OA transparency report launched at Berlin conference

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

An independent report aiming to improve the transparency of open access (OA) prices and services is calling for a customer-centric, collaborative and pragmatic approach to the issue.

The report, published by Information Power and released at the APE conference in Berlin today (14 Jan), is the outcome of a project funded by Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on behalf of cOAlition S to inform the development of Plan S.

During the project funders, libraries, publishers, and universities worked together to inform the development of a framework intended to provide information about OA services and prices in a transparent, practical, and insightful way.

The framework provides opportunities for publishers to build better awareness of and appreciation by customers of the value of their services, and to demonstrate publisher commitment to open business models and business cultures.

cOAlition S aims to help make the nature and prices of OA publishing services more transparent, and to enable conversations and comparisons that will build confidence among customers that prices are fair and reasonable. Addressing cOAlition S, the report emphasises that the introduction of a new reporting requirement needs to be organised with clear implementation guidelines, and a proper plan for testing, development, release, review, and refinement. It also recommends an iterative approach to implementation, with a pilot as the next step.

cOAlition S has accepted the recommendation that such a framework needs to be piloted before implementation and agreed a project extension to pilot and refine the framework during the first quarter of 2020. Participants include Annual Reviews, Brill, The Company of Biologists, EMBO Press, European Respiratory Society, Hindawi, PLOS, and SpringerNature. Other publishers are welcome and are invited to express interest in joining the pilot via info@informationpower.co.uk.

While funders, libraries, and library consortiawere broadly supportive of thework, many publishers – both mixed model and OA-only – expressed significant concerns about:

  • Being told what to price, how to price, or how to communicate about price;
  • Greater transparency with competitors giving rise to anti-trust issues, or conflict with fiduciary duties to charity/shareholders;
  • Any focus on costs, because publishers say prices reflect the market and the value provided and not only costs;
  • Usefulness, as publishers record price and service information in different ways, and costs and practices vary enormously between houses, subject areas, and titles; and
  • A range of negative outcomes including the imposition of price caps, downward pressure on prices, or funders and libraries ruling out-of-scope services that are valued by researchers or societies or that are important for business continuity and innovation.

Robert Kiley, head of open research at Wellcome and interim cOAlition S coordinator, said: 'On behalf of cOAlition S we are delighted to see all stakeholders engage in the development of this transparency pricing framework and support the idea of road-testing it through a pilot. Based on the outcome of this pilot, cOAlition S will decide how to use this framework, or a refinement of it, together with other models for inclusion in the requirement for those journals where Plan S requirements apply.'

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