“Free reading and paying open access articles” scholarly communication model for the better use of public funding

Abstract
Max Planck Digital Library has shown that “money already invested in the research publishing system is sufficient to enable a transformation that will be sustainable for the future” and suggested that “money currently locked in the journal subscription system must be withdrawn and re-purposed for open access publishing services”. No single country is an equal partner to an international worldwide for-profit scientific publisher. The European Commission, the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research, the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations, the European University Association, the League of European Research Universities, and Science Europe have signed a joint statement on ERA partnership and could pre-negotiate with international for-profit scientific publishers for “free reading and paying open access articles” model. High level concerted action will be more efficient and will enable faster transformation from a pay-to-read business model to a pay-to-publish business model.

Open access goals and sources for funding publication processing charges
The goals of the European Commission and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia are 100 percent open access by 2020 in the European Research Area, and 100 percent openness of publications from national funding, published in 2020, in 2021, respectively. Following the Commission Recommendation of 17. 7. 2012 on access to and preservation of scientific information, the Slovenian national open access strategy is fully aligned with Horizon 2020 open access mandate (mandatory open access to peer-reviewed articles, open research data pilot).

Slovenian researchers can comply with the aforementioned open access mandates by depositing the final peer-reviewed manuscript of the article into an OpenAIRE compatible repository or by publishing in open access or hybrid journals and depositing the published article into an OpenAIRE compatible repository. The national research budget and Horizon 2020 do not provide open access funds to pay Article Processing Charges (APC) or Book Processing Charges (BPC). In both strands of funding, APCs and BPCs are eligible project costs. The European Commission is carrying out FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot where APCs for articles in open access journals and BPCs are paid after the completion of an FP7 project.

How to enable (Slovenian) researchers to publish open access articles?
Approximately nine million euros of taxpayers money were spent in Slovenia to provide the right to read articles in subscription scientific journals in 2017, amongst which are also journals of ten major scientific publishers. The latter have high profits. The same set of their journals is differently priced in different countries, depending on economic strength of countries, as perceived by these publishers.

So taxpayers money is spent on the right to read and for high private sector profits, instead of ensuring anybody with access to the internet the possibility to read articles by (Slovenian) researchers. If taxpayers’ money would be used for paying open access to articles, such articles would be free to read on the internet, the authors would be copyright holders, the articles would be licensed with Creative Commons licenses, which would enable further (re-)use that will result in greater visibility of (Slovenian) research.

Policies and an analysis supporting change of the scholarly communication model
Amsterdam call for action on open science states that full open access to all scientific publications can be achieved through new publishing models, relevant actions are suggested (2016, p. 23-28).

The Council of the European Union “recognizes that the full scale transition towards open access should be based on common principles such as transparency, research integrity, sustainability, fair pricing and economic viability” (Council conclusions on the transition towards an open science system, 2016, p. 7).

The study Towards a competitive and sustainable open access publishing market in Europe (2017, p. 3) states that “without intervention, immediate open access to just half of Europe’s scientific publications will not be achieved until 2025 or later”.

The Commission Recommendation of 17. 7. 2012 on access to and preservation of scientific information (p. 6) calls for “conducting joint negotiations with publishers to obtain the best possible terms for access to publications, including use and re-use”.

The National strategy of open access to scientific publications and research data in Slovenia 2015-2020 (p. 17) states that organisations managing consortia are obliged to provide the transparency, to strive for more favourable Article Processing Charges, and to prevent double payments to publishers of hybrid scientific journals (subscription as well as APCs).

Resolution of the Slovenian Rectors’ Conference
To achieve better use of public funding and following the Commission’s and national provisions regarding negotiations with publishers, the Slovenian Rectors’ Conference adopted the resolution for the basis for negotiations with publishers for a new business model as follows:

  • Free reading of all publisher’s subscription journals has to be enabled.
  • Open accessibility of articles in publisher’s journals where employees of consortium member organizations are corresponding authors is paid with no direct financial implications for universities.
  • The right to text and data mining in all publisher’s journals is granted.
  • One joint contract is concluded for a new business model.

