cOAlition S has just issued its statement on Open Access (OA) for academic books. With this statement, cOAlitition S sets a clear direction for academic books to become OA. It recommends that “All academic books based on original research that was directly supported with funding from cOAlition S organisations should be made available open access on publication”. This is great news!
The OA Books Network (OABN), steered by OAPEN, SPARC Europe, OPERAS, and ScholarLed) salutes this clear support from cOAlition S for OA to books. While OA policies for journal articles have been developing rapidly for years, progress on the OA book side has been rather slow. However, this cOAlition S statement combined with the recently launched UKRI open access policy indicates that there is great potential for things to accelerate for OA books, too.
Next to the clear vision for OA academic books, we welcome specific aspects of the statement and its recommendations. Firstly, it clearly acknowledges the diversity of book publishing practices, also referred to as bibliodiversity. Book publishing practices differ widely across geographical regions, language areas, and disciplines. Recent workshops held by the OA Books Network (OABN) highlight this most starkly, showing that policy and local publishing traditions and markets influence how OA books deal with quality assurance, metadata, transparency, open licensing and business models.
Respecting the diversity of the OA books community is essential for any OA book policy to become successful. cOAlition S responds to this by inviting the larger OA books community to get involved in the development of implementation guidelines. Linked to this, we welcome the recommendation to retain the rights to publish OA and to allow for reuse which will for example enable more translations of the scholarly work and increased access to it worldwide.
During a series of events named “A Plan S for Books: Voices from the Community” organised by the OA Books Network (OABN) for the OA books community (including authors, researchers, publishers, librarians, infrastructure providers and others), we explored many of the aspects of OA book publishing that need to be considered when developing OA book policies. The summary of these events was delivered to cOAlition S to inform the funders about aspects that authors, researchers, publishers, librarians, infrastructure providers and others deem important and would like to explore further before settling detailed implementation guidelines for aligned OA book policies. These events involved more than 400 participants and proved that the OABN is a very suitable platform for international OA book community discussions. We therefore very much welcome that the cOAlition S statement recognizes the OABN’s ability to serve as an open forum for community input during the implementation process by naming it explicitly.
Furthermore, it is commendable that the statement acknowledges the position paper “Investing in Open Access Books Infrastructure” which raises concerns about gaps in the OA book infrastructure and calls for investment both in technical infrastructure and community infrastructure, like the OABN. We therefore also applaud the statement that “cOAlition S funders should financially support Open Access of academic books”, and the fact that the policy recognises that there are alternative business models evolving to enable OA book publishing. This will clearly accelerate open access to scholarly work.
The statement also highlights the OAPEN OA Books Toolkit which was launched last year containing and collecting valuable information of all aspects of OA book publishing. It is community-governed and could serve the implementation process well by hosting, structuring, and distributing descriptions, examples, use cases, and references of the many aspects of OA book policy making that the community has identified as critical aspects.
Finally, we are happy to see that cOAlition S acknowledges the need for existing technical infrastructures, like the Directory of Open Access Books. This is the world’s most comprehensive directory of academic OA books providing access to more than 44,000 OA books and chapters.
The absence of a deadline for the implementation of the cOAlition S recommendations does signal an understanding that considerable time will be needed to properly realize them although defining one might help accelerate progress further. There is still a long way to go, and we believe that this can only be done in partnership with the OA books community.
The Statement explains that the technical standards on OA books should mirror the technical requirements that cOAlition S has set for OA journals and repositories. The issue of technical requirements for OA books, and where these differ from OA journals, was discussed in some detail at one of the “Voices from the Community” sessions.  From this discussion it was quite clear that although book publishers do pay much attention to good quality metadata and output formats, open infrastructures are needed to generate, aggregate, organize and distribute any new metadata and output formats required – in particular for the smaller and medium-sized presses. This is not a trivial task, and we look forward to discussing how infrastructures for OA books can be further developed to enable publishers to comply with these technical requirements.
