How to release scholarly communication from subscriptions and copyright retention by publishers to match the EOSC developments?

In short

Within the European Open Science Cloud, research results in the form of research data will be FAIR in few years. The question is how to release scholarly communication from subscriptions and copyright retention by publishers to match the EOSC developments. The University of Ljubljana suggests that as the first step the European organizations (EC, CESAER, EARTO, EUA, LERU, SE) negotiate with scientific publishers on behalf of the European research performing organizations and research funding organizations for a total transformation from subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer-reviewed journals. If adequate agreements are not concluded in a reasonable timeframe to match the EOSC developments, then subscription agreements with publishers should be discontinued and efforts intensified to solidify other outlets of fully open scholarly communication.

Open research data and closed peer-reviewed publications

Results of (publicly funded) research (in the European Research Area, ERA) are available as research data and as peer-reviewed publications. In the course of research, computer code can be generated and laboratory notebooks as well as other digital objects produced. Under open science, all these items are openly available for re-use (1).

The European Commission has introduced the European Open Science Cloud in the European Cloud Initiative (2) that was further developed in the EOSC Declaration (3). The activities to implement the EOSC are carefully planned (4) and will ensure open research data in all scientific domains as well as infrastructures and tools needed for discovery and re-use.

Research results in the form of research data will therefore be FAIR in few years. If immediate action is not taken at the level of the ERA, then progress in opening up peer-reviewed publications will timewise not match the EOSC developments. Staying abreast with the latest research results published in peer-reviewed publications is still predominantly conditioned by paying a (subscription/access) fee. Since copyright in subscription journals is transferred to publishers, re-use depends on their permissions as the copyright holders. In Figure 1, share of different types of access in a journal sample is shown.

Figure 1: Share of different types of access in a journal sample (5)

The question therefore is how to release scholarly communication from subscriptions and copyright retention by publishers to match the EOSC developments. The European University Association (EUA) also recommended that »The transition towards full and immediate OA must be as short as possible and ideally be accomplished by 2020.« (6).

Open publishing initiatives

Regarding open peer-reviewed articles, the following major initiatives are being pursued besides open access born journals:

  • Publishing platforms like Wellcome Open Research, Gates Open Research, Open Research Europe, and African Open Science Platform (funding and sustainability to be ensured by research funding organisations, RFOs).
  • Networks of next generation repositories with peer-review functionalities and usage statistics (funding and sustainability to be ensured by research performing organisations – RPOs, also by RFOs and scientific domains).
  • Total transformation from subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer-reviewed journals where funding currently spent on subscriptions – by RPOs and in some cases also by RFOs – is repurposed.

These open publishing initiatives are complementary and not excluding each other. Recommendations for modernisation of research evaluation recognize different forms of research results and publishing outlets in order to acknowledge open science practices and societal value of research (7).

Negotiations of European organizations with publishers for the PAR model

Regarding the transformation from subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer-reviewed journals, German RPOs and RFOs have joined forces in the DEAL project for the nationwide Publish and Read (PAR) agreements with publishers. Germany is a well organized and scientifically successful country, the DEAL project involves more than 700 RPOs and RFOs, yet the response to DEAL’s demands from publishers is null or very slow. If Germany cannot conclude the PAR agreements with publishers efficiently, then other countries that would reach adequate in-country alignment of forces, are also likely to proceed very slowly.

Since individual (European) countries are not equal partners to worldwide for-profit scientific publishers (some of them also stock exchange companies), European organizations (i.e., European Commission, Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering, European Association of Research and Technology Organisations, European University Association, League of European Research Universities, Science Europe) (8) should negotiate on behalf of the European RPOs and RFOs. The goal is a total transformation from subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer reviewed journals (9) (i.e., the PAR model) (10), in a timeframe matching the envisaged EOSC developments.

