[Oa-italia] FAIR Open Access Alliance risponde alla lettera dei ricercatori su Plan S

Maria Cassella maria.cassella a unito.it
Dom 18 Nov 2018 10:14:00 CET


La FAIR Open Access Alliance risponde alle critiche dei ricercatori su Plan
S. La lettera non sembra ancora essere disponibile su web. La copio ed
incollo integralmente.
Saluti
Maria Cassella

*We write to provide a counter view to the recent open letter (“Plan S: Too
Far, Too*

*Risky”), [https://sites.google.com/view/plansopenletter/open-letter
<https://sites.google.com/view/plansopenletter/open-letter>] partly based
on our FOAA recommendations for the implementation of Plan S. *

*[https://www.fairopenaccess.org/2018/10/21/foaa-recommendations-on-the-implementation-of-plan-s/
<https://www.fairopenaccess.org/2018/10/21/foaa-recommendations-on-the-implementation-of-plan-s/>]
*

*We are glad to note that the researchers who have signed the open letter
support open*

*access as their very first principle. However, the letter itself goes on
to make a number **of highly problematic and logically fallacious
statements with which we strongly disagree **and here contest.*

*More broadly, the letter fails to provide any solution to address the
problematic situation **academia has maneuvered itself into with regards to
scholarly publishing. As it stands, **the open letter is a set of demands
on the funders, without any responsibility assumed **by the researchers
themselves for the ongoing serials crisis, nor for providing solutions.*

*In this document we review the items in the open letter systematically.*

*1. Hybrid (society) journals*

*The Letter states: “The complete ban on hybrid (society) journals of high
quality is a big **problem, especially for chemistry.” This statement is
not correct. First of all, Plan S does **not ban hybrid journals, it simply
aims at persuading funders to stop paying APCs to **them as these titles
have proved an ineffectual mechanism for a transition to OA.*

*Beyond the fact that it is unclear why chemistry thinks itself exceptional
here, Robert-Jan **Smits has explained on several occasions that Plan S
will allow researchers to publish in **hybrid journals f the article is
published simultaneously in a repository or archive **without an embargo
and under a CC BY license. In the Wellcome Trust’s **implementation of Plan
S, the version that must be available is the AAM (author’s **accepted
manuscript). Several publishers, such as Emerald and SAGE, **already
offer **zero-embargo
green OA. In addition, while coalition funders will not pay APCs for
hybrid **journals, they will not prevent authors from finding research
funding from other sources. *

*Contrary to the claims of the Letter, Plan S takes into account the full
landscape of open **access, as clearly acknowledged in Principle 3: “In
case such high quality Open Access **journals or platforms do not yet
exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide **incentives to
establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be
provided **for
Open Access infrastructures where necessary;” and Principle 8 “The
importance of **open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs
is acknowledged because of **their long-term archiving function and their
potential for editorial innovation;".*

*The open letter claims that researchers (at least in chemistry) “won’t
even be able to*

*legally read the most important (society) journals.” This is nonsense.
This claim implies*

*that researchers will cease to have legal access to these journals through
subscriptions.*

*If this were the case, it is very unclear how Plan S could be held
responsible. The intent*

*of Plan S is that journals flip to open access which would mean they were
legally*

*accessible to everyone. However, if as seems to be claimed in the letter,
libraries were*

*to cancel subscriptions, this would not be in response to Plan S but due
to the*

*unsustainability of ever increasing subscription costs. The letter goes on
in the second*

*point to acknowledge the issue with exploding costs to subscriptions
without offering any*

*solutions to the problem. Furthermore, the authors assume without argument
or*

*evidence that all journals (at least in chemistry) “with a valuable and
rigorous peer-*

*review system of high quality” will either fold or fail to adapt.*

*The open letter also assumes that Plan S will lead to the death of learned
societies.*

*Indeed, learned societies that publish academic journals sometimes derive
considerable*

*profits or surpluses from the subscription system, and have benefited
substantially in the*

*past decade from funder requirements to make research open access under
the hybrid*

*system. As an example, the American Chemical Society has a highly complex
fee structure *

*for article processing charges,
[https://pubs.acs.org/pb-assets/documents/4authors/ACS_SalesChart.pdf
<https://pubs.acs.org/pb-assets/documents/4authors/ACS_SalesChart.pdf> ] *

* taking full advantage of the situation, where a funded non-member from an
institution that does not subscribe *

*must pay $4000 for immediate access (a requirement of the funding paying
the APC) and a surcharge of*

*$1000 for CC BY (again a requirement of the funding paying the APC), a
total of $5,000*

*– when the average APC is approximately $2700. These profits or surpluses
are often*

*used to support research activities. As a result, learned societies have a
financial*

*interest in maintaining the subscription, and specifically the hybrid,
system. It is true that*

*there are large differences between research fields here, in that
chemistry derives more*

*money from the (hybrid) subscription system than other fields.*



*A more productive approach to the conversation would be to focus on
alternatives to*

*subscriptions that pay for society income rather than attacking Plan S.
For it is, indeed,*

*bizarre that library budgets should bear the brunt of funding disciplinary
activities. That*

*said, an alternative income for scientific societies is possible under a
publication-fee*

*model as well. For example, the publication fee is capped under Plan S,
which allows for*

*a difference between the real cost of publishing and the cap paid by the
funders which*

*could be reserved for the learned society. This solution does require that
the cost of*

*publishing is made completely transparent by publishers (societies in this
instance).*



*FOAA recommended cost transparency as a crucial factor for the
implementation of*