We consider this new cOAlition S statement on OA books as a welcome signal that cOAlition S intends to take a collaborative approach, with the view to bringing together both funders and practitioners in fruitful discussion resulting in clear action points. This is a great opportunity to begin a process leading towards sustainable policies based on constructive discussions, engagement, and investment from the whole OA books community. We embrace this approach and are keen to help accelerate open access to academic books together with the whole research funding community and all those who practice OA book publishing, authors, researchers, publishers, libraries, infrastructure providers and others.
♦ ♦ ♦
Co-authored by: Lucy Barnes (Open Book Publishers), Eelco Ferwerda (independent), Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers), Agata Morka (SPARC Europe), Tom Mosterd (DOAB), Pierre Mounier (OPERAS), Vanessa Proudman (SPARC Europe), Jeroen Sondervan (Utrecht University), Niels Stern (OAPEN) and Ronald Snijder (OAPEN)
 For further reading, please refer to: The difference between an open access book and an open access journal
 For books versus journals see: A literature review of scholarly communications metadata
cOAlition S endorses several strategies to encourage subscription publishers to transition to full and immediate Open Access (OA). These approaches are referred to as “Transformative Arrangements” and include Transformative Agreements, Transformative Model Agreements and Transformative Journals.
A Transformative Journal (TJ) is a subscription/hybrid journal that is actively committed to transitioning to a fully Open Access journal. In addition, a TJ must:
Some 16 months on from publishing the formal TJ criteria, 14 publishers – large and small, for-profit, not-for-profit, society publishers and university presses – and some 2240 journals, have enrolled in this programme.
This blog provides a summary of the uptake of the programme by publishers and an analysis of the initial data TJ publishers have provided.
A key element of the TJ model is that designated journals must meet Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to remain in the programme.
Central to this is the requirement for journals to demonstrate an annual increase in the proportion of OA research content of at least 5% points in absolute terms and at least 15% in relative terms, year-on-year. This “double” requirement aims to accelerate OA growth once the journal reaches a critical share of OA articles. Indeed, as Table 1, below, shows, once the OA penetration rate exceeds 35%, the relative growth targets become more demanding than the absolute growth targets.
To determine Year 1 KPIs, we asked each participating publisher to provide us with data, at the journal level, showing the OA penetration rate for articles published in 2020, (or if preferred, a penetration rate based on the number of OA articles published over the three preceding years [2020, 2019, 2018]). In this blog post, this data is referred to as “Year 0 data”. For the avoidance of doubt, the OA penetration rate is defined as the share of OA, CC BY, zero embargo articles published in a given year by the publisher in a given TJ title.
Table 1, below, provides a worked example of the KPIs for three illustrative titles.
|Journal||No. of research articles published in 2020 (Year 0) [or average over 2020, 2019, 2018]||No. of OA (CC BY) articles published in 2020 (Year 0) [or average over 2020, 2019, 2018]||OA penetration rate (Year 0)||KPI 5% absolute growth target (Year 1)||No. of articles in 2021 to be published OA to meet absolute growth* (Year 1)||KPI 15% relative growth (Year 1)||No. of articles in 2021 to be published OA to meet relative growth*(Year 1)||KPI target to meet?|
* This number assumes publishing levels remain the same as Year 0.
In writing this piece, the first thing which became obvious is that we need to be more explicit to publishers in how the TJ indicator data should be supplied. For example, in addition to a web page with the KPI data, it would be helpful if all publishers made this available as a downloadable xls file.
Equally, we need to be clearer that the OA publications targets are percentage based – and though this manifests in articles numbers published as OA – it is meeting the % KPI growth target which is key.
It is disappointing to note that at the time of writing this piece (16th August 2021) three publishers have not yet supplied their year 0 data. Going forward we will be clearer that if data is not supplied with an agreed timeframe, these journals will be removed from the programme.
Annex A provides an at-a-glance summary of Year 0 data, by publisher.
