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De Gruyter Position on the Addendum to the Coalition S Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S

January 6, 2020

Position Statement

Introduction

Coalition S has recently issued the “Addendum to the Coalition S Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S” containing mandatory criteria for transformative journals. This position raises a number of specific points from the perspective of a pro-open access, medium-sized, independent, European Humanities and Social Sciences publisher and De Gruyter has submitted it to the Coalition S consultation that closed this morning. In January of 2019, De Gruyter issued an initial position on Plan S (see Addendum 1).

We support all research being published open access and we are doing everything possible to make this happen both for journals and books. However, a complete open access system for all humanities and social science content currently presents an extreme challenge and would require levels of investment that are not achievable without additional financial support, especially for smaller publishers.

Background

De Gruyter publishes first-class scholarship in a number of languages and has been serving the academic and professional communities for 270 years. We are an international, independent publisher headquartered in Berlin with further offices in Boston, Beijing, Basel, Vienna, Warsaw and Munich.

The values of partnership, courage, openness and competence are shared by our 360 dedicated employees who publish over 1,300 new book titles each year and more than 900 journals in the humanities, social sciences, medicine, mathematics, engineering, architecture, design, computer sciences, natural sciences, and law in both print and digital formats.

Open access is an integral part of what we do

We were an early adopter of open access publishing and our open access credentials are indisputable. We support all realistic and sustainable initiatives that nurture open access. Currently, more than half of our journals are “pure” open access, and almost all have an open access option for articles.

Furthermore, we have been especially proactive in transforming subscription journals into open access journals and are promoting and developing open access with transformative agreements with libraries around the world.

Despite its modest size, De Gruyter provides one of the largest original-content open access book collections in the world, with almost 2,500 titles available on degruyter.com to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

What we support

  1. We agree that “double dipping” is unacceptable

No respectable publisher consciously double dips. We agree that an increase in open access content in a hybrid subscription journal must bring the overall price of the journal down. The details of how this is currently done at De Gruyter can be found HERE.

  1. We agree that transformative journals should regularly update authors and funders with information

Usage, citations, online attention and any other relevant information and metrics should be provided / made accessible to authors and funders at several intervals during and after the publication.

  1. Pricing transparency is laudable provided confidential business information is protected

De Gruyter is more than happy to cooperate in any projects designed to support pricing transparency provided that there are mechanisms in place to ensure that confidential business information is protected to ensure competitiveness.

  1. We encourage open access for societies and other partners on whose behalf we publish

We believe in open access and encourage open access publishing not only by our own authors, but also for learned societies and other institution to whom we provide publishing services.

What we cannot accept

  1. Coalition S cannot dictate growth in the market

The requirement that a transformative journal must increase its open access content by 8 percent per year every year is an absurdity and causes us much concern. Simply put:  each journal is unique and such blanket requirements are neither helpful nor realistic. In other words:  one size simply does not fit all, even if the manufacturer says it will (or it must).

  1. A commitment to full open access when a transformative journal reaches 50 percent open access content is arbitrary

Hybrid open access – even in transformative journals – is gradual and an important factor contributing to acceptance for open access across the scholarly community  - especially in HSS. Certain journals may indeed transition to full open access without difficulty once 50 percent penetration is reached, but for others, this arbitrary cut-off point could be the death-knell if the remaining authorship did not have access to funds for publication.

  1. The timelines are untenable

Only if Coalition S represented all funders who ensured funding for all authors would the 31 December 2024 cut-off date to end transformative journals be realistic.

Conclusion

Although the Addendum represents a very small step forward, the main concern remains the fact that Coalition S refuses to accept the fact that rules and guidelines for STEM and HSS cannot be the same. Coalition S also seems blind to the fact that its pronouncements and guidelines do not take the concerns of smaller journals, learned societies and publishers into account. The outcome is likely to increase consolidation in academic publishing since only the largest publishers will be able to survive, thereby reducing diversity and choice for the academic community.

We are aware of the fact that it is an argument not welcomed by Coalition S representatives, but we believe that effectively forbidding researchers to publish in the journal of their choice after 2025 will limit their academic freedom. While we are keen to support a rapid transformation to open access, we will also continue to support researchers who wish to publish in the journal best suited to them and their discipline.

A further point of concern is that current Plan S funders do not form a majority of European Union national funders and that key national funders from major EU Member States are absent from this group.

De Gruyter is willing to share its expertise, its experience and its enthusiasm for open access with any institutions that might be interested.

For further information, please contact:

Emily Poznanski
Director, Strategy
De Gruyter
emily.poznanski@degruyter.com
+49 30 26 00 51 08
www.degruyter.com

Eric Merkel-Sobotta
VP, Communications & External Affairs
De Gruyter
ems@degruyter.com
+49 30 26 00 53 04
www.degruyter.com

 


 


 

ADDENDUM 1

De Gruyter Position on Plan S

10 January 2019 | Position Statement

We need a Plan B for Plan S

Plan S ignores the progress that has been achieved with respect to open access, inappropriately applies STEM rules to HSS, has an unrealistic timeline and does not have the support of the majority of European funders.

