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Despite one-year delay Plan S may still be too rushed, warn researchers
- 10 Jun 2019

The funders behind Plan S - an ambitious set of policies that aims to speed up the transition to open access publishing - recently released updated guidelines that delay implementing the plan for a year and provide more clarity on transformative publishing agreements. The revisions have attracted mixed reactions from chemists, some of whom welcome the clarity while others worry it will harm their careers.

COAlition S - the group of funders behind Plan S - has said the plan will now come into effect in 2021 rather than the proposed 2020 date to give publishers more time to shift their business models. While many researchers agree this is necessary, some say it still does not allow enough time for the scientific community to adapt.

Some UK researchers voiced concerns about how Plan S would affect them at a recent panel discussion hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Hazel Cox, a professor of theoretical and computational quantum chemistry at the University of Sussex, feels that Plan S is a good idea in principle, but its implementation, though extended to 2021, is still very rushed.

As an early career researcher, Oishik Banerji, a postdoctoral researcher at Birkbeck, University of London, is quite concerned. According to him Plan S is being applied very fast, but it's not actually being applied globally. Further, he adds that the announced changes to Plan S's guidelines have not addressed the issue that the plan focuses on the UK and European countries that support it. He explained that researchers are concerned that having to publish in Plan S-compliant journals could hamper their ability to move to countries such as China and the US, where they place value on a CV full of high impact - and not necessarily open access - publications.

As well as the one-year delay, cOAlition S has abandoned the plan for a cap on article processing charges, and clarified their position on 'transformative' publishing models, saying they support arrangements such as read and publish as a way for publishers to move from subscriptions to open access models. Under the new guidance, cOAlition S funders will support transformative journals until 2024 as long as the publisher is committed to moving to full open access within a defined time limit.

Other parts of the policy haven't changed. cOAlition S funders will not support work published in hybrid journals - those that are subscription based but offer authors the option to publish open access - without transformative arrangements.

In a statement, John-Arne Røttingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and co-chair of the cOAlition S implementation task force, said this 'final version' of Plan S will 'accelerate the necessary transition to full and immediate open access and allow different stakeholders to start implementation in the most optimal way'.

Some researchers are however in favour of the plan's ambitious goals. At the RSC event, Mattias Bjornmalm, a materials scientist at Imperial College London, said it was clear cOAlition S had listened to comments from researchers on their initial proposals.

But others remain unsatisfied. Lynn Kamerlin, a biochemist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden who last year organised an open letter criticising Plan S, tweeted that she was 'deeply disappointed' at the revisions, which had ignored concerns raised by the research community.

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Stakeholders across all scientific disciplines urged to make data open and accessible
- 05 Jun 2019

Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.

The Enabling FAIR Data project, convened by AGU and funded by Arnold Ventures, brought together hundreds of partners from across the geoscience community to make geoscience data more open and accessible. The scientific data underlying published studies is often difficult to find and access, potentially hindering new scientific research, according to Shelley Stall, senior director of data leadership at AGU and program manager for the project.

The Enabling FAIR Data project worked over 18 months to adopt a set of principles to ensure data connected to scholarly publications are FAIR - findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. More than 100 repositories, communities, societies, institutions, infrastructures, individuals and publishers in the Earth, space and environmental sciences have already signed onto the Enabling FAIR Data Commitment Statement for handling data based on these principles.

In the new commentary in the journal Nature, the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee is calling on the entire scientific community across all scientific disciplines to sign onto this commitment statement. The group also lays out a set of changes necessary to shift research culture more broadly.

The Enabling FAIR data project demonstrated stakeholders can make significant progress by working together across traditional boundaries of publishing, repository curation and geoscience disciplines, said Lynn Yarmey, director of community development for the Research Data Alliance, a partner organization in the Enabling FAIR Data project and project manager for the effort.

Rather than coming up with a single solution, the Enabling FAIR Data project realized all stakeholders needed to adjust their data practices together, with the biggest opportunities for advancement coming from alignment across publishers and data repositories, said Yarmey, who is a member of the steering committee and a co-author of the new commentary.

Supporting data for only about 20 percent of published papers are available in scientific repositories where they can be easily accessed and used. The rest of these data are scattered with varying levels of management, curation and openness. Data are often left sitting on a researcher's computer or stored on old disks or on paper. Limited funding and support for support for sharing and curating data have added to the challenges.

Changing how data are handled by working with FAIR-aligned repositories will open up new scientific opportunities, according to the authors of the commentary. For example, weather prediction can benefit from accessing meteorological and other data from around the world, and observational Earth science data gathered today could be used by researchers decades from now in new types of research yet to be developed.

The Enabling FAIR Data project began in 2017 and involved participation from more than 300 stakeholders across the Earth, space and environmental sciences. Key partners on the project included publishers, repositories, data communities, librarians, data infrastructure providers and others. These include Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), Research Data Alliance (RDA), Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), AuScope, Australian Research Data Commons, Center for Open Science and other groups.

