New plan proposed for open access publishing

02 Nov 2023 | News

Europe’s open access advocates set out a vision for system-level reform to make scientific publishing faster, more open and scholar-led

The group of leading research funding agencies in cOAlition S is looking to step up the push for a more open, equitable and faster science publishing system, in a proposal for system-level reform.

They envision a scholar-led system in which each author decides where and when to publish their work. And what gets published would not be limited to scientific articles, with cOAlition S calling on authors to make all research outputs freely available, including earlier versions of articles and associated peer review reports.

“We want those results to be available earlier, and the evolving discussion be open for everyone to see,” says Johan Rooryck, executive director of cOAlition S. “In the current system, we obscure the process that lies behind a single research result.”

The plan challenges the current article-led approach to knowledge sharing, drawing attention to the entire process of knowledge generation, including peer review. 

It also aims to transform the relationship between publishers and researchers, with the former acting as service providers. “We want to come to a new public-private partnership with service providers, where the power is not held unilaterally in the hands of academic publishers, but is shared,” says Rooryck.

cOAlition S has opened a public consultation on the draft proposal to gather opinions and see how the ideas land in different research communities, from life sciences to humanities.

“This is not something we’re imposing as policy – it’s a conversation on whether we can move towards a more open, faster publication system,” says Rooryck.

The coalition was the first to usher in a global movement towards more open access publishing, starting in 2018. Its members, mostly big research funding and performing organisations, spearheaded the EU’s “Plan S” publishing initiative, under which they committed to publishing their research in paywall-free journals, allowing the results to reach more readers. The new proposal “is a natural continuation,” says Rooryck.

There is willingness to embrace these concepts in European governments. In May, EU science ministers adopted a joint statement calling for immediate and unrestricted open access publishing to be “the default mode in publishing, with no fees for authors.” The statement, however, did not land well with publishers, which saw it as a challenge to their for-profit status, which they say supports efficiency, sustainability and longevity in scientific publishing.

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