The Journal Checker Tool (JCT) – a service developed by cOAlition S to help researchers identify Plan S-compliant publishing routes – has been further developed to provide users with the ability to search across all the ESAC-registered transformative agreements (TA’s).
In this brief post, we will discuss the rationale for providing this new functionality, explain how it can be used, and highlight some challenges we faced while ensuring user-friendly access to this data.
Why did we develop this new feature?
The primary use case for this new feature was to support cOAlition S staff in reviewing applications to the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) by End Users (i.e. libraries, consortia and funders). Under our agreement with participating publishers, JCS access is limited to institutions actively involved in negotiating OA publishing agreements.
To demonstrate this involvement, institutions can now easily reference transformative agreements they’re part of. This update ensures that cOAlition S staff have a streamlined way to verify that an institution applying for a JCS account actively participates in OA publishing agreements, facilitating the JCS account approval process.
The JCT TA search feature can be accessed at https://journalcheckertool.org/ta-search.
The enhanced JCT supports the following scenarios:
For example, figure 1 shows all the TA’s accessible to researchers at the University of Oxford, whilst Figure 2 shows which TA’s include The Lancet journal.
Combining searches – for example, “is The Lancet part of a TA available researchers at the University of Oxford” (yes) – is also supported.
From the search results, the user can click through to the ESAC record and, perhaps more importantly, explore the JCT-created Google sheet which specifies which journals are covered by the agreement and which institutions have access to these titles.
These features highlight how journal-specific TA’s can be. For example, one might assume that a transformative agreement with a publisher like Springer Nature includes all of their titles. However, the JCT TA search feature reveals that this isn’t always the case. While the Spinger Nature journal Neurogenetics is included in 22 TA’s, the flagship journal Nature is included in just six.
Arguably the biggest challenge in providing access to this dataset is making it clear that there is not always a 1:1 relationship between a TA and the list of journals/institutions which are included.
Take, for instance, the single ESAC agreement between VSNU and publisher Emerald. This agreement provides different institutions with access to a different set of journal titles, leading the JCT to create (and then index) 13 separate spreadsheets (see Figure 3).
Using this example, one can determine that whereas researchers at Erasmus University (signified by the EUR label) can read and publish in all the journals in the VSNU/Emerald agreement, researchers at Wageningen University & Research (signified by the WUR label) do not have a read/publish agreement for the titles specified in this, this, or this Google sheet.
In total, the 520 active TAs currently included in the ESAC database result in 626 separate Google sheets, which the JCT provides access to.
We hope this development is of use and value to our stakeholder communities. If you have any comments, please let us know either via using the feedback button or by contacting me directly.
Head of Strategy, cOAlition S
We, at the Göttingen State and University Library, are pleased to introduce the Hybrid Open Access Dashboard (HOAD), an openly available data analytics tool designed for academic libraries and their consortia. Developed at the State and University Library Göttingen and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), HOAD combines open data from Crossref, OpenAlex, and the cOAlition S Journal Checker Tool. By doing so, the dashboard illustrates the ongoing transition of hybrid journal portfolios included in transformative agreements to full open access.
HOAD provides interactive charts and tables for exploring the openness of over 12,500 hybrid journals included in 400+ transformative agreements. These are derived from curated and publicly available cOAlition S Journal Checker Tool data. HOAD allows users to gain a general overview and analyse hybrid journal portfolios of selected publishers. Throughout the dashboard, users can compare the global hybrid journal landscape with the situation in Germany since 2017.
As an important aspect, users can explore hybrid open access across Creative Commons licences over time and compare licence types offered by publishers. Notably, Springer Nature journals predominantly adopted the CC BY licence, aligned with the preferences of Plan S, whereas Elsevier and Wiley hybrid journals still use the more restrictive CC BY-NC-ND licence for a substantial share of articles (see Figure).