Introduction

De Gruyter publishes first-class scholarship in a number of languages and has been serving the academic and professional communities for 270 years. We are an international, independent publisher headquartered in Berlin with further offices in Boston, Beijing, Basel, Vienna, Warsaw and Munich.

The values of partnership, courage, openness and competence are shared by our 360 dedicated employees who publish over 1,300 new book titles each year and more than 900 journals in the humanities, social sciences, medicine, mathematics, engineering, architecture, design, computer sciences, natural sciences, and law in both print and digital formats.

Open access is an integral part of what we do

We were an early adopter of open access publishing and our open access credentials are indisputable. We support any and all realistic and sustainable initiatives that nurture open access. Currently, more than half of our journals are “pure” open access, and almost all have an open access option for articles.

Furthermore, we have been especially proactive in transforming subscription journals into open access journals and are promoting and developing open access with transformative agreements with libraries around the world.

Despite its modest size, De Gruyter provides one of the largest original-content open access book collections in the world, with more than 1,500 titles available to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

The main flaws of Plan S

  1. Plan S has little to no regard for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The creators of Plan S have used the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) research ecosystem as their main model and have presented a “one size fits all” approach with a focus on journals – which are key for STEM – and have practically ignored monographs – which are of greater importance in HSS. A single, unified approach to delivering open access across the full spectrum of academic publishing is unfeasible.

A plan driven by payments from direct grants is incompatible with disciplines and sub-fields where there is no direct grant funding. Funding for the humanities, unlike funding for much of STEM, is not usually centralized, and often comes from educational institutions directly, rather than well-endowed foundations. Furthermore, unlike STEM, many disciplines also have a more national focus, and available funding is therefore even more difficult to identify and secure.

It is not possible for the vast majority of HSS (Humanities and Social Science) journals to simply ‘flip’ to APC-based open access. Many serve relatively small research communities and combine low publication volumes with high rejection rates. They will not be able to provide the same level of service to their communities on the basis of a small number of capped APCs.

  1. The timing for the implementation for Plan S is completely unreasonable

The unreasonable timeline proposed by Plan S is extremely ambitious for even the largest, STEM-focused publishers. It will be impossible for small to medium sized publishers and societies. As the British Academy puts very succinctly:  for the HSS community and its journals and platforms “…to be ready and academically respectable, with proper peer review, in 15 months, across the whole of Europe with some thirty academic languages and numerous disciplinary fields, seems highly unlikely.”

  1. The bias against hybrid open access is unacceptable and violates researchers’ freedom to publish

Hybrid open access is a gradual, evolutionary method to support open access and increase its acceptance across the scholarly community. We recognize that it does not provide the revolution that some funders seem to think is needed and we also recognize that hybrid open access can be complicated to administer and organize, but the benefit that hybrid open access has delivered – and can continue to deliver – is significant.

The clarification provided in the Implementation Guidance for Plan S that publication in hybrid journals is only permitted under transformative agreements or as long as grant funds are not used to pay hybrid APCs is insufficient and too limited. We cannot accept or endorse any sort of plan that does not cover the costs for authors who publish in the journal of their choice using hybrid open access.

In HSS, almost all reputable journals have a hybrid open access option. This allows researchers to publish in the journals that they are familiar with, and which they regard as the most appropriate for their discoveries. To effectively forbid researchers to publish in the journal of their choice limits their academic freedom and would be counterproductive to nurturing and expanding open access and could lead to an anti-open access backlash.

  1. Plan S does not enjoy the support of the majority of European funders

Less than half of Science Europe members are part of the coalition that supports Plan S, and more than half of the coalition comes from funders based in the United Kingdom. This indicates that even funders themselves are split about whether or not Plan S is the most efficient or practicable way forward. More consultation is required, not only between funders, but also between the European institutions and other stakeholders, including HSS publishers so that sensible and sustainable open access can be expanded.

Conclusion

We believe that the transition away from the current model should be based on fairness, broad equality of outcome, and – of course – openness and Plan S does little to support this transition in the humanities and social sciences. We believe that this creates an urgent need for transparent dialogue between all parties - funders, associations, journal editors, individual academics, publishers – and for a firm commitment by all, including those now forcing the pace of change, to develop community-appropriate solutions that deliver sustainable, open outcomes for all researchers, whatever their chosen field of enquiry.

De Gruyter is willing to share its expertise, its experience and its enthusiasm for open access with any institutions that might be interested.

For further information, please contact:

Emily Poznanski
Director, Strategy
De Gruyter
emily.poznanski@degruyter.com
+49 30 26 00 51 08
www.degruyter.com

Eric Merkel-Sobotta
VP, Communications & External Affairs
De Gruyter
ems@degruyter.com
+49 30 26 00 53 04
www.degruyter.com