University library), or national organizations, funders, and platforms (FECYT, OpenEdition, HRAC, TSV). Disciplinary DCCs serve a specific scholarly subdiscipline and facilitate the exchange of best practices and alignment of guidelines and journal policies among journals in the same field (Open Library of Humanities, LingOA). A third type of DCCs can be distinguished based on the specific subset of services they provide to journals: some may only offer copy-editing and typesetting, others may provide exclusively administrative or legal advice. Not all DCCs necessarily provide the same set of services, but all journals must be able to have access to all services required for their operations. This patchwork is an inevitable consequence of the federated, community-based structure we have to embrace. DCCs will collaborate and interconnect at this level.

4.3. The Regional Diamond Capacity Hubs (DCHs)

At a third level, Regional Diamond Capacity Hubs (DCHs) ensure alignment of DCCs in their region. These Hubs have three distinct functions within the federation:  first, serving the DCCs, secondly, fostering horizontal alignment across world regions, and third, representing their own region in the federation. They also pool resources at the regional level; coordinate services, standards, and practices across DCCs; and ensure complementarity and subsidiarity between DCCs. They aim at streamlining services at the regional level, create efficiencies, and organize exchanges of electronic publishing specialists across the region. Specific world regions share a number of common characteristics, traditions, legislative contexts, and governmental structures that make aggregation at this level both useful and practical. At the same time, regional DCHs should work together and interact as much as possible at this level, exchanging technologies, best practices, learning modules etc.

Regional DCHs come in various forms. In Africa, the non-profit organization African Journals Online (AJOL), is the preeminent platform of African-published scholarly journals. Since 1998, AJOL has worked to increase online access, awareness, quality and use of African-published, peer-reviewed research. In Latin America and the Caribbean, LA Referencia is a network of Open Access repositories. Through its services, it supports national Open Access strategies in Latin America by means of a platform with interoperability standards, sharing and giving visibility to the scientific production generated in higher education and scientific research institutions. It currently integrates 12 national nodes, consolidating scientific articles, doctoral and master’s theses from more than one hundred universities and research institutions. 

In Europe, 2024 will see the creation of the European Research Area Diamond Capacity Hub (ERA-DCH) that will facilitate equitable Open Access scholarly publishing without fees for readers and authors. The aim of the ERA-DCH is to regionally facilitate a globally distributed, aligned, high-quality, and sustainable scholarly communication infrastructure that is both managed and owned by the scholarly community.

The main role of the ERA-DCH is to ensure alignment of Diamond Capacity Centers (DCCs) in Europe. The ERA-DCH has at least the following tasks:

  • Coordinate and streamline tools, services and practices across DCCs; 
  • Implement and monitor community standards (e.g. EQSIP 2.0). 
  • Manage a European Common Access Point (ECAP) for shared resources such as the outputs of DIAMAS and Craft-OA projects
  • Create efficiencies, complementarity, and subsidiarity between existing European DCCs, and stimulate the creation of new national DCCs across Europe.
  • Pool and redistribute financial and service resources for Diamond Open Access in Europe.
  • Organize exchanges of electronic publishing specialists across Europe with a view to increasing the professionalization of Diamond OA publishing. 
  • Set goals for the expansion of Diamond Open Access journals in Europe via a “Diamondisation Task Force”.

4.4. The Global Diamond Federation (GDF, provisional term)

The fourth level represents the Global Diamond Federation (GDF), a group that brings together regional Diamond Capacity Hubs (DCHs) – and possibly other large regional organizations with a similar vocation – to facilitate Diamond Open Access publishing, in line with the 2021 UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. The main aim of the GDF is to facilitate a globally distributed, aligned, high-quality, and sustainable scholarly communication infrastructure that is managed and owned by the scholarly community, and where the quality of outputs is derived from the trust in the communities running the journals. 

4.4.1. Vision, mission, and objectives

The vision of the GDF is a robust worldwide system of scholarly communication services and infrastructures that provides scholarly communities with tools allowing them to focus on their central function of organizing and facilitating the scholarly discussion. These scholarly communication services will have no financial barriers for editors, authors, and readers, and strictly operate in the interest of advancing knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

The mission of the GDF is to build a global federated community of Diamond Open Access, advocate for this scholarly communication model, and monitor its progress worldwide in the interest of equitable and inclusive Open Science.