The EUA has planned and suggested such activities:

  • Priority action number 8 in the EUA open access roadmap is »Discussing with publishers economically realistic and viable conceptions of the OA future« (11).
  • EUA’s activities on open science are broadly in line with the Amsterdam call for action on open science, one of the highlighted aspects is development of fair, transparent and sustainable open access business models »to facilitate that all European universities can successfully progress towards Open Science« (12).
  • EUA suggested to EU institutions “Developing measures to support a more competitive environment in the scientific publishing market with the main objective of maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of the market« (13).

Alternatively, an article in The Scientist suggests negotiations “across continents” and “across countries”, respectively (14):

“More immediate and long-lasting change could be effected by institutions, funding agencies, and publishers coming together to define a fair solution, ideally with negotiations in harmony across continents.”

“In addition, and similar to the efforts by Project DEAL, research institutions and their libraries that collectively pay large sums to the major publishers could unite within or across countries to develop a model whereby institutional subscriptions would also cover publication fees for researchers based in the subscribing institutions using a transparent and fair system.”

Funding of new publishing outlets depends on the transformation of subscription journals to open access journals

If negotiations of European organizations for the PAR agreements are successful, then peer-reviewed articles will be available to anybody with access to Internet to read, and further re-use will be allowed through open access licenses (e.g., Creative Commons), thereby matching the EOSC developments. At least 45% (15) of subscriptions budget (or according to other estimates 72-90% (16) or at least 75% (17)) will be released and can be used for funding of repositories, publishing platforms, open access born journals and other publishing outlets.

Consequences of unsuccessful transformation of subscription journals to open access journals

If transformation from subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer-reviewed journals will not be successful, then among others:

  • Research results in the form of peer-reviewed articles will remain locked behind subscriptions (unless embargoed green open access is allowed), copyright will be retained by publishers.
  • Prices of bundle subscriptions will continue to increase by 5-7 percent per year (18).
  • Additional funding will have to be provided to ensure openness of articles in subscription journals (i.e., hybrid journals) since open access journals are not yet available for all topics of science.
  • It is likely that Article Processing Charges (APCs) will increase well above the cost of inflation (19), the same as subscriptions.
  • RPOs have no proof of double dipping prevention by publishers, in spite of publishers’ claims in their double dipping prevention policies.
  • Development of repositories, publishing platforms, open access born journals and other new publishing outlets will be slow because of lack of funding since ever increasing portion of funding will be allocated to subscriptions and APCs in hybrid journals (20).
  • Results of (publicly funded) research in the form of FAIR research data and as peer-reviewed publications will be part open, part proprietary, causing a complicated landscape for researchers and slowing down research and innovation in the ERA.

Matching access to peer-reviewed publications with the EOSC developments

Subscription business model represents a serious barrier to open science and to the EOSC (because of closed access, difficult re-use conditions and considerable investment). If PAR agreements, negotiated by European organizations, are not concluded in a reasonable timeframe to match the EOSC developments, then subscription agreements with publishers should be discontinued (21) by European RPOs and RFOs. All funds previously spent on subscriptions will become available for repositories, publishing platforms, open access born journals, and other not yet developed publishing outlets.

 

For additional information please contact Prof Dr Matjaž Krajnc, Vice-rector of the University of Ljubljana (matjaz . krajnc @ uni-lj . si), appointed by the Slovenian Rectors’ Conference as its representative in negotiations with publishers.

References

  1. Europe’s Future: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World, Reflections of the Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts (RISE) High Level Group. European Commission, March 2017, p. 61.
  2. European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe COM (2016) 178 final. 19. 4. 2016.
  3. EOSC Declaration – European Open Science Cloud: New research & innovation opportunities. European Commission, 26 October 2017.
  4. EOSC Declaration List. European Commission, 26 October 2017; Burgueño Arjona, A. European Cloud Initiative: implementation status. [27. 11. 2017]; EOSC Implementation Roadmap in preparation.
  5. Mannheimer, S., et al. Libraries collaborating to advance open initiatives. FORCE17, October 2017, p. 29.
  6. Towards full open access in 2020: Aims and recommendations for university leaders and National Rectors’ Conferences. European University Association, 2017.
  7. Evaluation of research careers fully acknowledging open science practices: Rewards, incentives and/or recognition for researchers practicing Open Science. European Commission, July 2017; EUA statement on open science to EU institutions and national governments: achieving open access to research publications and research data must be a priority for Europe. October 2017; Science Europe position statement: On a new vision for more meaningful research impact assessment. July 2017.
  8. European Commission, Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering (CESAER), European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), European University Association (EUA), League of European Research Universities (LERU), Science Europe: Joint Statement … to take action on working in partnership in achieving the European Research Area (ERA) C(2015) 4063 final – Annex 1. 2015.
  9. Tramte, P., Mavrič, F., Kotar, M. “Free reading and paying open access articles« scholarly communication model for the better use of public funding. OpenAIRE blog, 4. 9. 2017.
  10. The PAR model as defined, e. g., in the DEAL project: »Verhandlungsziele: …
    – Die DEAL-Einrichtungen haben dauerhaften Volltextzugriff auf das gesamte Titel-Portfolio (E-Journals) der ausgewählten Verlage.
    – Alle Publikationen von Autorinnen und Autoren aus deutschen Einrichtungen werden automatisch Open Access geschaltet (CC-BY, incl. Peer Review).
    – Angemessene Bepreisung nach einem einfachen, zukunftsorientierten Berechnungsmodell, das sich am Publikationsaufkommen orientiert. …«
    And in Schäffler, H. Germany and open access: The DEAL Project. European ICOLC, 15-18 October 2017: »DEAL negotiations goals:
    • PAR model (Publish&Read):
    – All publications by corresponding authors of eligible institutions become open access immediately upon publications (CC-BY) (PUBLISH component);
    – DEAL institutions obtain perpetual access to the complete e-journal portfolio of the publisher (READ component);
    • Fair pricing according to an innovative formula that is solely based on the publication output and calculated with an adequate APC«.
  11. EUA roadmap on open access to research publications. February 2016.
  12. EUA endorses the Amsterdam call for action on open science. April 2016.
  13. EUA statement on open science to EU institutions and national governments: achieving open access to research publications and research data must be a priority for Europe. October 2017.
  14. Omary, M. B., Lawrence, T. S. Opinion: Understanding and coping with rising publication costs. The Scientist, September 2017.
  15. Schimmer, R., Geschuhn, K. K. , Vogler, A. Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access. 2015; EUA statement on open science to EU institutions and national governments: achieving open access to research publications and research data must be a priority for Europe. October 2017.
  16. Brembs, B. Is a cost-neutral transition to open access realistic? björn.brembs.blog, 29 November 2017.
  17. Wilson, M. C. Universities spend millions on accessing results of publicly funded research. The Conversation, December 12, 2017.
  18. Democratizing academic journals: Technology, services, and open access. Sholastica, [s.a.], p. 4.
  19. Shamash, K. Article Processing Charges (APCs) and subscriptions: Monitoring open access costs. JISC, May 2016.
  20. Antelman, K. Leveraging the growth of open access in library collection decision making. ACRL 2017 – At the helm: leading transformation. March 22-26, 2017, p. 419: »… that continued commitment to the [traditional journal subscription] model, es­pecially in the form of a big deal, constrains experimentation with—and adoption of—new OA funding models. The resulting lack of budget flexibility, even in the presence of organizational will to make substantive changes, consigns OA-related initiatives to the margins where they are largely disconnected from the core players and systemwide economic forces.
    Transition to a competitive OA journal market will require disruption of the current market. Until librar­ies use all available data, including about OA, to reduce expenditures on traditional subscription journals, large publishers will continue to develop a separate author-facing market (Hybrid OA) and to restrict non-market OA (Green).”
  21. SPARC. Big Deal cancellation tracking.

Further reading (chronologically)

Elsevier:

The German DEAL project:

Miscellaneous on total transformation of subscription peer-reviewed journals to open access peer-reviewed journals and on new publishing outlets:

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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