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Springer Nature issues comments on revised Plan S guidance
- 03 Jun 2019

Springer Nature has welcomed the inclusion by cOAlition S of some of their most recent feedback in its revised guidance.

Springer Nature is satisfied to see public recognition of the role that transformative deals play in speeding up the transition to Open Access. The global publisher has nine such deals in place, the four most mature of which are delivering OA take up rates in those markets of over 70%.

The inclusion of transformative journals, which reflects the concept proposed earlier in May, is also important and welcome to see as not every publisher and not every library is able to take part in a transformative deal. Transformative journals therefore ensure there are viable transition routes available for all stakeholders which, coupled with an increased focus on promoting the benefits of OA, could go a long way to delivering the sustainable transition to OA that we all want to see achieved. This approach could also enable Springer Nature to introduce an OA option on highly selective journals such as Nature.

According to Springer Nature, committing to a review, at the end of 2024, of all aspects of the effects of Plan S's principles is a good and natural action given the scale of changes and remaining uncertainties. However, since the speed at which research funding bodies and institutions fund OA and authors take up OA is simply not in the control of publishers, the inclusion of a deadline which seeks to predict the outcome of the review is unrealistic and potentially counterproductive.

That is why Springer Nature's transformative publisher proposal focused on delivering a clearly defined set of actions, which in turn if applied successfully will mean publishers can be 100% OA for primary research as soon as the market and their global customers are ready. With 90% of funders currently not signed up, publishers cannot be expected to supply a rapid increase in the OA pipeline by flipping their journals without matching demand from authors, institutions and funders. Springer Nature's proposal has generated useful feedback from a number of other publishers (who, according to Clarivate, last year collectively published over 50% of the Journal Citations Report's articles).

Input from other publishers are still welcome, especially small and medium sized publishers as well as learned societies, to develop a framework that benefits everyone.

However, the approach proposed for Green OA requiring a zero embargo and a CCBY licence on the authors accepted manuscript (AAM) is of particular concern as this could have serious unintended consequences, notes Springer Nature.

While the ability to use CCBY-ND licences in instances of special circumstances is welcomed as this was a particular requirement for Springer Nature's HSS authors, the requirement for a zero embargo coupled with a CCBY license as a default on the author accepted manuscript (AAM) remains a serious concern. Springer Nature is fully supportive of CCBY licences and have applied these to the version of record (VoR) for their Gold OA articles for over 10 years. But with a significant amount of a publisher's investment, expertise and time taken in each individual article happening between submission and acceptance, the AAM represents a significant investment.

Springer Nature looks forward to continuing their discussions, particularly on transformative arrangements and Green OA, and working together with cOAlition S and many others to deliver the transition to OA so the wider goal of open science can also be achieved, and researchers can, by using open data, open protocols, open code, open standards, and greater interoperability of systems, build on the work of yesterday and today to advance discovery in the future.

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cOAlition S releases revised guidance on Plan S implementation following public feedback exercise
- 31 May 2019

cOAlition S has released revised guidance on Plan S implementation which has been approved by all coalition members.

Since its launch in September 2018, Plan S has reinvigorated the global debate on Open Access to scholarly publications. cOAlition S is appreciative towards all those who took the trouble to respond and provide specific advice during its recent feedback exercise - the largest ever international consultation that has been conducted on an Open Access policy. The 600 plus inputs received allowed the coalition to make changes that take into consideration the views expressed by the diverse communities affected.

Changes include an extension to the formal commencement point for Plan S which will now take effect from January 1, 2021. This new timetable provides more opportunity for researchers, institutions, publishers, and repositories to make changes and for funders' policies to develop and take effect. The Plan S principles now also reflect a commitment made by the funders to revise methods of research assessment along the lines of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

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Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) presents sector overview
- 29 Mar 2019

In view of their central role in society, universities are expected to provide transparency and accountability. In an effort to meet this need, an overview of key data on education, research and impact, staff and finances has now been created for each individual sector and university. Following months of intensive cooperation within the sector and collaboration with external stakeholders, the sector overview is now complete and accessible to all interested parties.

According to Pieter Duisenberg, President of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), this overview sets a high bar for the university sector when it comes to transparency. It features all relevant figures, ranging from the number of assistant professors to solvency percentages, from real-world impact to labour market outlooks.

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands previously offered access to a broad range of information through the Facts and Figures page. The sector overview takes things a step further, offering the full picture at both sectoral and university level. The overview offers users access to all data at a glance, arranged by theme. In a new feature, it also devotes ample attention to the societal impact of research projects: the groundbreaking innovations developed at each university are now visible at a glance. All information is up to date and free of charge, and can be used by any interested party within the university sector: from journalist to student, from civil servant to professor.

The overview should be especially useful to institutional representative advisory bodies. The sector overview is set to be further elaborated and improved over the coming period. In addition to ensuring continually updated figures, efforts are also being made to develop new functionalities and topics.

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