The Royal Society of Chemistry convened the panel to react to the updated guidance, released that morning, for Plan S – an initiative supported by research funders to accelerate the transition to full open access scientific publishing.
Our panel discussion revealed a tug of war between two concepts:
- Plan S is a great idea and a move in the right direction; all published scientific research should be publicly available and not profit-driven; and
- the implementation of Plan S – particularly in restricting where researchers will be able to publish – leaves significant potential for unintended consequences that could hurt scientific collaborations and the career development of early career researchers.
Key talking points in the discussion included:
- Researchers are still concerned about limitations on the journals they can publish in – both in terms of how they’ll ensure they can continue to reach the right audience and how this might impact on early career researchers’ career progress, as journal impact factors unfortunately still count in researcher evaluation processes across the world. cOAlition S’s commitment to changing the way researchers are evaluated is welcome, and everyone agrees that researchers should be judged on the quality of their work and not the journal they publish in. However this is not the current situation and it’s not going to change overnight.
- Science is global, but Plan S is not. There have been positive developments in countries expressing support for the principles of Plan S and aligning substantially with its open access commitments. However, many countries still have not fully signed up (eg the USA) – and so if you are in an international collaboration and not all parties are funded by a Plan S funder, issues may arise around where work can be published. Also, the prospects of early career researchers seeking work in countries who are not familiar with Plan S may be harmed if potential employers are looking for journal prestige.
- Is Plan S in fact ‘rushed’? The conversation around moving to open access has been going on for decades, not months, so it’s unfair to say the move to open access is being rushed. It is also very positive that cOAlition S has extended the timeline to 2021, and transitional arrangements will be helpful. Even so, existing perceptions around journal prestige and researcher evaluation will take time to change. What will happen to researchers caught in the middle?
- Science should not be controlled or driven by profits, and it is wrong that commercial publishers make huge profits by subscription-based models that lock in institutional customers to fund sub-par journals in order to access quality journals. While not all publishers are ‘the enemy’ – recognising in particular the value of how learned societies direct their publishing surplus – we should be aiming for a future in which there are no fees for readers or authors. Publishers should ideally be funded directly by research-funding bodies, as forcing publishers to rely on article processing charges could harm journal quality.
Watch the Panel Discussion