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Springer Nature warns cOAlition S over Transformative Journals

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Stephen Inchcoombe

Springer Nature has issued an appeal to cOAlition S not to 'lose the opportunity' that it says its Transformative Journals offer to accelerate the move to open access (OA). 

The publisher says the journals offer the chance of a 'seismic shift' to OA – and that, unless changes are made to the conditions being proposed, it may be unable to commit to its journals participating in the movement.

Steven Inchcoombe, chief publishing officer at Springer Nature, said: 'Springer Nature remains committed to moving more quickly towards OA and is proud to be the publisher of almost a quarter of all fully OA articles ever published. We first floated the idea of Transformative Journals in May as we believed that, by harnessing the investment, track record, editorial expertise, and the trust the research communities have in these long-standing journals, the transition to OA could be significantly accelerated and enable many of these journals, including highly selective ones such as Nature, to get on the path to OA. 

'We are concerned, however, that the thresholds proposed by cOAlition S could have unintended consequences. Authors of research funded by cOAlition S members are likely to see their journal choice severely restricted, organisations committed to OA could see a doubling of the content they need to fund, and ultimately many journals may have to rule themselves out, resulting in a slowdown of the very transition we both want to see.'

Springer Nature says it is supportive of the vast majority of the criteria proposed in the consultation, but has significant concerns regarding the proposed timelines and metrics that would place conditions on publishers to not only grow OA content at a faster rate than the growth of funders willing to fund immediate OA but to do this at a time when the global share of cOAlition S funded research is effectively declining. 

The company has also stated its concerns regarding requirements for waivers that would see much more research published for free, undermining the sustainability of those journals. It believes this could lead to those organisations that are committed to Gold OA having to support twice the content they were funding at the point of the flip – 'which is not fair, reasonable or sustainable'.

Springer Nature is proposing an alternative timeframe and set of metrics:

  • Year-on-year growth of OA content at the same rate as the increase in global research supported by funders and institutions committed to funding Gold OA;
  • Journals to be flipped when OA content reaches 90 per cent; and
  • Progress to be reviewed in 2024, as per cOAlition S' decision to review progress more widely, and commitments adapted accordingly then in light of progress to date.

To achieve this, the company says it is also committing to:                                                                                                                                 

  • Actively promoting to authors, funders and institutions the many benefits of publishing OA;
  • Expanding transformative deals as rapidly as institutions/consortia/funders allow;
  • Increasing levels of transparency of pricing and associated publishing services; and
  • Working with Plan S to get more funders, institutions and consortia to support Gold OA.

Inchcoombe added: 'We remain firmly committed to the concept of Transformative Journals but are urging cOAlition S to think again as they could, if implemented in a realistic and sustainable way, generate a seismic shift in the transition to OA.  We care deeply about ensuring the research system works for the benefit of all, so we have to find a solution together to overcome these issues.

'Should cOAlition S adopt an alternative framework which could achieve large scale adoption, Springer Nature would commit to putting all its owned journals publishing primary research – hybrid journals (a portfolio of 1,900 titles including some society-owned ones), Nature, and all 31 Nature Research Journals – on the path to full OA.' 

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