The initial objectives of the GDF are the following:

  • Advocacy. The GDF will promote the vision, mission, and values of Diamond Open Access at the level of international organizations and governmental bodies.
  • Interoperability. The GDF will explore technological interoperability of tools and platforms and adopt common technical standards and best practices.
  • Mutualisation. The GDF will organize exchanges of services, promote mutual learning between regional hubs, and ensure equity and solidarity across regions as much as possible. The GDF will also facilitate the organization of regular Diamond OA Summits, with the aim to inclusively bring together the worldwide Diamond OA community around specific themes and interests[3].
  • Monitoring. The GDF will measure the progress of Diamond OA  and set priorities for its global expansion across all scholarly disciplines and geographical regions.

Progress on these fronts will be measured annually and reported with SMART criteria.

4.4.2. Governance

The Global Diamond Summit Group (GDSG) who took the initiative to organize the first global summit on Diamond OA in Toluca where the idea of the GDF was launched, will initially discuss and set up an initial governance model for the GDF. This group includes representatives of ANR, CLACSO, cOAlition S, OPERAS, Redalyc-Amelica, Science Europe, UNESCO, and UÓR. 

Given the goals of the GDF formulated above, at least two types of organizations will be represented in the eventual Board of the GDF (BGDF) as worked out by the GDSG. 

On the one hand, the BGDF should ideally include representatives from the major existing DCHs: e.g. Redalyc-Amelica, AJOL, ERA Diamond Capacity Hub (under construction), Relawan Jurnal (Indonesia), Coalition Publica. In regions where DCHs are currently lacking as such, other organizations that are willing and able to eventually take on that role can be asked to join (e.g. LYRASIS in the USA). Delegates on the BGDF represent their organizations and commit to support synergies within and between regions.

On the other hand, the BGDF should have a role for organizations that serve Diamond OA as global infrastructures, e.g. SCOSS, DOAJ and PKP, and COAR (for the relation between Diamond and repositories). The GDSG should define the respective roles of both types of organizations in the BGDF, as they are not on the same level. 

This double articulation will be accommodated by setting up a Governing Board representing the major existing DCHs or equivalent organizations, and various Special Interest Committees, including a Technical Committee. Each DCH will delegate representatives to both the Board and the Technical Committee. Representatives from the organizations that serve Diamond OA as global infrastructures should be able to participate in the special interest committees.

The BGDF has a double role. Its main initial role is to represent the regional hubs and the communities of DCCs and journals that they serve. Its additional role is to politically represent and advocate for Diamond Open Access with regional and global bodies, ministries, and governmental agencies. All BDGF members will have a demonstrable background as active members of the Diamond OA community. 

It is important that the BGDF be appropriately limited in the type of organizations included in it. The BGDF and its Office should be a very light organization with a mission limited to coordination. A GDF Office will organize the activities and meetings of the BGDF. The GDF Office will coordinate the following activities in 2024:

  • Set up the framework of the federation
  • Support collaboration between DCHs
  • Prepare future editions of the global summit 

The GDF Office will be hosted by a secretariat at UNESCO, and operate under its auspices, in line with Bhanu Neupane’s announcement at the Toluca Global Summit.

4.4.3. Principles and values

In addition to the principles of Diamond Open Access [4], the Federation will work under the five conditions of the “Collective Impact Model”:

  • Common Agenda:
    Participants agree on a shared vision, common goals, and a collective approach to addressing the issue.
  • Shared Measurement:
    Stakeholders develop a common set of metrics and data collection methods to track progress and evaluate the impact of their efforts.
  • Mutually Reinforcing Activities:
    Organizations and individuals coordinate their activities to ensure they are working in alignment with one another and reinforcing each other’s efforts.
  • Continuous Communication:
    Regular and open communication among all partners is essential to maintain trust and facilitate collaboration.
  • Backbone Support:
    A dedicated organization or entity provides leadership, coordination, and support for the collective impact initiative, ensuring that it moves forward effectively.

