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UC faculty urges Elsevier to restart negotiations
- 09 Aug 2019

A group of prominent University of California faculty will step away from the editorial boards of scientific journals published by Elsevier until the publishing giant agrees to restart negotiations. The negotiations, which stalled in February, left the 10-campus system without subscriptions to some of the world's top scholarly journals.

A letter circulating since July 12 throughout the UC system and already signed by 30 faculty from four UC campuses cautions Elsevier that the signatories will suspend their services on editorial boards of the 28 Cell Press journals, which are among the premier journals in the field of biology and Elsevier's flagship publications. About one-third of all UC Berkeley scientists who serve on editorial boards for Cell Press have signed the letter.

Other grassroots efforts have been initiated by UC professors. An open letter to Elsevier urging it to reconsider its decision has garnered nearly 170 signatures from around the world since March from members of Elsevier editorial boards. A second petition has been signed by nearly 1,000 people worldwide who agreed to boycott Elsevier journals - by refusing to submit or review papers or to participate on editorial boards - if the publisher does not agree to UC's terms.

The new petition, however, is from UC professors only, and it would sever ties to editorial boards by some powerhouse scientists, including UC Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to manipulate genes; UCSF's Elizabeth Blackburn, co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; and UCLA's Stephen Smale, vice dean for research of the David Geffen School of Medicine. A survey of the editorial boards of all Elsevier journals turned up more than 1,000 UC faculty members, more than 110 of whom provide their services to Cell Press journals.

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Public Library Association condemns Macmillan Publishers library lending model
- 01 Aug 2019

The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has joined its parent organisation in denouncing Macmillan Publishers' new library eBook lending model. Under the new model, scheduled to take effect November 1, a library may purchase only a single copy of each new title in eBook format upon release, after which Macmillan will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries. The new Macmillan eBook lending model expands upon an existing policy that took effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from its Tor imprint.

PLA's new Strategic Plan, released in 2018, reaffirmed the organisation's commitment to equity and inclusion. Through it, PLA vowed to advocate for enabling every member, library and community group to fully and equally participate in society.

PLA believes Macmillan's new eBook lending policy will limit access to new titles by the patrons who depend upon libraries most, and that access to eBooks through public libraries should not be denied or delayed.

Until the policy is changed and the embargo cancelled, PLA and ALA will explore all possible avenues to ensure that libraries can do the jobs of providing access to information for all, without arbitrary limitations that undermine libraries' ability to serve our communities. PLA members are encouraged to visit ALA's eBook lending action page for information and graphics to share on social media. PLA also calls on the library community and library patrons to contact Macmillan Publishers to express their objection to the company's new policy, using the contact information below.

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The British Academy publishes commentary on cOAlition S's final version of Plan S
- 29 Jul 2019

The British Academy has published a new commentary on cOAlition S's final version of 'Plan S' for open access publishing, and once again voiced concerns over the initiative.

Plan S aims to 'accelerate the transition to full and immediate open access to scientific publications'. 'cOAlition S' is the name of the coalition of funders who have signed up to Plan S and are driving the plan forward.

As the national academy for the humanities and social sciences, the British Academy has been paying close attention to the development of Plan S and has commented on the previous iterations of it.

Earlier this year cOAlition S issued a final version of Plan S, together with guidelines for its implementation, in response to the extensive international reactions to the original initiative.

The Academy's new commentary focuses on this final version of Plan S, and highlights three specific areas of concern - the failure by the proponents of Plan S to address its implications for issues of equality and diversity, in particular problems which it might cause for early career researchers, BME researchers, scholars outside universities, and retired but still active academics; the use of Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs licences (CC BY-ND)- the Academy believes the use of this licence should be automatic and not subject to individual application as, for humanities and social sciences scholars, ND licences are essential to prevent misrepresentation of data by third parties; and the implications of Plan S for journals in the social sciences and particularly in the humanities, where most research is not supported by grants that include an allowance for Article Processing Charges (APCs).

The Academy is particularly disappointed by the ignoring of widespread concerns expressed about 'hybrid' journals, since these make up almost nine-tenths of all HSS journals.

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Three leading medical writing organisations release 'Joint Position Statement on Predatory Publishing'
- 29 Jul 2019

'Predatory journals' pose a danger that could undermine the quality, integrity, and reliability of published scientific research, a new joint statement from three leading organisations, professional in medical writing and publication planning, has warned.

The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), European Medical Writers Association (EMWA), and International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) have released a 'Joint Position Statement on Predatory Publishing', which outlines the 'serious threat' that predatory journals pose - both to researchers publishing the results of their work and to the peer-reviewed medical literature itself.

If not stopped, the ultimate result of predatory journals - which as defined in the statement, are those which subvert the peer-review publication system for the sole purpose of financial gain with little evident concern for ethical behaviour - will be to 'harm' scientific literature.

In seeking a resolution, the authors of the paper - published in Current Medical Research&Opinion - call for all potential medical authors to carry out due diligence by examining the reputation of the publications to which they submit, and to send their work only to those journals that provide proper peer review and that genuinely seek to contribute to the scientific literature.

The statement provides a key set of 11 identifiers, typical of predatory journals and their publishers. As well as providing a lack of information, and poorly made websites, these include a lack of journal indexing in a recognised citation system such as PubMed or within a legitimate online directory such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ); promises of unrealistically quick peer review, or no information about the process; claims made of broad coverage across multiple specialties in medicine or across multiple subspecialties in a particular discipline; a large stable of journals that have been started very recently and/or that contain no or few published articles, or are of obviously poor quality; and an editorial board consisting of members from outside the specialty or outside the country in which the journal is published.

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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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