*Plan S. We believe publishers should be required to provide the actual
breakdown of*

*costs contained in the publication fee, and make this information publicly
available. An*

*example of how this works in practice is the 2016 release by eLife of
their costs to*

*publish.
[https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/a058ec77/what-it-costs-to-publish
<https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/a058ec77/what-it-costs-to-publish>] *

*Without this transparency the cap will be established as a new price-point
that*

*will allow publishers to renegotiate it every few years, and allow those
with actual costs*

*below the cap to raise their costs to meet the cap. A subset of publishers
have already*

*agreed to the FOAA cost transparency proposal in the Transparent
Transition to Open*

*Access (TTOA consortium).*



*2. A transition from hybrid to full Open Access*



*We further recommend that a policy be defined to help publishers and
Editors-in-Chief of*

*hybrid journals to transition to full open access within a 3-4 year
period, reporting on*

*progress every year. The transition of hybrid journals to non-hybrid or
full Open Access*

*journals will need an infrastructure in line with Principle 3 of Plan S:
FOAA has taken an*

*initiative to help journals transition to open access in the aftermath of
Plan S with its*

*TTOA platform. *

*[https://www.fairopenaccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Public-statement-TTOA-consortium-30may18-def.pdf
<https://www.fairopenaccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Public-statement-TTOA-consortium-30may18-def.pdf>]*



*Nobody wishes to ‘ban’ society journals: the request here is to use
imaginative ways to*

*make the transition of those journals to an open access model, which would
do much*

*more for the societies’ disciplinary advocacy work. A number of journals
have already*

*gone that route, and have – in a very short time - been able to fully
maintain their*

*readership and reputation in their communities (see the highly successful
transition of*

*the editorial board of Elsevier subscription journal Lingua to Fair Open
Access Glossa,*

*and that of Springer’s Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics to Algebraic
Combinatorics).*

*These journals have shown that the scientific reputation of a journal lies
with its editorial*

*team, not with the name or with the publisher. If editors in linguistics
and mathematics*

*can flip their prestigious journals to open access, at no cost to their
reputation, editors in*

*other fields should be able to do so as well. A transition to full open
access is the best*

*thing editors of prestigious journals can do to help establish the
reputation of younger*

*scientists with access to cOALition S funds.*



*Further, the authors of the Letter claim that they “expect that a large
part of the world will*

*not (fully) tie in with Plan S”. In the meantime, important funders such
as the Wellcome*

*Trust and the Gates Foundation have already joined Plan S. For Plan S to
succeed, it is*

*essential that not only funders take a principled stand, but that editors
of hybrid journals*

*join forces to urge their publishers to flip the journals to full open
access.*



*3. The cost of publication*

*The signatories of the letter say they understand concerns about exploding
costs of*

*journal subscriptions. But they also state that “with its strong focus on
the Gold OA*

*publication model, in which researchers pay high APCs for each
publication, the total*

*costs of scholarly dissemination will likely rise instead of reduce under
Plan S”.*

*However, Plan S does not mention APCs nor Gold OA. It refers only to
Publication Fees:*

*this is a much broader term that encompasses multiple options. One example
is the*

*SCOAP3 consortium where libraries pay a ‘subscription’ to journals that
are openly*

*accessible. This approach opens the possibility that no-fee journals can
also be*

*compensated for their efforts. Thus, Plan S provides funding for all
publication venues*

*with the exception of hybrid journals. Furthermore, APCs need not make the
total costs*

*of dissemination rise further: the average cost to the international
community of a*

*research article under the current subscription system is currently about
$3800. *

*[https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2148961_7/component/file_2149096/content
<https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2148961_7/component/file_2149096/content>]
Even a*

*generous cap of $2000 per article will almost halve that cost. Plan S
clearly states that it*

*will cap open access publication fees, a fact that the signatories of the
Letter ignore.*

*There is no reason that researchers would be confronted with high APCs if
editors are*

*incentivized to transition their high-quality journals to open access with
a standardized*

*publication fee paid for every article.*



*4. Academic freedom*

*The Open Letter states that ‘Plan S is a serious violation of academic
freedom’. Yet the*

*claim that academic freedom is being violated is overstated. At its heart,
academic*

*freedom concerns the freedom of inquiry and the freedom to communicate
research*

*results and ideas without reprisal. In that sense, Plan S actually
guarantees a greater*

*academic freedom than that afforded by the authors of the Letter: open
access will mean*

*that the greatest number of readers will have access to published ideas,
rather than*

*debate being hampered by a paywall. It is highly debatable whether
academic freedom*

*should extend to the freedom of researchers to choose their publication
venue: an*

*author’s freedom to publish wherever they want ends where the reader’s
right to freely*

*access research starts. In actual fact, researchers never enjoy complete
freedom of*

*publication, as papers are often rejected, and subsequently published in a
journal that is*

*not the journal of original choice. Funders, by contrast, have the right
to determine how,*

*or at least under what access terms, the research they fund should be
published: he*

*who pays the piper calls the tune. Nobody is forcing researchers to accept
grants from*

*these Funders if they truly believe their choice of publication venue is
being restricted by*

*them.*



*In conclusion, the Letter offers plenty of unargued criticism, but no
viable alternative to*

*the currently unsustainable academic publishing landscape. Worse, it fails
to grasp the*

*opportunities offered by Plan S to do so.*



*Jos Baeten*

*Martin Paul Eve*

*Saskia de Vries*

*Danny Kingsley*

*Johan Rooryck*
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