Dear Steven,


Thank you for sharing your open letter outlining your concerns about Transformative Journals.

cOAlition S has now reviewed your letter and would like to make the following points.

1- As we made clear when we published the Transformative Journals (TJ) framework, we consider this a draft and we look forward to receiving the views from all actors and stakeholders who respond to the consultation. Once the consultation closes (6th January 2020) we will then assess how the concept of TJs can best be implemented.

2- TJs have been developed to help the transitioning of journals that are committing to full OA, outside of Transformative Agreements. We expect this option may be useful to journals which have high costs – which may make it more difficult to include these titles in Transformative Agreements, at least in the short term – or where publishers (like scholarly societies) wish to offer a global OA option, but are not yet able to flip to full OA without some support during a transition period to reduce risks.

3- The SN letter argues that year on year growth can only increase at the rate in which funders mandate gold OA publishing and provide the necessary funding. However, data from SN’s own journal Nature Communications provides clear evidence that the volume of published papers can increase year on year, even without a corresponding increase in the number of funder mandates.

See Table 1.

Publication Year Type Total Number of articles in Nat. Comms. URL % year-on-year increase in published articles
2014 Hybrid 2817 URL 76% increase compared with 2013
2015 Full OA 3347 URL 19% increase compared with 2014
2016 Full OA 3685 URL 10% increase compared with 2015
2017 Full OA 4540 URL 23% increase compared with 2016
2018 Full OA 5516 URL 21% increase compared with 2017
  • Table 1: Year-on-year % increase of articles in Nature Communication

    4- The SN letter also suggests that journals can only flip to full OA, once 90% of publications are OA. However, publication data from Nature Communications – which started publishing as a hybrid journal – shows that the decision to flip this title was taken when slightly less than 50% of the content was OA (see Table 2).Considering this finding it is difficult to give much credence to Springer Nature’s statement that “we cannot place authors in a situation where they could be unable to publish in the most suitable journal, purely for financial reasons”.
Publication Year Type Total Number of articles Number of OA (free to read) Number of subscription articles URL OA content as a %
2010 Hybrid 150 72 78 URL 48%
2011 Hybrid 448 252 196 URL 56%
2012 Hybrid 714 325 389 URL 46%
2013 Hybrid 1594 731 863 URL 46%
2014 Hybrid 2817 1317 1500 URL 47%
  • Table 2: % of content published OA, before Nature Communications flipped to full OA in 2015

    5- No data is presented to support the assertion that “international collaboration will be negatively impacted”. As funders we are keen to encourage collaboration between researchers, recognising the benefits which can arise. We are working with our partners to encourage other funders from around the world to join cOAlition S. We anticipate that support will continue to grow and that funders will increasingly adopt consistent approaches. Many international groups will still want to work with the world-class researchers we fund. The desire to join forces to address shared research questions should supersede any considerations over where the resulting work can be published. We have also established a Task Force to monitor the effects of Plan S, including its impact on early career researchers and international collaborations.

    6- The alternative model for TJ that is proposed in the Springer-Nature letter provides no clearly defined timeframe for transitioning journals to full Open Access, other than when a threshold of 90% OA uptake has been reached. For all intents and purposes, this proposal is nothing more than an attempt to perpetuate the hybrid model, which less and less funders are willing to support. The hybrid model has clearly failed to achieve the transition to OA and there are absolutely no reasons to believe that things will be any different in the future. This is a tactic to stall progress. For cOAlition S, TJs are considered as a means for publishers to really deliver on their promise of transitioning their journals to full OA in a smooth way, but within a defined timeframe. Our proposed deadline is the 31st December 2024 – 5 years from now. We are not aware of any other area of economic activity where businesses are given 5 years to change their models to meet demands (with support from funders). Native OA publishers (who are competing with Springer-Nature in the market) do not claim that they can only run full OA journals under the condition that all funders worldwide must commit to fund Gold OA. The line of argumentation that the transition to OA can only happen at the rate that funders commit to finance Gold OA is futile. We could as well argue that funders will only commit to fund OA at the rate that publishers transition to OA. But there should be no mistake: we prefer zero-embargo Green OA over hybrid journals.

    7- In conclusion, we hope journals and publishers will see this as an opportunity to take the bold step of changing their business model, and we are looking forward to receiving more inputs to our open consultation on Transformative Journals by January 6th 2020.

Robert Kiley, interim cOAlition S Coordinator

Marc Schiltz, Chair of cOAlition S

Johan Rooryck, cOAlition S OA Champion