Research funder consortium cOAlition S has accused publisher Springer Nature of “a tactic to stall progress”, in a robust response to the publisher’s open letter on transformative journals, sent on Tuesday (17th December).
In the letter, itself sent in response to the coalition’s current consultation, Springer Nature—which is the publisher of almost a quarter of all fully Open Access (OA) articles ever published—warned the coalition that its target requirement for transformative journals to increase their OA content by 8% a year was “not realistic”. It asked cOAlition S instead to adopt a plan where year-on-year growth of OA content was equivalent to the rate of increase in global research supported by funders, and also asked for journals to be flipped to OA only at the point that OA content reaches 90%, not 50% as suggested by cOAlition S.
Springer Nature said it "would be unable to commit to its journals participating" unless such changes were made to the coalition’s plans.
However cOAlition S rejected the publisher’s arguments, saying “data from Springer Nature’s own journal Nature Communications provides clear evidence that the volume of published papers can increase year on year, even without a corresponding increase in the number of funder mandates”, while the decision was made to flip that journal when slightly less than 50% of its content was OA. “Considering this finding, it is difficult to give much credence to Springer Nature’s statement that ‘we cannot place authors in a situation where they could be unable to publish in the most suitable journal, purely for financial reasons’,” the coalition said, quoting from Springer Nature’s letter.
The funding consortium had harsh criticism for Springer Nature's proposed alternative model, saying: “For all intents and purposes, this proposal is nothing more than an attempt to perpetuate the hybrid model, which less and less [sic] funders are willing to support. The hybrid model has clearly failed to achieve the transition to OA and there are absolutely no reasons to believe that things will be any different in the future. This is a tactic to stall progress.”
Noting that the proposed deadline for transformative journals to be transitioned to full OA is end-December 2024, the coalition said: “We are not aware of any other area of economic activity where businesses are given five years to change their models to meet demands (with support from funders). Native OA publishers (who are competing with Springer Nature in the market) do not claim that they can only run full OA journals under the condition that all funders worldwide must commit to fund Gold OA. The line of argumentation that the transition to OA can only happen at the rate that funders commit to finance Gold OA is futile. We could as well argue that funders will only commit to fund OA at the rate that publishers transition to OA.”
The coalition added that it looked forward to receiving more inputs into its consultation, which is open until 6th January.