Users can also explore variations in open access adoption among different countries. The view on the top productive countries shows that lead authors from the United States, China, and India published open access in hybrid journals to a much lesser extent compared to their European counterparts. In contrast, countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany have achieved substantially larger open access shares, likely due to the wide implementation of transformative agreements.
Another important aspect assessed by HOAD is the availability of openly accessible metadata. Users can identify publishers that provide comprehensive metadata for their open access articles via Crossref. The metadata assessment includes open licences, abstracts, information about Text and Data Mining (TDM), authors’ ORCID, and funding. By highlighting gaps, HOAD supports library consortia in monitoring and negotiating improvements for open metadata in transformative agreements.
Screenshot showing the Hybrid Open Access Dashboard (HOAD) view on Creative Commons licences over time by publisher. Users can switch between the global view and the view on the consortia agreements for Germany. The side navigation allows searching and browsing of publisher-specific and Germany-specific hybrid journal portfolios.
In March 2023, we announced the beta launch of HOAD through professional mailing lists and conducted public webinars to introduce the tool and gather feedback from potential user groups and other stakeholders.
During this process, we received valuable input from publishers asking about how to improve their metadata, specifically regarding open licences. With our regular data updates, we ensure that these metadata improvements are promptly incorporated into HOAD. Additionally, some publishers helped us to identify journals that were no longer part of their hybrid journal portfolios due to a change of publisher. This underlined the need to make transfers of journals between publishers more transparent in future releases.
We were delighted to engage not only with German consortia but also with representatives from other countries. National library consortia, who have been actively monitoring consortial transformative agreements, highlighted HOAD as a handy tool for benchmarking their progress with the general trend. They expressed interest in incorporating their own curated journal data, and suggested additional analytics about the use of green open access, funding acknowledgement, and open access spending. These aspects, not currently covered by HOAD, highlight promising areas of future development.
Both publishers and libraries had various inquiries regarding the data. Some requested easy data reuse options, while others sought clarification on our methodology. In response, we have implemented a download option for tables and charts to facilitate data reuse. To ensure transparency and reproducibility, HOAD data is openly available, along with the computational steps involved in compiling the data. Furthermore, we have commissioned a comparison of our data with Scopus and look forward to sharing the results in the near future.
As cOAlition S announces the end of financial support for transformative agreements by next year and the slow progress of open access in transformative journals persists, comprehensive monitoring approaches like HOAD are becoming even more crucial. While the project’s funding from the German Research Foundation has concluded, we remain committed to keeping the data up to date. We invite community engagement through Github and welcome discussions with national library consortia and other stakeholders to further customise HOAD to specific needs. Feel free to contact Najko Jahn.
We’ve worked hard to ensure the results given within the Journal Checker Tool (JCT) are as accurate as possible at this point. However, not all of the data being used by the JCT is ours to update. The tool is a partnership between data sources, with data updates being made in the data sources themselves. The JCT helpdesk will help to coordinate data update requests, but for some changes, particularly at the portfolio level, updates need to be submitted directly to the original data source, including e.g. DOAJ or the ESAC registry.
It’s in our collective interests to ensure that all the data used by the JCT is as fresh and complete as possible. We ask that publishers, consortia and institutions review their data within our sources such as DOAJ, our transformative agreement index and Shareyourpaper.org permissions to ensure that it reflects the current picture – something we know we don’t have right now for all journals. By taking action in the coming weeks, you are supporting researchers in enabling immediate access to research when Plan S launches on 1 January 2021.
Our data source for fully open access (OA) journals is DOAJ. If a journal isn’t indexed in DOAJ it won’t appear within the JCT. That’s the first thing for publishers to check for their fully Open Access (OA) titles. DOAJ has its own editorial process for determining whether or not a journal can be indexed in it and this process takes time. Most applications are processed in under 3 months but it can take up to 6 months in some cases. Publishers should start to submit their applications to DOAJ once they meet DOAJ’s Basic criteria. Once you are ready to apply, the application form is here: https://doaj.org/application/new. The JCT has access to data on titles that are in the process of applying to DOAJ.