The overarching observation is that the journals participating in the TJ programme are at very different points in their transition to OA. For example, if we look at the publishers with the two biggest TJ portfolios (and have reported their Year 0 data) – CUP and Elsevier – we see that most of the titles (65% and 87% respectively) are currently reporting an OA penetration level of less than 10%. On the other hand, most of the TJ’s registered by the Royal Society, Company of Biologists and the Wageningen Academic Publishers are moving at speed to transition to a fully OA model.
Given that support for TJ’s (and indeed all transformative arrangements) from cOAlition S funders is scheduled to cease at the end of 2024, if mixed model publishers wish to continue to have access to OA funds provided by cOAlition S funders then they have a further three years to transition.
Critics of Plan S (and the TJ model) will no doubt argue that the timeframe is unrealistic. We do not believe this. We recognise that it may be challenging, but just as governments around the world are now giving notice to automobile manufacturers that they must transition away from fossil fuels by a set date, we are giving notice that post 2024 we will only fund “pure publishing” agreements.
The data requested for the Year 0 analysis focused exclusively on seeking an understanding of the current landscape in terms of OA penetration for each TJ. Next year (June 2022) we will seek to collect and publish data relating to Year 1 of the programme. This will include the number of articles in TJs which are published OA – and whether or not the KPI has been met.
Beyond this, however, publishers will be required to demonstrate transparent pricing for the OA content published under this model and ensure that institutions purchasing a subscription to a Transformative Journal will pay only for the remaining subscription content.
Further, publishers will be required to provide usage and reach data. Working on the widely held belief that OA content is downloaded and cited more often than non OA content (see this infographic from Springer Nature), we believe this data will help researchers make an informed choice about the TJ publishing route.
We have already published guidance on the data we seek in 2022 (along with a template). We also plan to establish a “user group” of TJ publishers where we will be open to discussing some of the reporting requirements. To be clear, the KPIs are not up for debate, but if there is a sense that, for example, Altmetric data is not useful, or that usage data would be more useful if it was based on the median (rather than the mean), we will be happy to consider these. TJ-affiliated publishers should look out for an invitation to join the TJ user group in the coming weeks.
Some commentators refer to the TJ initiative as the “yeah, why not” model, and argue that there is no penalty for failing to meet growth targets. As this post has shown, cOAlition S is actively monitoring this programme and where publishers do not provide the data we require or meet the KPIs, then their ongoing participation in the programme will be reviewed.
The TJ model has been developed as a route to encourage publishers to transition to immediate Open Access. And, though we think Transformative Agreements (TAs) will be the vehicle which delivers OA at scale, TJs provide a useful mechanism by which publishers can provide fully OA, Version of Record publishing options for researchers who do not have access to a TA.
If any publisher wishes to apply for TJ-status, we encourage you to complete the short form at: https://www.coalition-s.org/tj-forms/
Head of Strategy
Table 2 below provides an analysis of Year 0 data by publisher (where provided).
