Springer Nature says Plan S stance on hybrid journals 'unacceptable'

Springer Nature says Plan S stance on hybrid journals 'unacceptable'

Springer Nature has said the current Plan S requirement for publishers to commit to 'flip' hybrid journals to Open Access is "unnecessary, and...unacceptable for us and for many other publishers."

The publisher has compiled a list of six recommendations in response to Plan S, in a feedback submission made to the coalition of research funders behind the initiative.

Plan S looks to make all research Open Access by 2020 and is backed by funders in Europe and the US, including the European Research Council and, in the UK, United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust.

Springer Nature stressed it has been committed to Open Access for 20 years and is "strongly supportive" of the Plan S goal to accelerate the take-up of OA. However it said the coalition's opposition to hybrid journals - subscription-based journals which allow authors to make some articles Open Access immediately on payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC) - is "disappointing and short-sighted". The publisher urged the coalition to reconsider this aspect of the Plan.

Many other research funding bodies do not yet have policies to provide for systematic funding of APCs for their researchers, meaning those authors still depend on the subscription component of hybrid journals, Springer Nature pointed out. "Publishers are committed to supporting all research, all researchers, and all their funding bodies so these components must be maintained until such time as these funding bodies decide to change and support Gold OA."

The publisher said: "We view hybrid journals as an ongoing, important, successful and proven mechanism for increasing OA adoption - one that utilises the investment, track record, editorial expertise and trust in their research communities of long-standing journals to facilitate the transition of research article publishing from subsscription to OA models while still meeting the needs of authors supported by funding agencies or institutions that can't or won't currently support OA transition."

Among its other recommendations, Springer Nature said all parties need to promote the benefits of OA to academic authors, who are currently not routinely choosing to publish under OA models, in spite of analysis showing increased citations, downloads and impact for OA articles. "These benefits are not appreciated by all authors and many funders and institutions," the publisher said.

Springer Nature also asked the coalition to commit to making so-called "transformative deals", including Publish and Read deals, a key part of Plan S, and to remove the requirement for to provide APC waivers for middle-income countries such as China, which is the largest publisher of academic research in the world.

Plan S should also recognise that highly selective journals - such as Springer Nature's own Nature - have different challenges to the majority of journals, and a different approach to Plan S compliance will be needed, the publisher said.

The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers has also published a recent position paper on Plan S, in which it warned that the speed of the scheme's intended introduction leaves no time for members to transition their business models.