The JCT will use the metadata held within DOAJ about a journal to determine whether it enables researchers to comply with Plan S. For example, we will look at whether the licence recorded within DOAJ is CC BY or equivalent. If not, then the journal will be identified as not being compliant. Therefore a publisher should check whether the licence options recorded within DOAJ for their titles show the most permissive licence. DOAJ are shortly to launch a new website and application form, with an updated metadata schema. DOAJ has published instructions on how publishers can update their records.
We have built an index of Transformative Agreements (TAs) that have been registered within the ESAC Registry of Agreements. This index features information on the journals included within the agreement and the institutions that have subscribed to it. Agreements are listed within the index by their ESAC Registry Agreement ID, and the data can be downloaded from the JCT website for easy validation.
If you need to register your agreement in the ESAC Registry, you can do so here. Once uploaded to the registry it will be picked up as part of our TA data management process, which involves regular review cycles of agreements within ESAC and looking at the journals/institutions within each individual agreement. Consortia or publishers who wish to submit or update batches of data within the TA index should email jct[at]cottagelabs.zendesk.com.
There are two routes to compliance through self-archiving within the JCT. The primary route is the journal’s own self-archiving policy, via the data source Shareyoupaper.org Permissions. Policies are monitored automatically and updated as required. However, if you would like to manually request an update you can do so here. If you’d like support and feedback while updating your policy, you can reach out to their team here.
If the data within Shareyourpaper.org Permissions does not reveal a policy that enables researcher compliance, then the JCT will look at whether the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy could be used as a route to compliance. Here the JCT will check if the funder of the research has implemented the Rights Retention Strategy. If so, Self-archiving via Rights Retention will be shown. For more information on Rights Retention see the related blog post: “4 things you should know about the Rights Retention Strategy and the Journal Checker Tool”.
Transformative Journals are subscription journals that have committed to transitioning to fully open access according to the criteria set out by cOAlition S. A list of currently approved transformative journals are available from the cOAlition S website and in csv format from the JCT website. Subscription journals who wish to be considered as transformative journals by cOAlition S, and thus the JCT, should apply here. cOAlition S will process applications upon receipt, with data transferred to the JCT within a fortnight once an application has been approved.
The table below shows the update schedule by which changes to publisher policies – and development on new cOAlition S approved arrangements – are made visible in the JCT. These timeframes may be affected by public holidays and the amount of data being handled at any one time.
|Transformative Journals||Once cOAlition S has approved a TJ application – and notified the publisher of this outcome – this information will be visible in the JCT within 10 working days|
|Transformative Agreement||The ESAC registry is crawled on a weekly basis. When we identify a new agreement, we reach out to consortia to obtain details of the titles covered by the agreements and which institutions have access. Once we have this data in the format we can use, this information will be visible in the JCT within 10 working days.|
|DOAJ updates||Changes to metadata in DOAJ (i.e. licence information) will be visible in the JCT within 5 working days of being made visible in DOAJ.|
|Publisher self-archiving policy updates||Changes to publisher self-archiving policies – as disclosed on the publisher web site – are identified by Shareyourpaper.org Permissions and made visible to the JCT within 3 working days. Should a publisher wish to notify us of a change to the policy they should do so here. Information provided via this direct route will be made visible to the JCT within 3 working days.|
We are delighted that the cOAlition S funded Journal Checker Tool (JCT) is released today. Although it is in open testing mode, this is a big milestone for us: we’re releasing the tool now to give you, the Plan S community, an opportunity to road test it.
The JCT is designed to support all researchers funded by a cOAlition S member in finding Plan S compliant “routes” through which to publish their research articles open access.
Plan S allows three routes to compliance: through fully open access venues; through self-archiving, and through so-called transformative arrangements (which includes transformative agreements and transformative journals).