|Publisher||Number of titles in TJ programme||Analysis|
|American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH) [2020 data]||1||♦ The ASTMH has an OA penetration rate of 39% with a target next year of 45%|
|Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) [2020 data]||49||♦ 31% of journals (15 titles) in the programme currently have an OA penetration rate of 5% or less. ♦ If all the ACM TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 325 articles (out of total of 2319 published articles) will be made OA (around 14%).|
|BMJ [2020 data]||36||♦ 7 journals currently report an OA (CC BY) penetration rate of 0%. ♦ 21 journals (58% of the cohort) have an OA penetration rate of less than 10%. ♦ 3 journals – Injury Prevention, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry – have an OA penetration target for 2021 which exceeds 20%. ♦ If all the BMJ TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 511 articles (out of total of 4156 published articles) will be made OA in 2021 (around 12%).|
|Cambridge University Press [2020 data]||228||♦ 5 journals are not reporting any data (“data not yet complete”). ♦ 38 journals (17% of the cohort) currently report an OA (CC BY) penetration rate of 0%. ♦ 149 journals (65%) have an OA penetration rate of less than 10%. ♦ 31 journals (14%) have an OA penetration target for 2021 which exceeds 20%. ♦ The Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics already enjoys an OA penetration rate of almost 54%; the target for 2021 is 62%. ♦ If all the CUP TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 2938 articles (out of total of 14,641 published articles) will be made OA (around 20%).|
|Company of Biologists (CoB) [2020 data]||3||♦ Only one journal – the Journal of Experimental Biology – has an OA penetration rate of less than 10% (6%) in 2020. ♦ 2 journals (66%) have an OA penetration target for 2021 which exceeds 20%. ♦ If all the CoB TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 187 articles (out of total of 1088 published articles) will be made OA (around 17%).|
|Elsevier [2020 data]||182||♦ 23 journals (13% of the cohort) report an OA (CC BY) penetration rate of 1% or less. ♦ 159 journals (87%) report an OA penetration rate of less than 10%. ♦ 7 journals (4%) have an OA penetration target for 2021 of at least 20% ♦ If all the Elsevier TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 7955 articles (out of total of 86544 published articles) will be made OA (around 9%). ♦ A small number of high publication volume titles will need to transition from publishing very few OA articles, to a sizable number. For example, the World Neurosurgery journal published 2134 articles in 2020 of which just one was OA. To meet the KPIs in 2021 – and assuming publication numbers are in line with 2020 numbers – some 108 articles will need to published OA. ♦ As a total of all articles published in 2020 by the TJ titles (86,554), just 4% (3628) were published OA (CC BY).|
|Inter-Research Science Publisher [2020 data]||4||♦ All four journals already enjoy an OA penetration rate greater than 10%. ♦ Three of the journals have OA penetration targets for 2021 greater than 20%. ♦ If all 4 titles meet their TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 144 articles (out of total of 555 published articles) will be made OA (around 26%).|
|Karger [2020 data]||7||♦ 86% of the journal in the TJ programme (6 titles out of 7) currently have an OA penetration rate of zero percent. ♦ 1 journal currently has an OA penetration rate of 1%. ♦ If all the Karger TJ’s meet their KPIs – and assuming publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in 23 articles (out of total of 406 published articles) will be made OA in 2021 (around 6%).|
|Oxford University Press (OUP) [2020 data]||3||♦ All titles have an OA penetration rate greater than 15%. Specifically, the Health Policy and Planning journal is reporting 51% OA, whilst the European Journal of Public Health is reporting 34% of all articles are OA (CC BY). ♦ The KPIs for the Health Policy and Planning journal are based on a relative growth target of 15% (rather than an absolute growth of 5%) and this increases the proportion of OA content from 51% to 58%. ♦ If all three titles meet their TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 176 articles (out of total of 449 published articles) will be made OA (around 39%).|
|Royal Society [2020 data]||4||♦ All titles already enjoy an OA penetration rate greater than 15%, with three (out of the four titles) reporting OA numbers in excess of 25% in 2020. ♦ As such, three journals have OA penetration targets in excess of 30% for 2021. ♦ If all four titles meet that TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 389 articles (out of total of 1332 published articles) will be made OA (around 29%).|
|Rockefeller University Press [2020 data]||3||♦ One journal (Journal of General Physiology) has an OA penetration rate of 4%. ♦ Two journals (Journal of Cell Biology and Journal of Experimental Medicine) have OA penetration targets for 2021 in excess of 20%. ♦ If all three titles meet their TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 102 articles (out of total of 478 published articles) will be made OA (around 21%).|
|Springer Nature [2020 data]||1717||♦ 463 TJ titles (27%) currently have an OA penetration rate of 5% or less. ♦ 4 TJ titles have already exceeded the OA penetration rate of 75% and thus will flip to full OA. (Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, NanoEthics and European Journal of Ageing) ♦ 29 journals which were originally designated as TJs have been removed from the programme.|
|Wageningen Academic Publishers [2020 data]||2||♦ Both journals are reporting an OA (CC BY) penetration rate of around 36% in 2020 ♦ In 2021 the OA targets for both journals is around 42%. ♦ If both titles meet their TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 43 articles (out of total of 102 published articles) will be made OA (around 42%).|
|World Scientific [2020 data]||2||♦ One journal (Functional Materials Letters) has an OA (CC BY) penetration rate of less than 1%, having published on average just one article OA per year, for the past three years. ♦ The other title (Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology) is reporting an OA rate of 12%. ♦ If both titles meet that TJ KPIs – and assuming 2021 publication numbers are broadly in line with 2020 – then in total some 28 articles (out of total of 242 published articles) will be made OA (around 12%).|
This updated policy will ensure that all research articles which arise from our funding – and are submitted for publication from New Year’s Day – are made OA at the time of publication. Crucially, these works must be openly licensed (CC BY, or CC BY-ND by exception), thus ensuring that others can build upon and re-use this content.
