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cOAlition S responds to Open Access publishers’ statement on Transformative Agreements


cOAlition S has taken good note of the position paper by five fully Open Access publishers that criticizes the low transformational potential of Transformative Agreements, while calling for prioritizing support mechanisms for native Open Access publications and alternative peer-review platforms. ESAC has recently published a response clarifying the nature and function of Transformative Agreements.

As stated in the Plan S Principles and Implementation guidance, cOAlition S Funders acknowledge the existing range of high-quality Open Access journals and platforms and support the diversity of business models for Open Access journals and platforms. Where applicable, cOAlition S Funders or research institutions cover Open Access publication fees. This is a financial commitment of cOAlition S funders that primarily benefits fully Open Access publishers. For example, in 2017-2018, Wellcome spent £2.8m in fees for fully Open Access journals. The Funders’ aim is to move as many journals to Open Access as possible, in order to enable their grant holders to publish Open Access in the journals of their choice.

Despite the perceived shortcomings that some Transformative Agreements may present, the Funders continue to view such deals as a powerful tool in the transformation of subscription journals towards full and immediate Open Access. The Funders note that support for Transformative Arrangements ends at the end of 2024. We anticipate that all agreements with publishers after that date will be of the ‘pure publish’ type.

We observe that libraries and consortia negotiating Transformative Agreements also have Open Access publishing agreements with many of the fully Open Access publishers. By way of example, the Max Planck Digital Library has agreements with Copernicus, Frontiers, eLife, PLOS, MDPI, IOPP and many other fully OA publishers. JISC has publishing agreements with fully Open Access publishers Frontiers, IOPP, Ubiquity Press, the Open Library of Humanities, as well as SCOAP³, whilst the University of California has OA publishing agreements with PLOS and JMIR.

To stimulate competition and fair pricing, cOAlition S advocates price transparency of Open Access services that allow for price comparisons across services and business models. We recognize that the fully Open Access publishers who have signed this position paper have been very open on price transparency and that they have established best practices that will become compulsory under Plan S. We will shortly publish additional policies that support the transition to full and immediate Open Access.