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Gaps Report highlights why Plan S is needed


cOAlition S seeks to develop better understanding of the publishing landscape and the options available to researchers to share their research findings immediately and openly. Today an independent report is published that significantly contributes to this understanding.

This work was commissioned on behalf of cOAlition S by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), a member of cOAlition S. Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman of Utrecht University Library were appointed to lead the project. The aim of the study was to give a picture of open access options available to authors across disciplines, as well as the take-up of those options, especially where they align with some aspects of Plan S. This report is the so-called ‘gap analysis’ that cOAlition S signalled in the initial Plan S implementation guidelines.

The report by Kramer and Bosman provides a rigorous overview of the OA landscape in 2017 along with a first attempt to analyse the gaps in alignment with Plan S, in a range of disciplines.

The main result of the study is that, in 2017 prior to the launch of Plan S, researchers across all fields had a number of options to share their peer reviewed articles immediately and openly. Already in 2017, 75% of all journals used by cOAlition S funded researchers allowed open access publishing. Many of these journals were hybrid journals but could be made compliant with Plan S by bringing them under ‘Transformative Agreements’ which many consortia around the world are seeking to negotiate with publishers. Alternatively, cOAlition S is developing the concept of “Transformative Journals” which would allow publishers to make their hybrid journals compliant with Plan S.

The study also shows that almost all hybrid journals and 50% of closed journals used by cOAlition S funded grantees already provided self-archiving options. A 12-month embargo period was the most prevalent in many fields. Arguably the simplest approach publishers could take to make their journals Plan S compliant (at least in the short term) is agreeing to a zero embargo policy. This study shows that examples of zero-embargo policies exist in all fields but especially in the social sciences.

The report reveals differences between research fields and subdisciplines in the availability of open access publishing options and their alignment with aspects of Plan S. It also shows that the usage of these options by cOAlition S funded researchers varied. These differences provide valuable insights into which approaches are working well in particular contexts, and provide fields and venues that can serve as examples or role models for other fields where appropriate.

In conclusion, across all disciplines, a large majority of existing journals could be made compliant with Plan S, either through “Transformative Arrangements” or through enabling unembargoed self-archiving.

Johan Rooryck, cOAlition S OA Champion said: “Although this study is not without its methodological limitations, it will be welcomed by many. I am sure publishers will take good note of this valuable study in developing open access options aligned with Plan S. For cOAlition S, this study provides important input in shaping our strategy for further supporting OA infrastructures and initiatives. COAlition S funders are doing much already. For example, several cOAlition S funders financially support the academic-led initiatives such as SciPost, Open Library of the Humanities, and OAPEN platforms, as well as vital OA infrastructure services like ArXiv, DOAJ, OpenDOAR and Sherpa-RoMEO. We will soon consult on a framework for ‘transformative journals’, which could be yet another route to increase the open access options available to researchers. This NWO report will provide valuable insights in areas where more support is needed”.

Read the full report here