If you are a Wellcome-funded researcher, here are five key facts about our new policy to be aware of:
Wellcome’s OA policy supports author choice. As such, you can continue to seek publication in any peer reviewed journal. The only requirement is that research articles, which arise from our funding and are accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, must be made OA at the time of publication, be openly licensed and accessible from Europe PMC.
Our OA policy, in line with Plan S, supports three routes to compliance:
Route 1: Publish in a fully OA journal or platform and the publisher will make the Version of Record OA in PMC and Europe PMC.
Route 2: Publish in a subscription journal and make the Author Accepted Manuscript OA through Europe PMC.
Note that from 1/1/2021 the Wellcome grant conditions have been updated such that grantholders will automatically apply a CC BY licence to all future author accepted manuscripts reporting original research supported in whole, or in part, by our grant funding.
Route 3: Publish in a subscription journal through a transformative arrangement that is available to you and/or your academic institution. Under this route, the publisher will make the Version of Record OA in PMC and Europe PMC.
The Journal Checker Tool will advise you on which route(s) are supported by your journal of choice. Routes 1 and 3 are preferred.
In line with our commitment to support OA publication fees, Wellcome will continue to cover the costs of research articles arising from its funding. Specifically, we will cover publication costs in fully OA journals and platforms, and for journals which have been designated as Transformative Journals.
We also allow our OA funds to be used by organisations who enter into Transformative Agreements with publishers to help cover the “publish” element of Wellcome-funded research articles.
In the current financial year, we have allocated more than £8m to support OA publication costs.
Note, however, from 1st January 2021 our funds cannot be used to cover OA publication costs in subscription journals (“hybrid OA”), unless they offer a transformative arrangement, accessible to Wellcome-funded researchers.
Making your research available to all is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
Data published by Springer Nature (Figure 1) shows that OA articles, compared with non-OA articles are cited more, downloaded more and have greater impact.
Wellcome, in common with many other funders, has reasserted our commitment that when we assess research outputs during funding decisions, we consider the intrinsic merit of the work, not the title of the journal or publisher.
Moreover, all Wellcome-funded organisations must also publicly commit to this principle. For example, they can sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, the Leiden Manifesto or equivalent.
We have produced guidance for organisations on responsible and fair approaches for research assessment, that sets out three high-level requirements and other activities they could consider to support these.
Wellcome’s OA policy is fully aligned with Plan S, the initiative spearheaded by Science Europe and the European Commission now supported by 24 other funders.
The Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) ensures that researchers who have been funded by a cOAlition S Organisation will always be able to honour their funders’ Open Access (OA) policy. This is achieved by requiring researchers to give notice to publishers that an Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) arising from their submission carries a CC BY licence, in accordance with their grant conditions. By way of example, Wellcome grantees must include the following text in all manuscript submissions:
“This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number]. 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”.
This post outlines how the Journal Checker Tool (JCT) will make the RRS information visible to researchers and how it will preference publishing options where the Version of Record (VoR) can be made Open Access.
