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International alignment across open access initiatives, funders and research organisations for a complete and immediate open access

Max Planck Society President Martin Stratmann said that “Open Access is the responsibility of all of us”. In this spirit, 170 participants from 37 countries and international organisations gathered at the 14th Berlin Open Access Conference (3-4 December 2018) to align strategies for a transformation of subscription based scholarly communication to complete and immediate open access. The OA2020 Expression of Interest to drive such a transformation has been signed by 115 research funding and performing organisations from around the world. In September 2018, they were joined by a group of European research funding organisations, which has formulated principles for a complete and immediate open access to the results of publicly funded research (Plan S). The cOAlition S is moving beyond Europe and soliciting feedback on implementation guidelines by 1 February 2019.

Urgent need to accelerate the transition to open access

Peter Seeberger, a researcher from Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Germany) told that technology changes everything: data and storage dissemination are possible for anybody, costs are drastically reduced. Data can be reported in different ways, original data should be openly available. The review process can be changed, currently editors are not scientists and they decide on acceptance for publication. Impact factors and h-indices are easier to count than to really understand science. There are a number of ways we can change scientific communication.

In South Africa, main impetus for open access were high costs of subscriptions, said Ahmed Bawa from Universities South Africa, but also human rights and social justice. There is trust deficit in science and universities. With all the knowledge we still have access problem. Scholarly publishing is key to democratization of knowledge. Publishing systems need to be created that will not hinder access to knowledge.

Jeong-Wook Seo from Seoul National University (South Korea) believes that free delivery of electronic files is a human right in the digital era.

Academic publishing is not normal in a sense that most firms cannot dictate terms and ignore consumer preferences, stated Jeffrey MacKie-Mason from the University of California Berkeley (USA). Academic publishers’ profits exceed profits of 97% of firms in developed world. Transformation to open access is too slow – after 25 years only 6-11% of publications are immediate open access. With monopoly power, publishers are able to refuse the change of business model. Monopoly power of researchers and research organisations is copyright.

Elsevier, for example, has profit margins of close to forty percent. Its annual price increases of subscriptions for the right to read journals far exceed inflation. Additionally, authors pay Article Processing Charges (APCs) for openness of articles in fully open access journals or in subscription, i.e., hybrid journals. A research performing organisation might also subscribe to Elsevier’s non-journal research tools. Researchers are paid by (public) research performing organisations, their work as peer reviewers and editors is not monetised nor is free copyright transfer to publishers. Elsevier sued SciHub for damage for 100 articles and won 15 million dollars. This would mean that copyright of one article, transferred from the author to the publisher for free, is worth 150,000 dollars.

Real cost of publishing open access journals

Copernicus Publications from Germany was founded in 1988 by scientists as a non-for-profit society and is publishing journals since 1994. The journals flipped to complete and immediate open access in 2001, presented Martin Rasmussen. The current portfolio embraces 41 peer-reviewed journals of associations. In 2017, 4,863 journal articles and 3,650 discussion papers on 64,000 pages were published. The turnover was 5 million euros, out of this associations earned 1.2 million euros. The journals are owned by associations, articles are owned by authors (articles are published with Creative Commons Attribution licence, authors keep the copyright). Quality is assured through open peer-review, saving reviewer capacities.

APCs are fixed for journals published by Copernicus Publications and are calculated for the number of pages. The average APC amounts to 1,299 euros net for 15 pages. 10% of pages are published free of charge for authors that do not have funding.

Transformative agreements or cancellations

In 2018, the European University Association conducted a study on Big Deals. Lidia Borrell Damián presented that 31 consortia, negotiating on behalf of the universities and other higher education and research organisations, reported data mostly referring to 2017 or 2018. In 27 European countries, 907,947,409 euros were paid in total for all subscriptions to electronic resources. Only for journals in 29 European countries, 701,933,493 euros were paid, out of this 505,368,613 euros by universities (app. 72%). These amounts were paid to ensure the right to read paywalled content for one year, copyright is owned by publishers, APCs are not included.

