How to enable smaller independent publishers to participate in OA agreements
An independent report by: Lorraine Estelle, Dave Jago, and Alicia Wise
Information Power Limited
The report was commissioned by cOAlition S and the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) as a follow up on the outcomes of the Society Publishers Accelerating Open access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project, published in autumn 2019.
The objective of this project has been to measure progress on Open Access (OA) agreements since the SPA-OPS project https://wellcome.figshare.com/collections/Society_Publishers_Accelerating_Open_access_and_Plan_S_SPA-OPS_project/4561397 ended in early 2020. The focus has been on OA agreements between consortia/libraries and smaller independent publishers In this report we use the term ‘smaller independent publishers’ to mean society publishers without a larger publishing partner, university presses, library presses, and small independent commercial presses. They may be fully open access, or may be in transition from hybrid open access and subscription publishing. These publishers make up the extremely long tail of scholarly publishing, and, because of their small scale, they all face similar challenges competing in the journal publishing market place. who face challenges in trying to negotiate and implement transformative OA agreements.
During 2020 there was a clear uptick in the number of OA articles published in hybrid journals, which reverses a downward trend in the proportion of total articles published as OA in hybrid journals between 2016 and 2019. Our expectation is that this increase will continue and that over the next few years the number of OA articles will increase by approximately 1.7% p.a., half of this being organic growth and half being driven by new OA agreements and increases in the number of papers covered by ongoing OA agreements. There is potential for more growth if the process for entering into and implementing transformative and fully OA agreements is made easier for smaller independent publishers.
A single OA agreement with an institution is much easier for a smaller independent publisher to administer than many article transactions, unless of course each library or consortium wants a different sort of agreement. Libraries and consortia invest hugely in making agreements with publishers happen; however, there is far less awareness within these organizations of how challenging they can be to implement. This sets up the conditions in which smaller independent publishers will struggle, as they lack the resources and scale of the largest publishers. More attention and care are needed, or smaller independent society publishers and university presses could be irreparably damaged.
We found that in certain countries, most notably the UK and Ireland, smaller independent publishers have successfully entered into open access agreements, and systems in place are to continue this trend. However, this success is not mirrored elsewhere in the world. Therefore our recommendations are structured by three geographic regions in this executive summary.
1: Recommendations to stakeholders in the UK and Ireland
1.1 We recommend that libraries, consortium staff, and smaller independent publishers involved in these open access agreements continue to share their experiences so that others, elsewhere in the world, can build on them.
Particular strengths in the UK and Ireland are that:
- Some major funders provide block grants to universities and this funding is channeled to libraries, who are therefore in a stronger position to negotiate affordable OA agreements.
- Jisc employs a dedicated person within the consortium to reach out and negotiate open access agreements with smaller independent publishers.
There is constructive engagement between ALPSP, Jisc, and funders. This support is transforming the OA landscape, enabling open access agreements with a broader spectrum of smaller independent publishers than would otherwise have been possible.
It should also be noted that action in these countries is driving change in the rest of the world. For example, the open access agreements in 26 low and middle-income countries described within this report were only possible because the Wellcome Trust provided modest funding to EIFL and for project management.
1.2 The one change we recommend is that consortia, rather than smaller independent publishers, should be responsible for assessing and driving the number of libraries that will participate in these OA agreements.
2. Recommendations to stakeholders in the scope of cOAlition S member funders
2.1 The transition to OA requires change on the part of all stakeholders, and it is particularly crucial that there is active cross-stakeholder alignment focused on enabling smaller independent publishers to transition successfully. We recommend the creation of a cross-stakeholder coalition driven by bodies such as ALPSP, cOAlition S, EUA, ICOLC, OA2020, and Science Europe.
2.2 We recommend that this coalition sponsors cross-stakeholder task and finish groups and events driven by ALPSP, ICOLC, and OA2020, as detailed below. We anticipate this work could largely be delivered through voluntary effort, but coordination by a neutral facilitator would be essential and might cost c. £20k.
2.3 A specific recommendation is appropriate here on the role we envisage for ALPSP: that it serves as the focal point for input from small independent publishers in just the way OA2020 delivers for libraries and ICOLC for consortia. We expect that ALPSP will wish not only to consult with its own members but to align with other relevant organizations such as the Association of University Presses and the Society Publishers Coalition. Together these organizations are well placed to represent members’ interests, for example through:
- A simple webpage listing smaller independent publishers interested in OA agreements, along with their contact details, would be of enormous help to libraries and consortia seeking them out.
- Provision of advice and training to smaller independent publishers about how to communicate about OA with researchers in ways that will resonate with funders, libraries, and consortia too; why this cross-stakeholder alignment and engagement is essential, and how their communications and marketing functions need to evolve.
2.4 We recommend that ALPSP, ICOLC, and OA2020 jointly convene the following groups:
i. Task & Finish Group 1 – to review, revise, and agree shared principles for transformative OA agreements between consortia/libraries and smaller independent publishers starting from the draft in Appendix 3. The work of this group is an urgent priority and if it could be finished rapidly then it could influence OA agreements reached in late 2021 for 2022.
ii. Task & Finish Group 2 – to review, revise, and agree:
- a model licence based on the principles agreed by Group 1 and starting from the SPA OPS Model licence (which is based on the Jisc Model licence but also informed by smaller independent publishers).
- a mechanism for keeping the model licence updated.
iii. Task & Finish Group 3 – to review, revise, and agree a data template that publishers should present to start an OA agreement negotiation. The SPA OPS template should be the starting point. We are aware that an ESAC data analytics working group will produce some fresh recommendations from the library perspective in June 2021, and so a joint review by libraries and publishers of the existing template is timely. This work should include a glossary with definitions of key terms (e.g. capping, corresponding author, eligible authors, eligibility dates) and consensus about the timing of offers from libraries to publishers (e.g. by the end of September each year).
iv. Task & Finish Group 4 – to build on the ESAC workflows, and agree a much simplified set of minimum workflow requirements that consortia/libraries should expect of smaller independent publishers.