Furthermore, it should work under the principles of a federated cooperative. It should be:

  • Democratic, inclusive, and multilingual.
  • Driven by the values of fairness, equality, social justice, and sustainability.
  • Enabling its members to take control of their future.
  • Allowing economic and social benefits to stay in the communities where they are generated.

5. Final remarks and way forward

The proposal outlined here is the result of an initial proposal first presented at the Global Diamond Summit in Toluca on 26 October 2023, and subsequently amended based on consultations to the GDSG, the organizers of the Diamond Action Plan, and the DIAMAS and Craft-OA communities. Further consultations, e.g. the Diamond Open Access Plan community, are on the way.

UNESCO is supporting this development and will provide a neutral platform that can follow up the principles and some of the framework actions in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. Discussions are on the way and more information will be provided in due time.

[1] This text has benefited from the input of various colleagues: Laura Rovelli and Dominique Babini (CLACSO, Arianne Becerril (especially for section 2.1.), as well as Zoé Ancion, Lidia Borell-Damián, Thierry Damerval, Jean-Claude Guédon, Maria Karatzia, Kamrain Nain, Bhanu Neupane, Nóra Papp-Le Roy, Bregt Saenen, and Eurico Wongo Gungula. However, the views expressed here are the authors’ own. 

[2] With thanks to Sharla Lair, who drew our attention to the Collective Impact Model, and Tanja Niemann, who referred to the principles of the cooperative model, both at the Global Diamond Summit in Toluca, Mexico on 26 October 2023. The cooperative model for academic publishing is also proposed as a model for academic publishing by Crow (2006) [Raym Crow, Publishing cooperatives. An alternative for society publishers, SPARC Discussion paper], as brought to our attention by Kamran Nain. 

[3] More specifically, the GDF would invite bids from consortia of Diamond OA communities and organizations, and select one of these bids as a function of specific, open, and inclusive criteria. 

[4] See, e.g. https://thd.hypotheses.org/35 

In this blog post, Bodo Stern, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Johan Rooryck, Executive Director of cOAlition S, outline the new proposal from cOAlition S aimed at facilitating the transition to an open, scholar-led communication ecosystem.

Since the announcement of the Plan S Principles five years ago, cOAlition S has ‘raised the temperature’ and stimulated experimentation in a publishing system that has struggled to keep pace with the digital transformation of the research enterprise.

A vision for a community-based scholarly communication system

Driven by the same “duty of care for the good functioning of the science system” that inspired Plan S, the funders forming cOAlition S are now exploring a new vision for scholarly communication; a vision that holds the promise of being more effective, affordable, and equitable, ultimately benefiting society as a whole.

Our vision is a community-based scholarly communication system fit for open science in the 21st, that empowers scholars to share the full range of their research outputs and to participate in new quality control mechanisms and evaluation standards for these outputs.

Addressing current shortcomings

This proposal – called Towards Responsible Publishing – stays true to the original Plan S mission that ‘[research] can only work optimally if all research results are made openly available to the scientific community’. Moreover, it recognizes that the original focus on a static snapshot of the research process, the journal-accepted article, is problematic for several reasons.

First, the traditional journal-accepted article undermines timely dissemination and quality control of new research findings. Articles submitted under the pre-publication peer review model often take a year to get published. Such a long delay is arguably just as detrimental as the 12-month Open Access publication embargo that Plan S has eliminated. Compounding this delay, the cascading of articles from one journal to another, while concealing critical peer reviews, compromises the ability of the publishing system to fulfill its error-correcting and appraisal functions for science and scholarship.

Secondly, the journal-accepted article drives up publishing costs and puts more sustainable and equitable open access models at a disadvantage.

To address these and other shortcomings, the new proposal is anchored in two key concepts that extend Plan S:

1. Authors, not third-party suppliers, decide when and what to publish.

In such a ‘scholar-led’ publishing system, third-party suppliers can still offer and charge for services that facilitate peer review, publication and preservation. However, they will not block scholars from sharing their work at any stage during the research and dissemination process.

2. The scholarly record includes the full range of outputs created during the research cycle, and not just the final journal-accepted version.

