Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer/Discipline Lead – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia
All publicly funded research could soon be free for you, the taxpayer, to read

What happens to research that is funded by taxpayers? A lot ends up in subscription-only journals, protected from the eyes of most by a paywall.

But a new initiative known as Plan S could change that. Plan S focuses on making all publicly funded research immediately fully and freely available by open access publication.

It sounds like a good idea – but there are possible downsides. This model could potentially undermine peer review, the process vital for ensuring the rigour and quality of published research. It could also increase costs of publication for researchers and funding bodies. So let’s do Plan S right.

Read more: Peer review has some problems – but the science community is working on it

Strong backing in Europe

Plan S is an initiative of an international consortium of research funders known as cOAlition S. This includes European national funders UK Research and Innovation, the Science Foundation of Ireland, and others. Charitable foundations such as Wellcome and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also signed up.

Chinese and Indian officials have expressed their support for this open access publishing movement.

Plan S aims to make scientific publications resulting from publicly funded research by national and European research councils and funding bodies directly available in open access journals or platforms after 1 January 2020.

Plan S stipulates that all articles should be published in open access mode only, with no paywalls (including in hybrid journals, where some content is open access and some paid) with the following conditions:

  • unrestricted usage and free distribution
  • authors retain copyright
  • funders or universities pay the open access publication fees.

Flaws in the current publication system

The ethical base for Plan S is sound and would undoubtedly make sense to most Australians – that is, publications that have been funded by taxpayer dollars should be readily accessible to the public immediately.

Currently, members of the public and many parts of the research community do not have easy access to research outputs for comment and scrutiny.

Research is hidden behind paywalls in subscription-only journals. Research institutions spend billions of dollars globally on subscriptions.

Hiding valuable research results – particularly those that were taxpayer-funded – behind paywalls is a drawback of the existing scholarly publication model.

Read more: When to trust (and not to trust) peer reviewed science

The model has built its reputation on a rigorous peer review process and a strong track record. Unfortunately, although it does highlight the need for high quality open access journals, Plans S lacks adequate detail on this.

This may lead to a proliferation of journals that comply with Plan S but may not have a good history and an efficient review process, thus compromising the publishing of credible results.

Implications for taxpayer-funded research

The cOAlition S claims that:

Publication paywalls are withholding a substantial amount of research results from a large fraction of the scientific community and from society as a whole.

The basic philosophy is that, in principle, “no science should be locked behind paywalls!”. The coalition website defines “science” broadly, to include the humanities.

Hence, taxpayers can expect to see research articles resulting from public money freely available online.

If adopted, researchers will need access to more funding, particularly as open access publishing costs can be as high as US$5,000 per paper.

The implementation of Plan S could also encourage publishers to increase their publishing prices, as they mitigate potential revenue losses in the transition from a subscription-based model.

Read more: New study confirms what scientists already know: basic research is under-valued

Some researchers have labelled Plan S a serious violation of academic freedom, as it restricts their choice of suitable high-quality publication platforms.

If Australia does not adopt Plan S, it could potentially restrict collaboration, publishing, and funding opportunities with research bodies who subscribe to this ambitious movement.

Are Australians ready?

The basic notion of open access has won wide acceptance. But it’s also attracted strong criticism, with some claiming deleterious effects on young researchers of dividing the world into “Plan S” and “non-Plan S” publications.

Open access is already a policy of the Australian Research Council (ARC), which requires that:

Any Research Outputs arising from an ARC supported research Project must be made openly accessible within a twelve (12) month period from the date of publication.

However, the same policy stipulates that “contractual obligations” is an acceptable reason for non-compliance within a 12-month period. In effect, this still allows publication contracts to effectively keep research permanently behind paywalls.

Read more: Not just available, but also useful: we must keep pushing to improve open access to research

A Plan S implementation would disallow this. It would require that authors retain full copyright even after publication, and open access would be required immediately with no 12-month delay.

In this way, Plan S could be seen as merely extending existing Australian funding policy principles.

Rethink how we do things

Despite the potential for downsides, we argue universities and research organisations in Australia should consider aligning their policies with Plan S and promote the advantages of open access to the research community.

Research funders can consider making mandatory open access a condition of grant funding.

Plan S will enable the public to freely access publications, enabling them to come to their own conclusions rather than having intermediaries interpret.

Plan S appears to be a wave that is heading this way so Australians, researchers and research organisations in particular, should start thinking and talking about how it might affect things here.

After all, if this level of open access becomes the norm in Europe, China and India – which combined account for more than one-third of global output of scientific papers – the resulting critical mass would probably force a progressive action of some kind here.

Authors: Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer/Discipline Lead – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/all-publicly-funded-research-could-soon-be-free-for-you-the-taxpayer-to-read-111825

Writers Wanted

Five ways Australians can save the planet without lifting a finger (well, almost!)

arrow_forward

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion