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Interview to J. Rooryck: "The individual researchers should not pay for the cost of open access publication"





Johan Rooryck, professor of French Linguistics at Leiden University, was nominated open access champion by the Coalition S. This group is formed by twenty-four public and private funding entities, in the national, European and global field, that promoted the Plan S, an initiative to promote open access to be effective in January 2021. In May 27, Rooryck took part in the webinar “Open access policy at the UB”, which received almost 500 attendees.


What are the basic lines for Plan S?  

The basic idea of Plan S is that that all scholarly publications resulting from research grants, and, more generally, from research financed with public money, must be immediately available in open access with a reuse license upon publication. This can be done by publication in open access Journals, on open access platforms, or by making publications immediately available through open access repositories. We do not care about the colour of open access and long as it is immediate and without embargo. In this sense, cOAalition S has developed a number of policies to this effect, and we invite any research funder or university to become part of our task by subscribing to the 10 principles of Plan S and join our effort. An organization that joins cOAlition S simply commits to implementing these principles in the next few years, we allow for a lot of leeway to do so.


Which funding entities joined this plan, to start on January 1, 2021?

Currently, we have twenty-four organizations on board. The national European funders are the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Academy of Finland, the French National Research Agency (ANR), the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the National Institute for Nuclear in Italy (INFN), the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), Dutch Research Council (NOW), the Polish National Research Centre (NCN), Slovenia Research Agency (ARRS), the Swedish funders FORMAS, FORTE, and VINNOVA, and the British UKRI (UK Research and Innovation). In addition to these, there are the European Commission and the European Research Council, as well as large charitable foundations such as the Welcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and ASAP. Finally, there are the World Health Organization, the Higher Council for Science and Technology in Jordan (HCST),  the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)  from Zambia, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and the African Academy of Sciences.

Note however that not all of these organizations will start implementing our policies from January 2021. They will do so in a staggered fashion, because of various national constraints and limitations. But each of them has pledged to do this between now and 2024, that is what matters.

Who will pay for the open access publications?

One of the main points in Plan S is that it unequivocally states that the individual researchers should not pay for the cost of open access publication (Principle 4). Several stakeholders will pay for those publications. Many funders have agreed to pay for publication in gold open access journals and platforms. In other cases, the cost of open access publication will be paid via Transformative Agreements between university library consortia and publishers. These kind of agreements are contracts that convert classical subscription agreements into agreements in which the researchers from the universities in the library consortium have the right to read all content from the publishers' journals, and they acquire the right to publish in open access in all of these journals. This model is promoted most notably by the German organization OA2020, with which we closely collaborate

How can this plan affect the research assessment system, considering journals with high impact are not usually open-access platforms? Should the research assessment bibliometric system change?

In Principle 10, the Plan S explicitly pledges to change the research assessment system: "The Funders commit that when assessing research outputs during funding decisions they will value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor (or other journal metrics), or the publisher." Organizations committing to Plan S are already doing that, for instance by adapting their application criteria, and no longer ask applicants for their full list of publications with IFs, but for their 5 or 10 best publications and why they think those are the best. A qualitative rather than a quantitative evaluation. This is in line with DORA principles and with the ideas formulated in the Hong Kong principles for assessing researchers. Many universities are also changing their assessment in this direction. This takes time, but we are at the beginning of a quiet revolution here: ten years from now, we will likely live in a world in whish where you have published matters infinitely less than what you have published and how it has been qualitatively received by your colleagues.

Regarding those high impact journals, these are making the turn to open access as well. For instance, in April 2020, Spring Nature decide to adopt our transformative journals network to progressively convert their journals to open access. Another recent case is the deal between the University of California with Springer Nature, which allows UC researchers to publish Open access in the Nature Springer journals.

Does this plan affect the data? What should be the future of open science like?

Plan S does not say anything specifically about the data, because we have chosen to concentrate on open access for articles first. That is because we consider articles to be the principal gateway or portal to the data: data without interpretation or analysis are useless. Of course we believe that data should be openly accessible ("as open as possible, as closed as necessary"), that goes without saying: open access is part of a much broader open science movement where all aspects of the scientific enterprise must be openly accessible as much as possible.

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