By making early article versions and peer review feedback critical elements of the scholarly record, a future scholarly communication system can capture research ‘in the act’. Shining a light on how research progresses towards increasingly trustworthy knowledge creation offers opportunities for reviewing and filtering scholarly outputs for the purposes of curation and research assessment.

Enabling more effective curation mechanisms

In response to this proposal, some may ask “Won’t we be flooded with author-released content?”, and “Who has time to read all these additional outputs?”. Though it may seem counterintuitive, we believe that sharing research at an earlier stage could be the key to unlocking more effective curation mechanisms for determining what information to read and rely upon.

Under the current models of research dissemination, the predominant curation signals are managed by journal decisions. However, these decisions typically do not reveal the evidence on which they are based, namely the peer feedback and the subsequent improvements on the original article.

In contrast, when the full range of scholarly outputs is publicly available, curation signals can be validated and traced back to the evidence that informed them. Such validation can work even if some outputs, such as peer review reports, remain anonymous.

We understand that not every reader will be motivated to access these additional outputs.  Nonetheless, in much the same way as readers of scientific articles expect the underlying data to be available, even if most will never access it, we believe that making the peer review dialogue available will harness the corrective power of science.

The result of an open, post-publication review process is that those who are interested – such as fellow researchers, or grant application/tenure review committees etc. – can scrutinize and assess the work more effectively.

Soliciting community feedback

To understand to what extent this proposal resonates with the research community, cOAlition S – with support from Research Consulting Limited and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) – will embark on a consultative process. This process will offer researchers and other stakeholders (such as research performing organizations, scholarly societies, and organizations that provide communication infrastructure) the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute to the development of a proposal that serves their needs.

For more information about this consultation and details on how to participate, please visit: https://www.coalition-s.org/towards-responsible-publishing


Our proposal ‘Towards Responsible Publishing’ makes the case that Open Access publishing should extend beyond making the final product openly available. It should strive to disseminate the cumulative progress on a research project over time. This can be achieved when researchers take responsibility for sharing the full range of outputs related to their work and retain the right to do so freely and openly.

We urge all members of the research community to actively engage with this proposal. By embracing responsible publishing, we can collectively shape a more effective scholarly communication system, ensuring that the pursuit of knowledge benefits society at large. Your participation and support are crucial in realizing this vision.

In this post I shall describe how the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) new zero embargo policy perpetuates an increasingly out-of-touch and outdated position taken by some publishers, who aim to prevent researchers from retaining their rights to use their own work as they choose.

1. ACS Zero-embargo option

On 21st September 2023 the American Chemical Society (ACS) launched its zero embargo option, the latest iteration of a publisher erecting a barrier to authors retaining their rights, this time at a price. This profit-focussed model means that the author, who is expected to transfer their rights to ACS totally free of charge, has the “option” to buy back some of the rights they gave gratis, for the significant sum of $2,500. ACS calls this additional means of extracting money an Article Development Charge (ADC). 

As a business model, it has to be applauded for its sheer audacity; as an attempt to counter funders’ rights retention policies and Institutional Rights Retention Policies (IRRPs), it is both saddening and short-sighted. The ability for authors to retain rights to disseminate and use their own work as they choose is a fundamental principle that researchers and their institutions are increasingly adopting[1] but which some publishers are vehemently opposing. Rights retention forms a key element of 21st century Open Scholarship for “re-gaining academic sovereignty over the publishing process” as described in the EUA Open Science Agenda 2025.

Putting aside the fact that publication or submission fees are a barrier to publication for many, the detail and reasoning behind the ADC raise concerns:

  • Zero embargo pre-acceptance services costs are intended to be covered by the new ADC. I assume therefore that pre-acceptance services costs for non-ADC 12-month embargo articles are covered by the continuing subscription charge. Unless subscription charges are proportionally reduced, the new ACS Zero Embargo Option is a blatant example of double dipping. 
  • Bianca Kramer, from Sesame Open Science has questioned the reasoning behind the calculation of the ADC (see TSK comments). Clarity from ACS on this matter would be welcomed.
  • The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and Open Access Australasia have published a statement setting out a number of serious concerns raised by the approach taken by ACS.

