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Consulting the research community on cOAlition S’s “Towards Responsible Publishing” proposal: an Invitation to Tender (ITT) to support this initiative


The invitation to tender is now closed for submissions

The European Science Foundation-Science Connect (ESF-SC), on behalf of cOAlition S, is seeking to engage a third-party contractor to devise and run a large-scale consultation with the research community regarding cOAlition S’s draft proposal, “Towards Responsible Publishing”.

In the five years that have elapsed since the publication of the Plan S principles, the move towards full and immediate Open Access (OA) has become global and irreversible. However, academic publishing practices have not kept up with rapid advances in the way science is performed, openly disseminated and used. In addition, the increasing reliance on Article Processing Charges (APCs) threatens the goal of universal OA because it substitutes a model of paywalls to one where researchers are unable to publish due to high fees.

These issues are forcing funders and other stakeholders – especially university libraries who procure publishing services on behalf of their researchers – to re-think how best to deliver Open Access in a responsible, equitable and sustainable way.

With this challenge in mind, cOAlition S is currently developing a new proposal, provisionally entitled “Towards Responsible Publishing”.  At the heart of this proposal is a vision to support a community-based communication system fit for open science in the 21st century. Such a system will empower scholars to share the full range of their research outputs and participate in new quality control mechanisms and evaluation standards for these outputs. We believe this approach will ensure rapid, transparent dissemination of high-quality scientific knowledge.

However, before any detailed plans are developed regarding the possible implementation of this proposal, we wish to consult with the research community at large.  To this end we are seeking support of a contractor to facilitate a consultative process that puts researchers at the forefront, providing them with the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute to the development of a strategy that serves their needs.

Specifically, the overarching aims of this consultation are to:

  • determine to what extent the vision, mission and objectives set out in the draft proposal serve the needs of the global research community – including researchers who are funded by cOAlition S funders and those who are not;
  • understand how the “Towards Responsible Publishing” proposal might be modified or refined to ensure it resonates with the needs and aspirations of the research community and consequently garner broader support and adoption;
  • identify in the draft proposal any showstoppers or unintended consequences and propose proactive measures to mitigate them, ensuring a successful implementation;
  • ascertain whether (and if so, to what extent) the existing scholarly communication infrastructure can support this proposal; if it cannot, identify areas where research funders and others should best direct their funding to strengthen the infrastructure.

Once the consultation has been completed, the appointed contractor(s) will be required to analyse the outcomes and make recommendations to the cOAlition S leadership.  These recommendations must focus on how the proposal could be further developed to maximise its chances of success, and ultimately help to deliver an open, scholar-led communication ecosystem that removes barriers to participation for the benefit of science and society.

cOAlition S will publish the Towards Responsible Publishing proposal once the appointed contractor(s) has a mechanism in place for gathering feedback.  Shortlisted suppliers will also be sent a copy of the working draft, ahead of the interviews scheduled for 13th September 2023.

Responding to this ITT

The Invitation to Tender document (accessible here) outlines the key tasks the successful contractor must undertake, the deliverables, and a project timeline.  Given the size and global nature of the research community, some guidance is also provided on the level of engagement that we seek.

Contractors interested in applying are required to use the response grid provided in Annex A (pages 8-10).  All applications should be sent to Nora Papp-Le Roy (npappleroy@esf.org) by 09.00 CEST on Monday, 4th September 2023.