An OASPA conference sponsor post: Transformative Publishing: A sustainable route to open access

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This guest post is one of a series from sponsors of the OASPA Conference in 2019. Please note that the views in this post do not represent an official view or statement from OASPA. The post is from Carrie Webster of Springer Nature.

It is fundamentally clear that we and other need to make commitments and changes in order to progress the goal of full and immediate open access (OA) for all primary research. A new approach to research publishing is needed and have a clear role to play – not just as enablers but as drivers of a sustainable open research environment, taking an active stance in promoting understanding around OA and working in partnership with funders and others to deliver the fundamental changes that are needed.

The move towards a full and immediate OA future calls into sharp focus a number of challenges that we as a community (funders, policy makers, researchers, ) face:

  • To grow the supply of journals able to publish OA
  • Increase demand from authors and funders
  • Make faster progress towards a sustainable OA world

Earlier this year, in consultation with the research community, we put forward a proposal around the idea of ‘transformative publishing’ – a model that could be applicable to all in enabling us to move our businesses towards a sustainable OA future. So what could the enabling factors be or look like?

Transformative deals

One enabler is the transformative deal – our analysis has already shown that these can accelerate the transition to OA with a 73-90% success rate, thus illustrating a far quicker take-up than relying on author uptake alone. However, out of 209 global consortia, only 20 have a transformative deal in place, representing a small fraction of the world’s over 18,000 educational institutions. This is very low and highlights the challenge , funders, institutions alike, are facing.

Agreeing such deals is complex and takes time. Transformative deals can be agreed with consortia, individual institutions and funders. They can be managed centrally or at institutional level. Some include all institutions; others require individual opt in. Partners can be interested in a different scope of journals, have different requirements when it comes to identification and verification of their authors, some have special needs when it comes to invoicing, and they want to have a different level of control over the usage of agreements and monitoring of their performance. As , we therefore have to take this into account as we design and build solutions that are flexible enough to respond to these needs. The important thing is that these deals are still evolving and all parties are still learning. There is no standard model, and given the variables, there is unlikely to be. But what we have found, is that when everyone is sharing experience, sharing risk and jointly committed to a transitional future progress can be made.

Transformative journals

Transformative deals, however, are not a solution that will enable every stakeholder to move towards, or even join the OA journey. As the variables point out, there are many challenges – not least one being time. All mixed model will need to adapt all hybrid and subscription journals in order to be Plan S compliant. Exploring alternative routes, the proposed transformative journal, offers an improved and evolved evolution of the hybrid journal and could enable another transition route to immediate and sustainable OA.

The proposed model focuses on the promotion of OA and its benefits throughout the submission chain, operating on a more transparent APC pricing policy and moving the publisher into a role where they are reporting on and measuring the OA and subscription content volumes and usage of its transformative journals portfolio so that institutional libraries can evaluate the cost per article and the cost per download of their subscription content.

The change comes from the intent that sits behind the journal and subsequently the related active, not passive, commitment for . The transformative journal could apply to all journals in a ’ portfolio that have yet to become fully OA. This would include what are currently hybrid journals, but could also include highly selective subscription journals. Such an approach proposes a route that could support more journals to move actively towards OA at a time when the current framework is making it difficult for some to even get started.

Whilst the direction of travel may be clear, the route we take and the pace at which we get there will rightly be different for all of us. However, progress has and continues to be made. The path towards OA is rapidly increasing and we, as a community, have a responsibility to ensure that this is a sustainable approach that will foster a vibrant and competitive market for OA publishing in the long term.

Carrie Webster (Calder) has worked in open access for 15 years.  Starting her publishing career at BioMed Central in 2003, she was involved in the early growth of the OA movement.  Carrie joined Macmillan Science & Education in 2012 where she developed OA policies, launched their open access monograph program, and was also involved in the flip of Nature Communications and rise of Scientific Reports, two of the leading open access titles. In her current role, Carrie is responsible for open access across Springer Nature, as well as transformative business models. Carrie is a member of various industry associations and boards.

We are grateful to Springer Nature and all of our 2019 conference sponsors for their support.

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