Whatever the detail of the ACS policy, it flouts a core principle: article content belongs to the author, and the author should retain the rights to their intellectual output. Publishers like ACS are doing all they can to ensure authors do not retain their rights. Author rights retention is being adopted by academia to benefit researchers, academia, the future of scholarship, and society in general, rather than primarily benefiting a service provider.

2. Misleading language

The wording around the ACS publishing agreement is designed to persuade authors who do not have access to a Transformative Agreement, and who want immediate Open Access (OA) via repositories, to pay up. In the ACS flowchart for authors, researchers are presented with the following:

Do you want or need your article to be published open access? For example, does your funder require it?” [My emphasis]

The wording is slippery. A funder may require OA, but funders rarely demand a specific route to OA. Most are satisfied with OA via the repository route as an alternative to publishing OA in the journal (‘gold’ OA). 

ACS informs the researcher that:

ACS offers a Journal Publishing Agreement in which copyright is transferred to ACS and the article is published without charge to the author.”

Without charge.” I disagree: the author is paying handsomely – twice: once by supplying their manuscript (the content) free of charge, allowing the publisher to create a saleable product; and secondly with their rights, by freely transferring their copyright to ACS.

The ACS justification for charging an ADC rests on the premise that ACS provides a service for authors prior to acceptance, and that authors must pay for that service. The ADC “covers the cost of ACS’ publishing services through the final editorial decision” and is to be paid before the peer review of the manuscript is complete. As far as I’m aware the money is not returned if the paper is then rejected. In this way it is a submission fee. These publishing services include “organizing, developing and maintaining the high-quality, scholarly peer review process and multiple other publishing services provided by a vast global network of editors and reviewers.” If the ADC is intended to cover the cost of peer review, then why aren’t non-ADC paying authors charged this fee? Does it mean that if an author chooses not to take the ADC route, their work will not go through the “high-quality peer review process and multiple other publishing services?” 

The ACS announcement abounds with marketing language used by many large commercial publishers. [My emphases]

  • ACS Publications provides a new option to support zero-embargo green open access 

It is not so much a new option for ‘supporting,’ more like ‘monetizing.’ Better to re-phrase – ACS Publications provides a new option to support pay for zero-embargo green open access

  • (ACS) will provide authors with a new option to satisfy funder requirements for zero-embargo green open access. Through this pathway, authors will be able to post accepted manuscripts with a CC BY license in open access repositories immediately upon acceptance.

How reassuring, except authors can already satisfy funder requirements and post manuscripts for immediate OA if they retain their rights – as specified by… those same funders. There’s no need for a new ‘option.’

  • To ensure a sustainable model of delivering services from submission to final editorial decision, ACS Publications is introducing an article development charge (ADC) as part of this new zero-embargo green open access option.”

Here ACS resorts to a publisher’s favourite trope of a nebulous ‘sustainable model’ of publishing (see “Who’s afraid of Green. Market forces and the Rights Retention Strategy). Sustainable for whom? At the high price charged, certainly not sustainable for cash-strapped libraries. Especially as the ADC is an additional charge on journals funded by subscriptions. Publishers including ACS, continue to misleadingly cite ‘sustainable’ publishing in an attempt to justify unnecessary embargoes and demanding authors’ rights.

  • The ADC is intended to provide a solution to the remaining authors who need to adhere to the zero-embargo green open access mandate.

This is not the point. The rights belong to the author and it should stay that way. No researcher should have to give them away, and certainly not be asked to pay $2,500 to get them back.

  • As the industry moves beyond being solely focused on a subscription-based model, ACS Publications is committed to finding sustainable ways to support all authors as they navigate funder and institutional mandates around public access.” And:
  • Assisting authors to get published is our North Star, and we’re introducing this ADC option to help authors navigate shifting funder mandates.” (TSK)

Here ACS lays the ‘blame’ for the ADC solely at the door of those pesky funders and institutions who adopt rights retention policies in support of their researchers, and wider society, who may have contributed to the research funding.

3. Publication ‘services’? Serving whom?

Some publishers are resorting to policies that reject papers not on scholarly merit, but on how willing authors are to concede their rights. For example, authors who assert their rights to use their own work as they choose when submitting to Springer Nature (SN) subscription journals are told they must opt for the paid Gold OA option to proceed in the submission process. This can hardly be described as an assessment based on editorial merit. 