ESAC Initiative is monitoring open access market transparency. Kai Geschuhn from Max Planck Digital Library (Germany) described a transformative agreement as comprising subscriptions and open access, the latter prevailing after some time. The advice is to unbundle Big Deal journal packages and allow money to follow the researcher, i.e., to be used for APCs. Conditions need to be created for a transparent and competitive open access publishing services market.

The University of California (USA) adopted the Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication, which is a set of 18 principles that are to be taken into account when the University engages in negotiations with publishers. Rich Schneider presented the principles which are: no copyright transfers, no restrictions on preprints, no waivers of open access policy, no delays to sharing, no limitations on author reuse, no impediments to rights reversion, no curtailment of copyright exceptions, no barriers to data availability, no constraints on content mining, no closed metadata, no long-term subscriptions, no permanent paywalls, no double payments, no hidden profits, no deals without open access offsets, no new paywalls for the work of the University of California, and no non-disclosure agreements.

To put these ideas into action and model offsetting, the University of California carried out a study entitled Pay It Forward: Investigating a Sustainable Model of Open Access Article Processing Charges for Large North American Research Institutions. As Ivy Anderson from the California Digital Library (USA) told, the study showed that large scale conversion to APC-based open access at large North American research institutions is possible, but APCs are not affordable from library budgets alone at large research intensive organisations, grant funds need to be used to pay for the sponsored research articles.

Ádam Dér from the Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Ralf Schimmer from the Max Planck Digital Library (Germany) presented different statistics on publications of the negotiating consortium authors. The statistics needs to be known before negotiations for a transformative agreement are started.

Ralf Schimmer said that Max Planck Digital Library wants to conclude transformative agreements with all publishers in the next twelve months. He believes that transformation can be done in two to three years at any organisation. Binary choice needs to be created: the publisher agrees to the transformative agreement (offsetting with open access rights based on fair conditions), if not, the agreement is fully discontinued or only few journals are maintained.

Sharing the Dutch experiences, Wilma van Weezenbeek from the Association of Universities in the Netherlands listed the following success factors for transformative negotiations: a unique bargaining model, a powerful delegation, a clear mandate, holding to the principles, and clear political support.

Germany and Sweden have demonstrated that stepping away from the negotiation table is an option. Horst Hippler from the German Rectors’ Conference and Anna Lundén from the National Library of Sweden presented the developments. In both countries, negotiations with publishers were led in line with the national rectors’ conference. The negotiating team represented a wide range of research organisations and funders, requiring complete and immediate open access for articles by researchers from the country as well as reading rights to the entire publisher’s journal portfolio. Elsevier’s offers for the two countries did not meet the requirements so Germany and Sweden did not conclude agreements with Elsevier and do not have access to its latest journals. Lessons learnt in Sweden are that support from vice chancellors is extremely important, political backing is needed, preparation is everything, and own publication data need to be known in detail. Swedish researchers are doing well without subscriptions to Elsevier.

Publishers are global. Research performing and funding organisations need to adopt global perspectives and form global alliances to establish a sustainable worldwide open access scholarly communication. Internal alliances need to be formed between rectors and researchers, advised Colleen Campbell from Open Access 2020 initiative.

Response of Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature to calls for transformation

Upon invitation by Max Planck Society President Martin Stratmann, Ron Mobed, CEO of Elsevier, Guido F Herrmann, Vice-President and Managing Director of Wiley, and Daniel Ropers, CEO of Springer Nature, presented their companies’ current activities and plans for open access. The panel, representing worldwide geographical regions and international organisations, demonstrated full alignment on behalf of all conference participants for transformation to complete and immediate open access and asked publishers about their readiness to join the transformation.

Science Europe is coordinating cOAlition S. Marc Schiltz explained that Plan S is not demanding a particular publication model but aims at high level principles like no research locked behind paywalls, immediate access, copyright retention by researchers, full transparency of pricing, non-eligibility of hybrid and mirror journals. Principles of Plan S are not negotiable. The transformation has to be done in three years, only transformative agreements are acceptable. This is a new role of funders, which are both customers and control publishers’ supply channels. How will Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature comply with Plan S?