2.5 After the task and finish groups have completed their work, we recommend that ALPSP, ICOLC, and OA2020 jointly convene two roundtable events. Key stakeholders for these events include consortia/libraries, smaller independent publishers, NISO, intermediaries (e.g. CCC, OA Switchboard, Oable), and platform providers (e.g. submission and hosting platforms).
o The first event should focus on the minimum workflow requirements for smaller independent publishers and agree a plan and timetable for implementing these.
o The second event should focus on future workflow requirements (e.g. better links between author affiliations, grants IDs, and publications leveraging Wellcome’s investment to issue grant ID DOIs) and agree a plan and timetable for implementing these.
2.6 We strongly recommend funders take steps to enable universities to aggregate all their expenditure with publishers via the library. There are many ways this could be achieved. For example:
- Where jurisdiction allows, provide block grants to universities or their consortia to support full and transformative open access agreements with smaller independent publishers, with contributions based on the percentage of articles published which arise from your funding.
- If block grants are not possible, communicate to universities that 1-2% of grant funding or overheads received should be allocated to the library to ensure OA compliance, including via transformative OA agreements.
- Continue to track and enforce compliance with OA policies, with greater emphasis on achieving cost restraint as well as 100% open access.
2.7 We recommend that libraries and consortia ensure their open access strategy includes smaller independent publishers and that they invite them to present offers for affordable, cost-neutral open access agreements. Other useful guidance and strategies are available at the OA2020 website https://tinyurl.com/apcsbw8p.
2.8 As much as possible, we recommend that smaller independent publishers reach out to consortia in these countries, ensuring that the consortia are aware that such publishers offer open access agreements and are prepared to talk to them. Some smaller independent publishers are offering agreements which are excellent value for money, but consortia are not necessarily aware of them.
2.9 We would encourage publishers who closely link the price of OA agreements to article volume to think very carefully about more equitable models.
3: Recommendations for stakeholders in countries where funders are not part of cOAlition S
3.1 The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) is well positioned to play a significant leadership role in this area; it has already started on this course with its recent conference where a panel consisting of representatives from Information Power, the Rockefeller University Press, and American Physiological Society were invited to present their experiences of transformative open access agreements. We recommend that ICOLC sets up a steering group to lead this work, facilitates the sharing of experiences across its membership, and further develops and adapts – or indeed takes ownership of – the model licence for open access agreements and data collection sheet available at https://www.alpsp.org/SPA-OPS-project-report-and-toolkit. This will save smaller independent publishers and library consortia duplicated work and effort and help establish standards.
3.2 The Global Research Council and Science Europe are best placed to commission research to clarify what research funders are currently paying for open access publishing in total and what percentage of their research budgets is going to institutions to fund open access.
3.3 We strongly recommend that funders centralize their OA funding via universities and their libraries. Where jurisdiction allows, provide block grants to universities or their consortia to support transformative open access agreements with smaller independent publishers, with contributions based on the percentage of articles published which arise from your funding. If block grants are not possible, funders should communicate to universities that 1-2% of grant funding received should be allocated to the library to ensure OA compliance, including via OA agreements.
3.4 We anticipate that it will be easier for universities and research institutions if funders take the preceding steps, but even without this there is more that can be done by these institutions. Our recommendations are:
- Senior leaders to convene discussions on campus to bring the library, finance, and research departments together to solve two problems: effecting a full transition to OA while saving money. Cost sharing between these stakeholders within the university can ensure there is a large enough pot of money to underwrite OA agreements.
- Finance departments have a larger role to play in ensuring that the university complies with funder OA policies, including for cost-constraining forms of transformative OA agreements.
- Priority for OA agreements to be considered for smaller independent publishers such as societies and university presses whose missions are most closely aligned with those of the university.
3.5 Leadership is needed within the library community to champion a different way of working with small independent publishers. These mission-focused and worthy organizations are an integral part of the research community and complement library strategic aspirations.
We recommend that libraries ensure that their open access strategy includes smaller independent publishers and that they invite them to present offers for affordable, cost-neutral open access agreements. Other useful guidance and strategies can be found at the OA2020 website https://tinyurl.com/apcsbw8p.
3.6 As much as possible, we recommend that smaller independent publishers reach out to consortia in these countries, ensuring that the consortia are aware that these publishers offer open access agreements and are prepared to talk to them. Some smaller independent publishers are offering agreements which are excellent value for money, but consortia are not necessarily aware of them.
3.7 We would encourage publishers who closely link the price of OA agreements to article volume to think very carefully about more equitable models.
Finally, we considered and rejected requests to include recommendations for funders to relax the Plan S timescales. Without doubt these timescales are challenging and stressful for some. They are also, if we are to be entirely open and honest, unrealistic. However, the pressure they introduce has been exceptionally good for driving change and surfacing real challenges faced by stakeholders. As reflected in our recommendations, more cross-stakeholder working is needed if these challenges are to be overcome. Building alignment between funders, consortia, libraries, and smaller publishers will take some effort and time but is essential, and the time to start is now.
|↑2||In this report we use the term ‘smaller independent publishers’ to mean society publishers without a larger publishing partner, university presses, library presses, and small independent commercial presses. They may be fully open access, or may be in transition from hybrid open access and subscription publishing. These publishers make up the extremely long tail of scholarly publishing, and, because of their small scale, they all face similar challenges competing in the journal publishing market place.|