The two Slovenian managers of ten consortia for services of commercial scientific publishers (Central Technological Library at the University of Ljubljana, National and University Library) are expected to exercise maximum effort to comply with the resolution.

With the resolution, the Slovenian Rectors’ Conference is following the examples like:

Suggestion for supranational organizations to negotiate with commercial scientific publishers
No single (European) country is an equal partner to an international worldwide for-profit scientific publisher. Supranational/supraorganizational (European) organizations can be equal partners, especially if they join forces in a consortium and thereby represent all (European) open science stakeholders in individual countries. A good example is EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries). As a not-for-profit organization, it is working with 47 countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle and Far East, and Latin America. It pre-negotiates with publishers for subscriptions, national consortia or research performing organizations in eligible countries complete the negotiations and sign the contracts.

The European Commission (EC), the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER), the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), the European University Association (EUA), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), and Science Europe (SE) have signed Joint Statement “to take action on working in partnership in achieving the European Research Area (ERA)” (2015). One of ERA’s priorities is “Optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge including via digital ERA” (see A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth, 2012).

Similarly to EIFL, EC, CESAER, EARTO, EUA, LERU, and SE could pre-negotiate with international worldwide for-profit scientific publishers for “free reading and paying open access articles” model. (European) national consortia or research performing organizations would conclude the negotiations and sign the contracts. High level concerted action will be more efficient and will enable faster transformation from a pay-to-read business model to a pay-to-publish business model.

Global Research Council is also committed to open access, in its document Action Plan towards Open Access to Publications (2013, Action 5, p. 4) it states that “The transition to open access cannot be financed by the funding agencies alone.” and it recommends that “it is also necessary to use funds that are currently tied into the libraries’ acquisitions budgets”.

Reasons for a concerted action of supranational organizations in Europe and worldwide
If left to the countries, national consortia and research performing organizations, the transition to the “free reading and paying open access articles” model will be very long.

The majority of research performing organizations are not aware of a new business model and will not require the consortia managing institutions to negotiate for it.

Some consortia managing institutions might not have adequate knowledge on the latest developments and might be (very late) adopters of negotiations for the new business model.

Some consortia managing institutions might have favourable relations with scientific publishers in a sense that they do not strive enough to negotiate toughly for better prices and new business models.

At the moment, offsetting is perceived as the transitional phase. JISC Principles for Offset Agreements and Draft EUA Principles for Offset Agreements mention that “transition arrangements such as offsetting are expensive and complicated for everyone”, “so we should be moving to open access in a managed way as quickly as possible”. Even if there is a will to spend workload on global offsetting, consortium offsetting, individual journals offsetting and/or individual institution offsetting, it is probably not feasible to efficiently take into account all factors. So it would be better to negotiate the “free reading and paying open access articles” model as soon as possible and not develop offsetting any further.

The future of the scholarly communication system
Dr Jonathan P Tennant (Imperial College London) told at the open science conference in Ljubljana on 17 November 2016 that “scientific communication system is largely funded by the public, governed by private interests, restricted in terms what we can do with, access is a financial or status privilege and research and communication is secondary to the business model”.

As Max Planck Digital Library and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands have shown, there is enough (public) money in the scholarly communication system for everybody with access to the internet to read for free the publications containing results of publicly funded research, if article or book processing charges are paid instead of subscriptions.

 

Petra Tramte, National Point of Reference for Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport

Frenk Mavrič, Secretary of the Slovenian Rectors’ Conference, University of Primorska

Mojca Kotar, OpenAIRE National Open Access Desk, University of Ljubljana

 

Mojca Kotar

Mojca Kotar, Assistant Secretary General of the University of Ljubljana in the University Office of Library Services. OpenAIRE National Open Access Desk for Slovenia.

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