As all research articles submitted for publication from researchers whose funder has adopted the RRS will give notice to a publisher about the CC BY licence, all publishing venues can be deemed to offer a “Plan S compliant” publishing option. For the avoidance of doubt, the JCT is not asserting that the publisher policy supports the RRS. Rather, it indicates that the RRS allows researchers to self-archive the AAM with a zero-month embargo and a CC BY licence.
The only exception to this is if a publisher notifies cOAlition S that manuscripts which include the Rights Retention language will be rejected at submission. In such cases, the JCT will show that there are no compliant options, even if the publisher offers Transformative Arrangements, including Transformative Agreements (like Read and Publish deals) or Transformative Journals (TJs). To be clear, if manuscripts are rejected at submission because of the RRS language, they cannot then go on to be published through Transformative Arrangements.
To date, we are pleased to report that no publisher has indicated that they will systematically reject submissions because the submission includes the RRS language.
We recognise that the AAM version differs from the VoR. Not only does the latter contain all the changes from the copyediting process, journal formatting/branding etc., but it is also the version maintained and curated by the publisher, who has the responsibility to ensure that any corrections or retractions are applied in a timely and consistent way. For these reasons, our preferred option is to ensure that the VoR is made Open Access.
As such, when a publisher offers a Plan S-aligned way of making the VOR Open Access, the JCT will indicate this is the preferred route to compliance.
The screenshot below (Figure 1) shows an example of a journal which is part of a Transformative Agreement. Note how the Transformative Agreement option is shown as “Preferred” (compared to the option to make the AAM Open Access via the RRS).
Some journals – such as those published by the Royal Society and the Microbiology Society – have explicit policies allowing all researchers to self-archive their AAMs, without embargo and with a CC BY licence.
To determine this, the JCT checks publishers’ self-archiving policies (via the Shareyourpaper.org permissions service) to see if they support compliance with Plan S. Where they do, the JCT displays the publisher’s policy as providing a route to compliance via self-archiving. In such cases, cOAlition S funded authors can therefore take advantage of such policies and deposit the AAM in a repository in compliance with their grant conditions. This approach does not rely on the RRS.
The publisher’s Plan S-aligned self-archiving route to compliance is shown along with any other options (such as Transformative Journal status, or relevant Transformative Agreements). Again, routes where the VoR can be made Open Access are flagged as preferred. This is shown in Figure 2 below.
Over the coming weeks, we anticipate that some publishers will update their public policies relating to self-archiving, so they are fully aligned with Plan S.
For a publisher, the advantage of developing a Plan S-aligned self-archiving policy is that it affords them the opportunity to include the condition that the AAM is cross-referenced with the VoR. Such a requirement would be absent when AAMs are made available via the RRS route.
Where publishers do update their public policies, the JCT will reflect these changes via the integration with the Shareyourpaper.org permission service. However, if publishers wish to ensure that these changes are reflected as quickly as possible in the JCT, they should use the Shareyourpaper.org update request form. The form includes a bulk update option for those wishing to update a journal portfolio.
The previous data collection mechanism whereby publishers responded to the cOAlition S office and selected from a set of options, has been discontinued. This is partly to simplify the process – and provide a single source where self-archiving policies are discovered – and partly a recognition that the initial approach was not widely supported by publishers. Indeed, of the 153 letters sent, only 28 publishers (18%) responded with an “actionable” response. Most publishers did not respond, and of those who did, many did not provide an answer which could be incorporated into the JCT.
Complying with cOAlition S Organisations’ Open Access policies can look complicated. Not only are there multiple routes to compliance with funder policies, but some of these – such as Read and Publish deals – are only accessible to researchers at institutions which participate in these agreements. Other routes, like the RRS, apply even when the publisher’s own policy suggests otherwise.
To help navigate this complex landscape, cOAlition S has supported the development of the JCT and encouraged publishers to update their policies. With a clear focus on researcher needs, the JCT provides unambiguous advice to researchers on how they can comply with their funder’s Plan S-aligned Open Access policy when seeking to publish in any peer-reviewed journal.