Ron Mobed said that Elsevier has offerings that match the requirements of Plan S, like free preprints and payable gold open access. Elsevier will continue to offer green open access for the world that wants it. Support to Plan S does not mean that support cannot be offered to other parties that have a different pace of progress to open access. Guido F Herrmann told that Wiley has some comments on Plan S. With deadline in 2020, there is not enough time, authors are writing manuscripts already. According to Plan S, hybrid journals are not eligible, but Wiley believes that there is value in hybrid journals. Regulated APCs are not a good idea, market should have the option. Daniel Ropers stated that if in few years overwhelming majority of researchers and funders opts for open access, then it will be very easy for Springer Nature to make a choice. If only 30% of researchers demand Plan S, Springer Nature cannot change the business model and disable 70% of researchers to publish.

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason from the University of California Berkeley (USA) presented the requirements of aligned 37 countries and international organisations which want complete and immediate open access with authors retaining copyright, and transformative agreements. Can Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature commit to accelerate transformation to complete and immediate universal open access in just few years?

Ron Mobed responded that Elsevier has a range of options that match Plan S. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason commented that the alignment of countries and international organisations wants a complete and immediate open access, not a range of options. Ron Mobed explained that Elsevier gets 4,000 manuscript submissions per day and 150,000 per months. Successful transition needs to be engineered, progress to open access has to be planned. Guido F Herrmann confirmed that Wiley is committed to go with alignment of countries and international organisations on this journey. Wiley brings in discussion parameters that following Plan S criteria need to be made. Daniel Ropers responded that savings will come when open access is implemented. Springer wanted to transform 30%, 40%, 50% of subscriptions to open access, but felt very lonely in the community.

Xiaolin Zhang from the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences informed publishers that China supports requests of OA2020 and Plan S to transform scientific publications into complete and immediate open access. China requests publishers to comply and wants to know if Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature will immediately offer what China needs.

Ron Mobed repeated that Elsevier has a range of services. Daniel Ropers stated that this is the first exact demand received.

Astrid Söderbergh Widding from the University of Stockholm and Swedish Rectors’ Conference explained that Sweden walked away and cancelled Elsevier. Does Elsevier ever become worried because of increasing cancellations? When will Elsevier finally join the transformation for a complete and immediate open access? Development of open access at Wiley is slow, hybrid slows open access. Springer Compact did not succeed to flip the system from subscriptions to open access.

Ron Mobed responded that Elsevier was slow but is speeding up. Engineering of options and changes is needed. The uptake depends on researchers. Guido F Herrmann said that Wiley is not starting from scratch, a transformation deal needs some time for implementation. Daniel Ropers stated that impact of Plan S should be to reinforce and align. Springer Nature is slow but it is moving.

Lidia Borrell Damián from the European University Association stated that universities need to be sustainable over years. Publishing market also needs to be sustainable. How do we make it sustainable? Universities already bear the weight (peer review, libraries). Copyright needs to remain with the authors. Pricing needs to be more transparent. Money is finite.

Ron Mobed affirmed that whichever model the research community chooses, Elsevier has to support. Daniel Ropers reasoned that if all customers worldwide commit to spend the same budget and give Springer Nature the chance to reorganise, it can be done tomorrow. Coordination is needed between funders and libraries to change the flow of money (from subscriptions to APCs).

Answering to Ulrich Pöschl from the Max Planck Society if Wiley could offer a cost neutral transition immediately to every one of its customers, Guido F Herrmann responded that he cannot commit for all change now. To Pöschl’s question if Springer Nature could proactively offer every customer complete open access publishing options for very much the same amount as current subscriptions, Daniel Ropers responded that there are customers that take the back seat and wait for changes. Only some universities and consortia demand open access agreements. In transitional period everybody has to join.

