De Gruyter Position on Plan S
10 January 2019 | Position Statement
De Gruyter Position on Plan S
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.
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.
2. 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.”
3. 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.
4. 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.
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.
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