International OA week 2018: Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge

Open access has increasingly become the new norm. Countries and research funders are embracing open access. Many set targets to reach 100% open access before 2020. However, issues related to equitable sharing, diversity and inclusion is not fully addressed, according to a statement by SPARC.

Open access should serve the need of all scholarly communities and research output consumers in an equitable way. The challenge in this front so far has been what is open access to an institution might not be the case for others. For instance, students and staff members have free access to their own institutional repositories. Nonetheless, due to log in requirements, individuals without login access are hindered to access articles. There are repositories trying to make open access as open as possible, nevertheless.

It seems that open access advocacy groups are realizing deficiency related to open access equity and inclusion. Emphasizing on the need for equitable sharing as the theme for International Open Access Week 2018 underscores this. Brining equity to the front might help institutions, research funders and policy makers to set equitable sharing of scholarly output as one of their top agenda items.

What is Plan S?

Signed on 4 September 2018, the Plan S is an open access initiative signed by eleven EU members. With the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), the eleven national funding organisations form the cOALition S, which will work on a coordinated manner to implement the Plan’s key principle: “After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

The 11 signatories

Country Organisation Acronym
Austria Austrian Science Fund FWF
France French National Research Agency ANR
Ireland Science Foundation Ireland SFI
Italy National Institute for Nuclear Physics INFN
Luxembourg National Research Fund FNR
Netherlands Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO
Norway Research Council of Norway RCN
Poland National Science Centre Poland NCN
Slovenia Slovenian Research Agency ARRS
Sweden Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development FORMAS
UK UK Research and Innovation UKRI


The 10 principles

  • Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  • The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;
  • In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
  • Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
  • When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
  • The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
  • The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;
  • The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;
  • The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
  • The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.

Failure to comply with these principles may lead to the withholding of the final instalment of a grant, says Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s open access envoy.  


As stated in the ten principles, researchers will no longer be allowed to publish on ‘hybrid’ journals – subscription journals where some articles are open access. The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers claims “banning hybrid journals could severely slow down the transition (towards full open access)”. The giant publisher Elsevier supports these declarations. Springer Nature adds that “removing publishing options from researchers (…) potentially undermines the whole research publishing system”.

“[Plan S] is a very powerful declaration. It will be contentious and stir up strong feelings,” structural biologist Stephen Curry told Nature. In his personal blog, Peter Suber, long-time open access advocate, wrote:  “This isn’t the first bold funder policy. But it’s one of the few that I’d call strong, and it’s among the strongest.”

For further information:

Switzerland tops in global open access ranking

According to the study conducted by the EU, Switzerland ranks first in the global open access ranking. Croatia and Estonia take the 2nd and 3rd position respectively.

In Switzerland, currently, 39% of all publicly and privately funded research publications can be freely accessed on open access platforms. Nonetheless, approximately 50% of Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funded publications are freely accessible. The target of SNSF is to reach 100% by 2020.

The study conducted by the EU is based on the Scopus database. For the study more than 200,000 papers published in the Switzerland between 2009 and 2016 have been analyzed.

In Switzerland open access publication grew by 10 percentage over the past seven years, the study reveals. Moreover, green open access is the dominant one. Out of the total 39%, 29 % is green. The rest 11% is gold.

Factors such as funders’ mandates, journal policies, researcher attitudes, and costs slowed down the pace of open access growth, according to the study.
Read more

OASPA members demonstrated steady open access growth

Over the years, open access has shown tremendous growth. The report recently released by OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) affirms this. According to OASPA in 2017 about 219,627 articles were published in fully open access journals. This brings the total number of articles published by the OASPA members, since 2000, to more than 1.2 million. With papers published in hybrid journals this figure is much higher.

Overwhelming majority of the OASPA members publish articles in fully open access journals. However, a significant number of its members also publish articles on hybrid journals, according to the OASPA.

The OASPA Open access publications have shown steady growth over the past years. The most significant growth, nevertheless, was recorded between 2011 and 2012. During this period open access showed 50% growth over the previous years. Nonetheless, the past five-year average open access growth for OASPA members was around 14%. This is still remarkable in several ways.

In 2017, according to OASPA, almost 80% of its members published on five publishers. These are Springer Nature (34%), MDPI (16%), PLOS (11%), Frontiers (9%) and Hindawi (8%).

The OASPA members include publishes such as PLOS, PeerJ, Oxford University Press, Springer Nature, SAGE publications, Cambridge University Press, DOAJ, F1000Research and Knowledge Unlatched. Read more

Sweden research institutions terminate contract with Elsevier

Initially, it was universities and research institutions in the Netherlands, Germany and French that challenged Elsevier and Springer- the publishing giants. Now, their counterpart in Sweden has taken similar measure. Tomorrow, universities and research institutions in other countries might join. The trend might continue until scientific journals publishing giants fully embrace open access.

The Bibsam consortium, which represents 85 Swedish higher education and research institutions, is convinced that the deal they previously made with Elsevier is not transitioning them to a sustainable open access. They believe that the status quo is not benefiting them. Therefore, they decided not to extend the current deal with Elsevier beyond June 2018.

In 2017 members of the consortium paid Elsevier 13.3 million euros in the form of subscription fees and article processing charges (APCs). Swedish researchers publish around 4,000 articles on Elsevier.


Sweden cancels Elsevier contract as open-access dispute spreads

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