A group of European funding bodies, including the European Commission and the European Research Council, have just announced plans to make open access publishing mandatory for recipients of their agencies’ research funding. The full report can be read here.
The radical new "Plan S" states that research funders will mandate that access to research publications which are generated through research grants that they allocate, must be fully and immediately open. The authors of the statement emphasise that "There is no valid reason to maintain any kind of subscription-based business model for scientific publishing in the digital world, where Open Access dissemination is maximising the impact, visibility, and efficiency of the whole research process."
There has been something of a backlash from various publishers and researchers, whose worries include the fear that it will limit authors' freedom of choice when selecting a journal to publish in, and possible attempts to misuse the open access model of publishing by publishers that provide poor or non-existent editorial services (known as ‘predatory’ publishers). In reply, the Plan S funders have said they will support initiatives that establish robust quality criteria for Open Access publishing, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
Plan S consists of one target and 10 principles, and the goal is that "By 2020 scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants provided by participating national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.” The research funders involved in Plan S will now collaborate with other stakeholders and work towards swift and practical implementation of these principles.
“Paywalls are not only hindering the scientific enterprise itself but also they are an obstacle [to] the uptake of research results by the wider public,” says Marc Schiltz, president of Science Europe, a Brussels-based advocacy group that represents European research agencies and which officially launched the policy.
Some critics have said that the European funders involved need to be aware of the significant concerns in other areas of the world about the widespread adoption of the Article Publication Charge (APC) model of open access publishing. Where the money will come from to cover open access publication fees has long been a thorny issue in academic publishing. If researchers lack the funding to cover APCs, which is more likely if they are living in Lower and Middle Income Countries, how can they afford to publish in open access journals? Some journals waive these fees for selected authors, but this does not always go far enough, which is why ecancermedicalscience has a Pay What You Can Afford model - only authors that have specific funding to cover APCs are charged.
ecancermedicalscience fully endorses Plan S and agrees wholeheartedly with the principles it stands by - hopefully the concerns raised by the publishing and research communities will be taken into account to ensure that its goals can be met with the minimum amount of disruption to the peer reviewed publication of research.