Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions

Posted: September 6, 2018 by oldbrew in News, research

Credit: wonderfulengineering.com

“No science should be locked behind paywalls!” says a preamble document. Exactly.

European Commission special envoy Robert-Jan Smits has spearheaded a plan to make all scientific works free to read, the journal Nature reports.

Research funders from France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and eight other European nations have unveiled a radical open-access initiative that could change the face of science publishing in two years — and which has instantly provoked protest from publishers.

The 11 agencies, who together spend €7.6 billion (US$8.8 billion) in research grants annually, say they will mandate that, from 2020, the scientists they fund must make resulting papers free to read immediately on publication (see ‘Plan S players’).

The papers would have a liberal publishing licence that would allow anyone else to download, translate or otherwise reuse the work.

“No science should be locked behind paywalls!” says a preamble document that accompanies the pledge, called Plan S, released on 4 September.

“It is a very powerful declaration. It will be contentious and stir up strong feelings,” says Stephen Curry, a structural biologist and open-access advocate at Imperial College London. The policy, he says, appears to mark a “significant shift” in the open-access publishing movement, which has seen slow progress in its bid to make scientific literature freely available online.

As written, Plan S would bar researchers from publishing in 85% of journals, including influential titles such as Nature and Science. According to a December 2017 analysis, only around 15% of journals publish work immediately as open access (see ‘Publishing models’) — financed by charging per-article fees to authors or their funders, negotiating general open-publishing contracts with funders, or through other means.

More than one-third of journals still publish papers behind a paywall, and typically permit online release of free-to-read versions only after a delay of at least six months — in compliance with the policies of influential funders such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

And just less than half have adopted a ‘hybrid’ model of publishing, whereby they make papers immediately free to read for a fee if a scientist wishes, but keep most studies behind paywalls. Under Plan S, however, scientists wouldn’t be allowed to publish in these hybrid journals, except during a “transition period that should be as short as possible”, the preamble says.

Continued here.

  1. dai davies says:

    This is long overdue. There was a point to publishing companies handling the printing of journals. Now online publishing is virtually cost free.
    Public pays for the research and pays the reviewers. These are really sub-editors looking for obvious faults and filtering for interest value and buddy support, and not part of the scientific method which runs on refutation not affirmation.

  2. Bloke down the pub says:

    If this is tied into a system of pre-registering the aims of the research, to avoid spurious ‘discoveries’, then perhaps real progress can be made in rebuilding the scientific method.

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