Wilma van Weezebeek from the Association of Universities in the Netherlands asked why Elsevier cannot act as other publishers and be more open access. The Netherlands wants to comply with Plan S and expects Wiley’s support.

Ron Mobed responded that Elsevier is really trying to be more open access. Guido F Herrmann said that Wiley subscribes to overall open access support and will do what it can to support transformation according to the Plan S.

Ahmad Bawa from Universities South Africa observed that Elsevier’s support for open access is not felt in South Africa. To which Ron Mobed responded that if we talk, we will become aligned. Elsevier is not holding to an obsolete model and cannot satisfy each demand from each organisation.

Alignment of China, Japan and South Korea with OA2020 and Plan S

China is often misrepresented that it wants subscription journals, which is not true, said Xiaolin Zhang from the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Chinese government strongly supports immediate transformation of scholarly communication to open access and changes of research assessment. Publishers are requested to comply with principles of OA2020 and Plan S. Transformation to open access is not an European or German thing, it is our thing. DORA and Leiden manifesto principles will be used for research assessment in China.

Japan will start developing transformative agreements next year and supports China’s and South Korea’s open access principles, affirmed Jun Adachi from the National Institute of Informatics. Japanese open access percentage is the highest in the world.

South Korea is inviting all stakeholders worldwide to align transformation strategies, said Jeong-Wook Seo from the Seoul National University. A coordinated and simultaneous action is important to block balloon effect, i.e., paying increasing subscription costs and simultaneously paying increasing APCs.

14th Berlin Open Access Conference statement

Throughout the conference, the key message was global alignment for transformation to complete and immediate open access. Delegates from 37 countries and international organisations adopted the final statement.

Developments in context

Current focus of the European Commission on open science policies was presented by Jean-Claude Burgelman at the Nordic Open Science Conference (15-16 November 2018). Regarding open access to publications, focus is on implementation of Plan S, increasing uptake to 100% with incentives and »sanctions«, and launching Open Research Europe publishing platform. As for open access and research data, the first phase of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) was launched in 2018, data management plans and FAIR data are being mainstreamed across the framework programmes, and change of scientific culture stimulated. Pan-European agreement is planned on the uptake of citizen science. Regarding metrics and incentives, next generation metrics is in focus.

The European Commission expects that by 2030 the science system will be completely data driven, open research data will be the resource for research and innovation, available through the EOSC, there will be full and immediate open access to the whole lifecycle of a research process, and “liquid” science (in analogy with liquid software), with multiple ways to measure and reward scientific productivity and impact.

Developments regarding Elsevier: ­

- 3 December 2018, UCLA – Elsevier Journal Negotiations; ­

- 11 December 2018, UCLA Memorandum, and 12 December 2018, In Talks with Elsevier, UCLA Reaches for a Novel Bargaining Chip: Its Faculty; ­

- 15 December 2018, Hungarian Consortium terminates negotiations with Elsevier; ­

- 18 December 2018, Max Planck Society discontinues agreement with Elsevier; stands firm with Projekt DEAL negotiations; ­

- 19 December 2018, Elsevier acquires Science-Metrix Inc., provider of research analytics services and data; ­

- 20 December 2018, Elsevier willing to compensate editors to prevent them from ‘flipping’.

The Wellcome Trust is supporting open access: ­

- 20 December 2018, Wellcome Trust supports the Research Data Alliance; ­

- 23 December 2018, The Wellcome Trust funds OpenCitations.

Robert-Jan Smits, co-author of Plan S, is one of Nature’s ten people who mattered in 2018 (»Open-access leader - A bureaucrat launched a drive to transform science publishing«).

Maybe the time has come to create an aligned worldwide open science strategy, building on the European Commission's expectations for open science in 2030Foundations for Open Scholarship Strategy Development and other initiatives. The complete and immediate open access to peer-reviewed publications will be an essential part of such a strategy.

Participants of the conference
Delegates from China, Japan and South Korea
Photo Credits: Georg Botz, Max Planck Society, Creative Commons Licence (CC-BY-SA) 
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