In the new ACS option, when an author submits a manuscript to a subscription journal with a Rights Retention statement, the ACS will contact the author to ask them to select one of the following: gold OA via a Read & Publish deal; pay an APC for gold OA; pay an ADC for the zero embargo option. This is similar to the SN example above in that ACS is not categorically rejecting the paper, but by omission saying that they will not consider the paper unless the author pays, no matter how excellent that paper is.

ACS and other publishers are simply not listening to their key stakeholders – the same people who provide publishers with their raw material, i.e. content, gratis. I strongly suggest these publishers start taking the demands of researchers into consideration, and ensure researchers can easily retain their rights without charge. Authors are doing this anyway, so a change in policy is only reflecting 21st century Open Scholarship and research dissemination developments.

The rapidly growing number of global universities with IRRPs will be obvious to ACS, and other publishers that attempt to make author rights retention difficult. ACS says that the article development charge will be applied if the zero-embargo route is requested. ACS should note that authors affiliated to an institution with an IRRP i.e. with prior licences, have no need to make such a “request.” My guess is that research institutions will take a very dim view of publisher’s restrictive and expensive positions on authors’ RR both at the point of renewal of their contracts.

ACS and other publishers could choose to desk-reject papers submitted to subscription journals, or those with OA option where OA is not selected, from all the institutions with IRRPs in case the AAM is made OA in a way they don’t like – that is their choice. The way things are going, they’ll have to decline an awful lot of papers in the future. 

My expectation is that, like hybrid OA (OA option in a subscription journal), research funders and institutions will refuse to pay an ADC. Although ACS states that the numbers of researchers needing to use this option will be small because of existing Transformative Agreements (TAs), remember that cOAlition S funders will be ceasing funding for TAs after 2024.

4. Make actions match words

The Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA), in its OASPA response to the NIH RFI 2023 (24th April 2023), publicly stated its support of authors retaining their rights:

OASPA has always called for immediate open access to scholarly outputs and so we welcome the move to remove embargos from publications…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.

This statement is in favour of zero embargo, rights retention, and clarity. ACS is a member of OASPA. ACS, Springer Nature, and other major publishers that are members of OASPA who insist on embargoes, and push against author rights retention, ought to either amend their policies to align with the OASPA statement, or they should reconsider continuing their membership. It would be hypocritical not to.

Trying to ignore, avoid, or frighten authors about rights retention is looking increasingly like publishers are swimming against an inevitable tide. ACS’s new ADC has added charging authors for rights retention. Rather than continuing to scrabble around for ever more complicated and expensive ways to scupper author rights retention, I wish these publishers would step up and listen to the researchers they claim they serve and support, and graciously change their attitudes. Please call a halt to this increasingly unedifying game of cat and mouse, and accept that authors will keep their rights to use and disseminate their own work as they wish. Change your policies and practice to enable them to do so easily and without payment. You’ll be doing exactly what your paying subscribers and free content suppliers want. It’s that simple.

With thanks to Peter Suber, Johan Rooryck, Chris Banks, Robert Kiley and Chris Morrison.

[1] New institutional rights retention policies (IRRPs) include 30 UK institutions (at least 9 publicly stated as in preparation) and 6 in Norway. There are currently 126 IRRP policies of which I am aware. IRRPs are not institutional impositions on researchers: IRRPs are adopted with both the leadership and support of the researchers at that institution.

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.


Issue 1: Reforming researcher assessment has been too slow

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.


Issue 2: Business models based on APCs and subscriptions are highly inequitable.

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.


Issue 3: Research funders and institutions worked independently, rather than collaboratively

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.


Issue 4: Unbalanced focus: commercial publishers receive too much attention over new publishing models

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.


Issue 5: Rights Retention should have been at the core of OA from day 1

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.

PLAN S, a game changer

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].

From inception to global impact

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.

Navigating the Open Access landscape: routes and tools

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.

Towards more equity in Open Access

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. 

A collaborative journey

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.

Looking forward: a path to Responsible Publishing

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!