The Journal Checker Tool (JCT) allows a researcher to enter the name of their funder, the institution they are affiliated with, and the journal to which they plan to submit an article. The tool then checks if this combination of funder, institution, and journal offers any route to compliance with Plan S. It simultaneously checks 4 options:
Our current criteria for compliance centres on whether a particular journal enables a researcher to publish an article under a CC BY licence without embargo, and retain sufficient copyright to enable compliance with open access policies.
On the results page, a researcher will be shown all the available routes that enable compliance based on the combination of data they have entered. Where there are multiple routes to compliance available, it is for the researcher to choose which route to proceed by, although the JCT does visualise cOAlition S’s preference for routes that enable the Version of Record to be made open access. (See also related blog post: “4 things you should know about the Rights Retention Strategy and the Journal Checker Tool).
Where no route to compliance is available with the combination entered, the Journal Checker Tool provides suggestions on how to edit the search – for example, seeing if a coauthor at a different institution has access to a TA – to find a combination that enables compliance. Any route that doesn’t enable compliance isn’t shown within the result. However, you can see why the JCT thinks these routes don’t enable compliance via the “Explain Result” dropdown menu.
The data used in the JCT calculation is large and distributed across the global network. The JCT relies upon data from the Directory of Open Access Journals, Shareyourpaper.org Permissions, the ESAC Transformative Agreement Registry, Crossref and the Research Organization Registry Community (ROR). To improve the performance of the JCT we use local caches of some of this data that is regularly refreshed. As part of the development of the JCT we’ve developed an index at the journal and institution level of Transformative Agreement listed in the ESAC Agreement Registry and a list of cOAlition S approved Transformative Journals. These data sources are released today as part of the beta launch, under a CC-0 licence.
As mentioned, the test phase is very important in getting feedback from the community about the tool. We’ll be using this feedback to improve the tool in the coming weeks and inform our development plans for the first half of 2021.
A vital part of the feedback will be improving the freshness of the source data that the JCT is dependent on. Getting this information will be a continuous process: as journals change policies or publishers; as transformative agreements are signed or renewed; and as new journals are formed. We have processes in place to monitor for some of these changes, others will require action from publishers and consortia such as applying to DOAJ or depositing a new transformative agreement in the ESAC Registry.
However, we welcome contributions from the community in this process by contacting us where they identify data issues that affect compliance results being shown. The JCT is a partnership between data sources, with data updates being made by the data sources themselves. For those looking to notify us of individual data errors please use the “Send us feedback” button on the website. For publishers or consortia looking to make changes at the portfolio level, we have a separate blog post on how to go about this.
The focus of the beta phase is on iterative changes to improve usability and data freshness. From January 2021, we’ll be working on new functions for the tool and building in the additional requirements that have been set out within the Plan S technical guidance.
Let us use mirror journals as an example. Plan S states that “Open Access journals must not have a mirror/sister subscription journal with substantial overlap in editorial board to avoid business models charging for both access and publication. Such journals will de facto be considered ‘hybrid’ journals.” Right now, we are not flagging these journals as non-compliant via the fully open access route, but that will change.
Another example is customising results based on cOAlition S Organisation’s implementation roadmap. While we’ve pulled in all organisation’s names, currently the only results that are tied to funder’s implementation plans are those relating to the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS). So there is more work to do to reflect organisations implementation of Plan S.
We’ve attempted to build a tool that cuts through the perceived and real complexities within Plan S, to support cOAlition S members’ and their researchers in delivering immediate open access to research. A tool that is able to respond to changes within the scholarly publishing environment and its approaches to delivering open access. A tool that will encompass your feedback.
We look forward to continuing this work with you and enabling the delivery of Plan S.
About the JCT development
The JCT was developed by Cottage Labs, in partnership with Antleaf consultancy, with the data providers Shareyourpaper.org Permissions and Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The project is overseen by a core team of Hannah Hope (Wellcome), Nora Papp Le Roy and Caroline Lambert (ESF) with support from the JCT Implementation Group (a subgroup of cOAlition S members).
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.