Last week saw the joint-hosting by ALPSP and UKSG of a one day conference in London on the theme of “Shifting Power Centres in Scholarly Communications”. Former researcher and Cabells Journal Auditor Dr. Sneha Rhode attended the event and shares her thoughts below from both sides of the research and policy divide.
The ALPSP and UKSG event on scholarly communications was filled with illuminating talks by librarians, funders and publishers – but the academics panel on Plan S, which comprised of three early career researchers and a professor of sociology, was the highlight for me. Plan S – an initiative for Open Access (OA) publishing that is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders – launched in September 2018, and requires that scholarly publications from research funded by public/private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies must be published in compliant OA journals or platforms from January 2021 .
It was clear from the panel discussion that Plan S/OA isn’t a priority for researchers. This was shocking for most attendees, but not for me! Not long ago, I was an early career researcher myself at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London. I know from experience that early career researchers have busy lives doing research, applying for jobs, writing grant proposals, writing research papers and submitting to different journals until their research is accepted. Add to this, the stress of short tenures, limited funding and the power imbalance between researchers and principal investigators. It was apparent from the panel discussion that advancing in a highly-competitive career, where success is based mostly on the number and impact factor of research articles produced while having little control over money and decisions that are made in the publishing life cycle, makes it hard for OA to be a priority for researchers. Moreover, there has been limited engagement between librarians/funders/publishers and researchers regarding Plan S. No wonder, most researchers know very little about Plan S.
I wholeheartedly support OA and Plan S – it is a great initiative aimed at solving some of the problems that researchers face. Principle 10 in Plan S mentions assessing the impact of work during funding decisions, rather than the impact factor or other journal metrics (shout out to Ireland for putting this into place from next year) while Principle 4 mentions OA publication fees being covered by the funders or research institutions, and not by individual researchers . However, individual members of cOAlition S plan to monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance by withholding grant funds, discounting non-compliant publications as part of a researcher’s track record in grant applications, and/or excluding non-compliant grant holders from future funding calls. This seems harsh, and yet it might be the only way to ensure compliance. However, I wish there were other methods to ensure Plan-S compliance out there that are geared towards researchers. I wish funders would introduce incentives for researchers to publish OA that could help them in their funding grants, tenure-track applications and promotions instead. Moreover, I also hope additional funds are assigned, and efforts are made by university librarians and funders to improve author engagement and awareness to Plan S and OA.
We at Cabells understand the need for author awareness to Plan S and OA. We are constantly trying to innovate to improve researchers’ work. With this in mind, the Journal Whitelist, our curated list of over 11,000 academic journals spanning 18 disciplines that guides researchers and institutions in getting the most impact out of their research, will soon start listing additional “Access” information. This additional information about OA policies (that govern Plan-S compliance) for individual journals will help smoothen researchers’ transition into publishing Plan S-compliant research.
ALPSP and UKSG deserve huge credit for showing us that a lot needs to be done by the publishing industry to make early career researchers are an integral part of Plan S. Early career researchers are invaluable to the publishing industry. They perform research that is published in journals and they are the editors and reviewers of tomorrow. We at Cabells recognize this and look forward to creating a synergy between researchers and Plan S into the future.